Having been in three blog collectives, there’s no denying that The Recommender loves a little bit of inter-blog relations. We pride ourselves on our network of fellow music scribes and today’s post is a shining example of this collaboration. We recently earned press accreditation for this year’s Field Day festival, but sadly couldn’t make it in person, so we turned to the editor for the outstanding Cougar Microbes music blog.
Boaz Sachs had only flown back into the UK a few days earlier, yet he willingly launched himself into the centre of the East London hipsters on our behalf. Boaz is a man with an ability we should all be jealous of – for being the kind of person who says “yes” and in turn creates a life full of richer experiences as a result. Thanks Boaz. Here’s his Field Day story…
Fresh off the plane from a three month work stint in America I was asked by The Recommender if I wanted to cover Field Day in their absence. I figured that this would be a suitable reintroduction to London and it’s diverse music scene. Besides, half the people in the audience looked like they thought they were in Silver Lake or Williamsburg.
I have not attended the Victoria Park festival since it’s second edition due to the issues that always pop up when Field Day is reviewed – namely inadequate sound, disorganisation, weather misfortunes and queues queues queues – but I was willing to give them another chance on the basis of their always diverse and exciting lineup.
I entered the arena just in time to catch Sun Ra Arkestra go about captivating connoisseurs and novices alike with their stylish space jazz musings. The Arkestra delivered a set comprising some of their classics and the crowd that steadily built below the stage was very appreciative. Lead by 87-year-old alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, this huge ensemble displayed an energy and a joie de vivre that could be envied by some of their younger contemporaries. When you consider the level of musicianship on show it was no wonder everyone on stage and below was beaming with smiles.
I then rushed to the Village Mentality stage to catch Ariel Pink, dressed in his usual thrift store flair, leading his band through tracks off of his latest record ‘Before Today‘. Incredibly for an early afternoon performance the tent was already packed and I was forced to practice some creative evasive manoeuvres to position myself somewhere I could actually hear anything. Occasionally it all fell into place and the tracks sounded magical and timeless but too often he was let down by a poor mix. Nevertheless the crowd appeared appreciative nodding along to every track whilst simultaneously trying not to look too uncool. Hip retro music from West US Coast meets hip East London crowd – a perfect match.
I headed over to catch Londoners Mount Kimbie on the Laneway Festival Stage. Their blend of minimalist dub, hip-hop and post-rock was ideally suited for this sort of festival and you could tell the duo fed off the crowd’s excitement moving their heads along energetically throughout their set. Likewise, as the sun’s rays conveniently warmed the entire tent It was easy for the audience to intentionally drift away into the chilled atmosphere being produced. If you were not ‘in the moment’ it may have sounded slightly monotonous. Still, this was a well developed set which served as the perfect reminder of the quality shown on their 2010 album ‘Crooks & Lovers‘.
Next I took a leisurely stroll back to the Village Mentality Stage where Konono No.1 were a guaranteed bet to reawaken me. The Congolese outfit and their DIY instrumentation may appear to be the polar opposite to Mount Kimble, whom I’d just witnessed, but effectively possess similar entrancing qualities. Their music is built on a repetitious melodic patterns that ultimately carry you away and noticeably this crowd seemed to be moving in unison with the musicians on stage. This time around they performed as a six-piece and they were still in the form of their life throwing us a high adrenaline set and bearing testament to the diversity on offer at Field Day.
After a break for refreshments I headed to the main stage to capture former Velvet Underground member John Cale. It was remarkable how easy it was to make my way to the front of the audience with the dwindling crowd looking positively disinterested or unaware that there was a living legend doing his thing on stage. In fairness Cale, and his admittedly talented band, didn’t do themselves any favours performing a set comprised largely of tracks from his yet to be released EP ‘Extra Playful‘. Perhaps a summer festival is not the ideal setting to debut your experimental post-rock album. Still, Cale can always rely on throwing in his possessed rendition of ‘Heartbreak Hotel‘ to raise eyebrows.
