It has been interesting to see Field Day evolve in its short history. Having attended each year since its inception four years ago, the small east London one-day festival has shown a certain amount of progression. Gone are the overflowing toilets and, for the most part, the giant queues for the bar. In their place, an army of amiable staff willing to have a laugh and who wince along with you when the painful booze bill looms into view. So, complete with sniffer dogs and, y’know, The Feds, but still with a craft tent and a mean tug of war, the fourth edition of the Victoria Park event got underway.
On a personal note, the day was a blur of bowling bacon (Frazzles up for grabs? Done), valiant sack races, silly dancing and a fervour to empty cans (10p each when returned, good to see an English festival finally follow Europe in working out a recycling method at festivals). Objectively, the line-up was not as strong was previous years. Pheonix do not have the cache of a Justice or Santogold, nor the talented Caribou (a Field Day stalwart) that of Les Savy Fav or Sleater-Kinney. But fuck it, the curators have taste. Thus the likes of Andrew Weatherall, Silver Apples, The Fall and Simian Mobile Disco stick their names on the bill.
In fact, the big names proved a little underwhelming, The Fall proved just as they have always been – stodgy – and Gruff Rhys vs Tony Da Gatorria sounded just that – a fight between two different styles which produced a cacophony so unbearable that the crowd quickly thinned despite the Power Ranger outfit. Among the highlights, and the reason Field Day has such a reputation for being on the mark, were The Golden Filter and Mount Kimbie. Both have been around for a little while but, in granting them early slots, they drew in the crowds (a tent bursting one in dubstep maestro Kimbie’s case) and proved beguiling. Aussies The Golden Filter are a hive of thrashing synchronised drums and inventive synth sounds which work perfectly to create fairly vicious pop; Mount Kimbie are an entirely different proposition drawing nodding heads and shuffling feet left, right and centre. Chilly Gonzalez also proves a popular delight, both defending his mix of jokey rap and classical piano (accompanied by duel drummers) and offering ‘stern words’ to those who doubted the combination, a genuine joy. Appearances from Hudson Mohawke, The Fact DJs and Gilles Peterson were cause for further salivation from any fingers attached to musical pulses.
What Field Day lacks in some of the logistical nous of making a one-day festival have the slick organisation of a larger, three to four day event, it makes up in passion for good, innovative music rarely seen in the often weary, lumbering cash cow genre that is British music festivals.