Butlins, Bognor Regis, January 18–20
A weekend at Butlins is the perfect antidote to the January detox. Instead of a ‘dryathlon’ you get double spirits for just over a quid. The fried breakfasts are all-you-can-eat, and even though there’s snow, hotpants outnumber coats. And a hangover at Bugged Out is best spent at a pool rave, where people primp and flex to songs selected by Klaxons.
“I know it’s freezing and you made it through hell to be here,” shouts Serocee, Toddla T’s MC, from the stage at 11pm on Friday. The Sheffield DJ – who, in his loud shirt, looks like everyone’s weird mate from sixth form – throws himself into remixes of Roots Manuva’s ‘Witness (1 Hope)’, Dizzee’s ‘Stand Up Tall’ and The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’. To complete the ‘classics’ set, Shola Ama steals in to revisit the heyday of UK garage, singing ‘Imagine’ and her Sade cover ‘The Sweetest Taboo’.
Howard from Disclosure was only one year old when Shola Ama’s cover of Turley Richards’ ‘You Might Need Somebody’ went to Number Four in the UK charts, but that doesn’t stop him and his brother Guy from drifting back to a time when DJ EZ’s ‘Pure Garage’ compilations ruled. Their collaborations with vocalists Ria Ritchie (‘Control’), Sinead Harnett (‘Boiling’) and Sam Smith (‘Latch’) show they’ve studied the impact of a great vocal hook, and the crowd love it. Suddenly, I’m sad to not be wearing big gold-hoop earrings.
After garage comes dubstep, with Benga playing souped-up versions of everything from Kanye to Jam City, Prodigy to Katy B. The MC shouts “We don’t give a fuck!”, strobes flash, and nasty bass drop follows nasty bass drop. He isn’t going for pop crossover: ‘Take Control’ is powerful in its message to “break the mould”, and an untitled new song is a mean mess, growling, “You’re going to get fucked up/You’re going to die”. Benga’s first single ‘Skank’ was released more than 10 years ago – in dubstep terms that’s basically antique. But it’s one of the best sets of the weekend, particularly when compared to The Chemical Brothers, whose Saturday DJ slot feels like the two men left their enthusiasm in the mid-’00s.
Luckily, Rinse FM staples Oneman and Jackmaster follow, playing Destiny’s Child, Devo, TNGHT’s Gucci Mane remix and Hudson Mohawke. Forget NYE, this is the perfect way to introduce partying to 2013. You’d even forget you were at the home of the Redcoats, if it weren’t for the shouts of “Give it up… BOGNOR!”