KV and chums headed down to Victoria Park for the 3rd annual music festival- meets -village fete in Hackney. My first impression is how much more organised this year’s affair is: the toilet and bar situation of Field Days gone by have been rectified and there is a decent array of food stands on display:hurrah!
The weather is still dry when we arrive, and we take the opportunity to sit on the grass and watch Fanfarlo on the Eat Your Own Ears stage who are arriving late due to “having to break in to our rehearsal room and deal with some really big dogs” according to singer Simon Balthazar. They seem in good spirits, and deliver their Arcade Fire -esque (with some nods to more recent Sigur Ròs) bombastic folk rock to receptive early birds.
Despite the dark clouds above us; people seem to be in jovial spirits, larking about by the bandstand and playing Scrabble. Alas, the dry weather typically doesn’t last and so we catch the end of Errors’ set after hiding under a tent for shelter I’d like to have seen more: Errors make music to dance to, approached with a Math Rock blueprint.
People seem to have taken the Village Mentality tent name a little too literally: As we arrive to see Woodpigeon, we find everyone sitting down, watching attentively. I feel a bit like I’m at a school assembly and wonder how it must feel for Mark Hamilton (aka Woodpigeon). However, it doesn’t seem to put either him or his very able band off their stride.
The set highlights songs from his two albums Songbook and Treasure Library Canada (both of which are KV recommended). There are quiet, softly sung alt folk songs, occasionally reminiscent of Elliot Smith, mixed in with more upbeat songs. It is wistful storytelling from a shy but certainly not retiring songsmith.
Over on the Eat Your Own Ears stage, The Temper Trap are on; apparently occupying a pop/dance space that lies in between the harmonies of Delays and the punk-funk grooves of The Rapture. Their enthusiasm and lack of regard for looking cool while dancing is fairly infectious as we huddle under umbrellas and try to keep our spirits dry!
One of the main gripes of any festival is bad sound; acts invariably don’t get time for proper sound checks and poor old Juana Molina is one such artist today. She walks on already looking unhappy as a guitar tech frantically tries to fix whatever it is that isn’t working.
She sings ‘where are my loops?’ mid song while fixing a ‘sort my sound out or I’ll kill you’ glare on the unfortunate soundman (Ok, so I’m taking a little licence in interpreting her body language, but she did look pretty mad-KV) We only watch the first couple of songs, which involve looped (when they work) vocals, acoustic guitar, bass and keyboards. It’s a little bit like Feist or even a more stripped-down Cocteau Twins. I’d like to revisit her music, hopefully somewhere without sound problems!
Much as I’m not enjoying the gloomy weather, it seems wholly appropriate for The Horrrors to be playing under a grey sky. They remain suitably steely gazed and po faced throughout; although Faris Badwan is sporting some kind of Cosby sweater that is a visual distraction. During brief moments the band are captivating: when Faris stares out the crowd, wild eyed, recalling every famous miserablist with each shriek and growl he is intimidating. Then there are other times where they just look a little switched off: like irritable teenagers at family gathering. Essentially, they do have the tunes to back up the hype of old and most of the set comes from their current ‘Primary Colours’ album which is pleasing to these (newly converted) ears of mine.
As dusk falls, so to does the rain, by the bucket load. People are huddled under make-shift shelters: using fruit pallets, bits of fence and even sandwich boards to shield themselves from what is turning into a rain assault of almost biblical proportions. Thankfully, by the time Santigold make it onstage the rain has let up a bit. Joined by her two erstwhile dancers, she injects some much needed fun and energy into the damp crowd. “You guys are fun, I really appreciate it” she tells us,’Say Ah ha’, ‘Shove It’ and ‘Lights Out’ get the full singing and dancing response they deserve. Her dancers’ ability to retain the repose of guards outside Buckingham Palace while not dancing, and then snap into action through a series of moves and shapes is impressive. Perhaps they had training at the Grace Jones school of stage dance, which is particularly interesting during a cover of The Cure’s ‘Killing an Arab’. Ending on the dub-heavy ‘Creator’ (with the help of one or two crowd members who have been invited to dance on the stage); she takes her leave but leaves a party atmosphere behind.
Slippery ground conditions and the late running of the Eat Your Own Ears stage means we arrive quite late into Four Tet’s set. Still, it was good to be greeted by the sound of ‘Spirit Fingers’. Mr Hebden has bolstered his ‘one man and a laptop’ live performance with the addition of LED hoop dancers which seems to be rather crown pleasing touch.
Under the cover of a dark night; our post-rock headliners Mogwai arrive to bring the noise. As with many headline festival performances, the sound is a bit ropey further back and the sound of drunken chatter kills the quiet/loud dynamic during the first few songs. Thankfully, we make it further forward to take in the full, beautiful space-rock noise of ‘Friend of the Night’ and eerie piano crescendo of ‘Auto Rock’. Both of which are enough to keep our sodden feet entrenched in mud. ‘New Paths To Helicon Part 1′ (your humble scribe’s favourite) sounds perfect as it builds up and washes over us. Hell, Stuart Braithwaite is even smiling as a hapless stage invader walks nonchalantly across the stage and casually waves before being escorted off by some hefty security guys. There again, I guess Glaswegians can take their rain!
The weather certainly got the better of much of today’s crowd, but Field Day has got its act together a lot since its inception and scores plenty of kudos from us for an eclectic bill: I’m just glad I can wander home and sleep in a proper bed afterwards.