As with any festival on the London circuit, Field Day has its detractors. This batch consists of snooty festivalgoers, who lament the mediocre sound quality across the festival’s breadth of stages, and dismissive city types who chide its super-trendy, hipster-centric clientele because of an article they’ve read in the Metro.
Sure, a large proportion of Field Day’s crowd inevitably inhabit postcodes starting with ‘E’, but for all the class warfare and generic whinging we Londoners love to indulge in, surely we can all agree there’s little to rival the UK capital when it comes to outdoor partying on a hot summer’s day?
As the first real date in London’s festival calendar, Field Day sure know how to put on a show to kick-start the festival season in style, always curating a fresh, exciting and eclectic line-up. From fledgling ravelings to weathered house heads, Saturday has always been curated to satisfy the needs of parched electronic music enthusiasts and, following traditional protocol, it’s noticeably brimming with giddy revellers as we head into the fray.
After a brisk recce, we make a beeline for the RA tent as if by default. Inside this burly red big top, Floating Points is providing the perfect afternoon soundtrack bristling with nineties gems and timeless 4/4 numbers, including the '94 house classic, 'Voices In Your Mind' by The Voices. It’s hands-in-the-air stuff and packed to the rafters, with dancers spilling outside onto the surrounding grass.
There’s little time to get comfy though. As the clock nears five, we saunter to the Bugged Out tent, another colossal arena, to catch two of Berghain’s best, Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann, going hammer and tong. Maybe its pure excitement or just festival jitters but, wedged into the top corner of the festival site, the Bugged Out stage feels like an especially big ol’ place, like some big blue mothership that’s just docked in East London for the weekend. With the likes of Leon Vynehall and Andrew Weatherall on their schedule, it feels like it’d be far too easy to set up camp at the Bugged Out tent all day long and one or two people clearly can’t resist the idea.
This hotly anticipated B2B session feels flat though. As someone near us rightly points out, the glaring omission of any speaker stacks towards the centre of the crowd means the sound quality is inevitably lacklustre. Maybe it’s because driving techno feels a tad too oppressive so early in the day or the fact that Dettmann and Klock look rather disinterested in the whole thing. It’s hard to blame them though — this is a tent after all, not Trouw.
We decide on a premature amble to the Main Stage for a change of scenery and a sundowner, detouring for a pit stop at a modest looking tent hosted by Tradiio, “a rewards based music discovery app” and the first app to curate a festival stage. Impressive stuff.
In a nutshell, Tradiio enables users to “virtually invest in artists they believe in.” The artists that get the most investment then earn valuable rewards like, I’m guessing, the opportunity to play at Field Day. Rather like a performance-based Bitcoin hybrid, Tradiio serves up a really interesting concept by allowing communities to effectively steer the course of an artist’s career straight from a mobile – a tangible sign of things to come in future perhaps? We stay to catch Tropics and synth pop duo, Kaleida, who waste no time in pulling in a hefty crowd.
Definitely watch this space.
As Kindness take the stage, the mood across the site is overwhelmingly buoyant and merry. With the sun casting long late evening shadows, we look over to see a man rising above the masses, stretched horizontally across his comrades’ heads and hands like a plank, as another man clambers on top, before embracing the a perfectly balanced surfer stance, much to the delight of TV cameras and the cheering crowd. A cover of Bobby Womack’s 'Teardrops' goes down a treat, as does the band's take on Anita Baker’s 'Sweet Love'.
Todd Terje takes the stage with The Olsens not longer after, putting on a beautiful live performance befitting the jovial mood around us as the sun sinks lower in the sky.
As darkness falls, a simmering and very merry Main Stage crowd is gunning for one of, if not the, day’s flagship act, Caribou. Caribou is great, of course, but after such a high-octane afternoon, something about winding down the evening to their music jars with our conscience. Like naughty schoolchildren, we take a punt and head back to the Bugged Out tent to see if it can resurrect itself under the veil of darkness. Nina Kraviz is playing and the vibe couldn’t be more different. Her infectious energy proves the perfect wrap up to a long day of partying and she rejuvenates our eardrums with a 303 treasure chest of signature acid house tracks, including a delightful edit of 'Adagio For Strings', which goes down a treat.
Sunday is noticeably calmer but the weather’s sizzling, a combination that takes the edge off any lingering hangover symptoms. After seeing Patti Smith strut her stuff in fine style, we delve a little deeper into the festival to catch the eclectic sounds of Leopold And His Fiction at a stage curated by Verity, before London-based Happyness take the stage. Nimmo, an outfit already signed to SONY Music, are the standout act, filling the arena in next to no time.
Amid the shadow of the big boys’ stages, it’s hard to ignore the delightful sounds emanating from a tiny pagoda stage sandwiched in the middle of the site, near the Moth Club tent. We’ve no idea who’s DJing but we stay to join a raucous crowd indulging in some wonderful records, noticeably Edge of Control’s Dub of 'Go' by The Chemical Brothers, 'Lack of Love' by Charles B & Adonis, Ray Mang’s Circus Dub of Los Amigos Invisibles and The Fog’s 2011 classic, 'It’s Been A Long Time'.
It’s only a tiny pocket of fun in the sun, but somehow this little patch of sun-drenched grass, with its gleeful crowd, sums up Field Day’s gung-ho temperament in one picture perfect moment.
It’s got us excited about next year already.
Words: Henry Cruickshank