Electric Fields Festival – Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries – 20/08/14
So, a new one day music festival in the grounds of 17th century Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries with a packed line up with some of Scotland’s best emerging musical talent with one or two more established acts also included.
The venue is just over an hours drive south of Glasgow, in a beautiful part of the country too so an enjoyable drive can be had on the way there. Coming from Aberdeen we opted to stay overnight at nearby Abington, just off the motorway, to be that bit more refreshed for the twelve hours of music that we were to (hopefully) enjoy on the Saturday.
Arriving at the festival grounds which was handily signposted for the castle, we easily find the car park and are impressed when we discover that the camping area was in the next field, so not far to take your gear and more time to enjoy your day! (it’s the little things innit). Once set up another five minutes or so walk over a hill and the arena entrance is right in front of you, it really is as compact as you’d like. Tickets for the day were twenty of your hard earned pounds with another tenner on top if you chose to camp overnight on the Saturday.
Having a wander round the arena there were a couple of fairground attractions, then a kiosk selling beer tokens and line up lanyards, only two quid each. The lanyards that is, the beer tokens were £3.50. Next to that we have the marquee bar and a merch desk within. A two minute stroll to the bottom of the area we come to the Red Bull Studios stage, which started at 5pm with electronic based acts followed by DJs. There was a small bar beside it also for the more thirsty dancers. We had to carefully squeeze past this frantic circle pit though…
Continuing our initial `get our bearings` walk around the arena we come to the To Lose La Trek acoustic tent. This area has plenty of seating and tables, it’s quite clear the people who run this event know exactly what they’re doing. It’s a nice chill out area when the sun is out too, and the music varied. Food vans appear next on our walk, nothing spectacular but they do the job as you’d imagine. There were two banks of toilet cubicles on opposite sides of the arena which seemed to be enough on the day.
The two main stages are next to each other, The Arc and Carse Valley. Stage times are staggered and when one act finishes the other stage starts up. No hanging around while drum kits etc are swapped over. Even with hindsight I’m not sure how I could have changed the layout to make it better really so well done to the EF people. Oh, one more thing, there were various benches for folk sitting on not far from the main stages, it really is a minor detail but I thought this also was a great idea, you could have food and have your bags at your feet etc and still listen to the music. Just makes for a better all round punter experience in my humble opinion.
You can view our flickr gallery of images from Electric Fields 2014 here.
But what about the music. Well with a non stop conveyor belt of bands on the two main stages there was always something on and when the acoustic tent finished for the day late afternoon the more dance-y tent got going soon after – featuring not just DJ’s but a couple of bands as well. Main stage bands (there were twenty in total) got half an hour each with the later ones getting slightly longer, and ten acts, with all bar the last (who got 30 mins) getting 20 mins apiece, appeared on the acoustic stage.
DS got to cover the ‘To Lose La Trek’ acoustic stage – there was a nice mix of solo acoustic singers and bands. Some of the acts were pretty politically inclined – not my cup of tea I have to admit so I didn’t listen beyond the first couple of songs with other stages to visit, however those who were there to watch them enjoyed them and that’s what counts.
Some of those I did enjoy: Alex Maxwell, playing his solo project, was the tent opener and provided a pleasant start to the day. Sean vs the Robots – a local lad from Dumfries, who also normally plays with a band these days – went back to his roots to provide a pleasantly mellow set. Sticks and Stones, 3 local Dumfries teenagers who describe their music as ‘delicate but dirty folk’ – the singer has a very interesting almost gruff voice. Another name that has cropped up a few times this year over the summer has been that of 17-year-old Zoë Bestel, who has a great voice (and was wearing a very fetching hat) to accompany her wee ukulele.
Once the acoustic stage ended, the Red Bull dance tent began, with a DJ set to start and then Machines in Heaven playing. This is a name we’ve come across many times – and always managed to miss so far – so it was great to finally get chance to find out what they were all about. Very danceable synthy pop in fact. A bit later on, following on from a DJ set, Atom Tree also played – another electronicy band in keeping with the whole feel of the Red Bull tent, although maybe somewhat slower in tempo with soulful vocals provided by their singer, Julie Knox. Great stuff.
So, moving on to the two main stages. With a short sideways hop between the alternating sets, it was a bit like getting caught in a stampede later on when they got really busy, as people migrated back and forth. Check the image below to see just how close the main stages were to each other.
It’s tough to pick out the stand out acts from the day – overall it was a pretty strong lineup and thus we have one of the issues with this review. DS handpicked a few favourites from the main stages to mention, SB did the same and all of a sudden it seemed a shame not to mention the few we had missed out so here it is, a quick list of all twenty bands that took us through a feet melting twelve hours of main stage live music at Electric Fields 2014.
We won’t mention who played which stage but this was the order of play covering both and we kicked off with local lads from Annan, The Sheepwagon, who woke everyone up for a day of local, emerging and already established Scottish talent. It’s quite a good feeling you know, the anticipation of a day like this ahead of us.
