Undisclosed location near Oxford
Good parties essentially boil down to two components: the music and the people. The former aspect is something organisers can mostly control: programmers book DJs they trust to do what they do and feed off each other for a sense of coherence, and good equipment and imagination make the setting. The latter is slightly more elusive.
The team at Field Maneuvers, though, continue to pull off filling their “dirty little rave” with an intimate crowd of festival-goers. The staff, almost all volunteers, set the tone for this from the off. From bartenders spraying water over sweaty dancers to fire marshals resting on hay-bales and staff handing out sweets to people flagging on the sweltering Sunday, there’s a palpable sense of being looked after and the result makes good on the festival’s preferred reference to punters as family. Diversity plays a part, too – the line-up here makes a mockery of those that lean too heavily on cis white males and this translates to a sense of inclusivity and freedom.
Of the other component of a good party, Field Maneuvers also seemingly ran without fault. The main tent sounded crisp, loud and warm, with mesmeric visuals that complemented a programme of DJs that seemed to lean toward the deep and trippy. Jane Fitz and Jade Seatle on Friday played a blinding set of this ilk on Friday night, as did Nick Höppner, who dropped Elles x Violet’s A Life Lived in Fear is Like a Life Half Lived (Etbonz Remix), shortly before striding the short distance to the Ambient tent. There, the ambient intro to Djrum’s Showreel pt.3 was teased without flowing into its gabber and jungle finale. Shed, a highlight on the programme, played similarly deep on the Saturday, and the tent stayed relatively empty and spacious allowing for an immersive dancing experience. The only misstep was perhaps Jayda G closing out the festival when her set may have suited the sunshine more, earlier in the final day.
The Field Moves tent was low on frills by comparison, while the Ambient tent was a welcome addition both as a space to lounge and recuperate in the day as well as the de facto afters spot once the other stages wound down. Sputnik’s Dome, however, was the festival’s ace up the sleeve, much like Glastonbury’s NYC Downlow. With smoke so thick you could barely see those in front of you, a comedic amount of lasers and incredible acoustics, it was the perfect setting for many of the weekend’s standout sets. 2 Bad Mice, Violet b2b Photonz and Eris Drew’s ascendant sets all rained down euphoric hardcore of the highest order on Saturday. A mind-blowing moment was Drew dropping Sex by Djrum, and Awesome 3’s Don’t Go sent the crowd into pandemonium; while Dr Rubenstein and Ben Sims frazzled brains on Friday. Even Grooverider’s ‘jungle’ set (read: unashamed jump-up) was wildly fun.
Moments of pure magic came thick and fast this year, but the standout came when original rave don Mark Archer played Sunday afternoon tunes in the sun. Whilst it was tempting to lounge in the summer heat, the soundtrack to 2001: a Space Odyssey came rumbling from the speakers in all its glory. All around grins were spread wide and we dragged ourselves to our feet for the final evening and night ahead. We didn’t look back.