Another year and another weekend at Electric Fields probably the best outdoor festival in Scotland just now and we definitely have the weather for it; I have the privilege of my own bed each night so don’t witness the late nights and early mornings, but for all the time the main arena is open not a drop of rain falls, a near miracle considering we’re in Scotland in September.
In fact as we arrive following a scenic drive down towards the picturesque Drumlanrig Castle we find a leisurely field and one of the most conveniently set up festivals you’ll find, it seems after last year’s fine tuning Electric Fields may have nailed its perfect set up.
Audibly a force to be reckoned with local boys Tiderays open the main stage with a wickedly rocking sound.
Their presence is informal, with a keen attempt to bond with their fans, they throw out a characteristically Scottish indie sound, so nonchalant they aren’t even sure of the name of some of their own songs, yet nevertheless a well constructed outfit.
Opening the festivals biggest tent, the Discover Stage, we find that Modern Studies are no longer playing, but have been replaced perfectly adequately with the well-honed singer-songwriter tendencies of Alex Maxwell.
Stepping up his game for the early arrivals Maxwell’s Scottish folk rock leanings with a bouncing alt rock touches are a nice thing to ease you into the festival atmosphere, his strong Scottish tones echo around the tent in an uplifting manner and after only making it here with minutes to spare (he reveals he only arrived seven minutes prior to his set), he sets us going nicely.
Local electronic indie act Onr. have a huge synth led rock sound that could easily squeeze into the mainstream with the sort of hooky tracks that the like of The 1975 would be proud of, and they have the perfect slot for it at second on the main stage just as people start to feed in from the campsite.
Their set is full of sky-scraping tracks that beg for a huge audience, add to that some hunks of 80s pop it seems they might have the right sound at the right time to achieve that.
A graceful display of simple sentiments, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever bring an addictive sound with a fierce, cohesive stage presence.
All the way from Australia, the guys all bounce their heads along in concert, while drummer, Marcel Tussie, shines in his ability to keep the pop-punk tempo.
Never before have I seen such a well matched group of musicians, they exude confidence, and rip up the Discover stage with their self acclaimed “punky jangle pop”.
Popping over to the Neu Reekie stage, a lovely set up that showcases some of the best poetic talent the country has to offer, before turning into Sneaky Pete’s ,the festival’s dance tent, at 7pm each night, I’m told the news that I’ve missed the local garage pop of Savage Mansion after they take an earlier slot than published on the Redeemer stage, however Louie & the Lochbacks quickly have me forgetting that.
It seems a while since I’ve seen Louie perform, and I’d almost forgot how much a commanding presence he holds, even without a full band behind him; today however he is joined by three of the strongest vocal talents in Scotland just now in Be Charlotte, Pronto Mama’s Ciaran McEneny and Stuart Ramage, formerly of Bella and the Bear now performing under VanIves, delivering a mainly acapella set with Louie’s sharp poetry on top.
It turns out that Louie has misplaced his book of poetry so he delivers a few classics and throws in a couple of Hector Bizerk numbers as a welcome treat to a few fans gathered in the audience, his strong Glaswegian accent lends a real grit that is essentially already their in his words, while the vocal trio deliver an angelic and warming back drop.
Adding a touch of guitar Be Charlotte takes centre stage to being a chirpy number before Louie comes back in on full pelt rap, it’s an impressive set from some of the most talented people in Scottish music just now.
Over at the main stage the crowd seem a bit subdued for Marnie‘s set but the sound coming for the stage sparkles with synth pop brilliance.
Helen Marnie’s tones are coated is sultry pop brilliance while powerful drums and euphoric synths engulf the field, it’s effortlessly cool breezy electronic music that chills as much as it gets you going and the perfect set for the sunny afternoon.
Nothing has a churning rock sound and a non-giving energy that is just explosive.
They’re well documented at having a rather troubled past, but they immerse the Discover tent in volume as the band deliver the loudest set of the festival so far.
