Field Day 2015 – A (Bunch Of) Reflections

Art & Culture

As chat reaches fever pitch surrounding the creative brain drain – with costs spiralling way out of control – that London is undergoing, it’s refreshing to see a festival of what is by all accounts, a pretty avant-garde line-up sell out a Saturday with Caribou as a headliner. OK, he's a 'pull' but a festival that doesn't have to resort to the same ten headliners gets a big tick in our book. 

Field Day has mutated and matured from a hipster-before-hipster-even-existed East End meet and greet into a diverse left-of-centre inner-London festival underground behemoth (if you can write such a thing) spanning the whole breadth of the musical spectrum. The programming has come on leaps and bounds to the point where it's completely normal to have Malian kora players rubbing aural shoulders with pummelling Berghain techno, underground hip-hop next to left of centre pop and angular guitars next to afternoon dub sunshine. Boasting great sound for a London festival, great food and great music it is put simply; the best of the best when it comes to a metropolitan festival… and you get to take to the tube home instead of crawling back to a sweaty tent.   

It’s boring to read one person’s opinion on a festival when there’s so much on offer… so we’ve gone for a few plus there's a full photo feature from a friend who came out of retirement just for this gig. 

Let's start with a nice picture of his from the stage for Toumani & Sidiki Diabate: 


Weekend highlights from an editor's perspective:


Weatherall b2b Avery, Tala, Clark, the amazing Toumani & Sidiki Diabate, Ghost Culture, Todd Terje, John Talabot, FKA Twigs. Our first ever outing with Nina Kraviz (excellent) in place of Caribou.

Sunday highlights: 

Justin Robertson, Heavenly Jukebox, Mac Demarco, Patti Smith and the mighty Ride who sounded even more vital than when we saw them up in Oxford earlier in the year. 

Field Day 2015: 4.76354 out of 5 from where we were sitting and standing. 

Field Day Saturday – Geoff Chang

I’d let you crucify me any day,” blurted one of the village MCs over the PA system to a hairy tugger dubbed Jesus. The game? Tug-of-war. The setting? Victoria Park. Welcome to Field Day.

The immaculately-styled crowd know their Voodoo Ray’s from their Papa John’s, their London Pale Ale from their Red Stripe, their Broadway market from their Borough, and – most importantly (you’d hope) – their Dettmann from their Klock.

Along with the music there was plenty of family fun such as the early village mentality entertainment, featuring the aforementioned war of tugging and other street party classics like a good ol’ sack race and raucous cake-eating contests. My first musical foray was to the Bugged Out tent to check out Daniel Avery b2b with Andrew Weatherall, a pairing that pitted sonic youth against sagacious experience. Despite it being a strong set, half two in the afternoon felt a little too early for electronic music of this kind, however, so I went in search of something a little lighter.

Believing one of Floating Points’ funk-filled sets to be a more suitable way to ease into the day, I gave it a go. I should have expected the ‘Plastic People effect’ to not quite work in a tent to a crowd in its thousands. Still, it was nice to hear Mary Clark’s ‘Take Me, I’m Yours’ and ‘I Like It’ by Madcliff. In contrast, Run the Jewels brought an almighty ruckus to proceedings. All that was needed was a song or two to feel the full impact of their aggressive, yet inviting, ‘stick-your-middle-fingers-up’ attitude.

I made sure to check back regularly on Bugged Out and, sure enough, it was always rammed and rocking. I was lured in by Marcel Dettmann (cue Jesus comparisons) b2b with Ben Klock who served up the type of techno weaponry that their surnames conjure up. Dettmann’s glossy locks looking like they could sweep away Klock’s crew cut any day of the week in a duel of hairstyles. 

It's always nice to leave festivals one new act the wiser and it was Kaleida who impressed most. There’s something convincingly vulnerable when a singer goes barefoot, that they’re not only opening their soul, but that the resulting sound will also be alluring. Their blend of sensitive electronica reminiscent of BANKS crossed with London Grammar proved they had both style and substance.

The sunny intervals highlighted the important role of the bandstand DJs – the ‘unsung heroes’ of festivals. They perfectly provided the ceremonious coming together of people who wanted to shake their stuff in the sunshine, leading me to forget we were actually in London and not some pasture of Tory-occupied middle England. Smiles and sunshine vibes all round, there was a lot of love for the jammed-out version of Toto’s ‘Africa’ cheekily dropped by Shura.

