Field Day Festival Report

Read all about the highs and lows from performances by How To Dress Well, Solange, Disclosure, Four Tet, Karenn and more at London's brightest young festival.

Field Day has had an unstoppable and alarming rise to prominence over the last few years; since the inaugural event seven years ago, it’s rapidly risen to become one of London’s favourite festivals, and it’s got a special place in Dummy’s heart for its consistent commitment to producing line-ups that hand-pick the freshest faces of the underground alongside some of the UK’s biggest and boldest talent. This year we were thrilled to see veterans Mount Kimbie, Egyptian Hip Hop and Four Tet gracing the bill again, while younger artists like King Krule and Vondelpark filled out experimental sets with material from just-released or in-the-works debuts. Meanwhile, this year’s festival had a hefty dose of pop in the form of the twisted sonics of How To Dress Well, the retro funk of Solange and the inescapable hits of Disclosure. With an unexpected rush of sunshine, it was one of the smoothest, fullest and most beautiful Field Days we’ve seen. Read our thoughts on the acts we caught below, and watch this space for news on next year – we’re on the edge of our seats for it already.

Bok Bok & Girl Unit

Over the past couple of years, the members of the Night Slugs family seem to have drifted towards a more homogenised sound, with the artists each taking influence less from the wider world and more from one another. It’s what makes their music sound so distinct and thrilling with each new release – they don’t sound like anyone else, and no one else sounds like them. It’s also what makes Bok Bok and Girl Unit’s live set – only their second together – work so effectively. Whilst the two artists have their own distinctive, signature sounds on record, it didn’t feel as if their tracks were battling against each other, and even the big hits like Silo Pass, Ensemble and Wut seemed to belong to no owner. Of course, some of this might have been down to the nature of the live show, an all-hardware setup that meant that the skeleton of each track would come from the same drum machine and the flesh from the same synthesisers. It’s just a shame that they played the Desperados Factory, a faux-taverna with walls adorned in the tequila-beer’s branding that lacked a sound system good enough to handle their bass-heavy boom. [SB]

How To Dress Well

The incongruousness of the introspective indoor sound of the moment in a festival setting was never more apparent than in How To Dress Well’s Field Day set, as the tiny tent and the flesh and bone sound-proofing of a heaving crowd made it difficult to hear the US pop producer through a wall of ethereal grooves. Amazing, considering the ebbing organ dance of Charanjit Singh earlier that day compelled his much smaller crowd back with ear splitting sound levels. Regardless, it was charming to hear Tom Krell deliver his signature falsetto vocal, between references to Ashanti’s Foolish and Janet Jackson cover Again, while looking manifestly masculine in his oversized t-shirt and stubble, and asking for the monitor to be turned up in a contrastingly deep speaking voice. [SK]


How To Dress Well – Ready of the World / I Wish live at Field Day 2013.

Koreless

There was a bit of a mad switch-around at the beginning of Koreless’s set as Clean Bandit’s strings ‘n’ bass shtick made way at the beginning: the addition of frenzied roadies ferrying away equipment didn’t really give Lewis Roberts the ideal starting space to flesh out the singular beauty of his recent ‘Yugen’ EP. But, as he got to work on reconstituting vocal loops and circling bass patterns from the ground up, it didn’t take long for Havana to fully emerge. By the time Sun was teased – still dropped mid-set despite having been hot property as a set opener for others lately – you could sense a slightly unsure crowd being won over. What makes the beatless ‘Yugen’ such a triumph is its canny understanding of how to use less-is-more dynamics, and this is something Roberts is making using of live to excellent effect. When he finally showed his hand and fed in Evian Christ’s Fuck It None Of Ya’ll Don’t Rap, it sounded as stonking as I’ve ever heard it. Aside from the unceremonious opening this felt like a nifty piece of scheduling too: the spherical intimacy of the RBMA tent provided an atmosphere that may not have translated as smoothly on a larger stage. [RD]

Connan Mockasin

It’s been three years since Connan Mockasin released his first album, the quiet and beautiful ‘Please Turn Me Into The Snat’. Despite only being nine tracks in length, that album has gone far– it’s been repackaged and rereleased as ‘Forever Dolphin Love’, tracks have been remixed, there have been live albums and live EPs – but there hasn’t been anything new. When Connan takes to the Shacklewell Arms stage, the first thing he tells the audience is that he hopes to play “one or two new songs”, alongside some old favourites. It turned out that the gods of stage management were against us, and his statement had to be taken a literally. Following a sparkling rendition of Faking Jazz Together he only had time for one new one, a slow R&B roller that sounded just as good as anything else on his debut. He thanked the audience repeatedly for sticking with him during it before hurrying through a version of Forever Dolphin Love that ended in a full on, double-speed rock out. Apparently the new record will be out later this year, and whilst we weren’t given a thorough representation of its sound, we’re still pretty excited. [SB]

