You might think that the UK festival scene is over-saturated, and in many senses it is with more choice than ever for the seasoned cider drinker to drop his hard earned cash on. But while you can't move for swathes of events with names like the Ronseal Riverside Rockathon (does exactly what it says on the tin), there are also fresh young shoots emerging from the corporate festival compost of disappointment, overpricing and homogenisation.
Launching on the weekend joining August and September this summer, the debut Field Maneuvers took its cues from the back to basics success of the likes of Farr Festival and the increasingly well-known, but resistant to growth, Free Rotation, offering big name acts alongside grass roots talent on a compact and carefully curated site. This can only be achieved with plenty of industry good will, and with links to Radio 1 and Dalston's Dance Tunnel it turns out that the crew behind FM have plenty of friends to call upon.
Occupying a site outside Oxford previously used for free parties, Friday night boasts the same small scale energy, the festival's 500 capacity sold out, but there's none of the fly-by-night corner cutting. Instead, as we make the sub five minute walk from our tent to the main stage, we're greeted by hay bale seating and sofas, psychedelic lights illuminating the trees and three music areas, the open-sided tea tent, the
all-encompassing LZRDM and the booming main tent — where sound is provided by the same system as at Free Rotation. Hammering out whatever UK funky's present incarnation is, Elgato has hyped the assembled dancers to such heights that already the bar has got through most of its weekend supplies, something remedied the next morning in a weekend of fast learning. He's followed by East London's Standard Place crew led by Rinse FM favourite One Man, the soundtrack moving from classic house to heavy bass pressure to hype all FM novices.
While Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs' headline set is undoubtedly the biggest draw of the night, we head off-piste instead to catch the funk lined, liquid drum & bass of Broken Drum in the tea tent — just one of the many talented acts here plucked from the UK's teeming underground.
When the main stage closes at 5am we follow our ears into the permanent night of what becomes a weekend favourite, the LZRDM. Filled with criss-crossing red lasers and smoke with a Funktion-One soundsystem pumping out pummelling, disorientating techno-wonk, it's the perfect hermetically sealed bubble to lose yourself in for hours, latter nights spent inventing games deflecting lasers off mobile phones or refracting them through rave glasses handed out by the FM organisers.
We're still dancing to Joe Watkins dropping garage classics like Wookie's 'Battle' in the Tea Tent sometime around 11am, the bright morning sun promising us the blessing of a final heatwave weekend. Having literally been manoeuvring around the field for the last few hours, engaging in an impromptu game of Twister (rechristened Twisted) and sharing a bladder of red wine, friends and allies have also been made for the next two days. It seems we're not the only ones to have gone big on the first night, Altern-8's Mark Archer dropping Hacienda and rave classics to a smaller crowd than deserved early next afternoon, but we do our bit by pulling some shapes, despite only having had two hours' sleep.
More people have roused for Nightmoves' Jane Fitz and Jade Seatle, whose Balearic house is perfect for the Tea Tent's terrace vibes, setting up a storming early evening set from Drums of Death, his rave origins now tempered to the sound of Dixon's remix of Henrik Schwarz's Afro-classic 'I Exist Because of You'. Deep Shit's Edwin Congreave and Jack Savidge (from The Foals and Friendly Fires respectively) round the night off, but suffering from our previous excursions we duck out early to sleep.
Come Sunday, there's final night fever in the air. Nadia Ksaiba is feeling it, belting out old school hip-hop and party jams despite not having slept. Benz Gomori is next with a set of deep, disco influenced house, paving the way for Banjee Boy Realness, aka Joe Robots and Josh Caffe. With Hypeman Ricardo on the mic inciting chants of ' Banjee Boy, Banjee Boy, Realness, Realness' which are still being repeated the next day, French Fries' 'Yo Vogue' starts a dance off while Mak & Pasteman's remix of Whitney Houston's 'It's Not Right But It's OK' launches singing on the dancefloor. Huntley & Palmers close the night and seal the deal, Auntie Flo's last gasp set of hip-house, modern day Afro and Latin rhythms (like LV's 'Boomslang'), and a smattering of classics, including Roy Davis Jnr's perennial favourite 'Gabriel', spectacular enough without any additional fireworks or fanfare.
Tune into the FM Crew and sample their hearty, home brewed flavour in 2014.
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