This year’s Field Day brought the best lineup to date, no doubt. Following the usual formula of dance-Saturday and indie-Sunday, this year’s bill saw the most diverse acts across both genres and luckily also saw the same godly weather throughout the weekend. The atmosphere was similar to last year’s events on respective days – Saturday was ruled by the Hypebeast bros and their bindi-wearing girlfriends, and Sunday was cluttered exclusively with hiking-sandal wearing dads, who decided 2015 was the year to print shirts that said ‘Shoegazer’ (thanks Ride). Being the quickest-selling Field Day ever, it was clear that Eat Your Own Ears upped their game – introductions to new stages, grander set designs and lights and more food stalls didn’t make it feel too commercial or overly sponsored, but £5 for a can of piss – otherwise known as Red Stripe – is still unacceptable. The only other real issues lied with how quiet Caribou’s headline set was, Hookworms disappointingly pulling out due to sickness, and Eat Your Own Ears booking Ride. All in all: another year, another huge success – Field Day absolutely have no competitors as far as city festivals go, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
SOPHIE + QT
My first encounter at Field Day with SOPHIE was the glaring text at the press collection booth saying NO PHOTOS ALLOWED during his set. I’m not surprised – the PC Music collective works in extremes; either overly enigmatic or overly ostentatious. And SOPHIE, the ultimate brand protector, is the former, but in a way that isn’t arrogant or overzealous; I actually find him the most sincere of them all. He walked on stage in the scorching heat clad in a black latex coat (obviously) and didn’t say a word or looked up at the crowd, but no one was expecting him to. He worked through his set playing his bubblegum-maximal-electronic-hamster-pop singles ‘Hard’, ‘Bipp’ and ‘Lemonade’ to the juxtaposing backdrop of graphic keyhole surgery footage, which is an apt metaphor of the genre as a whole: you still can’t really tell what they’re doing – whether it’s a reaction to pop music, exaggerating our generation’s worst (best?) qualities or simply making the most unsubtle music out. For the last song, QT walked on stage and took a long gulp of QT, her heavily branded energy drink, before lip-syncing along to ‘Hey QT’ in what was her first ever UK live appearance. This is when everyone lost their shit – including myself. I worried that this would dim his incredible set, but the personality distance between the pair on stage only made them more kindred in seclusion. SOPHIE once again proves to be the most serious of the PC Music collective and that concentration reflects in his music, as he continues to reign as their most versatile, standout producer.
Albeit 15 minutes late to the stage due to a non-compliant laptop, Adam Bainbridge and his band – aka Kindness – are quickly forgiven. Bainbridge, presumably clad in a full suit, warmly greets the crowd and starts with ‘Swingin’ Party’, a down-tempo slow burning song that served as a gentle introduction to any unfamiliar passersby. The set breezed on via slinky dance moves, made exceptionally better by the peer-like inclusion of his backing vocalists, which made for a really accessible show. They played a host of covers, including longtime friend and collaborator Blood Orange’s ‘Champagne Coast’, which reminded me of the bliss I felt exactly a year ago as I saw Dev Hynes play the same slot. Soon, the keys of ‘House’ pounded through and Bainbridge came down into the crowd and interacted with everyone on the barrier – before long, everyone was united in singing I can’t give you all that you need / but I’ll give you all I can feel, which is exactly what he did. Earlier, as he waited for the band to come on, our photographer was sitting on the barrier in the pit getting grass gently brushed off his back by strangers from Canada, who mentioned they had been deliberating on doing it for about 10 minutes – perhaps a gesture that mirrored Kindness’ performance, which was possibly the most genuine moment of the entire weekend.
TODD TERJE & THE OLSENS
Filling in the dull-glow of festival slot of 6pm, Todd Terje and his backing band The Olsens came out on stage very inconspicuously and nondescript – I almost didn’t realize they had come on. The lounge set started very slowly – akin to the elevator music you become subjected to when you’re at your racist dentist’s office. Whilst he’s known for his jazz-salsa-lounge-house music odysseys, I began to worry about when the mood would pick up because they were 20 minutes into their 1-hour slot and everyone around me, including myself, was nice-drunk and wanted to dance already. And so it picked up and turned out to be one of the most blissful, enjoyable sets I watched the entire weekend – maybe they were just grooming us for what was about to come. There was a smooth transition from ‘Preben Goes to Acapulco’ into ‘Strandbar’ without anyone even noticing and that’s when the party started. Following ‘Delorean Dynamite’, they slid into ‘Inspector Norse’, where a group of queens clad in wigs, heels and fishnets, came on stage to do a choreographed – I use that word lightly – routine. They all danced harmoniously but painfully out of count, tossing all pretenses of a perfect, polished performance and were merry in error, just like the rest of us were.
RUN THE JEWELS
I’d like to say that there is an energy shift between crowds for Run The Jewels in different countries, but that would be a stone-faced lie. Having seen them at Primavera a week prior, I was certain that the notoriously tame Spanish crowd would be lively, but fairly subdued. Again, just like trying to give directions in Spain, I was wrong. It was one of the rowdiest crowds I’ve ever been a part of. This time, in London, Killer Mike – whose shoulder is still broken and in a sling – and El-P come out on stage and quickly start their set to the noticeably impatient crowd. Everyone goes pretty wild from the beginning, but was especially riled up when they were told that it would be crazy, with El-P warning us: “I feel bad for the first 50 rows of people during this song,” before dropping ‘Close Your Eyes’ which naturally opened the circle pits. The pair consistently blur lines between socio-political hard-hitting topics – thanking us in between songs for “letting us play in your monarchic country” – yet keep a carefree stage presence. It’s hard not to litter a Run The Jewels live review with words like ‘energetic’, ‘raucous’ and ‘unfiltered fun’, so I’ll round it up as this: you’ll dance, yell and be shoved by sweaty grown men, but you’ll never hear an aggressive political rant, get hurt or get bored because the music speaks for itself. During the spidery, dripping beat of ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’, El-P exclaims “one of our biggest goals was to get people to sing back that stupid hook line in as many countries as possible”. So far, I’ve sung it in two.
Once again, Viet Cong have proven themselves as one of the most exciting new bands we’ve seen in a really, really long time. With their undeniable echoes of Joy Division, the Canadian four-piece hit the audience with their unavoidable and aggressive wall of sound. Viet Cong are pretty much the musical equivalent of a lion mauling a wounded, helpless gazelle, and they’re exactly the vicious wakeup call that 2015’s music scene needed. Whilst a blindingly sunny Sunday afternoon may not have been the most fitting of settings for the band’s brooding and raucous set, they seemed perfectly at ease on Field Day’s Shacklewell Arms stage and made no apologies for it, launching into a fierce and frenzied rendition of ‘Silhouettes’. If you were in two minds about the band, you’d be hard pushed not to be eating out of the palm of their hands after seeing them perform. With the constant talk of the death of guitar music, Viet Cong have come along to resurrect it from its tired plodding demise, and it’s really difficult not to feel incredibly enthusiastic about their future. It’s hard to sound good on record, and even harder to sound good live, but Viet Cong’s set only showed how flawlessly the band manages to translate their self-titled debut record into a live performance. They’ve mastered the art of being dark, noisy and exhausting all at the same time and I’m honestly not sure I’ll ever get sick of seeing them live.
Pumped full of eccentricity and fuzzy vocal effects, Happyness roll up to the festival with onstage chatter about Texans named Christmas Ashley and Field Day’s 125th anniversary. None of it makes sense, but it doesn’t really matter once they start singing songs about Win Butler’s hair and sharing a birthday with Jesus (“I’m the motherfucking birthday boy / Don’t steal my thunder / Baby Jesus”). There’s really no point attempting to understand how Happyness’ brains work, so it’s a easier just to accept it and go along for the ridiculously weird ride. Ludicrous stage chat aside, Happyness are another band who have never disappointed me live and I’m extremely thankful for that. Having seen them playing tiny East London venues just over a year ago, it’s incredibly satisfying to see the trio packing out the Verity stage despite some pretty vicious clashes, with Diiv playing the Eat Your Own Ears stage at the same time. It doesn’t really come as a shock though, because they’re unique and write really, really great songs. Laidback, ridiculously likeable and incredibly tight, they’re a band who have managed to make their live set all the right kinds of strange, funny and charming with natural ease. With their distorted vocals and earthy guitar tones, Happyness sound how a drunken summer evening feels and I couldn’t love them more.
Following Happyness with Mac DeMarco was a perfect move because they’re both funny, refreshing and weird, which is what we needed after a Saturday spent rolling our eyes at girls in flower crowns and blokes pissing everywhere. DeMarco – unsurprisingly – didn’t disappoint, wooing his sunbathed audience with his carefree brand of slacker-indie-rock. He’s every inch the performer, clad in camouflage dungarees and that bloody delightful gap-toothed grin. He patiently played through his set, exuding the same relaxed attitude he has, making sure songs like ‘Brother’ and ‘Let Her Go’ scratched beneath the surface. Despite “hiccups” in the set, like the catalogue of weird shit being thrown on stage – i.e. a baguette and a bra and his shirtless-cock-rock guitarist took an entire orange to the face – it was a huge success. Andrew White, said guitarist, followed it by giving us a speech about forgiveness and made it quite clear he didn’t give a shit. If a sunny June afternoon had an official soundtrack, it would be Salad Days, so it’s of no shock that the crowd were more than willing to do whatever Mac asked of them – in this case, convincing half of the rammed crowd to get up on the other half’s shoulders.
Saturday – Words by Rachel Grace Almeida
Sunday – Words by Victoria Parkey
Photography by Myles Palmer