Eastern Electrics 2015: Raving at Hatfield House

A one day festival is an odd affair. Packing in all the components that make weekend festivals great and boiling it down to just 11 hours is a tough task. Now in its 8th year, Eastern Electrics’ longevity suggests that it’s doing something right.

Eastern Electrics descends from the 80s rave scene, and takes place on the grounds of the historic Hatfield House, just north of London. Hosting stages by an eclectic array of organisations including the London club XOYO, the legendary Ibiza club, Sankeys, and the diverse label, Black Butter Records, there is something for all the most obscure tastes.

This was not a flawless festival, and difficulties came from the start. Trouble with queuing at the beginning of the day meant it took too long for the site to fill up. With eight stages in close proximity, there was a significant sound bleed between them (particularly early in the morning), making it difficult to fully concentrate on what you were hearing, even if it was directly in front of you.

By mid-afternoon everything changed. The crowds were strolling along in the radiant summer sun and the party vibe was kicking in. The small size of the site, suddenly became one of the festivals key features. The ability to walk from one end of the festival to the other in a less than five minutes to sample the whole grounds was great because you don’t have to run to a set that’s about to start.

Two things became apparent about Eastern Electrics across the afternoon: the quality and variety of the line-up and the mildly puzzling attitude of festival goers to the music. When asked, ‘Do you know where the next big act is?’, or if a tent is half-empty for a well-known and respected act (like Waifs & Strays), a few questions come to mind about the dedication of the festival goers to the music on display. But if people are having fun, let them have fun. Just don’t expect to become engaged in a debate on the finer points of vinyl versus electronic DJing.

The music at Eastern Electrics was not to be griped about. All of the stages had a very distinct feel, with the sound, design and line-up creating eight distinct areas across the festival. At the Sankey’s stage the line-up was veterans of the Ibiza scene. The Skream curated Big Top stage had a darker vibe with Midland and Boddika pushing things in a more techno direction for what was a very house dominated festival.

Throughout the day, two stages stood out from the rest. One was curated by Black Butter Records in the woods on the fringe of Eastern Electrics. The other sat awkwardly in the middle of the site, creating a mild confusion between those queuing for their artisan burritos and the revellers in front of the stage. This stage was hosted by the London club XOYO and Sink the Pink.

The Black Butter record label has gained a bit of a reputation in the last few years. With a mix of underground stars like Woz and chart toppers including Rudimental on their rostrum, the label covers a range of house and pop leaning artists. The label’s stage at Eastern Electrics leaned toward house. Wayward, Woz and Applebottom kept things bass heavy with a distinctly darker sound than most other acts at the festival. This was not festival music. This was in-a-club-at-midnight music. But the combination of overhanging trees and stage design gave the environment the intimate, club feel.

The XOYO/Sink the Pink stage was heavily tinged with disco and Chicago-leaning house music. From the off Joshua James set the upbeat, feel good vibe of the stage. Only once did the vibe become darker when Citizenn took control of the deck. Fundamental to Citizenn’s sound has always been an understanding of how to combine stark, sparse beats with soul and house influenced melodies. This was an absolute contrast to Crazy P, a surprise highlight of the weekend who played an unashamedly funky disco dominated set. More than anything it was clear that the curators of this stage understand the roots of house music in disco and soul. The variety in the line-up as well as in the artist’s sets showed a deep appreciation of the importance of the wide influence.

One name deserves a special mention as a particular highlight of Eastern Electrics 2015, and that is Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Playing a DJ set on the XOYO/ Sink the Pink stage, T.E.E.D.’s summed up Eastern Electrics at its best. T.E.E.D hit a perfect mix of his pop-influenced dance, old school house, disco and funk that paid homage to the roots of the modern dance music, while maintaining a distinctive, innovative vibe. The combination of musical sophistication, a set that fit with the vibe of the festival and people just letting their hair down, was an example of what a one-day festival at its best.

 

Words by Matthew Gibson