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Field Maneuvers proved that the UK's rave spirit is alive and well

The small-scale festival was big in character

  • Words: Patrick Hinton | Photography: Jonny Pénzes Underhill
  • 16 September 2016

Dance music’s popularity is at an all-time high right now, leading to the rise of large-scale clubbing events in massive warehouses with stacked bills spanning multiple rooms. There's a place for nights of this ilk, but it’s hard to get them right. Even when packing strong line-ups, they rarely seem worth the expensive ticket price, often being uncomfortably busy and lacking in atmosphere. The 15 DJ programme becomes irrelevant when you realise you can only see about four artists anyway, and it’s not uncommon to be left thinking a fiver spent on seeing a single DJ in a small but bustling basement would have provided a superior evening.

Field Maneuvers is basically the latter choice in festival form. The 700-capacity event in the Oxfordshire wilderness is intimate, no-frills, and perfectly executes its simple-yet-effective formula. The soundsystems in the three tents are crisp and weighty, the visuals are dazzling, and the line-up, the jewel in its crown, is staggeringly good, featuring artists frequently found playing to crowds ten times the size in the headline slots, with a wealth of the finest underground selectors going rounding out the roster.

The result is a festival that enables you to see some of the finest DJs on the circuit in a setting that retains all the best aspects of low-key affairs. Aside from a stringent alcohol search on the way in, the presence of security couldn’t feel less overbearing, and the diminutive size of the site really adds to the communal experience festivals strive for. While in sprawling settings you can spend the whole weekend struggling for phone signal and trying to find your pals, at Field Maneuvers you’ve bumped into half the attendees within the first 10 minutes and most quickly become friends. Equally, it still managed to throw up strange themes and idiosyncrasies that arise from larger gatherings. Like the anarchists wearing shoes on their heads on the final night to mess with chemically imbalanced minds, or ‘the guy in the suit’ wandering around on Saturday. What was his deal?

Essentially, it’s an event that doesn’t feel like an ‘event’. More like a mate hosting a rave for his own kicks, and just asking you to have a little whip round to help cover the costs. Raucous fun is the priority lying at the heart of Field Maneuvers, and it shows constantly throughout the accurately self-defined ‘dirty little rave’.

Here are nine tracks (and one omission) that made it.

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