Four Tet

I remember catching a Kieran Hebden set at Field Day a few years ago. It was around ‘There Is Love In You’, in one of the tents, and the sound was way too low, with some pretty superfluous dancers hopping about the stage throwing around luminous balls. No such problems for this second-to-top billing on the main stage in 2013, which had plenty of meaty low-end bringing out Hebden’s set of all-original material. Recent output like The Track I’ve Been Playing… and For These Times were as frenzied as you’d hope, a kick-enhanced Moth still came off as one of the finest pieces he’s ever put his name to, and Love Cry eased things to a mellowed close. It would be criminal not to mention the giant colourful balloons that were tossed out into the crowd at the start and dutifully knocked about by all with childlike wonder throughout: they made for an absolute peach of a backdrop to the picture-perfect sunset over Victoria Park. [RD]


Four Tet balloons – fun for all the family.

Egyptian Hip Hop

Watching Egyptian Hip Hop headline the Red Bull tent was something of an emotional rollercoaster. There was the fact that one fourth of the original band – guitarist/bassist/keyboardist Louis Stevenson-Miller – was in the crowd instead of being on stage, having recently quit. I don’t know if that’s what knocked them off course, but something was definitely amiss for the first half of their set. While they made up the numbers with touring member Thom Bellini, a shakiness prevailed. Technically, they each couldn’t be faulted yet together they weren’t completely gelling. At one point they collapsed into what felt like purposeful, pissed-off feedback; that said, the Manchester band have always been tight rhythmically and that still showed in flashes. They were strongest when reworking – or, rather, dismantling – early tracks like Heavenly, knocking its delicate melody into heavy psych-rock. Or as, lead singer Hewett put it: “This is an ancient song of ours that we’re going to spice up for you right now.” Then something happened to flip the discomfort: Hewett leapt into the crowd and scrambled onto someone’s shoulders to sing and, while the rest of the band jammed out Tobago behind him, started off a game of limbo. Suddenly everyone was in the palm of their hands again: dancing, smiling, alive. A warm, lush rendition of SYH followed and they sounded back in the room. Too soon into this new mood they finished on Rad Pitt, letting it be the perfect pop song it always was, and I’m not ashamed to admit I had something in my eye. Bringing a gig back from the brink is no mean feat; hats off to Egyptian Hip Hop. [RS]

Oneman

Friendly neighbourhood DJ Oneman is a popular name on radio, in clubs and – under the Standard Place banner – a promoter and host himself, so it was no surprise to see him on the bill at this year’s Field Day. His early-afternoon set started 15 minutes late in the saloon-styled Desperados Factory, but the crowd was relaxed and everyone seemed quite happy to hang by the bar until he was on. He wasn’t supported by his MC Asbo, had little time to play and had to compete with the sun, the bar and seven other stages, but Oneman is a consistently rewarding performer and adjusted to the mood well. His best skill is his daring ability to mix loads of contrasting styles, but since he didn’t have the space to show that off the set relied on his ear for a big tune and was punctuated with tracks that have a totally unambiguous, joyous appeal. Even the people who only stopped for a drink couldn’t ignore stone cold classics like Show Me Love, the Wookie remix of Sia’s Little Man or a contemporary rap hit like My Kind of Party. [AW]

Solange

This time last year, the Eat Your Own Ears main stage featured art punk outfit Liars performing the churning, cut-up clusters of their palindromic sixth album WIXIW. A year later and the vibe is significantly antithetical as an inflated crowd watches Solange Knowles. She’s just a couple of sets higher on the bill, with a neo-soul aesthetic represented by the feature Afro and a black and white flared pantsuit. Performing modern day 80s pop with a funk and R&B thread, Knowles is flanked by back up singers and a full band, as well as ex-Londoner Dev Hynes, switching between keyboard, guitar and vocals. After complimenting the variable weather and encouraging a “big grind session” from the crowd (then demonstrating herself) Knowles proved a natural performer, but with a voice and a sound that doesn’t quite translate to an open air setting. [SK]


Solange – Losing You live at Field Day 2013.

King Krule

Most of the talk about King Krule (real name Archy Marshall and previously known as Zoo Kid) is around the fact that he’s so young and has such an accomplished style and, yeah, seeing him on stage with a backing band that looked like the boys who stayed in the music room during lunchtime at school really did drive that point home. Most importantly, they sounded good, with an easy background groove holding up the scratchy lead guitar and bruised vocals at the fore, and King Krule clearly outlined his distinctive world view to a modest but very receptive audience. There were some old songs and some new ones, but it seemed more about shaping a cohesive atmosphere than showcasing particular singles. He’s heavily inspired by the blues, rock’n‘roll, dub, down-tempo hip-hop and no wave but is smart and instinctive with the things he picks up and there is something genuinely timeless about self-flagellating song-writing and chord progressions that are that strong. [AW]

