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Review - Block 9 at Glastonbury 2013

05/07/2013 15:28 BST | Updated 03/09/2013 10:12 BST
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From twerking on the West Holt stage with Major Lazer, to doing my best rave face with Skrillex backstage at Silver Hayes, my first Glastonbury was a pretty epic one. But it was Block 9 that I found offered the most immersive cultural experience thanks to founders Stephen Gallagher and Gideon Berger's musical creation of "complete temporary realities".

They brought the nostalgic feel of the early seventies NYC gay scene as well as London's grimy pirate radio reality, and although Block 9 may not have been the first port of call at Worthy Farm, it was certainly most people's last.

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The purpose of these landmark venues? To provoke an emotional reaction that is more than what one might expect from just watching a band on stage where they are separated by a metal fence and a line of security. Rather than just showcase the DJs, bands and artists, Block 9 create fantastical structures and musical realities to heighten every person's experience of them. But the founders aren't the first to recognise this radical outlet at these kind of festivals.

"There are plenty of US and Euro arts groups who create amazing spaces where music and art and dance meet successfully." Stephen told me. "Influenced by the scale and vision of the major arts projects at Burning Man festival in Nevada, I really wanted to work on projects that were on that kind of scale."

And they certainly achieved that sot of grandeur, for as you walk into the Block 9 space, festival-goers were confronted by a huge council estate tower block with an underground tube train stabbed straight through a second floor balcony. Walking through the grimy levels, ravers could submerge themselves into the sounds of Grant Nelson, Mosca, Randall and Digital & Spirit, while a selection were drawn in to live theatrics as they ascended the London Underground tower.

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Opposite the London Underground, flashed a fluorescent MOTEL sign, shining a red glow on the adult books lined up in a XXX shop window in the NYC Downlow. And glimmering above were the glamorous trannies shimmying to the mixes of Kerri Chandler from New Jersey, Robert Owens from Chicago, the UK's Horsemeat Disco and Maurice Fulton, followed by My Love Is Underground from Paris; who together lured the crowds into the seedy club of decadent disco.

This NYC tribute was first brought to life at Glastonbury in 2007 on a shoestring budget but was an instant success, which cemented Block 9's future at Worthy Farm with more ambitious venues to come.

And this year, we were given Genosys, a futuristic utopia influenced by "eastern bloc communist architecture, brutalism, acid house music, shipping containers, recycling logos and fuel processing plants."

"It was a long process," Steve explains. "It's built from 55 tonnes of scaffolding, set and lighting and is certainly our most ambitious project to date."

If you build it they will come, and world class DJs certainly did, with the likes of Gene Hunt and Tyree spinning their brand of EDM from the early days of Chicago house. As did king of the re-edits Greg Wilson and UK homegrown titans Bicep & Julio Bashmore who filled Genosys with a contemporary twist.

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But Block 9 is more than just a living history of dance music past, present and future; it's also a fingerprint of the hard work and efforts made by these festival veterans and their team, trying their best to evolve the collective experience of Glastonbury.

"An enormous amount of time, energy and resources goes into making Block9 what it is at Glastonbury," the founders tell me. "Considering the small length of time that the festival itself runs in comparison to the amount of pre-planning and work that goes into it beforehand is just insane."

"We're fortunate to have an incredible team who work through the night to make sure everything runs smoothly and to plan."

But their efforts don't stop at Worthy Farm.

"The skies the limit really in terms of how far we'd like to take it, " Steve says.

"After Glastonbury is finished, we're heading off to a festival or two in Eastern Europe to explore how we might be able to bring Block9 to a new audience in 2014. "

Well, I was part of that new audience of 2013 and can tell you how eager I felt when Gideon told me beforehand that he wanted "guests to have one the best nights of their life and a plethora of debauched tales to tell forever more."

After four days I left Block 9 and Glastonbury with certainly lot of tales...

But that's a whole other blog post.