At points Domenic Palermo’s heartfelt vocals float over soft drumbeats, but the rest bite is short lived as the set thrusts into gear.
Halfway through the set you witness the fickleness of festival crowds, the tent is never mobbed sadly but one second you see a guy having the time of his life pummelling his air drums the next second he’s being led off elsewhere, clearly not enjoying himself enough or his pals aren’t, still that’s kind of what festivals are about and the set continues on through and sees Palermo climbing up the tent poles with guitar and mic in toe.
Anna Meredith follows on and has one of those truly overwhelming sets, as a composer she is so revered and it’s clear to see why here, live it sounds huge with a touch of impending danger that submerges the emotions and leaves you dancing to quell the fear.
Epic doesn’t even begin to describe this musical collective; think orchestral prowess meets techno beats, the sound is bold and each track a climatic experience.
Despite the lack of vocals for the most part (not proper music according to Meredith’s niece and nephew) there’s a huge emotional depth in their sound that has the crowd lost in the sheer complex beauty they deliver.
At points the sound moves to tropical touches dance vibes at others vocals kick in to add to new urgency that just reassures how impressive an act you’re witnessing.
From one landscape to another, And Yet It Moves do power on a different level, with a set full on genre defying intensity that moves from quivering high keys to a beastly rhythm section to Dale Barclay’s sheer presence.
Yeah he may look like he’s dressed as a Christmas stocking in his glittery red polo neck (which he quickly sheds), but there is no doubting he is the real deal with sneered vocals and a presence that you just can’t take your eyes off; these guys deserve the big crowds.
Bringing in the evening with Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook and the Light clearly have a strong following.
Solid 80s vibes pulsate through the fields of Drumlanrig, exuding expertise of the synth variety.
A dizzying confession of angst, anger and revolt, thumping out rock beats backed by clever hooks and clean vocals, Car Seat Headrest is not your average rock band.
They bring a sound that’s both large and loud with a hope their audience is entertained as much as them.
As the band grow into their set of first wave channelling emo that has enough pop hooks to addictive angular guitars to get you addicted, it quickly becomes overpowering and they close to huge sing-along chorus’, crowd surfing and soaring belters.
Across the Atlantic Band of Horses would headline a festival of this size, on a worldwide scale they’re the biggest band on the entire line-up, and they prove why with a set dotted with huge sounding tracks that keep the main stage bouncing along.
There’s touches of country to the Seattle based five-pieces catalogue but when they get to hits like ‘The Funeral’ they reach real classic American indie rock territory which has the now pretty substantial main stage crowd singing along.
Known for their partly psychedelic, fuzzy tunes, Temples don’t disappoint and allow for a reminiscence to 60s rock while maintaining skilful melodies.
A little mysterious and reserved, Temples’ stage performance is one of aloofness and grandeur.
Hidden away from all the bands, starting later on each night is a dance paradise that’s rammed as much as the Slam tent would be for Jackmaster, the Numbers founder is an incredible prospect as ever delivering a diverse maximal set that has everyone moving.
He gets on his horse a wee bit with an inflatable ball hitting him a couple of times, but who wouldn’t, he has to leave directly after his set to play the Sub Club, but and who would have thought there would be a bigger crowd for him in Dumfries at 9pm.
Closing the main stage are a band that, in this part of world at least, need very little introduction; but as a somewhat flattered Scott Hutchison notes, Frightened Rabbit aren’t a band that gets to headline festivals, let alone follow one their favourite bands to it, still they promise no confetti no fireworks just a fuck load of songs and they more than deliver.
They’re on stage for a bumper set that draws from their increasingly strong back catalogue of superbly structure Scottish vocals, folk tinged alternative rock that moves from tracks of moving beauty to belting sing-alongs about shagging, a superb way to close the first night.
Words: Iain Dawson/Rachel Cunningham
Photos: Allan Lewis/Erin McKay