For the Queen’s Jubilee weekend in London, those on the margins of music had plenty more reason to rejoice in the line up of yet another spectacularly curated Field Day Festival. With a bad start to the day weatherwise, plus a hot spell in between, Field Day more than lived up to its reputation of being most representative of London life and its global culture.
The shift away from the indie rock in this here cultural epoch is most palpable as R&B, hip hop and electronica, with an avant-pop bent, featured. Odd over-the-hill addition Franz Ferdinand did little more than elicit a cocked eyebrow among many, while (older) New Weird Americans Beirut played a mix of old and new tracks that had the crowd swaying to the easy swell of romantic folk. The general good vibes culminated in a non-violent circle pit among blissed-out strangers.
Earlier, LA songstress Julia Holter was missed due to her unfairly early midday slot, while she too suffered the same fate tweeting “sad we were told to leave FieldDay right after show to make room in the parking lot + missed sets we hoped to see! hope it was a great day”. We’re sorry too but there was solace in the lesser-known Odd Future member Syd tha Kyd of The Internet. As the sole female making up for the shady character of the LA-based hip hop outfit, she proved more than a tokenistic addition for their diversity quota. Instead, the androgynous performer crooned along the groove of chilled out R&B with effortless presence and charisma.
The easygoing vibe continued throughout the afternoon in the BleeD/Lanzarote stage. Through the long grass and at the far corner of the festival, hip parents and their equally styled kids showed their support for dub pop duo Peaking Lights. Aaron Coyes on synths and Indra Dunis on vocals and keyboards (with the occasional maraca) shared the table as they tweaked and twiddled to their euphoric dial-dub and heavily processed beats. Coyes publicised his hybrid influences in a Lion of Judah jacket patch, a Washington hardcore band, written in the red, green and yellow of Rastafari, while the throaty croon and dark brown fringe of Dunis called to mind an odd comparison with Canada’s Feist. Laurel Halo, on the other hand, took the formless ambience and submersive melody of her debut album, Quarantine and added some beat-driven edge to the live set. Her long hair swished along with the rhythm, while Halo occasionally contributed vocals far less jarring than the deliberately untreated vocal tracks on record.
As the sky finally appeared from a blanket of cloud, so did the energy levels, with Liars taking to the main stage. All dapper for the day in a suit and skinny tie (somewhat inappropriately dressed for the freak afternoon heat) Angus Andrew cut an image of post punk icon, and fellow Australian, Nick Cave. Playing before the new album, WIXIW, had even dropped yet, there was a party vibe to the songs that included the seesawing organ-line of title-track, ‘WIXIW’, as well as the big beat rhythm of ‘Brats’. Old songs were resurrected in a most spectacular fashion, as Andrew, behind a keyboard for much of the set took up guitar, while band mates Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross took to double percussion for Drum’s Not Dead track ‘Let’s Not Wrestle Mr Heart Attack’. The pulsing urgency of that most tribal song, was equalled by a song from, once universally panned and now restored, album They Were Wrong, So We Drowned; a mostly immobile crowd jerked along to its grinding, seesawing rhythm. Not surprisingly, boos ensued when an overtime Liars were ordered off stage, Andrew announcing “Happy Birthday to the Queen,” while ambling away.
Friends front woman Samantha Urbani was seen rocking out to R. Stevie Moore front of stage while friend Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) and her dancing, furry gimp at the Village Mentality stage demonstrated why she’s the bigger act. Possibly the coolest young artist around, onlookers packed the tent and spilled out into the open air, while straining for a glimpse of the ecstatic pop star-in-the-making. Energy levels reached crescendo at Visions single ‘Oblivion’ to finish off, while even the most hyper audience member would struggle to match the verve of the camo-toting 24-year-old, as Boucher threw her bangs and undercut from one side of he stage to the other.
With the rain closing in and the darkness more than set, Austra proved themselves not only a part of the elite class of bands with a Youtube censored video. Their live rendition of said track, ‘Lose it’, was a rousing closer as Katie Stelmanis and her co-vocalists gave Grimes a run for her money, with the interpretive dance routines. The difference is, that, with Grimes’ experimental electronica -comparable to the epic pop of Kate Bush but surprisingly party hardy -Austra’s roots are firmly set in more classic modes of music-making; transcending fashion and becoming timeless. That’s a sound that on this occasion, offered the ideal end to an event well worth attending.