Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Field Day – Victoria Park, London 25/05/13

30 May 2013, 15:32 | Written by Luke Morgan Britton

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Field Day occupies a strange position unlike most other festivals: loved by thousands of Greater London-based gig-goers and derided by just as many.

More alternative than the likes of Lovebox and Wireless, but able to attract more established acts than 1234 Shoreditch. For all its constantly impressive line-ups and bill, there’s always the above average (even for festival norm) toilet queues and below-par sound systems. And that goes without mentioning its reputation for being, as The Guardian once labelled it, “Hackney’s annual hive of hipsters”. Curiously of all, however, is the fact that those of both inclination return each and every year without fail.

Asking a peer if they were planning on attending the festival would formerly result in a resigned sigh in favour, like on-off lovers somehow drawn back to their past conquests time after time. But this year, Field Day seem focused on changing this: determined to improve in all areas of previous criticism whilst punching even higher before in the big name booking stakes. If last year’s, admittedly somewhat perplexing, headline billing of Franz Ferdinand showed anything it was that the organisers were not afraid of branching out beyond the East London niche. This year’s outing, meanwhile, contained not one but three possible headliners of that magnitude in Bat For Lashes, Four Tet and Animal Collective and thankfully, unlike most festivals, they weren’t all pitted against each other in the scheduling.

field-day-2013-guardsGuards, Shacklewell Arms stage

If the slight shift of direction was to be noticed anywhere primarily, it would be the time ticket-holders decided to set their alarms for. Past years have seen tents virtually empty until mid-afternoon, with the cooler-than-thous still recovering from their nights before. This time, however, the kick-off of sorts seems closer to the ticket’s actual printed start time. Such midday starts for the early-risers always tend to be rewarding in everything but the atmosphere, something experienced this time round for hangover-soundtracker/brunch-scorer East India Youth.

With his debut EP recently released as the first pressing by newly-launched label Quietus Phonographic Corporation, it seems only natural that the 22 year old electronic musician be the first up on The Quietus’ Village Mentality sponsored stage. But no matter how much of a lift his brand of space electro gives to the audience, none come close to the dance moves of the Quietus editors manning the DJ decks at the side of the stage.

Others suffering from the early start are Guards at Shacklewell Arms stage. “We’re feeling a little shaky today, London. We stayed up way too late last night so sorry if we’re a bit out of it” frontman Richie Follin (yes, sibling of Cults’ Madeline Follin) apologises after just three songs, proceeding to thank the crowd for even showing up repeatedly throughout. But despite multiple attempts to get on the drummer’s kit from the singer, there’s little else to show that the New York group are on auto-pilot, as their Arcade Fire-chorused indie-pop serves as the perfect appetiser to any punter’s arrival.

field-day-2013-chvrchesChvrches, Laneway stage

Next up are synth-led femme fourpiece Feathers, whose Scandi-esque synths and wispy vocals sound closer to Swedish climes than their Austin home. But while the current wave of ‘Scandipop’ tends to offer something different alongside its 80s yearning - MØ with her avant-pop leanings and Elliphant with her grime-hop edge - today Feathers only seem a simple hark back.

Definitely not harking back, however, are Outfit back at Laneway stage. With their debut album coming out via Double Denim in August, their set – a first live performance in the capital for quite some time – consists of the already loved as well as unheard cuts definitely worth getting excited over.

Another band using their appearance as a showcase for debut album fodder are Chvrches, who draw in the first packed-out crowd of the day. The electro-pop trio, in the truest of senses, do have an undeniable knack for sugar-coated hooks and bubblegum melodies but their stage presence still leaves a lot to be desired, the three branched out across the stage stripping the performance of any fluidity. Not that many others seem to care though, as the music seems to do enough talking to get dancing shoes on an awkwardly congested crowd.

Photos by Jason Williamson.

