One-day festivals are a rarity in today's party milieu, but Eastern Electrics, last weekend on August 1, made a case for all they can offer.
The EE brand has developed over the past seven years from a London warehouse rave into a left-leaning, underground dance festival. The lineup, capped off by Jamie Jones, featured everyone from Black Butter, Skreamizm, T.E.E.D, DJ EZ, Richy Ahmed, to Steve Lawler and Mike Skinner (of The Streets)
A twenty-minute train ride from King's Cross dropped ravers, a slightly more mature and sanguine crowd than found at London's Lovebox a couple of weeks ago, straight into the unfolding pastoral landscape of Hatfield House. Even from the modest train station, the distant thud of club music from over the lightly rolling hills provided welcoming vibrations from the sleepy town.
Boddika's mid-afternoon set of challenging, churning minimal techno was a highlight of the day. Even with the afternoon's sunshine peeking in the sides of the big-top, tunes like Daniel Bortz's "Steady Note" kept tones dark and immersive.
Outside at the main stage, Essex lads casual-shuffled away the remnants of the last balloons as Joris Voorn, always a thoughtful and complex selector, shuffled his aesthetic deck away from the brooding progressive house he's most known for and into a rangy set well fit for a UK main-stage.
The Switchyard is perhaps the most visually striking of the stages at Eastern Electrics. Shipping crates provide the backdrop for a b-movie set of junkyard aesthetics and the crowd was the fest's most colorful.
Black Butter in the Forest, tucked away in a leafy enclave, suffered from uneven sound as it celebrated London broken beat from garage to dubstep. Strong support from Woz, Applebottom, and My Nu Leng culminated in the cornerstone of UK garage that is DJ EZ. The petitely-framed area was so overrun by then that EZ's set was cut short early for safety reasons.
Skream capped off his Skreamizm's takeover of the big top with a bossy techno set of his own. It's a long way from disco, an even longer way from dubstep, and the Croydon man's sheer depth of aesthetic is proving that he's going to be an ambassador of UK dance music for a long, long time.
Welshman Jamie Jones is celebrated as a champion in the UK. His minimal house aesthetic, wrought with weighty bass and tech elements, translated well to the larger stage as the fading light of the late Summer day turning to night made full use of the LED-heavy stage production.
It's a shame the festival doesn't go on later. The higher latitudes mean that it doesn't even get dark until the final set, but Eastern Electrics' double-offering of afterparty options, both nearby and back in London, meant a change of scenery didn't mean a change in your consumption itinerary.
The word is out about boutique festivals on both sides of the pond. Bigger is not better, and Eastern Electrics' finely curated lineup, relaxed vibes, and the sheer convenience of it as a day out render is a notable node in the festival circuit. Never once was I struggling to find good music to dance to, and that's more than I can say for many much, much haughtier operations.