Field Day 2017
Victoria Park, London
Confusion, distortion and political protesting were order of the day at the 11th edition of east London’s favourite festival. Striding into its second decade, the set up was a little different this year. Usually a two-day event, Field Day was condensed into just one Saturday and ram-packed with techno, hip-hop and dance music. Headlining was heavyweight Aphex Twin who commanded the attention of 10,000 people in a cavernous aircraft hangar-like ‘barn’ after quietly releasing an unnamed EP exclusively at the festival which sold out in minutes. As the thousands came up for air at the end of his set, news of an attack in London reached people’s phones, and the uncertainty once again was ever real.
The downpours of last year’s event were replaced this year with blistering sunshine – there wasn’t a splash of mud in sight as main stage acts panted and sweated, shedding layers, mopping brows and squinting at a sun-drenched crowd.
Kicking off the Moth stage at the bleary-eyed time of 12.30pm, Canadian Andy Shauf played to a packed tent who had managed to shake off Friday’s hangover to hear his lilting soft guitar music. The crowd brought the energy as humble Shauf shuffled awkwardly, cracking nervous smiles of appreciation between songs and finishing with crowd-pleaser The Magician to raptures of applause.
Meanwhile, we dipped into the Bugged Out! Tent to hear Midland spinning his signature grooves of house and disco to waves of patterned-shirt and glitter-doused revellers. Cutting over to the RA stage, sultry US singer Abra sauntered onto a stage all in white and shimmyed to R&B beats shedding her puffer jacket with a cry of “I dunno why I brought this jacket – it’s so damn hot!” before launching into hits such as ‘Crybaby’ and finishing off with ‘Fruit’ – the whole audience chanting along to the hook.
Over at the village green – games such as ‘smack the rat’, ‘milk the cow’ and a coconut shy provided entertainment between acts. I was transfixed for a good half-hour by a gag-inducing eating contest. Shout out to winner Georgia who beat four other grown men by eating her way through ten rounds of cucumbers, watermelons and multiple blocks of Camembert, a sight that is truly etched in my memory for some time to come.
Machinedrum over on the RA stage accompanied by truly mesmerising visuals of interlocking hands and a red liquid robot man (yes, really) and showcased his newer sound of sugar-coated EDM pop through to rattling D&B beats.
Flying Lotus brought the beats to the RA tent - Photo: Ghobinder Jhitta
One of the unexpected highlights of the day was stumbling across London MC Loyle Carner on the main stage. The rapper appeared literally at home on a set comprising of a winged leather armchair, bookshelves and even potted plant as he shared songs from his debut Yesterday’s Gone, including ‘Florence’ and ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’. Humbled before a huge crowd he chatted and sang in equal measure, dedicating a song to Brixton.
The Barn was rammed to capacity for Chilean-American producer Nicholas Jaar, which proved more of a toned-down affair as he played minimal beats and soaring soundscapes – a bit of a let down for a raucous audience bursting at the seams to release some energy. Removed from the throng and over to Whitney on the main stage, who played their carefree blissful summer tunes (including the Golden Girls theme tune) as the sun went down, with drummer/singer Julien Ehrlich sharing a passionate snog with guitarist Max Kakacek. They were the perfect sunset band to round off a golden day.
The RA tent was predictably rammed for Flying Lotus who never fails to impress, proving a perfect warm up for Aphex Twin in the Barn. The mysterious Richard D. James took to the stage rattling out a relentless flurry of glitchy beats accompanied by his trademark logo on screens scattered haphazardly around the stage. What follows is two hours of mind-bending distortion, with skewed images of the crowd morphing like contorted monsters to produce an unsettling wash of noise and out-of-step beats that jangle and jar and completely mesmerise. Then the light show. Question: How many lasers can you fit inside a barn? Answer: Ask Richard James, because he surely topped the limit on Saturday night. The lasers criss-crossing on the back wall mixed with jittering strobe were an epileptic’s worst nightmare. The crowd is absorbed and despite the lack of rhythm seems to be on the same page, completely absorbed, moving as one.
I headed over to the main stage to catch the end of hip hop supergroup Run the Jewels closing the main stage under their logo of gruesome gun and fist inflatables. Everyone was already whipped into frenzy, and they dedicated their final song to the Labour party to thunderous cheers.
When it’s over it’s like my brain breathes a sigh of relief – the lights and shapes still dance across my retinas and my ears are equal parts ringing and expanding. Eleven years in, and Field Day is just getting started.
Main photo courtesy of Max Miechowski