BASKING in the unflinchingly resplendent sunshine in the grounds of Drumlanrig Castle, it is no stretch of the imagination to say that Electric Fields was the festival experience at its most rewarding. Teaming a stellar line-up with an atmosphere of likemindedness and camaraderie among the thousands in attendance that never wilted over the course of the weekend, it is safe to say that this was an experience not to be missed.
Ranging from the main stage and Tenement TV’s very own Discover tent that housed a litany of international and homegrown artists to those curated by Neu Reekie!, BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway and more, the inundation of top tier talent was like few festivals we’ve ever experienced and those in attendance were clearly appreciative of the time and effort that had gone in to crafting such a bill.
Getting things underway for us was a set from an artist and lyricist whose unencumbered and button-pushing wit has been sorely missed from the stage. Having plunged himself into semi-retirement from live performance in order to focus on the stable of burgeoning talent that he guides through the treacherous industry landscape, former Hector Bizerk frontman Louie and his new group The Lochbacks got things off to a flying start at the Neu Reekie stage.
Shedding light on everything from the music scene’s most detestable poseurs to intolerance, entitlement and injustices, the renowned MC stridently made his way through an invigorating set that not only entertained but confronted. Flanked by Be Charlotte, Pronto Mama’s Ciaran Mceneny and Stuart Ramage of Van Ive’s, we can but hope that this performance has renewed Louie’s love for the act of live performance as it would be a pleasure to see and hear more from this quartet.
Over on the Redeemer Stage, it was Glasgow’s Rascalton that brought the day to life with a thunderous performance that cemented their status as one of the nation’s most exciting young outfits. Attracting an impressive crowd of loyal fans and intrigued punters, it didn’t take long for the four-piece to whip them into a frenzy with massive punk anthems like ‘Lust’, ‘Hey Hottie’ and ‘Alone’. Considering this was their very first festival performance, the band looked every inch the seasoned veterans as they rattled through tune after tune; exuding the punk bravado and swelling confidence of a band most definitely on the rise. A memorable moment for Glasgow’s biggest buzz band.
A set that was highly anticipated by all of those who’ve ever been entranced by the pioneering sounds of Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook & The Light made their way on to the stage with nothing to prove but every intention of thrilling the masses that had gathered to see the iconic bassist. Beginning with authority as the haywire riffs of Digital, it became clear that all of those in the vicinity were about to bear witness to a masterclass in how to construct a career-spanning set. Making the very most of their time onstage, ‘Hooky’ led both his well honed band and legion of followers through the toast of both of his irrepressibly influential groups’ back-catalogues including ‘Transmission’, ‘Shadowplay’ and a blistering rendition of ‘Blue Monday’ that provided one of the most momentous crowd responses of the whole weekend. Closing things out with cathartic takes on ‘Ceremony’ and’Love Will Tear Us Apart’, only those who harbour any preconceived ill will towards the bassist would inform you that it was anything less than the embodiment of a hit-packed festival set.
Back on our very own TTV Discover Stage, Car Seat Headrest turned in one of the performances of the day as the outfit fronted by Will Toledo just about blew the roof off the tent with one massive tune after another; from the punk assault of ‘Fill In The Blanks’ to the anthemic, grungy sounds of ‘Destroyed By Hippie Powers’ to the hugely popular ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’, it felt like you were watching a band at the peak of their powers. It was amazing to see just how far the prolific songwriter has come since 2014’s How To Leave Town as arms were flung in the air and the crowd bellowed back every sharply penned lyric. A fiercely talented outfit with an unbelievable amount of good material to their name already, it surely won’t be long until Car Seat Headrest are gracing the even bigger stages all over the world.
Among the very best purveyors of modern-day psych that have made their presence known in the modern pantheon, Temples seiged control of the TTV Discover stage with a set that could be befitting of a legitimate festival headliner. Having packed out the tent to what must’ve been its capacity, the exceedingly imaginative material that can be found on both their debut album Sun Structures and new record Volcano are delivered with aplomb and keeps the audience thoroughly fixated from start to finish.
Taking pride of place at the top of the bill on the Discover Stage, there’s a tangible sense of anticipation in the air as one of the UK’s most culturally vital artists prepares to descend with unmatched verbosity and righteous outrage bubbling under the surface. Joined by a full band that are more than capable of recreating the immersive sonic bombardment that she utilises as a canvas in order to deliver her momentous, enlightening opuses, Kate Tempest arrival is met with a rapturous response and yet the crowd soon settles down in order to listen intently to an artist at the top of her game. Performing her Mercury Prize nominated album Let Them Eat Chaos in its entirety, tracks such as ‘Ketamine For Breakfast’, ‘Europe Is Lost’ and ‘Breaks’ hit home with the velocity and force of a runaway train before the spellbounding ”Tunnel Vision’ intertwines the album’s multi-person narrative with panache and leaves the audience simultaneOously uplifted and aghast at the perpetuation of the thought-provoking tales she spins in the real world.
Over on the festival’s main stage, there is a moment of unity and harmony the likes of which few festivals could seek to replicate. One of the band’s first ever festival headlining sets, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting band to draw the curtain on the festival’s opening night than the modern day national treasures that are known as Frightened Rabbit. Greeted by massive amounts of adoration and emotive sing-a-longs that never subside until the minute that they vacate the stage, the band get things underway with the hugely anthemic ‘Get Out’ from their latest record Painting Of A Panic Attack and it securely sets the tone for what’s to come. Making their intentions to provide a set that rewards fans both old and new clear with outings of revered tracks such as ‘Holy’, ‘Head Rolls Off’ and ‘Fast Blood.’
