Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Tuesday 7th July: Glastonbury Festival - Block 9

The next Glastonbury Festival will be the 10th Anniversary of Block9 which is going to be the ultimate legendary legends of lifetime legenderousnous for all the legendary children.  It's an entire field of joy which blesses the festival and the acts who play feel blessed to be brought on board.  From what you might already know it's a nocturnal destination with drag queens who will give you a dressing down at the door if you are too dressed down for the dress code............ before indeed physically undressing you ..........

What you might not realise is that the whole concept arose from a love of good music and the desire to set up the best sound-system on site.  Whilst the performers are fulfilling their duty of showing off and showing out at the Downlow, there are two invisible characters crackling walkie-talkies and running the show.  Gideon and Steve are the creative duo who devised the Downlow which has divided, duplicated and given birth to another two stages which now make up the complete complex of Block9.  So whilst you have the world's best boogie nation under a groove in the NYC nightclub you also have "London Underground" for Dubstep, Dancehall & Drum & Bass and then "Genosys" for all the latest cutting edge cuts inbetween.  

The Utopian vision of offering an all-inclusive riotious and ridiculously fun-packed party has attracted the masses and now that disco is officially back, its peaked it's appeal.  Gideon's passion for quality sound played LOUD coupled with their social consciousness to keep it credible and resist corporate incentives has maintained its magic.  For those in the scene its been a haven for hedonistic escapism from the trappings of our tail-chasing urban lives.  Now the word has spread and the line-up of universally acknowledged acts has caught the attention of electronica aficionados.  The NYC Downlow girls are sirens beckoning you in to one of the most memorable clubbing highs of your life and that could well turn out to be a mix of ATFA's Nigerian High Life, Horse Meat Disco, Hercules & Love Affair and Kieran Hebden.  

The crew have been going to Glastonbury since the days of the travellers in outskirt fields and the free-thinking fellowship of the festival.  With a nod to that history and an encounter with early Burning Man epic proportions of visual staging, Block9 set out to create a cosmic space for a future other-worldly Worthy Farm.  The first corner for Queer Culture came as a stage in the Cabaret Field's "Trash City".  Fast forward a decade, Block9 has now been given its very own arena.  A team of 40+ technicians have become a family affair after bonding the first year against inhospitable rain which sorted the fair-weather from the life-timer volunteers.  For four weeks they reunite to put up, maintain and dismantle the temporary tenement city.  Behind the facade of fake towerblocks lurks a secondary set-build of the crew bar know as "Maceos" which is a complex of shipping containers and buses.  Infact the main bar hangs off one of their own homes-on-wheels with the optics neatly mounted down the wing of the truck.  Its a case of park up, roll out the barrels and you've got a fully functioning dashboard of real ale pumps.  In my photos above you'll notice a wig peaking out of one the bar's plant pots.  Thats a hallmark horticultural twist form Art Director Tony Hornecker who plants his own beautiful greenhouse balcony for VIP's to view from above.  This backstage enclave of Maceos is a place to escape the pile-up of punters and catch the more questionable acts held back from public view (such as a Whitney Houston drag act on her drug torment to "I will always love glue", "Its not right, but its ok, I'm gonna take it anyway".)

In previous year's reports I have chronicled the festival's fashion for glitter and flower headdresses which have unknowingly stemmed from San Francisco's Cockettes and how Block9 is truly the original place for festival flavour.  Now this year I want to flag up that the reason you may have only just discovered it is because their pioneering music taste has also now caught up with mainstream.  Block9 has been hosting the best in beats for the last 9 years but never blown its own horn to announce it.  Its been having too much fun tbh.  If you scroll down the list of DJ's and it reads like the greatest selection of BoilerRoom sessions rolled into one weekend then you're not wrong.  Remember House Music was invented out of the gay clubs in Chicago in early 80's ...................... well um, Downlow is a recreation of exactly that energy.  Go figure.  And go get your stamina because once you enter you might not leave again - its just become a round the clock roster of day and night scheduling.  

Read my archive articles here and here.

Photos top to bottom:  Scottee, Genosys stage, Tony Hornecker's greenhouse, Maceos crew bar, NYC Downlow, the rainbow crew hi-vis vest, me loving the homage to Keith Haring, Luke Howard, Amber with Legs & Coq, Florence Welch guest appearance)  

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