This July saw the 5th Field Day festival making its annual return to Victoria Park. Field day first swaggered into our lives in 2007 as a chaotic, piss stained shambles; this led to the festival being dubbed ‘queue day’ by some of its wittier patrons. I hoped my return would find it improved.
The line up, as ever, is amazing - it always is. The bill includes psycadelic rapper Chilly Gonzales, brining some Zappa Esq. surreality to a hip hop/classical piano fusion, and electro super collision Moderat, to mention but a few. The biggest draw for me was well-established glitch royalty Mouse on Mars, my favorite German Blip Hop Duo. Everything else was an added bonus. I was so excited when I saw Mouse on Mars on the line up: they haven’t untangled all those wires in quite a while in London. The duo Andi Toma and Jan St. Werne both playing the international club circuit and working on their separate practices and collaborative music projects. (I caught Jan St Werner and experimental composer Stefan Streich last November in the ICA, it was suitably technolicious)
Fake Blood are the first act I properly committed to. If you don’t know fake blood the hedonistic algorithm seems to work like this+this+this&this without and pause for breath, you’re in the wrong place for subtlety. The scorching tent houses a bouncing horde of neon swetted ravers lapping up delicious 90’s synths, upsurges of technicolor melodies which move up and up until they’re ready to burst, and face-numbing bass lines. Their 2008 earworm Mars went down like a house on fire. Although by some stroke of field day sound system weirdness (and I remember the same problem at James Holden in 2008) it wasn’t loud enough inside the tent? There was a speaker just outside which was loud enough to dance to, but inside the tent it just wasn’t loud enough. Which was a disappointment.
Also fantastic were genre magpies Caribou, who seem to re assemble themselves with each album. Caribou fabricate this magnetic textural intricacy that spans from the dance floor to the cinematic. You can certainly hear the influences of minds like Keran Hebden’s on their recent album Swim. The record had this alluring balance of straightforwardness and delicacy that keeps you going back for another listen. Swim had got to be the album of a lot of people’s summers (and 8.4 rating on Pitchfork, and recommended as ‘best new music’). The importance of the complexity of sound made me curious to see them perform on a main festival stage (not the natural habitat of subtle sound) at Field Day (which isn’t exactly renowned for its great sound ether). Caribou delivered: they were pitch perfect, scarily faithful to the album, and it was a great experience to see them playing swim track Sun in the unexpected sunshine. Although watching them did make me worry that, with the levels of fidelity they displayed at field day, the wealth of creativity used in making the record sadly isn’t applied to performing it.
On my way past I managed to catch surf pop princes Pheoniex playing Lasso, and it was quite a goosebump inducing moment with the lights and the crowd signing along ‘Where did you go/ Where did you go /with your lasso/ could you run in to/ could you run in to/ could you go and run into me.’ As wholesome as beans on toast; however, as I turn from this heart warming moment, filled with the milk of human kindness, I notice an old rocker stood next to me, agog, looking cautiously at the stage like he’s witnessing a satanic sacrifice. He's deeply perturbed. He turns to me and says, ‘Why. the Fuck. are these guys so popular?’ Turns out he had just come from watching post punk godfathers The Fall. Guess you can’t please everyone.
Much anticipated headliners Mouse on Mars closed the day. As with Caribou I was apprehensive about seeing an act known for their subtle nuances at a festival that is renowned for crap sound. I needn’t have worried; Field Day is much improved, and has defiantly evolved from its past as a fledgling fuck up. Mouse on Mars sounded fantastic (to be honest with all buttons, knobs and equipment, they should do, right?) Their hectic sea saw set used 2001 classic Actionist Respoke (from the organic vs. electronic amalgamate experimental masterpiece album Ideology) like the skeleton of an alien structure around which other themes are inserted, turned sideways, actualized or snatched away, and burst like bubbles.
It was a great atmosphere, dancing to MoM, you cant take yourself to seriously, there syncopated indeterminacy saw many a thrown shape retracted and reverted, just like thir unpredictable melodies. Fantastic end to a well organized and much matured Field Day. You should give it another go.
Review by Deborah Ridley
Photography by James Hough