Field Day 2016
Victoria Park, London
Words by Katie Gatens
“This is how the world will end” hollers a witchily feathered PJ Harvey during her headline set at the end of a muddy weekend in Victoria Park. For many of the crowd at the tenth Field Day festival it feels like she’s right. Torrential downpours plus 30,000 stomping feet meant Field Day turned more ‘bog’ than ‘boutique’. But it’s pedantic to moan about the weather at a British festival after all – what do you expect in June – sun?
On Saturday the wonderfully colourful Orchestra Baobab take to the main stage performing a mixture of lilting Senegalese Cuban slow jams to soundtrack the thunderous rainstorm. There’s a blue sky respite as Skepta takes to the stage, and the South London rapper performs the majority of his hit 2016 rave-reviewed album Konichiwa, with multiple rewinds and guest appearances from BBK DJ Maximum. By an energetic performance of Man to close his set everyone had been danced dry. Elsewhere, there was a heavy queue to get into the Jagerhaus to see NZCA Lines – with good reason. Dressed all in white, Michael Lovett and Sarah Jones were already blasting the roof off with a mix of electrifying pop – their voices fusing together in honeyed harmonies, Jones’ mesmerising drumming providing a dynamic live element to Lovett’s otherworldly synths.
(Floating Points reimagining Elaenia at Field Day with his live band - Photo: Carolina Faruolo)
Arriving late for Floating Points meant catching a fraction of his set on the outskirts of an overly packed tent before heading to Tirzah on the nearby bandstand for a pared-back performance that showcased her sultry vocals to perfection. Never really attempting to whip the crowd into a frenzy and instead facing the DJ behind her, it didn’t deter the dancing fans who thrived on her ragged bedroom beats and understated soul voice. Seeing her in a low-ceilinged basement club is now definitely on my list.
At the Crack tent, Gold Panda seemed to have early technical issues and after a false start, embarked on a fairly wobbly set, never really seeming to engage the crowd with his usual chiming electronic melodies.
Darting over to dance composer Holly Herndon back at the Resident Advisor stage proved to be one of the highlights of the weekend. Making a name for herself as support for Radiohead at their three notoriously oversubscribed to Roundhouse gigs last month, her music has been described as ‘intellectual electronica’, its industrial chimes creating a cold glitchy landscape of micro sounds. A running commentary to the set between songs is provided by typed messages from her laptop onto the screen behind accompanied by a live artist creating hypnotic visuals that feel like you’re being taken on a rollercoaster ride that’s travelling at breaking point.
(James Blake closing out the main stage on the Saturday - Photo: Carolina Faruolo)
There’s just enough time for a wild dance party at Danny L Harle on the Fader stage before heading to the main stage for a rapid change of gear at James Blake. His profound homecoming show is visibly humbling for him, and there’s a sense of of intimacy of the set despite the thousands that make up the crowd, this might be partly to do with the crisp sound but Blake has a way of talking between songs that make you feel you’re the only one in the audience. The thousands only interrupt the silence to chant his lyrics back to him. The ending song of The Wilhelm Scream is a haunting end to a sublime and personal set for Blake.
The crowds seem thinner when Sunday comes around which promises a day of old-timers and nostalgia with a rare appearance from Air and The Avalanches, who are releasing their first album this year since 2000.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre blow away everyone’s hangovers on the main stage with a good old dose of San Fran rock ‘n’ roll that gets everyone bopping, with lead singer Anton Newcombe getting the crowd to shout ‘pig f***er’ in unison. Over on the Crackle & Pop stage (which was the Fader stage yesterday. Seriously, Field Day, why change the names of all of the stages overnight?), Daphini, Dan Snaith of Caribou’s side project, gets a huge throb of a crowd pulsing to gloriously catchy, sample-heavy electronic dance music. The outdoor setting is perfect as the sun blasts down on equally glitter-smothered and mud-splattered bodies.
(Anton Newcomb (left) and Joel Gion of The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Photo: Carolina Faruolo)
Only The Avalanches provide the biggest let-down of the weekend. In a set that promises to be laden with classics such as Frontier Psychiatrist and Since I Left You. But there’s no sign of the classics or songs from the new album. They play a confusingly muddled un-mixed DJ set instead of a live show.
Beach House hit the nail on the head as usual, in a blissed-out set for most of which the audience is plunged in darkness with minimal ethereal blue strobe light. The sound is particularly fantastic, with Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s flawless vocals providing a dream-like soundtrack to the sun setting over the park and orange light streaming through the tent.
French space-rock outfit Air continue the sun-kissed theme with a hit after hit including Sexy Boy, Playground Love, Kelly Watch the Stars and La femme d’argent. There’s not a hand not in the air by the end of their set and they leave the stage to thunderous applause.
PJ Harvey closes with a typically theatrical performance which sees her perform tracks from new album The Hope Six Demolition Project against a dystopian backdrop with a nine-piece brass band. It’s a wonderfully weird and engaging show, although PJ Harvey is perhaps a divisive headliner, she writhes and struts over the stage like a deranged post-apocalyptic swan, proving why her music is still some of the most boundary-pushing among British musicians.
Yes it’s been wet, but at the close of Field Day’s tenth year there’s the reassuring feeling that the festival is going from strength to strength. And against the increasingly turbulent backdrop of festivals getting too big or going bust, this may be one that’ll be around in another ten years – here’s hoping.
(PJ Harvey - Photo: Carolina Faruolo)
Words by Katie Gatens
Photos courtesy of Carolina Faruolo