Next up was again a local band this time from Dumfries, Barstow Bats, who (I think) had opened up the main stage at Wickerman Festival last year.
So, back to Annan representatives and we then enjoyed the madness that is SB’s favourites, More From Jim. Fusing onstage nonsense with a fast tempo, brassy, ska punk knees up they certainly got DS smiling (not the easiest of things to do) and actually won her ‘Palest White Boy` award of the day. Any festivals looking for a fun band should book these boys.
Brickie by day, singer by night, Cammy Black was up next with his slice of gritty pop music and thoroughly entertained his band of (mostly female) followers from Dumfries (and no doubt beyond). He’s recently headlined his own show at King Tuts too, so a name to keep an eye on.
Ayrshires Vukovi quite possibly the largest number of photographers, all vying for Janines up close and personal attention. There’s a lady who knows how to play up to the camera – she’s not just a pretty face though as the bands pop music style set was excellent.
We got a random laugh during ska band The Amphetameanies set as one photographer decided to shift the bands box of beer to no doubt to get a clear shot. There was a lull in the proceedings as Stan took joking exception to his beer being touched, but they took it well and quickly moved the said box further from the edge of the stage. Just another day etc.
SB really enjoyed Woodenbox performance, putting them firmly on the `to see again soon` list for 2015. In fact, they are announced in the line-up for Brew at The Bog again this year, so we’re looking forward to that.
A band that seems to have progressed miles since they’ve had a tweak in direction with their style are United Fruit bringing a massive improvement we think. Being not quite so raw as they were does have its advantages sometimes.
We’ve often seen the name but always missed their performances for one reason or another, yes, that is Miaoux Miaoux, from Glasgow, with their electronic based indie/dance anthems – definitely catchy. They played GoNorth in Inverness earlier in 2014.
Giving us a bit of a breather from the bouncy action, were the laid back AMW&F, a band who always seem to have a big following wherever they play these days. It’s not exactly an easy to remember band name (while searching for them on Google I discovered AMWF is also an acronym for something totally different, well I thought it was interesting anyway – DS) – in actual fact AMW&F stands for Anderson, McGinty, Webster, Ward & Fisher, a kind of gestalt entity who were the 2013 winners of the Scottish Variety Awards Best New Scottish Band/Solo Act award, beating off Chvrches who were also in the running.
Time for some skanking in the sun with Bombskare, their highlight for us being the singalong Walk Like an Egyptian. Smiles and a knees up? Seriously, whats not to like?
Drawing the largest crowd surprisingly early on was Prides, fresh from the Glasgow Commonwealth games closing ceremony. They played their usual tight set , opening with the dancy ‘The Seeds You Sow’ and by the end of their performance the packed crowd were literally bouncing in the sun. Just magic.
Probably one of the furthest travelled bands to get here were Neon Waltz from Caithness with their dreamy pop songs aplenty. I (SB) reckon these boys are one to keep an eye on, with the right songs they’ll be stepping up to bigger stages soon.
We thought rare female duo Honeyblood seemed to suffer from a rather poor quality sound on the day which was a little disappointing, but there you go. They’ve been getting some good reviews for their debut self-titled album though, so that maybe worth a listen.
Back for some huge singalong anthems for the big ballad band, the Vigo Thieves who had many folk singing along to their hearts content during their performance with saltires flying everywhere. Great festival band.
We’ve seen Stanley Odd so many times this year and they consistently put on a great live show, especially if you like the song content of Yes campaigner and hip hop maestro Dave Hook and the vocals of Rebecca Shearing were outstanding, as she provided the last maternity leave infill before the return of Veronika Electronika to the Stanley Odd fold.
Its been a while since I’d seen The LaFontaines back home at The Lemon Tree I think it was and they’ve not really changed much. Bouncy hip hop with some great soundtracks to accompany the words.
Getting close to the end now as we enjoyed the much improved indie rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks, who have not long had an album out (called ‘Unravelling’). They also played The Garage, Aberdeen in September, which SB was there to see.
Closing The Arc stage were Fatherson – who seem to have been playing at every festival we’ve been to in Scotland this summer and are going from strength to strength. Indeed, their set seemed to be one singalong from the crowd to another, an indication of their current popularity if ever there was one. They’ve certainly improved since the last time DS saw them and their closing song, James, was brilliantly done as just about every face we’d seen through the day joined them on stage to sing along to the final part. A really touching moment actually.
Closing the Carse Valley stage was Roman Nose, an electronic act from Glasgow which features visuals and live drumming that we’d sadly missed at the GoNorth festival. It was quite frustrating to try and photograph actually (especially as we were both pretty tired by then) – almost total darkness apart from a few odd strobes and a front projector pointed on the drummer. Hopefully we’ll get a better set of pictures of them in the future.
All in all another top day out to what really is a visually delicious part of Scotland, hope we get invited back next year.
Words and images by Dark Secret and Still Burning.
You can view our flickr gallery of images from Electric Fields 2014 here.
Electric Fields Festival website