Field Day hits its twelfth year and a move to South London results in a re-energised festival showcasing the very best in new music - but there's still some fixing to be done.
Bedding down for two days in Brockwell Park - and up against Primavera and All Points East - it was a smart move for the 12-year-old event to embrace an outlier status. While All Points East cut through Victoria Park's poor record for sound, a plethora of leftfield branding couldn't hide its true form as a lighter version of BST Hyde Park. That left Field Day to get right what APE couldn't - creating a community event that balances a healthy respect for location, environment and local culture.
And they kinda made it work: the crowds were more diverse than ever, the bookings were more creative and the atmosphere was free of much of the blandness and elitism that dogged Field Day. It was less a hipster and there was edge.
Friday saw Erykah Badu (pictured above) headlining and a crowd hypnotised by one of the best performances the festival has ever seen. Badu's languid show-womanship finds a perfect home in Field Day's new digs and when the sound hits its mark, there's no stopping her. Elsewhere the Dimensions Stage cherrypicked the best of new London jazz with Sons of Kemet, Ezra Collective, Obongjayar and The Comet Is Coming visibly creating a clutch of genre-converts among the packed tent. Emerging R&B and pop including Mahalia, Ami Carmine, Boy Pablo and G FLIP was showcased on the compact Superdry Sounds stage.
Badu returned the next day as a guest of Thundercat, playing another outstanding set but the day highlighted the event's only worrying problem: the sole open-air stage was rarely at capacity while the indoor stages (notably The Barn and Crack's tent) were nigh-on impenetrable. Four Tet's closing set on Saturday was shut down due to safety concerns leaving a few punters rightfuly pissed off. The entire scheduling seemed a little off across most of the day, with Charlotte Gainsbourg's quieter songs lost against the crowd chat and nearby trainline while Princess Nokia is crying out for an outdoor stage. Wanted to get into Fever Ray and didn't turn up 15 minutes before her set? Forget it.
There's a lot to be excited about despite these teething troubles. The festival felt more relaxed than it ever has; regulars seemed visibly surprised at how the drop in size (5,000 less capacity than in previous years we're told by an insider) didn't feel like a step backward. If they get capacity issues sorted in 2019, we're potentially looking at the UK's best showcase festival, hands down.