One of our writers spent the weekend at Field Day soaking in every experience going, from the music to the weather, and gave us this rather enjoyable rundown of it all, including pictures from their very own phone. You couldn’t get closer unless you were there. Which they were… Anyway, here’s the full Field Day experience.
Rain? Yep. Mud? Yup. £5 for a can of Red Stripe? You know it. Did anyone at Field Day give a shit? Absolutely not. Festival season well and truly kicked off last weekend (10th-11th June) with Manchester’s Parklife, Brighton’s offshoot, Wildlife, as well as Download gracing the country. Both Parklife and Field Day’s line ups catered to students and dance music fans across the country, with many of the acts playing at both festivals over the course of the weekend, making the obligatory ‘Parklife vs Field Day’ argument pretty obsolete. Regardless of where you were in the country, the British weather held strong and delivered its absolute best to ruin a good weekend with a two-day downpour, although it soon became abundantly clear that no amount of bad weather could dampen the spirits of festival goers at Field Day.
Set in Victoria Park in the east end of London and surrounded by the city on all sides, Field Day set off to an explosive Saturday. Arriving on my own and a little worse for wear after some specially selected 7.9% ciders, I kicked off the weekend with one of my underground heroes Special Request (alias of piano-house veteran Paul Woolford); his set consisting of trademark industrial jungle rhythms. Perhaps initially a victim of early scheduling (the harsh and frantic style seemed discordant for an early afternoon spot), the set really reached its apex, coinciding with a vicious downpour that left the festival waterlogged for the weekend. As many flocked to the nearest tent to avoid the rain, the crowd for Special Request increased dramatically. Primarily intending to seek shelter, many found themselves unintentionally enjoying the ensuing performance. Although disappointed at the lack of his ‘Hackney Parrot VIP’, Special Request held his own regardless, and proved that one song alone does not make a good set. Next up on the Bugged Out! stage was the Jackmaster back to back with Gerd Janson. Jackmaster has a certain effortless professionalism that almost made Gerd Janson look uncomfortable; Jackmaster glided between the decks, picking crowd pleasing funky house edits as though it was nothing, whilst Gerd Janson looked nervous in front of the decks – although it is completely possible this was only in comparison to the graceful Jackmaster. Still alone, I decided that it was a time for a few more drinks and to explore more of the festival. After queuing in the torrential downpour for a £5 can of Strongbow to down like the 14-year-old I used to be, I set off to catch a bit of DJ Koze and his impeccable blend of techno and tech house. I got to the Resident Advisor tent in time to hear Skream’s tech remix of the Chemical Brothers’ ‘Sometimes I Feel So Deserted’, originally a bootleg produced by Skream that got so popular at his sets, the Chemical Brothers’ fully commissioned it as an official remix. DJ Koze got a good response from the crowd due to good song selection and robust mixing, a trait that was unfortunately not to something in abundance throughout the weekend.
“…one day pushed you to your extremes, whilst the other gently coaxed you back into existence”
Completely soaked, quite drunk, and having the time of my life dancing in the mud alone, it was time for one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend: Motor City Drum Ensemble. Unfortunately, I was to miss most of this due to trying to coordinate meeting up with some friends, as well as my girlfriend who had hurried straight from a work training day. Having met up with a friend I met at a festival last year, I decided that upon being offered it, acid would be a good idea, despite having decided to give all of that up less than a week before. Not even thinking twice, I popped the tab under my tongue before meeting my girlfriend and realised that I had well and truly fucked it. It suddenly dawned on me that I had the impossible task of having to keep my shit absolutely together otherwise I could potentially ruin both our weekends. Figuring in a panic that a couple more drinks would probably help, we queued up for some more student-finance funded cans of lukewarm Strongbow. Motor City Drum Ensemble sounded great from the drinks queue, and although I regret not being able to catch the whole set, I could hear a decent amount of funk, disco and house edits coming from the tent that sounded as smooth as the online Boiler Room sets I’d seen him perform at.
Next up was the jazz-house ensemble that was Floating Points’ live performance. This was a particular struggle for me as I don’t remember the set starting due to my main concern being a man vibrating next to me. I was reassured he was just dancing but as I looked back he was a vibrating green blur, so I decided it would be better to just not look at all. The levels were slightly off throughout Floating Points; the sax in ‘Silhouettes (I,II,II)’ wasn’t as earth shattering as I would have liked, and other parts came off either not deep enough or too screechy. I tried to catch the Mount Kimbie DJ set that followed, but in all honesty I have no idea how it went. Upon attempting to eat (my complaint was the Brisket was too nice, but just not nice enough to eat) in a makeshift rain shelter it was time for one of my all-time favorites: Four Tet. Still reasonably disturbed that my peripheral vision wasn’t quite right (I was convinced I was looking through fish eyes), and becoming increasingly concerned with the ongoing England Euro game (I had also convinced myself we were at a ‘retro’ Euros in the 1980’s), we decided another drink would do the trick before being incredibly disappointed by the Four Tet set. Reliant on too many DJ gimmicks such as pulling up songs instead of mixing, it came across as a ramshackle attempt to dabble with every genre. Four Tet’s Opus remix got the crowd into a frenzy before failing to deliver after the phenomenal 7 minute build up, and the mixing in general was sub-par. Four Tet is at his best in a dark room away from a festival main stage, carefully selecting eclectic jazz songs and working a crowd subtly over the course of a few hours, rather than attempting big EDM style tricks and drops. I left incredibly frustrated that one of my favorites had let me down.