Todd Terje played the sunset slot on the main stage with an added live set up in the shape of The Olsens. All the parts felt completely at home in this live adaptation, especially the thrilling flutter tongue of a flute playing out the scurrying melody of ‘Svensk Sas’. Terje’s schedule has never been busier since the widespread popularity of last year’s It’s Album Time. But what next for the Norwegian nu-disco king? We'll have to wait and see.

The last time I saw Caribou they stole the show from headliners Darkside in Pula’s ancient amphitheatre. This occasion was a similar success with a cleanness to the band’s playing that suited their all-white aesthetic and some fantastic lighting that took full advantage of nightfall – a gorgeous backdrop of dramatic orange lights had the stage glowing for an encore of ‘Sun’. A great way to close the festival and send Dan Snaith home a happy man indeed.

Field Day is clearly a tastefully programmed festival that will mark the beginning of summer for many city dwellers, the local creative scene is thriving and the festival can count itself a part of that.

Field Day Sunday – Gemma Lacey

Given the bun fight for Saturday tickets, one might think the Sunday line-up at Field Day was going to be a little thin. But not so!

One of the first acts of the day were the excellent Ex Hex, fronted by Mary Timony (formerly of Wild Flag and Helium). This girl gang served up some no-holds-barred power pop, just the thing to kick start your festival.

Next up, in all their psychedelic glory, were the Allah La's, with a sound calling to mind days spent on sun drenched California beaches. Though sad to skip out early for Eagulls, their noisy power-drenched set was worth the diversion, pure energy and a much needed boost for a sleepy Sunday crowd.

Following those were Viet Cong, now thankfully getting known more for their artful lo-fi sound rather than an allegedly controversial band name. There's a little bit of Joy Division in the vocals, some hints of Gang of Four in the guitar too, yet the sound is fully their own and live they are energetic and intriguing.

At this point it was back to the main stage for DIIV, whose nostalgic melodic grunge drew a big crowd. Their set seemed a little long, but nonetheless interesting, and it was great to hear more of the new material mixed in with favourites such as 'Doused', 'How Long Have You Known' and 'Druun'. Zachary Cole Smith's never-ending supply of super long T-shirts is also impressive.

Then we got a fun injection, courtesy of Mac DeMarco. I really try not to like him so much but the truth is the shows are always fun and the songs get stuck in my head for days on end. I'm now almost as fond of Pierce and Andy from Mac's band too. If this was the '90s I'm pretty sure they'd have an MTV2 show already. Guest performances from DIIV as 'long lost family members' and all the hits from 'Blue Boy' to 'Viceroy' made this a set you didn't want to miss.

After that we tried to watch Gaz Coombes but the sound limitations in the Shacklewell Arms tent made it nearly impossible to distinguish one track from another. This had been an issue with previous acts and anything with a tiny bit of reverb (Sorry Savages!) suffered the same fate.

Nevermind, Patti Smith and her band were about to captivate all of Victoria Park with an epic performance of Horses. Launching into 'Gloria', this hymn to lost religion still holds power not least because of it's catchy chorus. What followed was a strong set with the godmother of punk Patti firmly at the helm. To all intents and purposes for many this was really the headline act, Ride may be big but they don't have the iconic power or indeed the heritage of Patti and co. by any means.

Hookworm's cancellation left space for Ducktails to step up and take their slot. Matt Mondanile from Real Estate's band may be at the opposite end of the spectrum to their sound but, live, the mellow pretty melodies are nonetheless entrancing.

Stepping over to watch Gengahr was a bit of a contrast but the noisy guitars were great. Elsewhere, Jacco Gardner may sound like he wishes it was the 1960s but he still delivers a good live show, even if it's veers towards the twee in parts.

Finally Ride, brownie points for starting with "Leave Them All Behind", they're still strong, even with less hair and more fedoras added into the mix. For me they don't have the raw power of fellow Shoegazers My Bloody Valentine live <ed disagrees here> but they were a fitting end to Field Day and the perfect soundtrack for many peoples' walk home too. 

Until next year!

The excellent Field Day returns in 2016.