Field Day offers festival goers something new and surprising

Field Day 2012 review

published: Fri 8th Jun 2012

Andrew Bird

Saturday 2nd June 2012
Victoria Park, London, E9 7BT, England MAP
£45
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Thu 3rd May 2012

For many it will have been hassle enough just getting to Victoria Park in the East of London, on Saturday the 2nd of June 2012, especially as it was the long weekend of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Amazingly, even after five years experience of hosting the same event in the same place, the organisers Field Day Festival conspired to ensure it was just as difficult and frustrating getting into the park, where the festival was taking place. The queues snaked, long and poorly managed, leaving many to wait for up to an hour just to get inside. These guys really should have learnt how to sort this out by now. I recall a similar lack of management on the first year of Manchester's Park Life; I also recall on the second year sailing through the barrier, not a queue in sight.

"So they can't get crowd control right; we're here for the music, right?" Fortunately, the people from Eat Your Own Ears, and Bugged Out! (among others) are good at selecting the talent. This year's Field Day offered the best picks from a wide spectrum of genres.

Peaking Lights
At the centre of the recent flurry of psychedelic pop, Peaking Lights have the sound of a slow burning, earthy incense, and long sunny days. There is a tune there, but buried under the swathes of DIY synths and reverb, their music becomes a hypnotic drone. Though I think in certain circumstances it might be entirely appropriate, something about its being 3 'o' clock on a sunny afternoon made the dark and smoky depths of the tent a bit unappealing. And once inside, there was nothing going on onstage that could hold my attention: Aaron Coyes crouched over his stack of machines, twisting knobs and pressing buttons, while Indra Dunis stood behind a keyboard with the microphone to her mouth. The duo make some rich and beautiful textures, but watching them do it is not all that interesting.

Perhaps one of the more interesting groups from the not-another-Scottish-post-rock-act subgenre, Errors fuse together the emotive chord progressions, and lengthy song structure characteristic of post rock, with the production value, bass and rhythmic backbone of electronica and house music. Live, they come off extremely well, undulating between delicate and thoughtful melodies, and crashing distorted crescendos, the percussion accompanying with beats that were powerful, fast and fidgety.

Andrew Bird
The late afternoon slot on the main stage was given to Andrew Bird, a man who is versed in many different instruments, and a man not afraid to have a good whistle. Among countless screams of "I LOVE YOU ANDREW!", he sang a selection of his unmistakable brand of country/folk/rock/whatever else, and it was beautiful. Watching the delicate skill with which he played his fiddle was fascinating. Sometimes it was just a soft accompaniment, either a delicate strumming, or the lightest of touch of the bow, guiding you through the music. At others, however, he dominated the melody taking the song to its limit, its conclusion. Ending on the spectacular, anthemic 'Fake Palindromes', I don't think I was alone in wishing the Andew Bird's set could be extended to completely envelop the day's actual, and misplaced headliner.

Another noteworthy performance came from London's man in the mask SBTRKT, who has shot to fame over the last few years, now delivering a refined live show of cleanly produced, bass heavy beats, accompanied by the emotive and soulful vocals of Sampha. Meanwhile, on the main stage, Beirut's brassy gypsy folk had people skipping despite the fact that it had begun to rain, and I'm glad I could catch the tail end of them.

That leads me to the… well… the day's actual, and misplaced headliner. Compared to some of the fresh new talent on show at this years Field Day, Franz Ferdinand stood out as an anachronism. Having not released anything for three years, and being increasingly referred to in conversation as "those wot made that 'Take Me Out' song" (which was 8 years ago now!), this band seemed like a strange choice. And that's not taking into account their music, which is the most banal middle of the road indie, with a vocalist who sounds like he's putting on a deep voice. Nevertheless, there were plenty of people bouncing around with enthusiasm in what had become a heavy downpour of rain, so prejudices aside, I guess there could be worse choices. I just think there could have been better ones, too.

Not thinking it worth letting my clothes soak through, I left in search of a better, dryer way to end the day. And I'm so happy I did. Tucked away in a little tent were the Toronto trio Austra, whose dark ritualistic rhythms, and beautiful weaving vocal patterns were a delight. Their costume drawer appearance, their energy, and their original musical style made for an engaging show.

Aside from the problems getting in, this year's Field Day was a success. Yes, I had some issues with the choice of headliner for the main stage; but the great thing about the festival was the diversity of acts on offer. If there was something you didn't like on one stage, a short walk would ensure you find something new and surprising.
review by: Robert Knowles

photos by: Robert Knowles

Saturday 2nd June 2012
Victoria Park, London, E9 7BT, England MAP
£45
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Thu 3rd May 2012


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