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field-day-2013-solangeSolange, Eat Your Own Ears stage

Our first venture into the Bleed & Lanzarote Stage at the far end of the park’s stretch comes at just after 3pm for How To Dress Well, a time slot frustratingly early for the type of emotions that Tom Krell’s smooth croonings seem to evoke. Clad in a t-shirt depicting Kanye West as a Pharoah, the R&B revivalist battled through monitor difficulties with some choices cuts as well as a Janet Jackson cover, the glimmers of sunshine peeping through the tent conjuring summer memories of boomboxes and driving around in retro cars that we never actually had rather than night-time lovings.

This R&B love-in continues over at the main stage with Solange, someone who’s place on the billing would have been unfathomable a mere twelve months ago. With producer, co-writer and dance partner Dev Hynes at her side, however, she’s managed to morph herself from famous sister to someone the internet might actually love more than Beyonce, although we’re not sure that is possible. Her upcoming third album, which will be regarded in many circles as a debut, looks slim on the material to match guaranteed party-starting ‘Losing You’, if this performance is anything to go by. The party does get underway eventually, but sadly it’s for the very last song, which just so happens to be the aforementioned.

field-day-2013-daughterDaughter, Laneway stage

Mount Kimbie are the first of two reasons to stick around at the Laneway stage, as they play to a London crowd for the second time in one week after an album launch show at their old local haunt, the Bussey Building in Peckham. Performing to a rammed crowd that you’d normally expect in the nearby Bugged Out tent, many having not heard the pair’s recent full-length effort Cold Spring Fault Less Youth must have thought they’d ended up in the wrong tent, with the duo’s two albums to date sounding poles apart. You’d be forgiven for thinking that attempting to merge together their electronically-faithful debut with their new LP, which broadens their landscape of used instrumentation, might result in more than a few jarring moments but somehow, somehow, it doesn’t. This might come down to the group’s technical mastery, as they give a pretty good lesson in how electronic music can be recreated and even re-imagined live.

The obligatory mid-set DJ slot is followed by Daughter, who are posed with the near-impossible task of performing tracks from one of the most delicately beautiful and artfully composed albums of the year in front of a crowd at that point of the day where silent observation is unfeasible. They do their best though, Elena Tonra’s precision-perfect moments of heartwrenching raw emotion humming the audience to a momentarily lull before her band reach euphoric realms around her.

field-day-2013-bat-for-lashesBat For Lashes, Eat Your Own Ears stage

The twilight slot at centre stage is occupied by Bat For Lashes, who enthralls with her trilogy of ‘Prescilla’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Laura’. It’s the latter which strikes a chord the most with a crowd now mostly resting their laurels and onlooking from the sides and back. With three albums to her name, one Silver certificated, one Gold and two Mercury-nominated, it’s arguable that Natasha Khan deserves a higher placing on the bill. But as dusk begins to set to a lullaby of ‘Sleep Alone’, you know it’s a perfect pairing.

Following her on a main stage is not a situation Four Tet would be normally used to, and neither does he look entirely comfortable in the setting. Hidden behind a laptop and a couple of inwardly-turned launch pads in the dead-middle of a dwarfing stage, Hebden opts for the entertainment stakes in the form of a series of Flaming Lips-esque oversize inflatable balloons set loose into the crowd. But it isn’t his presence that lets him down though, in fact there’s very little musically that Four Tet actually does wrong during the performance. Sadly it’s just a matter of the open space acoustics draining those all importnat intimate flourishes.

field-day-2013-2
A more appropriate slot for Four Tet would be the one occupied at the same time by Bristol man Julio Bashmore over at Bugged Out, not-so-coincidentally where all those in search of a shimmy seem to relocate to at this very moment. Bashmore’s genre-merging, boundary-blurring electronics pave the way for TNGHT coming after. Or conversely, the equally experimental Animal Collective, who – if rumours are to be believe – are at the tail-end of their time together. While their new record Centipede Hz rarely touches their 2009 former peak, a career-spanning closing set adequately rounds off the day.

Still a few niggles then but Field Day remains a key fixture in the London, heck, UK festival calendar that, on this year’s showing, keeps going from strength to strength. With many of the negatives solved from previous year’s outing, and only a handful of inappropriate stage times letting the day down this time, surely that moment of finding out who will be playing next year’s fest will only be met with elation during 2014.

Photos by Jason Williamson.

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