RockNess prided itself on the majestic mountain scenery during its eight-year tenure on the shores of the famous Scottish Loch, whilst T in the Park has consistently attracted some of the best international acts in the world during it’s two decades on the festival scene, but we have a new kid on the festival block in Scotland. Although only in its infancy, Electric Fields Festival‘s third year sees the event expand to a two day shindig for the first time, but does it offer a viable August Bank Holiday festival alternative to the riotous Leeds and Reading affairs taking place over the border?
Arriving in glorious sunshine certainly gets things off to a great start and the lush, green fields of the Queensbury estate in Dumfries and Galloway are a welcoming sight. Home to the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry, the pink sandstone of Drumlanrig castle positively glows as it peeks above the trees beyond the main festival site and the distant mountains of the Southern Uplands contribute to the feeling that you’re not just at a festival, but really out in the open countryside.
Of course, a festival lives and dies on it’s musical line-up and with a five thousand capacity, Electric Fields’ booking policy will have to contend with the fact that it is not going to attract a T in the Park bill of performers. Having said that, the compact site manages to include four musical areas catering for a range of rock, folk, electronic and global tastes. There really is something for everyone. The organisers have also provided a stage for Scottish music and John O’ Groats’ Neon Waltz kick things off in moody and dramatic fashion on the Main Stage, which is still blessed with blue skies that certainly don’t match the dark tones of the young band. Sundara Karma frontman Oscar Lulu adds a bit of glam to proceedings and the Reading band deliver the goods with a thrilling, psychedelic set, but a lot of the good stuff this afternoon happens away from the main stage as Tuff Love and Emma Pollock deliver captivating sets full of passion and energy in the intimate Stuart Cruickshank tent. The highlight of the day comes in the form of London’s Public Service Broadcasting who once again provide gripping, cinematic moments of musical brilliance that has the crowd, young and old, enthralled. Although lacking the lights and screen projections that accompany them on many shows, the band generate an infectious, dynamic energy that concludes in a suitably celestial way as the fine Scottish drizzle that has started falling towards the conclusion of the set combines with the remaining evening sunshine to create a glorious rainbow ensuring that the band have a light-show befitting of their spectacular compositions after all.
The Charlatans close the day, delivering a rousing, atmospheric set of hits that cover three decades and iconic songs such as The Only One I Know, Weirdo and North Country Boy delight old fans and new as the temperature starts to drop in the Scottish lowlands.
Saturday is blessed with simply sublime festival weather. Blue skies, glorious sunshine and a very light breeze keeping the temperature at a bearable level vindicate the decision to spend the majority of the day outside at the Main Stage. It would have been foolish to miss Bill Ryder-Jones in the sweaty Stuart Cruickshank tent however and the former Coral guitarist keenly demonstrates the satisfying qualities of his more bruising, rockier approach that is inherent on his latest record in particular.
Glasgow’s Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 are massively popular with the crowd and the sing-a-long anthems and energetic crowd participation ensure that any lingering hangovers are quickly forgotten about. Honeyblood’s excellent set provides further evidence of the band’s impressive transformation into a vital lo-fi punk band and latest single Ready For The Magic is a brawny yet melodic delight.
If there was one negative to what was fast becoming a perfect festival afternoon, then it was the amount of stage time afforded some of the acts. Admiral Fallow have barely got up to stride when they announce their last track, which is a massive shame as the main stage certainly seems to suit their broad, dramatic soundscapes. C Duncan gently shimmers, perfectly justifying the decision to lie back and soak up the sun with a refreshing ale, but final track Garden increases the tempo dramatically and the field bobs up and down as heads nod and feet tap to the glorious drama of the song.
Twilight Sad’s intense, moody introspection proves to be a particularly seductive affair and James Graham is an arresting force of nature as he whirls wildly across the stage like a man possessed. Everything Everything provide visual and musical delights which are hard to deny and frontman Jonathan Higgs orchestrates proceedings with brooding intensity one moment and decadent panache the next. No Reptiles is just plain silly though!
Finally, Primal Scream emerge to a roar of appreciation from the home crowd and the Scottish legends certainly deliver as Bobby Gillespie struts imposingly and vocalist Hannah Marsden adds distinctive, seductive layers to a plethora of their most vital tracks. The band open with Movin’ On Up which proves to be a riotous nostalgia trip but it is on tracks like Swastika Eyes and its kaleidoscopic contortions that really demonstrate the band’s enigmatic status and enduring appeal.
The third installment of Electric Fields is undoubtedly a rollicking success. Defined by its imaginative musical bookings and complimented by ideal weather, the festival has been the perfect way to mark the end of the summer. The event certainly seems to have the potential to grow if the owners of the current site allow it. The one thing the event is currently lacking is a more creative program of alternative forms of entertainment, food and children’s activities. Hopefully this can be accommodated in future additions of this impressive fledgling Scottish festival.
Day One — Charlatans, Emma Pollock, Neon Waltz, Public Service Broadcasting, Sundara Karma, Tuff Love, Wild Beasts
Day Two — Admiral Fallow, Bill Ryder-Jones, C Duncan, Colonel Mustard, Everything Everything, Honeyblood, Primal Scream, The Van T’s, Twilight Sad
Follow updates from Electric Fields here.
Review and Photos by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto