Field Day 2015 Roundup (Hey QT)
Field Day Festival
Victoria Park, London (06-07/03/15)
Field Day 2015 could almost have passed for London’s answer to Primavera. Although the English capital lacked some of the more exotic aspects of its Barcelona cousin, both festivals shared a wealth of tentpole names, and an unexpectedly game sun beamed down on the throngs of (largely hirsute, Red Stripe-swilling) festivalgoers with summery generosity. With just under ten stages speckled around Victoria Park across the weekend, there was musical pleasure to savour in all manner of guises. Given that its schedule was almost twice as broad as that of Sunday, Saturday’s party was a more varied (and raucous) affair, but there was a near-constant overlap of several of the giddiest bands-of-the-moment throughout the festival, not to mention the re-emergence of a particular headlining artist, whose appearance unequivocally won the day at the weekend’s close.
In atmosphere, Field Day resembles that quintessentially British booze-up of a Bank Holiday weekend, just with bigger tunes and more cider-addled teenagers. In the space of a few hundred yards, tents were packed out to bruising hip-hop, sun-dappled indie jangles, screeching punk and more besides, with fans filling up the site relatively quickly after the gates opened up. Early-afternoon sets from Stealing Sheep and Allah-Las were modestly attended, though the former still managed to inspire widespread pogoing, with the help of a limb-flailing cameo from Duncan Wallis of Dutch Uncles fame. By the time SOPHIE took over the Resident Advisor tent at 3pm on Saturday, there were wasted attendees left, right and centre.
The popularity of SOPHIE was a particular surprise: the eardrum-cracking beats of the artist’s bubblegum bass had the tent absolutely brimming, with bodies bounding over from the nearby bars with each passing minute. The denouement of ‘Hey QT‘ saw the titular heroine herself appear in a flurry of bright red hair, launching into the helium-high hook after a swig from a can of the reality-blurring DrinkQT. Effortlessly catchy and simultaneously repulsive, ‘Hey QT’ was an early highlight for the Saturday line-up, though the euphoria reached a high with the advent of Todd Terje & The Olsens‘ hour-long jam as the night drew in. Building steadily for roughly twenty minutes, Terje and his group gradually achieved take-off for their second half; cosmic jams swelling into a set of cheer-inducingly great house-pop that culminated in the mighty ‘Inspector Norse’.
It’s a shame that the crowds weren’t nearly so enthusiastic for tUnE-yArDs‘ set in the Crack Magazine tent across the park. The sound rang through clear as a bell, and the flower-sporting Merrill Garbus and co. were on top form, but the bulk of the audience utterly failed to appreciate their talents, sapping the set’s energy with a general nonchalance. As with many other open-air London shows, Field Day has garnered something of a reputation for sound problems, and I’ve noticed countless attendees have vented their complaints on comment threads across the web. Personally, I found that the sound was much less of an issue than the attitudes of some of the crowds in attendance, as numerous sets were diminished only by the reticence of audiences who were too interested in laughing gas or bitching about sub-par halloumi (is there even such a thing?) to pay attention.
Thankfully, no such apathy was present during Run the Jewels‘ Saturday evening slot in the Resident Advisor tent. El-P and Killer Mike had the massed hordes in a frenzy before they’d even started spitting, arriving onstage to Queen’s ‘We Are the Champions’ and bounding ferociously around the stage with vitriol and energy. The hot-headed ‘Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)’ and the staccato mantra leading ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’ had the whole audience champing at the bit. The vitriol died down for Caribou‘s blissful closing set on the Eat Your Own Ears stage, where heavy drawing from Our Love and Swim built the set to its blissful two-punch coda. An extended, weekend-topping rendition of the mammoth ‘Can’t Do Without You’ was soon followed by the slow-burning skyscraping of ‘Sun’, as bombastic strobes lit up the whole field and closed the Saturday sequence on a euphoric high.
Sunday oozed with chilled vibes from the very beginning, and baseball-capped and baggy-shirted alternative fans were treated to the double-whammy of DIIV and Mac DeMarco for the better part of the afternoon on the main stage. The former let forth an hour of reverb-soaked waves of celestial garage-rock, as Sky Ferreira and DeMarco watched from the wings. Although melodies were difficult to discern amid all the echo effects, and Zachary Cole’s vocals were unintelligible for the most part, DIIV exuded a modest magic, held in place by the band’s bassist, whose face was hidden behind a curtain of thick hair throughout the set, while his nimble bass grooves kept the rolling shebang in check.
Mac DeMarco’s set, meanwhile, was utterly infectious, encompassing sunny singalongs, hundreds of sparked Viceroy cigarettes, baguettes thrown on-stage, a thrashing cover of The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’, and the requisite crowdsurf from DeMarco himself. (I carried his butt for a few seconds. Nice.) Few contemporary artists match the guy for both his slacker-pop poetry and his irresistibly fun persona. No such tranquility during Savages‘ performance, which bristled with aggression as Fay Milton smashed her drumkit to within an inch of its life, and Jehnny Beth baited the crowd into shrieking raptures. “We were in Greece two nights ago,” she growled. “I want you to be louder than them.” The new material from their upcoming second album sounds truly explosive, rubbing shoulders with old favourites such as ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Husbands’ with ease.
The two headline slots for Sunday were those of Ride and Patti Smith, and while the reformed shoegaze outfit put on a commendable show, the crowds were rapidly dwindling to beat the tube traffic out of East London. Instead, it was Smith and her coterie of virtuoso musicians who truly stunned Field Day, delivering the gargantuan Horses in its entirety and concluding with a handful of past favourites, including a heartfelt ‘Because the Night’ and a shambling cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’. Professing herself as 97-years-old (Smith is 68), the punk poet laureate plunged into the fiery ‘Gloria’ oozing with charisma, her dark glasses and crisp white shirt bridging the gap of the past 40 years since the release of that image. Dedicating the moody ‘Elegie’ to her fellow musical icons who passed away since the New York’s rock heyday, Smith capped the festival with tangible glee, poignancy, and her own strain of self-effacing humour. A breathless sequence, and a real jewel in the crown of a festival built on wide-ranging appeal, joyous performers, and an endless sea of plastic cups.
Posted on June 12, 2015, in The Music World and tagged DIIV, Field Day 2015, Horses, June 2015, Live Review, Mac DeMarco, Music Festival, Patti Smith, Ride, Run the Jewels, Savages. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.