An ode to Bang Face, the Southport weekender that takes silliness very seriously…

Driving up the M6 on a drizzly Friday afternoon in March, India Jordan’s set from NYE at Soup Kitchen blaring through the speakers, conversation in the car dwindled as we ventured further north. On reflection, it’s fair to say we were a bag of pre-party nerves ahead of our first weekender. That is, the Bang Face Weekender, a wild four day rave at Pontins in Southport.

Did we cower in the corner of our chalet when we arrived, eyeing the weekender’s own 24 hour TV channel Bang Face TV thinking, “we are grossly ill-prepared for this”? Yes. Did we throw caution to the wind and throw ourselves in at the deep end in The Queen Vic (the most intimate and most bananas of the three Pontins venues), peering out from the rave daze three days later? Yes. Did we head back to London on the Monday as fully-initiated, sated, exhausted members of Hard Crew? (Dedicated Bang Face attendees – with 75% of ticketholders being returning punters – are affectionately known as Hard Crew.) Yes.

Hard Crew forever? Fuck yes.

Launched back in 2003 as a club night, Bang Face morphed into an annual lost weekend in 2008, with this year’s edition marking a tenth weekend of barmy neo-rave hedonism. With previous headliners that include Jeff Mills, The Orb and Aphex Twin, Bang Face has also hosted debut UK shows for the likes of Detroit titans Model 500 and Dopplereffekt. The Bang Face M.O might be silliness in abundance, but the programming proves that there’s more to Bang Face than a festival with as many inflatables as there are ravers; the attention to detail and commitment to rave and its origins makes the weekender a weird and wonderful blend of cutting edge electronic music, and losing your marbles in an arcade.

This year’s lineup was no different. Ninja Tune’s Amon Tobin saw one of the biggest crowds of the weekend for his headline set on the Sunday night, warping minds in the cavernous main space with a DJ set that spanned glitchy hip hop and drum & bass. Billy Nasty ramped up the energy on the Saturday with fiery acid licks and electro cuts. Later that night, Rebekah’s thumping techno peaked as she dropped Dave The Drummer & Chris Liberator’s ‘One Night In Hackney’. If your heart beats to the tune of a hardcore record and you like dancing in a pub fitted with mismatched chandeliers and vending machines, The Queen Vic hosted sweaty takeovers from the likes of Off Me Nut and Chin Stroke Records.

But it was the Face Room where I saw my favourite sets of the weekend. Sully delivered a high energy masterclass of mind-bending bass and footwork on the Saturday night, before Clouds’ sent a dimly-lit dance floor into a frenzy with a set that included tracks from his own Burnz EP. On the Friday night, 2 Bad Mice were the perfect introduction to what Bang Face is about; dance music that bangs, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. And speaking of not taking yourself too seriously, Saint Acid’s closing ceremony on the Sunday night was the epitome of that. We danced, drowning in inflatables and glow sticks, to ‘Original Nuttah’, Rhianna’s ‘We Found Love’, the Blade Runner theme tune, Duck Sauce – ‘Barbara Streisand’, the High Contrast remix of ‘Pjanoo’ and, with bemused yet shamelessly delighted faces everywhere, Taylor Swift – ‘Trouble’.

And in all happens in Pontins, a seaside holiday park that means you can dance on sticky carpets and shuffle home to a bed and a shower each night. (Spare a thought for the group that saw a paddling pool spaghetti fight on Bang Face TV, and then decided that having a spaghetti fight in their own bathroom would be really fun too.) Bang Face uses the entertainment centre of the holiday park and spreads its programming across the three rooms. The sound is strong and the production is nuts; think mad lasers, insanely trippy visuals (read: Gemma Collins, Princess Diana, Fyre Festival, Love Island, Brexit), and then there are the nonsensical signs that are brandished by punters everywhere you look. Inspired by headline signs displayed outside newsagents, Bang Face attendees submit their slogans to the festival beforehand and the best of the bunch are then printed off on laminate paper and thrown into the crowd.

In the interest of introducing you to the beloved Hard Crew ahead of time, here’s a selection we spotted across the weekend:

LOST CHILD – HAPPILY EVER BANGFACE – PUT A BANGING DONK ON IT –
WTF IS GOING ON – I’M HAPPY AT 200BPM – YOU’RE SO 2008 –
I’M AT BANG FACE INSTEAD OF SAVING FOR A HOUSE – CAPS LOCK HARD CREW – UNDEMOCRATIC BPM LEVELS – THINKING ABOUT MY HOUSE PLANTS –
JUNGALISTIC PARTY BOY – I’M STILL HERE FROM LAST YEAR –
LOST IN A WHATSAPP GROUP – HARD CREW BUCKY PARADE – ACID LOVES ME – MUM I’M AT A RAVE! – I WILL REGRET THIS LACK OF DISCIPLINE LATER IN LIFE – I CAME I SAW I BONKERED

Of all the festivals I’ve been to, Bang Face is by far the loosest, and definitely not for the faint of heart. There are absolutely no fucks given, and it is brilliantly liberating. With so many of the Hard Crew coming back for more each year, Bang Face is a big, bonkers family. It’s a DIY festival delivered with flare, with a genuine community spirit that most UK festivals would kill for. As acid house smiley balloons shot across the crowd to the sound of Sonz of a Loop Da Loop Era’s ‘Far Out’ (in my opinion, the greatest of the great piano bangers) at Saint Acid’s closing ceremony in the early hours of Monday morning, the visuals displayed the word “BANG FACE NEEDS YOU” followed by “WE NEED BANG FACE”.

That much is true. Hard Crew forever.

Ahead of Bang Face 2020, we’ve put together some key bits of info for you below:

★ The 2020 weekender takes place from 12th to 16th March at Pontins Southport

★ A ticket to Bang Face includes onsite accommodation in chalets of 2 to 6 guests

★ A ticket will cost you £183, and you add arrange for Thursday arrival for an additional £28

★ The festival offer a deposit payment system; reserve your chalet with a 25% deposit and pay the rest up to 60 days later

★ In a big group? Get your chalets booked and then shoot the Bang Face crew an email and they’ll make sure you’re all close to each other

★ The first names from the 2020 lineup will be announced soon, but in the meantime you can check what went down in 2019 here

Photo credit:
Luke Cano

Tickets and accommodation for the 2020 edition of Bang Face are on sale now.