Usually when a man leans out of his car window and tells me I look like Debbie Harry, it’s followed with an invitation to ‘hop in the back’.
But not tonight.
As tonight, this driver’s car was full. His cargo? Sandwell District, who had flown in from Berlin to perform on the main stage of Bloc. They were lounging in the back of his Mercedes, waiting to be allowed inside the confines of the Pleasure Gardens, London’s newest multi-purpose site.
Their vehicle was one of a string of cars. According to Twitter, Bristol dubstep hero Joker was part of the metallic snake that coiled solemnly around the corner.
To look out of their windows would have been to look at a scenario of utter chaos. A van delivering ice is forced to sob its load on to a grubby pavement, only for its frozen tears to be transferred in to a wheelie bin and added to the convoy.
A girl wearing an orange hi-vis jackets declares, “I’m here to pick up litter, let me fucking clean!”
One boy drops to his knees and wails, “It’s like Hillsborough all over again!” (twat)
Even before the DLR train pulled in to Pontoon Docks we had an inkling that all was not well at Bloc. “They’ve turned away 4,000 people”, we overheard one TFL worker say.
When I arrived at 11pm, the site was on ‘lockdown’ – no one was getting in or out - a blanket ban that included DJs and ice cubes, and even Radio 1 Xtra.
Rumours were building and spreading fast. Where usually you’d hear a whisper for pills or ket, it was mutterings of ‘health and safety’, of ‘oversold tickets’, of ‘fiasco’.
People, understandably, were angry. Many had been waiting to enter the event for hours. Little did they know that on the other side, people had been queueing for two or three hours to get in to arenas. It was rammed. By all accounts, the MS Stubnitz, the ex-Soviet warship reinvigorated as a venue, was dangerous and had been cordoned off. Twitter claims people had been diving off it straight in to the Thames.
It was just before midnight when the police informed us the organisers had pulled the plug. “There is no more Bloc! There is no more Snoop Dogg!” shrilled one WPC. According to Twitter he didn’t even turn up.
And who can blame him? The thousands of people who did make it inside the Pleasure Gardens, now have to fight their way through a police kettle only to be dumped in one of the most wretched corners of east London. Not an easy place to find your way home from sober, let alone ruined.
This wouldn’t have happened last year when Bloc was held at Butlins. Not only because bed was a few hundred yards from the music in a cosy chalet, but as the Somerset location meant it wasn’t as busy.
Regardless of whether Saturday happens or not, it’s a tragedy on many levels. Pity the people who are out of pocket. The artists who didn’t get a chance to play. The security staff who were unprepared for the influx of thousands of ravers on a Friday afternoon.
This should have been a momentous weekend that celebrated cutting edge electronic music and welcomed in a new, more mainstream age for the cult festival. Boasting an impeccable line up with some of the UK’s most exciting artists and labels showcasing their talents, Bloc’s sixth year was set to be more spectacular than ever.
It also allowed fans the chance to witness live installations of Amon Tobin’s ISAM and Squarepusher’s Ufabulum shows, rare opportunities to see art and music combined in a stunning setting.
Instead, it will be remembered as a failure.
“Oh Icarus, fly not too close to the sun, lest thy waxen wings shall melt…”
– Kara Simsek