Electric Fields 2018
Drumlanrig Castle, Thornhill, Dumfries & Galloway, DG3 4AQ.
Thursday 30th August – Saturday 1st September

Festival reviews often prattle on about which bands the reviewer did and didn’t enjoy, but I suspect that most people read festival reviews to try and get a feel for whether it’s a festival that they might enjoy and therefore should be on their radar.  There are so many festivals these days, sometimes 3 or 4 in a single weekend, often with similar lineups and similar layouts, so it’s becoming more and more difficult for a festival to stand out as an obvious choice.

When photographing bands you can be so busy running from one stage to the next that you don’t have time to take in the festival itself, but fortunately I brought my better half and kids along, plus we bought tickets, so I wasn’t on a freeby jolly (which often make things seem better than they actually are!)

If you live in Glasgow or Edinburgh (which are about 90 mins drive from the festival), it’s a no-brainer as it’s on your doorstep if the lineup is your thing, but what if you live further away, why should you drive past other festivals to get to Electric Fields?

For me, one of the great plus points of the weekend is the people.  There is a heavy presence of Glaswegians, there, who like Scousers are famous for their sense of humour and fun.  Everyone we spoke to all weekend were friendly and up for a laugh. Walking around with my cameras late at night I never felt unsafe, we didn’t see any trouble all weekend.  It’s family friendly, but in a good way even if you don’t bring kids.

Another positive is the location – set in the grounds of the impressive Drumlanrig Castle it’s a stunning location, and you can walk around it’s grounds and maze (though the Castle itself is unsurprisingly closed for the weekend).

Since the festival ends on the Saturday night (which is quite unusual) I can recommend spending the Sunday traveling around the picturesque scenery of Dumfries and Galloway!  Unless of course, like us you have a tent that takes hours to pack away!

If you have kids then you’ll appreciate the extensive adventure playground to tire them out before it closes at 5pm.  There are also kids tents in the main arena with various entertainment.

The site is small which means you can get to where you need to be without massive long hikes, want to catch the start of the next act on the second stage, but don’t want to leave the main stage just yet?  No sweat, a quick 3 min dash and you’ll make it!  Yet they are far enough apart that I didn’t notice any soundbleed across the weekend.

Considering it almost sold out, there was a nice lack of crowding.  Even at Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds headline set, we were able to get our chairs fairly close to the front (usefully, next to the wood fired pizza stall!) it was busy, but not packed like a lot of festivals get, no pushing and shoving!

The sound from all stages was great – no complaints here!

Toilets were surprisingly clean, and generally had sanitizer and toilet roll, which can’t be said for many festivals!  The ones by the main stage unsurprisingly had long queues, but there were more toilets with shorter queues only a short walk away.

Food was generally excellent, though the flip side of that of course was that there were few bargains if any, with a main meal generally costing around £8.  Our little one fancied a hotdog, but of course it was a fancy hotdog so after spending £8 he didn’t like it!  A cheap and cheerful no frills stall could be a welcome addition, particularly with so many kids in attendance who aren’t always keen on fancy food.

If I were to nit-pick, it would be handy if there were toilets at the adventure playground (they are only a few mins walk away, but young kids often leave going to the toilet until the last minute, especially when they are having fun!).  I realise that we’re spoiled by Glastonbury and Bearded Theory who unlike most other festivals, let you take drink into the arena (and still have long queues at that bars).  We tend to take cans of Carlsberg not just for economic reasons, but because it’s so weak, you can drink it all day and not get drunk – essential when you’re in charge of children.  Since Birra Morreti are one of the sponsors of the festival, that was the main lager on offer – it’s a nice pint, but 4 or 5 of them and I’d be on the floor these days!

That said, with a Cocktail bar, Ale bar and Lager/Cider bar you are spoilt for choice!

Weather of course in the UK is unpredictable at best.  I mean, Glastonbury is at the end of June and is amongst the most southerly festivals in the UK, yet rain is more common than not!  At Electric Fields, the weather this weekend was lovely on the Friday though cold later on, with light occasional drizzle on the Saturday, but a lovely warm evening – though of course it is Scotland at the end of summer, so always worth packing waterproofs and warm clothes!

Tickets can be purchased in monthly installments – which is brilliant as you hardly notice the money going out each month.

All in all, a great little festival that gets all the important stuff right.

Having got all that out of the way, now I can be self-indulgent and talk about the bands I liked 🙂

The main act I wanted to see was Baxter Dury – the first time I’ve seen him and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest!  Starting off with Isabel, he performed a great set, and is more like his dad than his dad was 🙂

I’ve never been a massive Oasis fan, but Noel’s set was a perfect crowd-pleasing headline set, with a good balance of Oasis and High Flying Birds material, leading to lots of singalongs.

Leftfield were a bold choice of headliner – though I think they are great, with only 2 hits to speak off, 1 which nobody can remember, I was worried that they may not go down well with a general festival audience who tend to favour lots of singalongs, but I needn’t have worried, though there were noticeably less people than for Noel the night before, their enthusiasm more than made up for it, and I spoke to a few people who had come specifically for Leftfield.

Having a small child with us, I didn’t manage to get to any of the earlier slots or rushed between stages, so didn’t catch Black Honey or Dream Wife on this occasion, though on previous occasions they have been brilliant.

I did enjoy catching 1 song each of Loki the Scottish Rapper and Wuh Oh, the latter was recommended to me by someone saying “you might love him, you might hate him, he’s truly bizarre” which sounds like my cup of tea!  The track I heard certainly made me want to see his full set sooner rather than later.

I’d never seen The Horrors or Idlewild before, who were both excellent, and I never get tired of seeing Public Service Broadcasting with their inventive use of video and samples.

Teenage Fanclub of course are always worth a listen!  Carl Hunter from The Farm once introduced me to the lead singer at a Label showcase.  My hearing isn’t great when there is a lot of background noise (too many loud gigs without ear protection when I was younger!), I’d noticed that the guys from Hooton Tennis Club seemed really excited to meet him, I thought he looked familiar but couldn’t place him, so we were chatting away until I said “What do you do?”, he looked somewhat flabbergasted and replied “I’m in a band!”.  So I said “Anybody I’ve heard of?”, he told me, but I didn’t hear what he said, so assuming some unknown up and coming band, I smiled and nodded.  It was only after recommending a Chinese restaurant to him and he went off on his merry way that I found out who he was!

I was a bit worried about stepping into the photo pit, I had visions of him going “oi!  You’re that bloke who didn’t know who I was!”, and at one point he did seem to smile directly at me, whether coincidence or not I don’t know!  But he didn’t throw anything at me, so it was alright 😉

Anyway, a great weekend of music, fun and banter in idyllic countryside with the family – what more could you want?

More info: http://electricfieldsfestival.com/


Review & Pictures: John W. King