We recently sent a small team of relatively novice festival-goers and typical city dwellers to Field Day; and they loved it. Despite the damp, miserable weather, which is of course inevitable during the British summer, the crowds showed up suitably merry and bejazzled, ready to have a good time.
With drinks in hand we made our way over to the Resident Advisor tent ready for the start of Koze’s set. As usual he delivered an amazing set, playing tracks from his new mixtape, Pampa Vol I, and set the euphoric tone for rest of the day.
Next stop was the Craft Beer tent, where the wide selection of ales delighted the bearded-hipsters in our group. We also sampled the sweetest cocktails around, along with “iced cold” Jaeger. As the skies opened and a monsoon crashed into the festival, the beer tent became infinitely more ‘mainstream’, providing a safe hoppy haven for half of east London to keep their bindis and feather headdresses intact.
Unfortunately, the rain took its toll on technology, and the bewildered staff struggled to keep the beer flowing as the EFTPOS broke down. Only another reason to get back in the rain, and off to the next set.
Daring to risk the rain and mud racing between tents, we were rewarded with the perfect artist to get us back into the frenetic festival mood: Skepta. Sticking to tracks from his new album, Konnichiwa, Skepta brought passion and energy from the grime scene to Victoria Park. Despite having only released Konnichiwa in May this year, the crowd were able to lip-sync the entire set, and Shutdown saw the crowd explode – the entirety of London’s parkland splintering with the sound of *ten-thousand* people chanting in unison. Since this was such a sight, and sound, to behold, we barely noticed the drizzle taking its toll on the electrics and the slight waver in sound, which Skepta also carried off with unfazed charisma.
Four Tet boosted the crowd’s energy with a few showcases from his new album, Randoms; released as a pay-what-you-want pick ‘n’ mix of dance tunes, harking all the way back to 1996, when he began creating music. As expected, the UK producer’s live curation of base, rhythm and funky minimalism lured the crowd into a frenzy of cheer and delusion. We were sceptical about Four Tet playing before James Blake, anticipating a too-turbulent climate change in tone and atmosphere: we were proved wrong when the frenzy didn’t descend to a slump, but was soulfully beckoned down from its hyperactive peak by James Blake’s cosy fuzz of sound.
Our day was punctuated not only with us zigzagging from stage-to-stage, soaked head-to-toe, but with the real magic of diversity in music which festivals like Field Day can bring. From Skepta, to the timeless art-rock of Deerhunter; from the wobbly funk of Nao, to the dreamy soundscapes of Floating Points and Mount Kimbie. All the way through to the cut-and-paste beat collages of Gold Panda and Fakear, Saturday’s line-up on its own was en point.
Drawing the day to a magical end and closing off the evening when the rain finally cleared, James Blake delivered his special brand of euphoria in a strangely romantic and dreary setting. Kitted out with a Voodoo Ray’s slice, we were ready to relax into a stupor of calm beats and smooth rhythms, as the sun set over Victoria Park. Playing both old and new, Blake impressed a sense of intergalactical rhythm, with the percussion and minimalist pianos giving microscopic textures which pulled temperatures around from glacial to volcanic.
Both James Blake & Skepta stood out for us. Two divergently disparate artists who, among many DJ-based sets, brought a special kind of energy. Skepta getting us on our feet and lively in the hustle and bustle of central London, and James Blake seducing us into a floating freedom above the daily grind of jam-packed tube journeys, we couldn’t help but applaud the high spirits and resilience of the crowds. Despite our disappointment as the dark and looming clouds drew in, we felt a sense of solidarity and strength as we all came to the common conclusion that bad weather at British festivals is inevitable – what’s not so typical is the energy and euphoria of the acts we experienced at Field Day 2016.
Words by Sarah Donachie and Nicola Holmes