A Grumpy Man’s Reflection On Field Day 2014

Art & Culture

So last year I came to the realisation at Field Day that it was actually possible to put a festival on in central London without needing a hearing aid and a penchant for shite music, so I won’t go on about that this year…..but I will start my review here instead: 

So, it’s safe to say that I may have prioritised my stomach over my music at the start of the day…..unfortunately due to the fact that I was enjoying my breakfast far too much, I managed to miss a couple of acts I'd really like to have seen at Field Day, the legend that is Thurston Moore, and James Holden. Never seen either before (although I have seen Sonic Youth many a year back). I'm sure they were probably highlights and I could've gone home happy by 3pm, but you know, sometimes poached eggs, beans, mushrooms, toast, tomatoes and proper coffee takes precedence (you massive middle class twat). Therefore I feel the need to review my breakfast to fill this opening paragraph of my review for 2014. My review of this breakfast is thus: it was a perfect match of homemade baked beans and eggs, complimented with a tasty melange of mushrooms and tomatoes on some rather tasty homemade bread, that filled me up too much, obviously a compliment but afterwards I kind of felt like Mr. Creosote, just before he explodes, you know the bit in the film, I don’t think I need to give you any more info. The coffee was good, if not maybe a little standard. It was also severed in a glass! A glass, I mean it looks nice to the middle classes, but if you were actually honest with yourselves you'd say that was a stupid idea. Not only does it burn your hand when you pick it up but gets colder quicker. Stop this unnecessary burden on humanity. Additionally it was a bit to strong and set me up with a bit too much anxiety to start the day……

And now a moan. 1 can of Red Stripe = £5….no draft (mostly)… Moan ends.

Now you I know you can’t base your festival on the ruling capital money hungry booze company classes, so I’ll move onto music.

The highlights of the 2 days were undoubtedly (for me anyway!) Fat White Family and the Horrors. The Horrors simply blew me away. On a day when it seemed that every dad from the early 90s had been allowed their one day out a year in Victoria park to see an ageing Pixies, the Horrors were the perfect antidote. Admittedly their latest album Luminous is a little on the commercial side and maybe doesn't enthral you as much as their past 2, but it feels like a more mature album interspersed with interludes of trippy, phased beauty. Live these songs take on a much more elongated headier sonic side in the flesh, drawing you into an effected world of hair and flanging, but doesn’t spit you out and let you leave. Where the Pixies felt one dimensional with their 3 chord punk pop, the Horrors felt truly 4 dimensional today. Maybe I’m over egging their set, I can ’t seem to write down how much I enjoyed their set without sounding like a pretentious wanker or a mentalist!

The Fat White Family were also a joy to watch. The only band I saw that truly had a passionate crowd. This was a crowd that didn’t want to let them leave, screaming for them to play another song 5 minutes after they'd left the stage and the stage crew were packing away their kit! Last time I saw these guys was in a Hackney Wick "warehouse" (yeah we're an underground warehouse that sells small cans of beer for 5 quid!), they didn't really hit the mark for me. But today they were on fire, part sleazy blues, part The Fall, it was a set that stirred a reaction in the crowd not seen anywhere else all day.

Further down the bill were some more gems, the first of these being Seun Kuti, the youngest son of Fela Kuti. Looking resplendent in zebra print trousers and shoes, this guy essentially single handedly brought out the mid afternoon sun on his arrival to the main stage, both literally and vibes wise! I say single handedly, but in the words of my good friend George "Unless you've got more than 10 people in your band, you can't call yourself a band!", and I reckon Seun had more than enough members to call himself a band. Both singing and playing sax no one could claim he didn't put any energy into his set, darting from signing, to dancing, to saxophone to prowling the stage. A great showman, with a super tight "band" (ok’d by George), that truly made me happy with his afrobeat jams.

Elsewhere on the main stage, Warpaint were predictably great, apart from their cover of David Bowies "Ashes to Ashes", which seemed to me to be a little unnecessary and not that great. The rest of their set was spot on though, tracks from their latest album "Warpaint" (I see what you've done there ladies!) including recent single "Love Is To Die", sounded just as at home on the live stage as they do being blasted out through a pair of shite white Apple earphones. Lots of reverb and fxs, worked a treat in the afternoon sun, drinking a £5 can.

Later on, my first foray into seeing DJs for the day went to Jamie from the XX in the rave tent, sorry Bugged Out tent. Seen him DJ before and he was great, but today I wasn't feeling him. Maybe I didn't giving him enough time, but the records I did hear were just a bit dull. Sorry Jamie, I like you, I just didn’t like you today.

Same was true of Erol and Daniel Avery to be honest. It should be a great pairing, but again they were just a little dull music wise for me. Oh and Erol played a pretty uninspired house version of a Talking Heads tune. To be fair I danced and you could see the sun going down through the sides of the tent, but they just weren't really setting my world on fire music wise. Still, it was worth going to see them as whilst there I found out that curtain haircuts are back in and I can now return to my teenage 90s haircut fashions without fear of ridicule, and stop trying to be a 30 something hipster.

Omar Souleyman on the other hand was not a DJ and was far more captivating. Essentially a Syrian wedding singer who's flown the nuptial nest and is now being produced by Kieran Hebden. Although a lot of his tunes have quite cheap sounding keyboard sounds in them and he's definitely not the biggest showman (I reckon he may have taken possibly 10-20 foot movements whilst onstage) there’s a certain charm and high energy to his electronic dabke that makes up for the lack of visual candy.

The headliners on each day couldn't have really been much different, which is essentially a good thing. I was a little unsure as to whether Metronomy could really pull off being headliners of the Saturday night of a festival, but it seems that they've got a lot more tunes under their belt than I gave them credit for, a lot of them sounding very much like the keyboard demo on my old (no defunct) Casio SK-1 or a fairground ride, which wasn't actually a bad thing. But despite this, they somehow managed to pull it off in proper style. The stage was dressed from head to toe in what looked like pink clouds (mirroring the cover of their latest album) and a mirrorball. Tracks from Love Letters didn't lose their intimate charm live as an album recorded in the intimate confines of east Londons Toe Rag studios might have suffered, but it was definitely older tunes like The Look, The Bay and Heartbreaker that faired better to a crowd this big!

Unfortunately I found Sunday's headliners, The Pixies, to be pretty dull. I thought I liked them before seeing them, I certainly like many of their tunes, but I just didn’t get it today. All through their set I felt like that annoying festival goer that just wanted to hear the songs they knew by them and didn't care about the other fluff they were playing….what have I become!!!!!! I just think I need more than verse chorus verse chorus guitar solo chorus end, in my life nowadays. Sorry Pixies, I do actually like you, but today I just didn’t get it!

On a side note, after watching Metronomys set from half way back the field I have a very important fact to share with you about them that you may not know…..This fact is that their music seems to stir in people a deep urge to mass line dance. I'm not sure this was the desired result when they wrote these songs, but the kids have paid their money and they'll line dance if they want to! Normally I’d find line dancing socially abhorrent as I’m a miserable moody bastard with regards those sort of things, but I didn’t today, in fact it even made me smile, the crowd were having fun. And that my friends is all this festival lark is really about now isn’t it….line dancing.

A Grumpy Man (Leaf)