London’s most eclectic one day music festival returned to the expansive Victoria Park in Hackney, boasting five stages and some seriously eye-catching acts. Field Day has had a reputation in the past for being beset by organisational and technical problems but the good news this year was that the organisers had appeared to make genuine strides to make things better. Facilities had improved and the age-old issue of managing sound in a residential area seemed to have been addressed.
And now on to the bands. Faced with a schedule that spanned several stages and several hours, your humble critic had to choose wisely and make some bold decisions. It would have been simple to assume the headline acts were those to focus on but arriving punctually and checking out the lesser known bands turned out to be a wise choice.
Second on the bill at the Bugged Out tent (the most dance-orientated at the festival) was Golden Filter, a New York based electro duo that cite Saint Etienne and Pink Floyd as influences. Although the tent was only half-full, those who were there were treated to a band quietly creating a buzz for themselves (debut single, ‘Solid Gold’ is especially impressive).
On the same stage a short while later was Memory Tapes, who I saw at The Luminaire earlier this year. Obvious reference points are New Order but there are also hints of a more blissed-out shoegaze sound. ‘Bicycle’ remains one of the best tracks of recent years.
If I then said I skipped the great Mancunian indie survivors, The Fall, to check out These New Puritans and No Age on the Adventures In The Beetroot Field stage, I’d expect a few raised eyebrows. However, it was a decision that was vindicated. The former are an Essex-based art-rock outfit whose sound is influenced by myriad diverse genres. The latter, on the other hand, are a Los Angeles-based indie rock band that look to the DIY, underground American bands of the 1980s.
Then followed a quick diversion into the so-small-it’s-claustrophobic XOYO Lock Tavern where Toro Y Moi were performing. Their Afro-pop sound immediately marks them in the mind as Vampire Weekend wannabes, but they’re impressive in their own right. Certainly the audience jostled for space in a rush to watch them in action. Then finally to the main stage where two of the marquee acts (certainly those I most looked forward to) played back to back.
First, Canadian electro boffin Dan Snaith, aka Caribou, performed the bulk of his most recent album, the wonderful ‘Swim’, with a more fleshed out band than the record was originally recorded with.
Then came the headliners, Phoenix. It’s been a wonderful last twelve months for the French band. Their stunning 2009 album, ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ was the record they’d always threatened to make, effortlessly combining the more dancefloor-orientated sound the experimented with at the start of their career, with the more Strokes-influenced guitar-rock they developed on 2006′s ‘It’s Never Been Like That’.
‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ was the band’s commercial breakthrough in the US, winning a Grammy this year for Best Alternative Album. Naturally the set was derived mostly from this record, with a couple of nods to previous glories – ‘Consolation Prizes’, ‘Long Distance Call’ and ‘If I Ever Feel Better’.
I last saw Phoenix in 2005 when they toured the brilliant ‘Alphabetical’ album. They’re clearly a much more confident band now, adept at performing live to thousands (the band even claimed it was possibly the largest audience they’d ever played to) and hearing and watching the likes of ‘Lisztomania’ and ’1901′ keeping an audience thoroughly entranced was a great sight indeed. It was a perfect end to what had been a very impressive festival.
We’re oversaturated by festivals these days. There’s almost one every weekend throughout the summer but few, if any, will rival Field Day in pulling together such a diverse, exciting line-up. KW
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