Venturing right into the depths of their back catalogue to provide a rendition of ‘Square 9’ from Sings The Greys , the band attested to not only the consistency of their material but the unwavering love of their fanbase as lesser known EP track ‘Scottish Winds’, new album highlight Lump Street’ and the seminal sound of ‘The Woodpile’ are met with genuine elation.
Concluding with a bombastic and inspiring take on The Midnight Organ Fight’s ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ as frontman Scott Hutchison warmly declared that ‘Scotland needs a festival like Electric Fields’ , it is clear that the role of headliner is one that ‘Frabbit’ have more than earned and have adopted seamlessly.
A delectable antitode to any cobwebs that remained from the previous night, The TTV Discover Stage played host to a sterling performance from the politicised indie rock of Declan Welsh & The Decadent West. Capable of espousing tales of tumultous relationships in one breath before delivering a succinct and punchy critique of the torrid trajectory that many are on within the modern world, tracks such as ‘No Pasaran’ and ‘Useless’ make it clear that the poet/singer-songwriter is becoming increasingly comfortable in his own distinct vein. Assisted by Hannah of The Van T’s, the set concluded with a heartfelt tribute to The Lapelles’ late frontman Gary Watson and the track’s thoughtful ruminations on how finite this life is not only served as a eulogy for a great musician and person but reaffirmed that good times such as those that we have with our friends at festivals are to be cherised and never taken for granted.
Taking hold of Vic Galloway’s Big Pink stage in the mid-afternoon, the palpable buzz that has congregated around the every move of Glasgow’s Edwin Organ was promptly authenticaed during his electrifying set. In spite of the nonchalance that he may exude on stage, it is clear that there ingenuity in every note of his dizzying electro-pop and his mesmeric performance is only a sign of things to come at Tenement Trail.
Speaking of music that entirely captivates every audience that they make their way in front of, Crash Club’s outing on The TTV Discover stage was nothing short of an exhibition of a band that have well and truly found their groove. Culling influence from everything from DFA and Factory Records to the rough and ready indie rock of the mid 2000’s, Crash Club’s knack for whipping even the most apathetic of casual viewers into an absolute fever pitch is second to none in Scotland’s musical landscape. Delivering a litany of new material that they’ve been meticulously crafting during a period of absence from live performance, tracks such as ‘Chemicals’ and the Ian Mackinnon-assisted outings of ‘Pennydrop’ and ‘Recondition’ were truly incendiary and encased the tent in a enthralling and hedonistic ambience that lingered long after they took their leave.
One of Scotland’s biggest exports of soul-baring alt rock in recent years, Fatherson are another band that now seem more than at ease when placed in front of the pulsating organism that is a festival’s main stage crowd. Focusing primarily on tracks from their 2016 LP Open Book, their set was one which portrayed the full spectrum of human emotion from meteoric highs to the most despondent of lows over a soundtrack of thrilling guitars and mountainous percussion.
Delving directly into the more menacing and rebellious side of the rock ‘n’ roll spectrum, Manchester’s PINS never fail to impress on record or in the live arena and that can certainly be said of their time on the TTV Discover Stage. Delivering a full-blooded set of unrepentant punk rock that was derived from their previous work and recent EP Bad Thing, this four-piece have the songs and the charm to carry them as far as they’d like to go in the modern industry.
As iconic a band as you could ever aspire to have on a festival bill, to say that there was almost a pilgrimage to see The Jesus And Mary Chain would be no overstatement. Although there may have been 20 years between Munki and their latest LP Damage And Joy, the mutual exchange of passion and energy that is given by both crowd and band would’ve led you to believe that they’d never missed a beat. Opening with new record highlight Amputation, it’s not long before those who’d made their way up to the festival to see one of their favourite bands play their most renowned material are rewarded with a one-two combination of ‘April Skies’ and ‘Head On.’ Striking an equitable balance between their newest output and the legendary sounds of yesteryear that encouraged thousands of bands to slow down the tempo and ramp up the distortion, tracks such as ‘Always Sad’, ‘Between Planets’, ‘Nine Million Rainy Days’ and an intoxicating take on ‘Some Candy Talking’ ensured that the crowd were in their collective palm.
Leaving the audience in a dreamlike state with a double dose of Psychocandy’s finest in the shape of ‘Just Like Honey’ and ‘The Living End’, things are then rounded off with a snarky, deeply visceral version of ‘I Hate Rock ‘n’ Roll’ that ensures those that deemed The Mary Chain to be one of the deciding factors in getting a ticket to Electric Fields went home happy.
For a festival that had literally been one non-stop procession of elating moments, it’s hard to think of anyone that could close it out with more flair and chaos-inciting material than Grime forefather Dizzee Rascal. Bounding on to the stage to the sound of recent single ‘Spaced’, what would follow was a rollercoaster of vibrant beats, hard-hitting rhymes and a stark reminder of how much he has done for the now UK hip-hop laden landscape which we’re now treated to.
Enlisting tracks from the Mercury Prize winning Boy In Da Corner such as ‘Stand Up Tall’, ‘Just A Rascal’ and ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ alongside the politically charged ‘Sirens’ from Maths+English, it was a set that demonstrated not only his sheer wealth of hits but also the fact that he is a consumate live performer that knows exactly how to get a crowd’s collective pulse racing. Paying homage to Scotland’s own Calvin Harris as their collaborative tracks ‘Dance Wive Me’ and ‘Holiday’ incited sheer carnage, the decision to enlist the Armen Van Helden-assisted ‘Bonkers’ to draw a weekend full of amazing live performances to a close was a very fitting one as its instantly recognisable chorus was bellowed by the masses.
The year that the festival irrefutably staked its claim as one of the crowning glories of the UK festival industry, 2017’s edition of Electric Fields will live long in the memory of all of those that made the trip and we all wait with baited breath for the next fantastic instalment.
Photos by Brendan Waters & Cameron Brisbane