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Review: Eastern Electrics at Hatfield House London, 2015

Festival-sized showcase for the underground sound of 2015.

Returning to the picturesque, rolling grounds of Hatfield House (twenty-odd minutes from London's Kings Cross) is the latest edition of Eastern Electrics, a one-day festival focusing on underground house and techno, and with dozens of acts spread over eight stages and good weather to boot, spirits were high amongst the revellers. Spotlight was amongst them and conducted a whistle-stop tour of what was on offer.

Black Butter Records curated their own small stage. Too small it turns out as overcrowding led to DJ EZ's set being cut short when security decided it was getting too dangerous. Whilst not present for it, it was probably the right call as Spotlight was there for Melé's earlier set of bassy bangers, which were foot-stompingly good fun but even then things were getting packed out.

Sankeys hosted the best stage by a mile! Festival-goers know that tents and open-air stages mean less powerful sound. Their tent though was more like a dome with just a couple of small entrances at the corners (so small you had to duck when going in or out). The difference in the volume and power of the sound because of this was remarkable, and the DJs exploited it. Hector Couto produced the goods before Jozef K took things a little mellower. Then Santé followed by close friend Sidney Charles gave the crowd what they wanted, and what was lacking on some of the other stages: powerful, energetic house and techno.

Spotlight caught up with them both where they spoke of their approach to a festival set. Sidney Charles said he would “rather go with more powerful house, maybe even go more into techno” at his festival sets but judges the festival crowd's particular reaction and tastes too. “I have milestones, the tracks that I know I'm definitely going to play, and the rest I do spontaneously and build around these milestones.”

Santé said that he loves playing festivals, “because you can reach so many people with new music”. He adapts his sets, depending upon what's happening on the dance floor: "I'm watching the crowd seeing what's working… judging if I have to go harder or slower or what I can do to catch them, to bring them in to my groove… For me DJing is all about the momentum and seeing what the crowd reaction is.” It was Santé who got in first though and dropped their new record together, Forever, to whoops and cheers from the crowd. Judging by their performances here, it's no wonder their Do Not Sleep parties in Privilege are going so well.

After great performances from the pair of Germans, a mix-up with the publicised line-ups meant that Spotlight unfortunately missed Steve Lawler, but was instead treated to a fine performance by Miguel Campbell, who combined his own deeper cuts like Something Special, with tougher sounds like Odd Parents' Learn To Fly (Maceo's 808 Dub) and got a strong reaction from the crowd.

tINI and the Gang hosted the switchyard, an interestingly designed venue ringed by shipping containers but beset by sound problems in the afternoon. Bella Saris warmed things up nicely with some chunky techno; the Aussie's star is on the rise and her terrace sets at Enter. to be kept an eye on. Had to feel for tINI though, who closed the stage off to a barely-there crowd of clubbers. Competition from the other stages as well as the earlier sound problems can't have helped, but she battled on resolutely.

Skream hosted the biggest tent by far but it was bizarrely placed right next to the main stage which led to some uncomfortable sound-clashing for those stood between the two, which was unavoidable for many. The highlight was the legendary Robert Hood (under his Floorplan alias) bringing some much-needed, pacey techno toughness that stood out amongst the deep and tech-house chug that dominated the day.

Over on the main stage, Normski (yes, Normski!) was on hosting duties; he bounced around on stage, backstage and in with the crowd, friendly as ever and clearly having a great time. Guti's performance wasn't helped by his ambient, beatless sections being bled into by the drums from Midland's set in Skream's adjacent tent. His brand of warm house did suit the mid-afternoon well though, when you could hear it. Matthias Tanzmann took things up a notch before Cassy brought it back down again with an understated set. She did finish with Bad Kingdom (Marcel Dettmann's remix), a great track on its own but felt jarringly out of place with the rest of her set. Joris Voorn is a reliable pair of hands and his melodic selections went down very well in the early evening. Ringo is a lovely tune at any time but even more blissful as the afternoon fades away and you're dancing outdoors with a beer in your hand. Jamie Jones, who is in tremendous form at the moment, took a while to get going in his festival-closing set but eventually kicked into gear and ran through a solid performance of deeper house jams.

The bookings for the larger stages made it clear that Eastern Electrics is devoted to showcasing underground house and techno, an honourable raison d'être and one it's hoped they'll continue with in future years, which, if Saturday's packed-out festival is anything to go by, will be a guarantee.

WORDS | Andrew Fulker PHOTOGRAPHY | Khris Cowley

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