Electric Dreams Weekender
Butlins Bognor Regis Resort
Friday 29th November – Monday 2nd December 2019

If you’ve never been to a Butlins Live Music Weekender then it’s hard to convey just how immersive an experience it is.

The bands are of course the main attraction to any festival, but as you wander around the site, you hear the music you love.

The theme of this particular weekender is 80s Synth music, so when you’re in the restaurant having your breakfast you may hear Depeche Mode, New Order and Blancmange.

When you pop into the shop for some paracetamol after over-doing it last night 😉 you may hear OMD, Gary Numan and Howard Jones.

Pop into one of the bars for a drink and… well you get the picture!

It’s particularly exciting when a band comes on the playlist who you either enjoyed watching last night, or are looking forward to later in the festival.

Aside from bands, there are DJ sets, a vinyl market, I believe there was even a pool party.

Day 1 – Friday

I’d never been to Bognor Regis before, but getting there from Liverpool is a cinch. Take the train to Euston, Victoria Line to Victoria, then a direct train to Bognor Regis.

I’d left my reading glasses at home (I always forget something!) so I wanted to nip to Poundland. I was delighted to find that it was only a 4 min walk from the train station. Having got my glasses, I found that it was only a 10 min walk to the site – it was a nice day, so why not?

Having booked into the hotel, I was struck by how nice it was. Comfy bed, mood lighting and even a balcony and a fridge!

There is nothing quite like that feeling of being unpacked, and ready to enjoy all that the weekend ahead has to offer. No need to worry about your tent blowing away, developing a leak, or wakening up stiff in the morning (no, not like that, saucy!)

I am going to Glastonbury and Bearded Theory next year where we will be camping.

But if you’ve ever woken up bursting for the toilet, and got cramp as you try to get your wellies on, then still have a good trek to the nearest toilet (nobody wants to camp too close to toilets, trust me) and then probably need to queue when you get there, then you will truly appreciate the home comforts of a Butlins weekender!

They are also over 18 events, and as the music tends to be more retro, you don’t get gangs of young people intent on getting drunk and causing trouble.

The people who attend tend to be friendly, and after all they are there for the same reason you are – the music. So even if you’re not very confident in striking up conversations with strangers, you’ll find that you’ve got plenty in common to talk about.

Indeed, some of the people are almost too friendly! Upon passing some young ladies, one said to me “Oh, you can buy me a drink later if you want” then her friend said “He’s too good looking, he’s probably off to meet his boyfriend!”. Another drink is the last thing they needed, a trip to SpecSavers perhaps 😉

It’s all good fun!

Warren was driving down after work, and arrived just in time for us to catch the first band of the night – Fiat Lux

I wasn’t familiar with Fiat Lux for some reason, but I really enjoyed what we were able to catch of their set before rushing off to the next band.

Nick Heyward

I always liked Haircut 100 despite the fact that it was frowned upon by the cool set! Their catchy pure pop songs were sounding better than they ever did and they went down a storm with the crowd who filled the room.

British Electric Foundation

BEF’s set got off to a flying start for me when Claudia Brucken of Propaganda took lead vocals on the first two songs – her own Duel (one of my favourite tracks of the 80s) and a cover of Kraftwerk’s “The Model” – both sounding exquisite.

Next up it was Liverpool’s own Peter Hooton from The Farm performing “All together now” which went down incredibly well with the audience.

We’d have loved to have seen the rest of the set to see the likes of Peter Hook, but with the 3 song rule in force, we’d photographed our 3 songs and had to hurry to the other stage to ensure we didn’t miss the start of Blancmange

Blancmange were excellent. Usually when a band plays songs from a new album at a festival, a groan goes around as people want to hear the hits – but their new material is up there with their best, and was very accessible to those of us who weren’t familiar with it.

After the live bands there were DJs into the small hours, but we decided to get something to eat from the Burger King and head back to the hotel to make a start on editing our photos.

Day 2 – Saturday

Wakening up on the 2nd day of a 3 day festival is always a great feeling! Buzzing from the memories of last night, and more of the same to look forward to today AND tomorrow!

But all this watching bands and editing photos is hungry work, so we headed to the buffet for our breakfast!

