Located in Victoria Park with a great atmosphere, Field Day is, even without music, great fun. Backwards sack races, blindfolded watermelon relay races and many more are held in a village green area, and everybody seems determined to have a good time (whether they’ve heard of the bands playing or not). Unfortunately my first experience of Field Day 2009 was blighted by a borderline incompetent system of collecting photo passes, which left Minh and I being sent from one end of the festival to the other, gradually picking up other photographers in similar situations on our way. This unfortunately meant that I missed the first band of the day I wanted to see, First Aid Kit. Not to worry though, there were plenty of other bands on to keep me entertained for the rest of the day.
We first headed to the Village Mentality tent, to catch Jon Hopkins. With his electronic ambient compositions, Hopkins was oddly compelling. Very static electronic musicians are never the most fun to see live, but Hopkins managed to keep his tent entertained, even if he didn’t exactly get them moving. His droning, but melodic music was however a very pleasant way to start the day.
Just as pleasant were Fanfarlo on the Eat Your Own Ears main stage, drawing a reasonable crowd early in the day. Their anthemic indie pop worked well with a day that, so far, seemed to be defying the weather forecast. They were annoyingly late to the stage, which meant that the Main Stage was slightly out of sync with everywhere else for the rest of the day, but nobody’s perfect. Despite being far from the best band of the day, Fanfarlo did their job of keeping an audience entertained (although not entertained to the point where they’ll stop their conversations) at a time when nobody else was really on.
The next band on the main stage, Errrors, however got the crowd standing up. At first they seemed weak and far too quiet (which was a common problem throughout the day, due to tough noise restrictions on the festival). But they quickly warmed up, managing to get the early day, not yet alcohol infused, crowd dancing. With Simon Ward winning over the crowd with his northern indie charm, Errors were a relative success, managing to keep a suddenly rained on crowd happy.
However, Final Fantasy got the crowd moving forward in anticipation, even just to excitedly watch him set up his keyboard and violin. After a quick introduction, in which he demanded fatter English people, he got started on a set mostly consisting of new songs, reminding us that we “had records” for his old material. The new material, was by and large, excellent and enough so to make me genuinely excited about the new record. However, perhaps due to lack of experience with his new songs, or due to other problems, Owen Pallett at first seemed almost sloppy. His loops were almost out of time, and he appeared to be having a few problems on the stage. He quickly warmed up though, and was soon giving a compelling performance that marked him out as the best act of the day so far.
After a quick wander around the small, but busy, festival and lunch (during which we watched the exciting backwards sack race), we returned to the main stage for The Temper Trap. These Aussies were the first act to get the main stage audience really dancing, and they certainly went over very well. They were energetic (especially the bass player), and were a perfectly enjoyable main stage act, far from an exceptional band, but a real crowd pleaser.
About this time, it suddenly started raining quite hard, so, partially due to the weather, and perhaps curiousity about her act, I headed to the Adventures in the Beetroot Field tent to see Michachu and the Shapes. The tent was packed, and I only managed to get a partially obscured view, but I was still struck by quite how tiny Michachu is. Because of this, and her childlike figure, Michachu is a surreal sight on stage. Her cute and weird music fits this. She does, however, lack real stage presence, and by the time she tried a largely inaudible acoustic song, I had grown tired of her and headed out into the suddenly rainless festival to get to the front of the main stage for The Horrors.
The surprising lack of rain didn’t last though. Soon I was waiting for a band who, until this year, I would have paid not to see. However, they arrived on stage to near torrential rain. Perhaps due to their Mercury Prize nomination, or perhaps due to their album actually being quite good, there was a real element of hype surrounding the Horrors arriving on stage. I missed their opening ambient chords of ‘Mirrors Image’ due to the conversation of a drunken Irish man, but there was a definite buzz. Unfortunately, like most hyped bands, the Horrors failed to live up to theirs, and despite some tracks (such as ‘Sea Within a Sea’) being excellent, they seemed out of their depth on the main stage. They weren’t nearly loud enough, and required techs to be running about the stage fixing things for them nearly constantly. Their performance was energetic and dramatic, all 5 of them glaring solemnly and menacingly at the audience throughout the performance while Faris rose his hand in a dark, wizardly manner at crescendos in the songs. The Horror’s sense of drama on stage is amusing, but they managed to keep me entertained in the heavy rain.
The normally excellent Fennesz was unlucky. Placed on the wrong stage, during intolerable rain, he was never going to truly engage an audience. Ambient electronic music isn’t wonderfully fun to watch live at the best of times, but many, including me, couldn’t be bothered to stand in the rain watching a man behind a box press buttons. Fennesz put on the best performance he could, but unfortunately was doomed the moment it started raining, and people started leaving for the safety of the tents.
Mumford and Sons, the latest buzzed about folk act from London, drew an impressive crowd to the Village Mentality tent. There had been rumours of Laura Marling appearing on stage with them (she had been spotted walking around the festival with the band), but unfortunately she was not to be seen. Mumford and Sons are a strong act, despite not yet releasing an album, and entertained an audience, with their pleasant, if not exceptional, folk songs.
Electro-Rock duo The Big Pink are one of the most promising bands emerging from London at the present time. Having been noted, and interviewed by Pitchfork, they now have a lot of hype to live up to. I would confidently say that they are currently delivering on that hype. They presented the Adventures in Beetroot Field tent with a powerful, rhythmic, melodic and supremely enjoyable set.
The problem with too many of the electronic acts that I either watched, or caught glimpses of at Field Day, was that they were simply too boring to watch. Either because of ambient music (which is only ever really good on record) or being too static. Four Tet, with his supremely danceable, but atmospheric tunes, provided an excellent listening experience. By bringing on dancers with glowing hula hoops, he also provided one of the best visual experiences of the day.
Influential Dub step producer DJ Skream was kept late, and then cut short to only 20 minuets, a fact that he much lamented whilst on stage. Opening with his excellent cover of La Roux’s ‘In for the Kill’, DJ Skream got around half the crowd very excited. The other half of the crowd, including me, were waiting for Mogwai and simply viewed him as an inconvenience who they’d rather be rid of. Despite this, DJ Skream put on an excellent performance that got his half of the crowd moving.
Greeted, regrettably with a few boos from the DJ Skream fans, legendary post-rock act Mogwai were the last act to take to the main stage. The boos were soon silenced by the multitude of adoring fans, and the crowd shushed itself in preparation for their first song, ‘Yes! I am a Long Way From Home’. Mogwai may have suffered from the noise restrictions, but this did not mean they were any less impressive. The audience was awed into submission, particularly notable by the respectful silence that fell over the crowd in the quiet section of the incredible ‘Mogwai Vs Satan’ (during which they were joined by James Hamilton from Errors to help with rhythm). Mogwai gave an extremely impressive performance even by their own standards, songs full of stately energy and power, and left the crowd demanding more, and an encore would have certainly been very welcome. Mogwai were certainly the best act of what had been an excellent, if blighted by rain, festival.
All photos by Crazy Bobbles