Next on my list are recent Sub Pop addition Still Corners who got the Do You Come Here Often? Stage eating out of their hands. Vocalist Tessa Murray mesmerises over a backing of Morricone-esque melodies delivered by her partner in crime Greg Hughes. There is something both enchanting and delicate about the way they go about their trade and the audience sways in appreciation careful not to break this special atmosphere. There is very little in the way of talking in between tracks but when you are able to drop a song like ‘Endless Summer‘ and make it sound like it was written specifically for this day you’re doing something right.
After trying to breach the human wall that encapsulated the Bloggers Delight tent, and being thwarted at about four layers outside the tent, I listened to a little of Jamie XX‘s set from afar hearing a few tribute tracks to Gil Scott-Heron, with whom Jamie worked, dropped in respectfully.
It was much easier to get into the Village Mentality stage where The Sea & Cake were doing their thing. Comprising of some of Chicago’s most versatile musicians including guitarists Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt, bassist Eric Claridge as well as celebrated drummer John McEntire. Their live set is slightly looser than on record bringing some added warmth to their sophisticated rhythms and accurate guitar picking. This is post-rock with just a subtle hint of jazz but at no point does it sound overly self-indulgent.
Next up was the one standout act of the festival; Anna Calvi. An initially empty Village Mentality Stage is soon packed to the rafters as Anna hits the stage dressed sharply and with unmistakable red lipstick before introducing herself with a rousing guitar solo. Once she starts singing it is evident her vocal skills are no less impressive. Playing songs from her Mercury nominated eponymous album Anna and her band sounded tight and were oozing cool. There is an incredible contrast between Calvi’s timid demeanour in-between songs and her blues goddess persona every time she broke into song. This metamorphosis certainly renders her more captivating as the music appears to literally overcome her. It’s hard not to be excited by this.
The last time that I saw The Horrors was a couple of years ago at Rock En Seine and to be completely honest they were laughable. I was looking forward to finding out how far the Southend band have come along in recent times and see if they could change my mind. It also seemed everyone else attending Field Day was also checking the band out because the Laneway Festival Stage was packed beyond description. From my distant vantage point I could spot that Faris Badwan and co were dressed sharply but more importantly were delivering a sharp set. It would have been useful to get a little closer to hear the melodic development the band has taken but at least this level of rabid excitement suggested this was one of the acts people were most excited about.
This left me enough time head over to the Shacklewell Arms/Lock Tavern Stage for my last act of the night. I’m not sure whose idea it was to have the stage here pushed away into the corner of the tent but it resulted in punters having to slide into the tent sideways before attempting to try to cram themselves into position to see what is going on on the tiny stage.
Chad Valley started his set while stage hands are running around removing instruments and adding new ones (something they will do for much of the next 30 minutes). Seemingly oblivious to all the interferences going on around him he launched into his dreamy pop manning a little box of gadgets on top of his keyboard, using two microphones to deliver his vocals and channeling the likes of Neon Indian and Caribou.
In a live setting his repertoire becomes more striking with the small tent beginning to steam up with literally every body dancing along to his chilled out beats. He explained that he is rushing his set because he doesn’t have much time left but there is a feeling this audience would have had him play for much longer. He still has time to bring out a vocalist friend to duet over ‘Now That I’m Real (How Does It Feel?)‘ which despite some technical hiccups garners big cheers. Certainly it would be great to hear this performance in a decent setting, without all the distractions. As things stand the Oxford native is as close as London got this evening to a chilled beach in an exotic location.
Overall Field Day is still marred with some of the issues that have plagued it from the beginning. There must be a way to avoid the tents packing up so fully for certain marquee acts and some better scheduled set times might help. However, this year’s event certainly lacked some of the drama that was so often lamented in the past. Despite an occasionally inadequate sound mix all the acts I saw performed valiantly making me want to see them again. Furthermore, it did not rain – for a change – guaranteeing the Hoxton mafia could wear their shades well into the night. (BS)