Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Field Day 2014 - Review

The last time Breaking More Waves attended London’s Field Day in 2011 we left disappointed with an event that on paper looked fantastic, but in reality just didn’t deliver, with poor organisation, poor site layout, poor sound quality and bad mannered audiences. However, it seems that in the past three years lessons have been learned and minor quibbles aside the expanded 2014 2 day event was as good in practice as it seemed in theory, particularly on the Saturday where musical eclecticism and greater choice of stages provided some genuine natural highs.

Here are 10 things we learnt about Field Day 2014.

1. A sunny festival is always better than a rainy one.

Because you can sit down anywhere without thinking when you fancy a rest. Because sunlight lifts the spirits. Because it’s less tiring. Because it’s more convenient.  Because everyone looks better in the sun. Because your clothes stay clean. All very obvious, but at 10am on the Saturday it looked highly likely that none of these joys were to be experienced as the rain bucketed down over London, but two hours later the sun was out and Field Day’s site looked perfect, green and lush.

2. Ridiculous is sometimes a very good thing in music.

A trip round the world DJ set full of character by a 30-something Norwegian that took in house, disco, electronica, samba, Moroder-esque pulses, piano jazz and lounge music may sound crazily stupid, but somehow Todd Terje blended it all together in a manner so seamless that it was impossible not to feel good to be alive. By the time he hit 2012’s Inspector Norse (streaming below) the packed sweaty crowd was full of hands in the air, smiles all round and voices singing along to the instrumental hooks. Ridiculous, insane, call it what you will but for anyone that thinks fun is a dirty word, Terje’s set would have surely converted them. Expect his record to crop up on a fair few album of the year lists, quite possibly including ours.

3. Being cool / chilled doesn’t always work (Part 1).

Sky Ferreira must have been not just cool, but cold, as she was dressed in a heavy parka coat in the bright sun. Her aloof, unsmiling presence gave the impression of someone who had just been dragged out of bed and really didn’t want to be there. The music felt the same way. Disappointing. Someone should have taken her along to see Todd Terje to cheer her up.

 4. Being cool / chilled doesn’t always work (Part 2).

The Horrors days as shouty energetic gothic punks may be long gone, but their late afternoon set on the main stage was just too chilled for its own good, both the audience and band appearing tranquilized by the heat. Everyone could have done better.

5. Soul music takes many forms.

In this case a man in a black hoodie sitting in a cloud of dry ice moving his arms like a druid or sorcerer whilst conjuring up powerful emotive electronic music that in places sounded like Justin Timberlake on downers singing of unrequited love. It was tear jerking stuff.

6. Jon Hopkins has big balls. But they weren’t big enough.

Here are his balls.

But the sound system just wasn’t ballsy enough for his set of crackling warped techno.

7. Field Day isn’t as hipster as it sometimes gets labelled.

Yes there were a few achingly cool beards, yes some vintage clothing, yes a few pretentious haircuts, but the majority of people at Field Day looked like the regular sort of folks you see at pretty much any gig where the likes of Metronomy or The Pixies might play. And really, if there are hipsters at a festival is that really such a bad thing if they’re paying attention to the music and just having a good time like everyone else? Isn’t hipster a meaningless term these days?

8. The £5 a pint era of festivals has begun.

£5 for a can of Red Stripe. £4.50-£6 for some types of real ale. £5 for a bottle of cider. All topped off with a twitter hashtag request of #redstripefieldday. 

9. History has a habit of repeating itself.

The Sunday of Field Day (which was a smaller site with less stages than the previous day) showed a little lacking in its musical curation. Future Islands aside the music seemed very much like Reading Festival 1990, with plenty of B list and C list indie bands with (depending on time or place) lank haired shouty men, black leather jackets, black jeans and groovy rock with 70’s glam touches. Best of the afternoon crop was The Bohicas, a raw full throttle blast of guitars and rock n roll thrills with some reasonably punchy tunes thrown in.

10. History has a habit of repeating itself (Part 2).

Reading Festival’s Sunday headliners in 1990 was The Pixies. In 2014 on Sunday they headlined Field Day. Any band that can start the set with classics like Wave of Mutilation and Debaser and then play over 20 other songs, many of them classics, with nearly the same amount of gusto as they did back when Frank Black had a little more hair and was a little slimmer in just under an hour and a half is clearly going to coax a sleepy crowd out of its coma after The Horrors. The band say nothing to the crowd (why bother when you have so many great tunes to power through?) instead focussing on playing, but the audience reaction is fervent, with hordes of bouncing and dancing to be had down the front.

And that was Field Day 2014, a success without doubt. If in 2015 there can be a little more bravery in Sunday’s curation (of the 7 bands we saw on Sunday there were 28 male musicians, 1 female, 23 guitars and 2 keyboards) and if the drink prices can be a little cheaper, it could become a festival must-do. 

Todd Terje - Inspector Norse

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