Review: Electric Fields 2018
The last weekend in August saw thousands of music and festival fanatics head to Thornhill to celebrate Electric Fields Festival turning 5 years old.
Following the success of previous years, the Electric Fields organisers saw fit to spoil attendees with an extra day packed with even more awe inspiring acts.
In terms of the festival scene in Dumfries and Galloway, we believe Electric Fields to be somewhat of an enigma. It somehow manages to straddle the divide between mainstream and grass root festivals which are less of a scarcity within our region. It brings in massive headlining acts, such as this year’s Noel Gallagher, yet maintains its modest small festival feel, all the while remaining commercially viable. In addition to all of this, it takes place in the spectacular grounds surrounding Drumlanrig Castle.
Electric Fields offers something for everyone throughout the day. The Main Stage boasted a mighty sound rig and featured some of the most talented acts in the country. You could easily immerse yourself in crowds which were reminiscent of any major UK festival.
Sneaky Pete’s was a great place to end the night with a mixture of stomach wrenching bass tunes and old classics – the perfect way to dance off that beer that was the one too many. However, having spoken to many people over the weekend, it was a little bit out of the way which made it hard to find for some.
The Arc was a great stage for a more gritty and intimate show. Here we caught up with some of the local acts who were lucky enough to make it onto the festival bill.
For those of a more ‘artistic’ persuasion, the cabaret tent featured a host of burlesque performers and comedians which we found to be an ideal rest stop between bombing from stage to stage to catch our most anticipated acts.
However, the stage that we found to be most impressive was the festival’s BBC stage, the Valley. For such a young event, its BBC backing is a reflection of the weight Electric Fields carries within the music industry in Scotland. Here you could check out some of the freshest emerging acts in the UK.
The Food and Drink
Aside from the stages, where would a festival be without great food and drink? We felt that the many different food stalls catered to every taste with the Holy Moly Macaroni stand being frequented almost as much as the bar. The bar was sponsored by Birra Moretti which was a pleasant change from your typical lagers.
Overall, everyone was fed and watered to a high standard.
First off, it’s important to take a moment to consider what this festival – and others like it – does for Scottish music. They showcase so many Scottish acts that are both on the cusp of breaking through and more established bands and performers.
During our time at the festival, we managed to catch up with a number of Dumfries and Galloway artists. Firstly, Franky’s Evil Party – what a show. The band has taken no time at all to develop their sound and what a sound it is. Everyone in the Arc tent was mesmerized by the performance of all members, and specifically that of lead singer Josh Kirk. His raw emotive shrieking lyrics had the crowd hanging on every word and his rig climbing antics were a sight to behold. They were definitely at home amongst the best acts in the Scottish music scene at present.
Another local act we managed to catch was Ward and Watson, who delivered an outstanding acoustic set. They have a traditional/folk style of songwriting but keep their music relevant with clever embellishments from guitarist Linzie Watson. Singer Julie Ward’s voice is reminiscent of acts such as KT Tunstall and we are really looking forward to seeing them play as a full band in their upcoming gigs.
We feel that the festival is a great promoter of emerging Scottish artists and does a great job of selecting a variety of genres from within this massive talent pool. From atmospheric bands and our personal favourite from the weekend, SAY Award Nominees Out Lines, to punchy hip-hop trio Young Fathers, who drew a huge crowd – the festival was charged with diversity. We stumbled across a young artist who we instantly recognized from their strong social media campaign, Zoe Graham. We were blown away by her ability as a multi-instrumentalist and live looper. Definitely one to watch.
Be Charlotte made her appearance at the Major Minor stage. Charlotte has been making waves within the industry recently, securing a high profile signing and will be performing for the opening of the V&A museum in Dundee.
Idlewild performed a high energy set to a surprisingly fresh faced Main Stage audience who, even on festival day 3, were singing their songs back to them word for word.
The headliners at this year’s Electric Fields were monumental. How Noel Gallagher was convinced to sing in a field in Thornhill we will never know. Thursday night saw James play material from their new album as well as acoustic renditions of classic’s such as ‘Sit Down’ which had the entire crowd endeavor to sing in drunken unison. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds blew it out of the park with a huge set on the Friday night. Of course, some of the old Oasis numbers are a universal crowd pleaser, especially when sang by the man who wrote them. To round off the festival, Leftfield delivered an electrifying EDM set which was a glorious way to see out the Saturday.
This festival is truly unique in its feel. It has the line-up of a major festival, but remains humble in its capacity. The Fields were truly Electric.
Review written by Liam Russell. All photographs courtesy of Ricky Henderson.