Secret Location, England

Situated neatly on the first weekend of September, Field Maneuvers’ cosy crowd of 700 is a welcome relief from the logistical faff of its high-capacity counterparts.

There’s a nice duality to the whole affair: on the one hand, the day-glo timetables handed out on entry and the presence of acts like Mark Archer and DJ Storm (whose concurrent sets were two of the rowdiest and most fun of the weekend) evoked a fun sense of rave nostalgia, whilst recent breakout artists like Volvox, Octo Octa, and Elena Colombi kept things decidedly forward-facing.

As in previous years, the action was split across three stages, each with their own distinct vibe: the Main Stage, home to a hi-spec visual backdrop along with the bulk of the top-billed artists, the Jane Fitz & Jade Seatle-curated Field Moves tent, a pitch black, heads-down setup soundtracked by the extended Night Moves family, and the Sputnik – a sweatbox geodesic dome filled to its apex with smoke and a comedic amount of lasers.

Having arrived after dark, we headed immediately into the Sputnik, already in full swing as Neil Landstrumm delivered a skippy, UK-indebted set. Just prior to handing over to Ben Sims, Landstrumm dropped Redlight’s Source 16, eliciting cheers from the packed-out dome. A wonderfully silly moment.

Back at the main tent Jade Seatle was weaving through a selection of deep, hazy house (solo, as Jane Fitz was unfortunately unable to attend owing to illness), followed by FM regular Auntie Flo. Undoubtedly the climactic point of the night was Soichi Terada’s live set – the Japanese producer danced behind (and sometimes on) the desk, cycling through well-loved cuts such as Tokyo XXX and Got To Be Real whilst casting shadow puppets onto the roof of the tent.

During the day, programming plays out at a chilled, languid pace. Weather permitting – and it did for most of the weekend – the bleary-eyed early afternoon crowd were treated to alfresco sets, gradually building energy levels back up towards a tenable level. This worked particularly well on Saturday, which kicked off with a b2b dub set from Billy Nasty and Ben Sims before Bristol crew Rough Draft kicked it up a gear, getting an impressive amount of people back on their feet.

The main tent remained packed throughout the rest of the night, with Elena Colombi and Andy Blake plumbing the more obscure ends of the spectrum whilst Octo Octa delivered a joyful and dynamic live interpretation of her LP Where Are We Going?

The Sputnik, however, proved an irresistible draw for many. Programmed as a kind of whistle-stop tour of UK hardcore and its descendents, Mark Archer kicked off with just prior to midnight with a frenzied set of classics followed by a belting Blue Note tribute from Storm before Brackles & Noodles finished things off with expertly-mixed garage and 2-step.

On Sunday – in spite of conditions turning from unseasonably sunny to predictably bleak, nobody seemed to be complaining.

Although the heavy drizzle outside did occasionally make for an uncomfortably busy dancefloor, by the time Spencer Parker stepped up the crowd seemed suitably limber making traversing the tent a cinch. Parker’s set was definitely one of the most technically impressive of the weekend, starting on a lighter note before segueing into booming selections such as Head High’s Rave (Dirt Mix) and Robert Hood’s Baby Baby. Returning Field Maneuvers favourite Ryan Elliot closed out the tent with a typically eclectic selection that included remixes of RIP Groove and Born Slippy amongst more leftfield picks. Elsewhere these might have felt a little cheesy, but as the weekend drew to a close they fitted the celebratory vibe perfectly.

Far from being an ill-advised blowout at the tail end of the Summer, the whole weekend felt genuinely restorative, blending adventurous and varied programming with one of the friendliest and most clued-up crowds you could hope to find at a UK festival.

Field Maneuvers are fond of referring to their attendees as family, and looking at the milieu of artists, crew, and punters assembled in the Sputnik for one last dance on Monday morning, you’d be hard pushed to think of a more apt term.