Back down in Dumfries for another Electric Fields and this year the festival has seen a whole load of new investment, resulting in a stronger, less Scottish oriented line up, an extra day of music, larger stages, better food and an all round bigger feel.
And it all seems to pay off, at less than £100 a ticket this festival is bargain when you consider the acts on display; and the whole thing feels a lot less thrown together.
Not that the festival in previous years had been thrown together, you can just tell there’s a much higher budget this year and it has been put to good use.
Musically we start with what could potentially be the pinnacle of the weekend as Glasgow’ rioters Sweaty Palms open the Tim Peaks Stage, and lift the oddly couch scattered space quickly with evil sneers, dirty guitars and pure sleaze filled gothy garage rock.
The five-piece are kitted out in an array of hooded cloaks, along with a military hat and the now compulsory toplessness from at least 2/5 of the band; this look cements the slanted humour to their sound and set, which has increasing become something that you can’t really know what to expect from, well except a full on unruly experience.
These guys are deserving of a bigger stage, but they do play to a fairly healthy crowd and deliver a set that gets the festival off and running in the perfect way, as they put you in a trance with their psych touching vibes and let loose with a give a fuck attitude that is much better utilised here than it was in the ridiculous slot they were handed at T in the Park.
This is my first time experiencing Glasgow based duo Elara Caluna in a live setting and from this showing in won’t be the last as they, joined by two other musicians, deliver a flowing set of lackadaisical indie pop with darker undertones.
Calm, yet unsettling vocals allow intricate percussion and lulling synths to ease into an almost dystopian landscape without any restraint and leave you with an eerie yet comfortable feeling.
Elara Caluna’s set is a subtle mix of the sweet and the creepy that drags you into a trap, but you’re too drawn by the beauty in to even care.
Due to an unfortunate interview mix up I find myself sadly missing the delightful Tuff Love, and the novelty of catching Sugarhill Gang is killed off by the band being caught in traffic and completely missing their set, so next up is a trip to the Stewart Cruickshank Stage, named in honour of the recently deceased radio DJ who did so much for the Scottish music over the years, for former Delgados singer Emma Pollock.
Pollock clearly familiar with commanding a crowd and relaxes the nerves with a driving rock set that fully demonstrates her well honed pop rock tracks that quite rightly were shortlisted for this year’s SAY Award on In Search of Harperfield.
There’s a real confidence to her vocal, which compliment the strong and enchanting songwriting that comes with an overriding pop feel.
Still, this year’s festival has been marred by the tragic recent passing of The Lapelles frontman Gary Watson, and Pollock is the first of a few artists this weekend to mention this as she takes to stage in the slot Watson’s band were set to hold, her words are a fitting tribute the talented young man, talking about how the whole Scottish music scene has been rocked by his passing.
On the Main Stage Public Service Broadcasting look like they’re ready to set up a science lesson at a posh school in the 70s, but instead they inject the evening with glitchy tropical beats and quirky samples of old broadcasting transmissions.
There’s no doubt they’re an odd ball act, but what they’re doing remarkably impressive and gets the crowd moving in the early evening.
Using samples to make a stuttered personalised thank you to the festival, comes across rather cheesy, but hindsight it could also be played out as a joke at the expense of bands praising crowds without really knowing where they are, only further emphasised by the knowing expressions on the band’s faces.
This is a set packed with technical talent, but what’s even more pleasing is the fact that band seem to be having as much fun as the crowd, as they dance away on stage in their shirts and ties and tweed jackets and bow ties, it’s a engaging stuff that more than justifies their main stage billing.
As darkness falls I catch a burst of Wild Beasts; I haven’t yet heard new album Boy King, meaning a lot of the material is unfamiliar, but what is on offer still has plenty of attention grabbing hooky synths and that addictive, potentially Marmite high reaching vocal of Hayden Thorpe.
On stage they appear your standard alt rock band, but there’s so many pop undercurrents to Wild Beasts’ sound that it differentiates them from that image and elevates them above their peers, however during a crazy moment of crossovers I have to head elsewhere.
That elsewhere is back to the intimate Tim Peaks stage for Manchester four-piece Horsebeach, cos well I’m a sucker for that dream pop sound.
The of the band drift beautifully somewhere between that dreamy guitar pop sound and the shoegaze bracket; the subject matter of the set seems bleak at points, but the floaty nature of their sound elevates them and has a growing crowd in a lulled hypnotic mist.
It’s true that Ryan Kennedy’s vocals might not hit the heights of some of the best of the genre, but it’s still early days for these guys and there’s plenty of charm to both his delivery and their set in general that warms you right through and puts a nice end to proceedings before I head off to have a touch too much fun at the Bowie and Prince Disco.
Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Warrick Beyers / Martin Bone