by / August 3rd, 2010 /

Field Day – Victoria Park, London

When Field Day commenced in 2007, it was with somewhat of a shaky start. Tales of bands walking off in protest at the sound quality and frighteningly long queues for booze and portaloos still circulate among punters even though the issues have been long sorted out. Nevertheless, it’s with slight intrepidation that State arrives on site…

But what a welcome into the spacious Vicky Park, just in time to see ex Beta Band-er Steve Mason take the stage with a gorgeous rendition of ‘Lost and Found’, the lead single from his last album. When State reviewed the offering a few months ago, it was with reference to how it appeared the oft troubled Scot was opening himself up to his audience for the first time, but would he be able to carry that off in the bright afternoon sun rather than behind the mask of his record? It seems so. The accomplished set mixes material from the Lost and Found album with tracks from his previous incarnations. After advising the crowd to tweet that people should buy his album, he finishes with a couple of old songs including ‘I Walk The Earth’, from his days as King Biscuit Time.

With a line-up as vast and inspiring as this one (although a few of State’s festival companions beg to differ on this point), the best thing is to pluck out a couple of must-sees and then leave the rest to chance and timing. Highlights of the random selection variety include Gold Panda, who pack out the tiny tent that is the Blogger’s Delight stage, with their glitchy, warm electronics, and Thisaintnodisco, a one-man monstrosity of kiddie-video-game music interspersed with mental dancing and speedy singing. As the small crowd whoop and cheer for his freak-out moves, there is something reminiscent of our own Neosupervital, albeit a little more scatty and just a touch crazier.

In the midst of the music performances, the Village Mentality field offers a more traditional idea of weekend fun from tombola to a jumble sale to a blindfolded watermelon relay race. The distractions on offer are a delight although perhaps not for the girl who got wiped out by an over-zealous blind-folded runner carrying a large fruit but certainly for everyone else.

When it comes to the music however, one of State’s must-sees is The Fall who are unfortunately let down by their volume. It should be louder and as it is, it makes for a slightly underwhelming set. ‘I’ve Been Duped’ falls a lot flatter than it should as Eleni Poulou’s vocal is little more than a whisper.

But it’s not just the sound that causes problems for the much-hyped These New Puritans in the Adventures in the Beetroot Field tent. Starting off with promise, amongst the strains of their doom-horror intro and pounding drum beats, they soon fall into dull territory. The tent starts to empty after two songs as the eerie atmospheric sounds of ‘We Want War’ fail to take hold of crowd. Part sound but part lack of presence and performance.

Later in the Village Mentality tent, Gruff Rhys and Tony Da Gatorra are showcasing their latest project. Wearing a motorcycle helmet and making a lot of fuzzy noise, our hard-to-peg musical chameleon’s most recent efforts are more relentless and searing than we’re in the mood for but not to worry, over on the Eat Your Own Ears Stage, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are once again catching the hearts of the people with their bombastic funky brass. Nothing quite like grooving in a big dusty field to the orchestral hip-hop of the eight talented brothers plus their drummer friend. Hypnotic, they most certainly are.

After a quick nosy at the ethereal soundscapes of Atlas Sound, State happens to wander into what turns out to be the best performance of the day. Playing to a relatively sparse crowd but an enthusiastic one, Archie Bronson Outfit absolutely nail it. Tracks that intrigue on their albums explode into life in the live setting. Like a wall of noise but with each instrument carving a distinct place for itself, it’s a psychedelic dance-rock party. From the mechanical repetition of the dirty distortion of ‘Shark’s Tooth’ to the seemingly lighter groove of ‘Chunk’, it’s all movement and intense sounds. When the band finally quit the stage, it’s the first time we’re left wanting more.

Thankfully, that desire is sated by the presence of Caribou on the main stage. Dan Snaith’s lush electronica has been transformed into a heavily beat-driven wall of rhythm aided by the ridiculously vibrant energies of the drummer whether he’s tapping out the techno-tinged beats of ‘Bowls’ or providing a fiery accompaniment to funky bass-heavy ‘Odessa’. A shimmering highlight from a band who command attention as festival-goers find themselves dancing in the dusk as light dims over Victoria Park. It’s truly a magical performance.

By the time Phoenix emerge onstage, night has fallen and the band have taken full advantage of this with a glittering light show. Kicking off with a rousing rendition of ‘Lisztomania’, the crowd are singing every nonsensical sentence as if their lives depend on it. A few words in French to charm the crowd and Phoenix proceed to rock through a set that comprises mainly of songs from their most recent album. While songs such as ‘Fences’ stand out, many tend to blend into one another. Midway through their set however, the band pull out the ‘Love Like a Sunset’ combo completely stopping the audience in their tracks, changing the pace with the mostly instrumental two-parter. Spine-tinglingly powerful, it crashes into a glorious crescendo but lets be honest here, it’s the hits with words most people came to see and when the band finish with a extended version of the indie-poptastic ‘1901’, the field swells in excitement.

Field Day draws to a close for another year, and it’s fair to say that this time, they got it spot on.

Photo by Josh, Alive is Better.