MEOKO Reviews Eastern Electrics Festival 2012

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As one of thousands of dissapointed revellers who attended the now defunct Bloc Festival at London's Pleasure Gardens just over a month ago, it is fair to say I looked ahead to last Saturday's Eastern Electrics festival with something more than simply mild trepidation. In fact, I was nervous. After all, Eastern Electrics, like Bloc, were taking a significant step up the promotional ladder, moving from the relative comfort of their inner city Bank Holiday and New Years Eve clubnights to the unforgiving, almost impractical world of the British festival. Every year the same not-so-rave reviews reverberate around London's streets: Lovebox was too wet, the sound at Field Day and SW4 was, once again, well below-par. Festivals and the capital, it would seem, don't really go.

That said, a forced venue change in April from the leafy, residential confines of Clapham Common (home to the aforementioned SW4) to the barren wastelands of North Greenwich meant things were looking up. And indeed, first impressions were encouraging. The sounds emanating from the tent closest to the entrance appeared full-bodied and loud, and the crowd, by now streaming onto the site in their hundreds, were cheerful and clearly up for it. With personal favourite Kerri Chandler on at the surprisingly early time of 4pm, there was only time for a quick pint before heading into the Black Atlantic tent. Greeted with the classic chords of MK's 'Burning' (was it MK's last track or Kerri's first?), this was already a party well into its groove. The tent itself was spacious, well set apart from potential areas of congestion and full, without feeling uncomfortable. Above all else however, the sound was impeccable. As Kerri brought in Julio Bashmore's 'Au Seve' to resounding clamours of appreciation, I found myself beaming at the systems' emphatic and crystal clear response. Despite having to adhere to the relative constraints of a 2 hour set, Kerri never once seemed phased, moving effortlessly from high-octane, yet still tasteful, moments of electro to his more familiar territory of rhythmic, groovy US house. Just as it looked like he was going to take things really deep, in came the timeless chimes of Rhythm Is Rhythm's 'Strings of Life to close proceedings in style.

kerri tent

MEOKO photo by Ben Douch

Following Kerri was Joy Orbison, a DJ and producer whose stock seems to grow exponentially by the week, and for all the right reasons. Keen to keep the transition as smooth as possible, Joy opted to open with his own slice of quintessential house, this time in the form of Celeda's 'Music is the Answer'. Once satisfied the crowd had had their honeyed fix, Joy set about implementing his own unique, eclectic take on contemporary dance music. Starting off housey, Joy's quickfire, yet seamlessly fluent mixing kept the crowd enthralled and bouncing from the off. As I slipped out to catch some of Andrew Weatherall, I made a mental note to return so as not to miss what would inevitably prove to be a rowdy climax. As one of the very few techno-leaning names on the lineup, I was curious to see how Weatherall would approach his set. Playing to a sparse crowd, Weatherall had fully embraced his role as warm-up DJ, laying down record after record of beautifully slow, funk-fuelled electronic disco, keeping his dedicated crowd swaying effortlessly. Back at Black Atlantic, Joy had moved into more urban, UK territory, flitting with consummate ease between full-frontal UK garage and a selection of his own and Boddika's most recent productions. As the militant, instantly recognisable vocals of 'Swims' crept into conscioussness, the thunder of approval nearly set the tent alight. After such extertion, it was time for a break.

weatherall

crowd sunshine

MEOKO photos by Ben Douch

Enjoying a beer in the glorious evening sun, one could just about make out the figure of Jamie Jones replacing Azari & III on the main stage. Regardless of his increasingly commercial stature, Jones has always sparked a certain curiosity in me. Unable to resist, I ambled over and had a listen. Enjoyable if a little innocuous, I thought it wiser to use Jones' powers of polarisation and rejoin the 2020 Vision tent, where Anglo-Argentinian four-piece 2020 Soundsystem were well into the swing of their celebrated live performance. Extended periods of improvisation gave it a refreshing jam-session feel, with the band moving away from their disco-house roots and onto slightly darker, more acid tainted ground as the night wore on. As their energy on stage radiated onto the dance-floor,  contemporary UK house poster boy Huxley was left with it all to do. And boy did he come through. Cut after cut of upfront, modern house had the public totally spellbound, vassals to his every electronic whim. Playing way beyond the scheduled 10pm cut off point, Huxley closed the festival with a barrage of hits, old and new. Another helping of Bashmore's 'Au Seve' ensured its tuneful melody remained ingrained in the mind for days after, while Armand Van Helden's 'You Don't Even Know Me' got a rare and very well-received airing.

2020

jamie J

MEOKO photos by Ben Douch

On all counts, Eastern Electrics fully delivered. Primarily of course the music was superb, and yet while I wouldn't dare retract from its cruciality, choosing, booking and having the artists perform to the best of their well-documented ability has got to be the easy part. From a logistical point of view, the layout of the site was devised intelligently, each of the three huge bars were well-staffed at all times, there was no overbearing security presence and a big screen on which to watch arguably Britain's most succesful night in Olympic history proved a more than thoughtful touch. The sound across the event was near faultless and never once did the festival feel overcrowded, merely busy and vibrant. Of course the sunshine played its part, but regardless this was an event that had clearly been honestly and professionally curated, with no eye for greed. Managing to catch a few passing words with Ralph Lawson and Damian Lazarus, both commented on how smoothly the day had gone – everything behind the scenes had been conducted in such an expertly fluid and relaxed manner. Essentially however, Eastern Electrics had merely stuck to their mandate; in exchange for payment they put on a day out to really, really remember. Unfortunately in London this is just so often not the case. I'm just glad, and still a little surprised, that Eastern Electrics managed to so brilliantly buck the trend with such modest and telling ease. 

Words by Carlos Hawthorn

The full MEOKO Photo Gallery taken at Eastern Electrics can be viewed on our facebook page here