Field Day returned to Victoria Park last Saturday, and living up to its idiomatic moniker, this year it managed to condense all the musical genres, generations and spectacles you might expect from a weekend festival into a chaotic one-day event. So apart from missing out on the tents and wellies, you might also have to make the impossible decision between Aphex Twin and Slowdive, for instance. Run the Jewels or Thee Oh Sees? Death Grips or Loyle Carner?
Whichever road the festival goers took in the yellow wood, a dampener was of course left on the day’s events when they began to make their way out of Victoria Park and word spread of the atrocities committed at London Bridge. But it has also become clear recently that one of the many immortal things terrorism can not take away from us is live music; and we still have great memories of all the DJs, bands and hip-hop artists we were fortunate enough to see last Saturday. So here are the most unforgettable things Gigwise learned at Field Day 2017…
Some people think Dr John Cooper Clarke has put on weight
Dr John! You're a poet—a punk-laureate, and representative of all the race… but apparently some of those amongst us think you’ve been swallowing more pies than pills as of late. At least that’s what Cooper Clarke suggested during his performance on Saturday, where he read out his recently penned eulogy to this uncommon accusation, ‘Get Back On Drugs You Fat Fuck’. In another new lyric he debated getting a Chimpanzee Butler – maybe the punk-laureate is getting soft in his old age? Never fear, in truth Dr John still looks as gaunt as a particularly prophetic pixie, and the crowd responded to old favourites like ‘Twat’, ‘Beasley Street’, ‘Evidently Chickentown’ and ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ with a fervour like they were still being hit by his acerbic wit and humour for the first time.
It’s been a big 12 months for Loyle Carner
You might have seen London’s very own Loyle Carner when he was on stage at Field Day last year. He’s still performing the same laid-back, heart-felt hip-hop that’s so refreshingly out of kilter with the local dominance of grime, but since the release of his debut album earlier this year his fan base has grown exponentially. On Saturday he added a final line to the coda of one of his most popular songs that effectively summed up his last 12 months: “ain’t nothing changed except the size of this stage”.
Death Grips had the rowdiest reception
If you were lucky enough to be in the heart of the crowd for Death Grips you will have witnessed East London being uncharacteristically unhinged - there was no room for anyone to hang on to their tote bag here as numerous moshpits broke out in reaction to the industrial hip-hop. The trio, fronted by the frighteningly volatile energy of MC Ride, were determined to show people how it was done. It's not so much a single track that stood out but the pulse by which the synth, electronic drums, fierce drumming and MC's movement and lyrics that impressed. There was no pause for breath until they went out with a bang keeping it highly stylised and meticulously synthesized to every finest detail. They could easily have headlined.
Arab Strap are a modern day Robert Burns
Allow me this apparently hyperbolic analogy – for no one but Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap has given us such dourly romantic poetry in a thick Scottish dialect since the Bard of Ayrshire, except maybe Irvine Welsh. Arab Strap’s songs are recollections of lost kisses, lost weekends and lost friends, and when a now grey-bearded Moffat takes to the stage to perform them live, you’re reminded that like the best elegies their emotive power only seems to grow over time. It may be profligate, but is it not life, is it not the thing? Could any man have written it who has not lived in the world? This Scotch Bard had tears in the eyes of many of his English Reviewers.
We need more microtonal albums from King Gizzard and the Lizard
The Australian psych-rockers have promised us five microtonal LPs by the end of the year, but perhaps we’ll be just as likely to find as many rhymes for the word ‘blizzard’; we’re almost halfway through 2017 and insofar have only been given a ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’. But with head-spinning prog-anthems on this album like ‘Rattlesnake’ and ‘Sleep Drifter’, the band was able to draw one of the most out of control crowds of the festival. Please could we have more semi-tone busting, custom guitar-rocking, slightly conceited technical wizard-lizardry soon?
Aphex Twin may have come from outer space
Do androids dream of electric beats? The Barn, which you might also call the biggest tent in the world, looked like something straight out of a dystopian novel when it became the adopted home of extra-terrestrial electronic music producer Aphex Twin. Not everyone at Field Day got to experience the intense spectacle of the two hour long set and laser show because all the doors were jam packed with lucent, overheated bodies, but it was as bizarre and as brilliant as you might have expected.
No one does shoegaze quite like Slowdive
Shoegaze has never really left us since its conception with The Scene That Celebrated Itself. A distortion pedal and reverb done up to 11 are now pretty much prerequisite guitar kit for any self-serious indie kid with an overgrown fringe and some indecipherable daydreams to boot. But headliners Slowdive reminded us that the original is always the best when they gave an almost heart-breaking rendition of ‘Alison’. The new tracks all went down pretty well too.
If Field Day had its own constituency, it probably wouldn’t elect a Tory MP
There was a modest spluttering of people with Vote Labour placards and Fuck Brexit stickers conspicuously loitering around the stages at Field Day. But where everyone’s political persuasions didn’t lie was much clearer. Some of the biggest cheers came when Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap sneered, “I hope none of you vote for the fucking Tories”, and Killer Mike of Run the Jewels dedicated ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’ to “the people at the top”. As if you couldn’t have guessed already which political party festival-going Londoners won’t be voting for tomorrow…
Oh, and Thee Oh Sees were breathtaking
We stood there mouths slightly ajar in amazement. Watching the two drummers play at exactly the same frenetic pace whilst almost spiritually vibrating off each other was as rock 'n' roll as it gets. Meanwhile, the frontman, and core member, John Dwyer, has an entirely experimental approach to guitar borrowing ideas from the likes of Sonic Youth whilst also nodding to hardcore punk. His reverb soaked vocals felt anthemic and we witnessed a ruckus in the crowd and people were deliriously happy with a couple of guys even invading the stage towards the end. The best way to see out a phenomenal day in the park.