I love buffet breakfasts when I’m on holiday – no need to wait for it to be cooked, have as much or as little as you like. Full English or Continental, or a bit of both – you’re on holiday after all!

But often the downside of continental breakfasts, certainly in some of the chain hotels, is that the quality isn’t always that great.

No such fears at Butlins however – the food is all top-notch. The only thing to worry about is your waistline!

In the afternoon it was mainly tribute acts, and though I heard they were really good (the OMD one seems to have gone down particularly well) it’s not really our thing so we decided to chill in the hotel and get on with editing our photos so that we didn’t have loads to do when we got back.

After a very tasty evening meal (the 4 cheese and pear tart was particularly delicious!) the first band of the night was xPropaganda performing “A Secret Wish”.

That album is my favourite of the 80s so naturally I was excited about this, and Claudia & Susanne never disappoint! They were absolutely brilliant as usual!

Next up it was Art of What?

Art 0f What? are two founding members of The Art of Noise, performing their own hits and hits they worked on with other bands, such as Buggles Video Killed the Radio Star and Billy Idol’s Flesh for Fantasy.

The last act of the night was Howard Jones

I was particularly excited about seeing Howard Jones. From the moment “New Song” was released I wanted to see him live, but I was only about 14.

He was worth the wait, albeit many felt that he didn’t play enough of the hits. At a festival people tend to expect the hits.

However, he pulled it out the bag IMHO on the last 3 songs which were all hits, including an epic 8 minute version of New Song.

Again there were DJs playing into the night, but Burger King and the hotel beckoned for editing of that day’s photos.

Day 3 – Sunday

There is always a pang when you wake up on the last day of a festival. You’re just getting into the swing of it, got your routine sorted out, just about found your way around (even if I did keep walking the wrong way when I left the hotel!)

But there’s no time for maudlin! There’s still a day of fun ahead, and after breakfast I decided to get some souvenirs to take home to the family, and have a wander down to the beach (which is just over the road).

The sun was shining (apparently Bognor is the sunniest place in the UK!) and it was nice to get a bit of sea air and exercise.

The first band of the day was one I was particularly looking fwd to – Altered Images at around 3pm.

Guys of my age will remember watching Gregory’s Girl, and nice as Dee Hepburn was, she obviously didn’t have time for Gregory with her football, and Claire Grogran seemed the much better choice!

Fair to say, I think both me and Warren had a wee crush on her back in the day!

I think she must have found a time machine, as she doesn’t seem to have aged at all!

Finishing off the first song she said “I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a right f**ker of a week!”. Someone shouted something (I didn’t hear what) and she turned “Oh a heckler, I like hecklers, I’m from Glasgow!”. She’s lost none of her Glasgwegian wit or sparkle!

If she ever decided to add stand-up comedy to acting and singing on her CV I’m sure she’d do brilliantly!

China Crisis

You travel all the way from Liverpool to Bognor, and see a band from down the road!

Seriously though, it was the first time that I’ve seen them, and they were great! Really entertaining set with all their hits, and lots of scouse humour between songs keeping everyone entertained.

Now came the realisation – it’s the last band of the festival 🙁

But we were going out on a bang – with the wonderful Jimmy Somerville with a 15 piece orchestra!

If you think that a 15 piece orchestra sounds a bit special, you’d be right! They sounded absolutely brilliant as he went through his Bronski Beat and Communards back catalogue.

I think he must have borrowed Clare Grogan’s time machine too – as he looks no different to how he did back in the day. Perhaps there is something in the water up in Glasgow!

Afterwards, for a final time, we popped into Burger King then back to the hotel to do some editing, whilst most people were on the dancefloor, squeezing in as much fun as humanly possible on the last night!

Monday morning at Breakfast wasn’t as somber as you might expect – we’d both had a brilliant weekend, and can’t wait for the next one!

Sadly there isn’t one in 2020, though I believe there may be one in early 2021. Keep a look out!

Meanwhile, check out some of the other Butlins Live Music Weekends!

Find one you like the sound of, and you’ll have a brilliant, memorable weekend!

Words + Pictures: John W. King For the same review, with different pictures 🙂 Check out Warren Millar‘s over at Urbanista Magazine (UK)