Last up was headliner James Blake. I had to sacrifice Bicep live and the last Youth Lagoon show to see Blake, but fortunately I was not disappointed. Someone in the ecstasy-gurning crowd described James Blake as ‘proper residential,’ and it seemed oddly fitting to see the awkward 27-year-old crooning about lost loves to a drugged up crowd in the shadow of the council block towers that loomed over the park. My biggest concern had now become the EU referendum and I was strangely attached to the idea of what it means to be in London; a place where people could come and let themselves go with a Red Stripe in their hand, surrounded by tourists, whilst united in football rivalry and music. I became firmly in love with my capital city, seeing it, as I did, through shimmering colours, with an inability to stop thinking about Brexit. I honestly have no idea why all I could think about was the EU Referendum for about 6 hours, and it was at this point I realised LSD probably isn’t for me. Blake swooned effortlessly through songs with minor sound level problems (he later remarked that no one had ever asked for less bass in ‘Limit to Your Love’ before) in a set that pleased all. Highlight of the set was undoubtedly one of my favourite grime MC’s, Trim (now under the moniker Trimbal). The London war MC was greeted with ‘Who?’s by the crowd in his once stomping ground of east London; he tore through ‘Confidence Boost’, one of my most loved James Blake works under his Harmonimix alias. The moment seemed like a triumphant homecoming to all the 1-800 Dinosaur crew, but unfortunately to very few in the crowd. The set ended on a high with ‘Wilhelm Scream’ and everyone left satisfied, although I was still reeling from the performance of ‘Confidence Boost’ with Trimbal on stage, a sight I never thought I would see.
“London; a place where people could come and let themselves go with a Red Stripe in their hand, surrounded by tourists, whilst united in football rivalry and music”
Following less than two hours sleep consisting of weird visions and being acutely aware of the birds singing, we set off bruised and battered into the Sunday of Field Day. The difference in audience was palpable. The average age of the crowd had nearly doubled, and the sweaty, gurning ravers of the Saturday had been replaced with middle aged PJ Harvey fans due to the far more band-centric line up. Arriving fairly late (it had been a heavy Saturday), we immediately took to catch another personal favourite of mine, Daphni, aka Caribou. And boy did he deliver. Technically impeccable on his rotary mixer, he stormed through an hour and a half of afrobeat, funk, disco, house, techno, breakbeat, eskibeat and practically every other genre imaginable. Focusing mainly on light hearted funky disco and soul, Daphni delivered a set that consisted of sharing brilliant records with an audience in a manner that left everyone with no choice but to dance. For the first time all weekend, it appeared to be a set consisting of loved songs rather than harsh drops and deep bass lines. Daphni even dropped in a bit of Pearson Sounds’ new cut ‘XLB’, which dripped seamlessly before finally hitting the harsh percussion build Pearson Sound is famous for. Following this was perhaps the most anticipated set of the weekend: The Avalanches. How would they hold up after a 16 year break/hiatus/split? The answer, in all honesty, is the Australian group struggled on the decks. Poor mixing and poor levels, and a general sense of being unimpressed resonated through the audience despite some great song selection. It appeared to be a set they could not win until the final 15 minutes when they brought out the classics most were there for. New song ‘Frankie Sinatra’ got the crowd going, but it was the mixing into classics that was euphoric; ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ and set closer ‘Since I Left You’ assured that they were back, although I still worry the new album will only disappoint judging by the crowd’s reluctance to dance to anything but the classics.
A moody atmosphere took over during Beach House’s set. Dream pop filled the packed tent as they played emotional cuts from the classics, including personal favourite ‘Take Care’, as well as songs from their two LP’s last year, ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ and ‘Depression Cherry’. Lastly, it was time to end the weekend with final headliner PJ Harvey, though I must admit I don’t ‘get’ PJ Harvey. I find her to be a pale, guitar-led imitation of Kate Bush, who has tapped into an age group which fail to accept that they are aging and so cling on to their ‘edginess’ with the needlessly weird singer who swanned the stage clad in black feathers. She gave a thoroughly decent performance which the crowd seemed to respond positively to, and this really is all I have to go on. It was by no means bad, it’s just that I was far more entertained by the blackened sky and lightning show behind the main stage, at the appearance of which, and lack of interest in PJ Harvey, we decided to leave a bit early and catch one last dance at Optimo before the festival ended for another year.
Arriving for a quick dance a bit too late into the set, Optimo ended his set on the classic ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials. The slow ska groove was a deliberate last song, one which became increasingly more emotional as the set finished and we wandered through the now empty festival for the last time. Walking out of the now ghost-like town that had been our spiritual home for the weekend was a sad experience but a necessary one; the mud and the rain had taken its toll on us as well as the non-stop dancing and heavy alcohol/substance abuse. The one-two punch of Field Day was a unique experience; day one was filled with hard underground dance acts and clashes (sorry Gold Panda, Youth Lagoon, Bicep, Diiv, Slimzee, Plastician et al.) that became a hectic frenzy of drugs, dancing, drinking, and mud, whilst the Sunday provided the hangover feel necessary to twin the Saturday. The generally lower tempo of the Sunday was welcoming and reassuring to an emotionally battered couple such as ourselves, whilst still providing great music. The split in audience suggested that most in attendance went to either the Saturday or the Sunday, although I would argue the weekend experience is what made Field Day an incredible weekend: one day pushed you to your extremes, whilst the other gently coaxed you back into existence.