As the summer festival circuit is starting to realise, ain’t no party like a Mustard party, and Electric Fields is no exception.
The two-day event in Dumfries & Galloway has a decidedly fun atmosphere, which is evident from the moment we arrive and find Col. Mustard and pals, clad in yellow and glitter as per usual, getting the busy throng going with their aptly Primals-esque dance rhythms. The fact they have a Bez-style dancer leading the in-crowd ‘activities’ by crowd-surfing on an inflatable unicorn just adds to the surreal atmosphere as much as it does the feeling of being at a massive celebration where everyone’s invited.
So we’re late to the party despite having ventured down this neck of the woods many times – though more usually to Wickerman, taking a break this year. Despite the two festivals running parallel last year, there are decided similarities, though the site, in the shadow of Drumlanrig Castle is a little more enclosed rather than the free fields of its older cousin up the road, and a wee bit more ‘corporate’ in the bag searches. However, it’s a decent spacious space with no sound bleed between the various tents dotted around the arena.
Biggest of the subsidiary stages is the one named after Stewart Cruickshank, the Radio Scotland producer and general musical encyclopaedia who sadly passed away last year. Despite the sunshine beating down and a fairly obscure band in The 9th Wave performing, the tent is pretty packed, and I’m sure this lover of all musical genres would have also approved of their anthemic pop.
If Mustard’s Yellow Movement is a regular at festivals the country over, it seems that C Duncan is similarly ubiquitous, but it’s just the fact that we caught his set at Doune the Rabbit Hole only last weekend. The reception this time around is no less enthusiastic, the crowd able to chill out in the baking sun rather than expend energy dancing as per his main stage predecessor. ‘Architect’ and a closing ‘Garden’ both evoke Californian vibes with their harmonies and elicit a mass clap-along from the revellers.
Another handy warm-up for a main stage act, Lisbon nay well have enjoyed Everything Everything’s main stage set later on. Jiggy with a bit of afrobeat, the Whitley Bay foursome could well end up playing bigger stages in future.
Back on the big stage, Admiral Fallow are enthralling a willing audience. ‘Guest of the Government’, played early, has them clapping along while the entire band adopt percussion for ‘Old Balloons’ which makes for an pounding epic, finale.
we’re treading a furrow between main and Stewart C stages, but it’s nice for our pallid Scots skin to get some respite from the unseasonably warm sun. And Onr are under canvas, if not under wraps. Similarly to their predecessors, they’re a band made for greater things – only their 4th live show, it emerges that they feature former members of local-ish act Finding Albert, so it’s early days, and whether they opt for the slow-burning slowie or a Killers-esque onslaught as their trademark sound is yet to be decided.
Honeyblood have already graduated to big stages, and despite being a mere two-piece, they make more than enough noise and have gathered a decent following awaiting the duo’s new album Babes Never Die, from which single ‘Ready For The Magic’ is a heart-stopping taster. The’ll surely not be disappointed, ‘Love Is A Disease’ another newie that fits in nicely with ‘Killer Bangs’, as we’re invited to waltz, or tango, though moshing may be more apt.
Dundee is far-removed from Soweto, you’d think, but Model Aeroplanes‘ spindly guitar lines and African beats draw heavily from the Paul Simon / Vampire Weekend / Bwani Junction end – it will be interesting to see how far their new major label status takes them, but they already know now to hold the audience’s rapt attention, including a coterie of young fans barely out of primary school (and one Austrian hitchiker they picked up on the way).
He may not be as loved up as keyboardist Darren (postponing his honeymoon with Liz for a time-and-a-half) but Steve Mason is in bright mood, as he goes through “the hits” (though if you’re looking for Beta Band “hits” then he’s being doubly ironic). ‘Planet Sizes’ from his SAY-nominated album is as close as we get, Mason still after an “anarchist utopia” on ‘Fight Them Back’.
From past heroes to new hopes. White, weirdly, depart the stage after some late soundchecking, then strike up what seems like some ostentatious walk-on music. However, all becomes clear as they re-enter the arena to The Lapelles’ song ‘Snakehips’ – a tribute to that band’s Gary Watson’s who recently died and who should have been playing this stage. The massive balloons bouncing across the crowd’s heads turned a poignant moment into a celebration of his lost talent, before White commenced a set high on 80s pizazz and potential.
On the main stage, The Twilight Sad offer a more subdued tribute – dedciating Last January “for Gary”. however James Graham and pals aren’t quite your typical party act. “We made the sun go away,” Graham jokes and yes, the Kilsyth act’s moody post-rock suits the mood as night starts to descend.
I’ve yet to mention the Tim Peaks tent, serving coffee and semi-acoustic pop, while Teen Canteen dish out some tasty morsels from their forthcoming album and captivate the crowded tent with their harmony-drenched tunes.
Quite high up the bill in the Tim Peaks tent, Riding The Low, a middle-aged act with an oddly-familiar looking singer making a fairly decent racket. It’s only when I get home that I realise it’s actor Paddy Considine, perhaps reliving his time on the set of 24 Hour Party People.
It’s a tent at a sunny sumemr festival but with darkening skies outside, Fat White Family are doing their best to recreate a classic club atmosphere. Darkened smoke-filled tent with band silhouetted against the backlights – check. Singer, fag in hand, swigging from a bottle of wine and tap af, Iggy-style? Present and correct. Guitars at 11? Up a notch. The band have that indefinable something – The Fall their closest touchstone, it’s skewed snarling rockabilly with a raw, visceral quality. For many younger watchers this may be a life-defining moment. For the older cynics among us, it’s more tracing a lineage which either goes back to The Stooges or Toy Dolls. Either way, with ‘Touch The Leather’ and ‘Bomb Disneyland’ the climax of a canon of memorable tunes, this is a band with a career span likely to be closest to that of the former.
With clear skies and Everything Everything‘s bombastic set leaving me cold, the warmth of The Go! Team beckons me to the Stewart Cruickshank stage (tent) again. The so-odd-it-works mix of Bollywood, double Dutch amd post-punk draws from all four of their albums but the exhilarating selections from debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike are an inevitable highlight.
From there, the cooler evening air requires some beats to keep us moving into the night and who better than Scotland’s premier purveyors of rock/dance crossover – Primal Scream. It’s a measure of this festival’s stature that along with The Charlatans they have such big name headliners, and Bobby Gillespie and co donn’t disappoint. Opening with ‘Moving On Up’ they make their intentions clear – with a set that harks more to their dance heyday than ploddier rock moments they provide a fitting way to celebrate summer.