Vondelpark

London-based band Vondelpark threw a curveball at fans last month with the release of their debut album ‘Seabed’ on R&S. Not only was it subdued turn for the label, whose sound is altogether moving towards more introspective electronica, it was also a far cry from the more obviously dancefloor-indebted tracks that the trio have been releasing online slowly over the last few years. This was a move that, Dummy thought, paid off – the band were bold enough in embracing a newly acoustic and vibrant sound even to re-make their most famous track, California Analog Dream. What we expected to get from a live set from the band post-‘Seabed’, then, was definitely something mellower and more quietly assured than before; although, not quite as mellow as the set that unfolded on Saturday. Without playing California Analog Dream, the band skipped out on the moments of the record in which the clarity of Lewis Rainsbury’s voice blindsides the listener, opting instead to wash their audience in twenty minutes of a strong fuzz of bass and a cacophony of loops. It all sounded luscious – as luscious as anything can sound in a festival tent – but I couldn’t help but feel that the audience were a little disengaged. ‘Seabed’s proper environment, I imagine, is in a more intimate space where the noise is able to properly engulf you, and over a longer length of time that allows the record’s contrasting and diverse moments to really play against one another. The band later posted on their Facebook to apologise for the abruptness of their set, saying it was out of their hands; we’d recommend trying to see them at any of their upcoming UK dates, when they’re a little more in control. [AC]


A very blurry photo of Vondelpark’s quite blurry set at Field Day 2013.

Karenn

As a collaborative effort between Blawan and Pariah, the misshapen and gnarled electronic project Karenn started in 2011, pushing forward the UK pair’s increasingly distinct brand of raw and blooming techno, and exploring and building upon the sonics of techno that gravitates towards industrial and noise. Having witnessed the vigour and intensity of their live set once before, I had high hopes, and once again, they did not fail to deliver. There’s something entirely desirable about the pair’s deliriously repetitive analogue riffs and beats, sounding almost like they were coming out of a trash bin located at a dark, abandoned tower block and encapsulating the visceral feel of being squished within a heap of bodies in a sweaty, grimey basement. Coming on with the same kind of nervous, mind-bending energy in their productions, the pair built a corrosive array of compositions injected with metallic textures, and churning out short sharp flickers of straight-up, pummelling drum patterns. The crowd was ecstatic, swaying and jumping about with as much fervency as the pair. The sheer levels of shimmering heat waves and humidity Karenn generated left me on a complete high after I blinked my way out of the show. [KKYC]

Disclosure

Guy and Howard Lawrence adapted their live show a few months ago to make it more accessible to their audiences; taking a lead from performers like SBTRKT and TEED, they wanted to give their fans a visual connection to every sound they heard. At their Field Day slot, this didn’t just mean gimmicks – seeing things like the Disclosure face singing along to the tracks and moody light changes are mildly distracting fun, but they really don’t make or break a set – it also meant seeing the performers move between instruments throughout their set, all the time clapping and interacting with their crowd. There’s a cheesiness to what the Lawrence brothers do, and that’s what makes it all the more thrilling; they’re unashamed popstars, throwing themselves into their act like performers far beyond their years. And the crowd went as wild for White Noise, the AlunaGeorge-featuring track that hit No. 2 in the charts a few months ago, as they did for the searing new club track When A Fire Starts to Burn and the duo’s older house-indebted hit Tenderly. Most tellingly, the brothers chose to end their set with Latch, which was unquestionably the right choice despite not officially being their biggest hit – unswayed by any influence other than that of the crowd in front of them (who gasped when the first chord of Latch played and proceeded to sing every word), Disclosure have the art of showmanship completely nailed, and theirs is one of the most fun sets you could hope to catch this year. [AC]


Disclosure – White Noise live at Field Day 2013.

Shed

Perhaps the best-known techno project of Berlin-based producer René Pawlowitz, Shed’s saucer-eyed delivered his Field Day set to a heady, small but steadily growing crowd, gradually taking things heavier with his default sound – one which is led and propelled by texturally luxurious, subliminal machine funk that grows with a misty warmth. Shifting layers of synths and pulsating percussive throbs were rolled out, occasionally soft and glossy while at times projecting a totally upfront, uncompromising underground character. It was a brash and impressive display of live electronic music; a perfect soundtrack with nebulous, cosmic quality to a beautiful, sunny afternoon. [KKYC]

Mount Kimbie

The few minutes that Mount Kimbie take to soundcheck – testament to just how live they are these days – are a welcome opportunity to take stock on a particularly busy Field Day. And by take stock I mean stand entranced by a wide-eyed couple enthusiastically finding something to cut loose to in the stop-start blasts of the London duo’s meticulous prep. The Laneway Stage is “how-did-they-put-this-up?” ginormous, but by the time the familiar tones of opener Carbonated bubble up the tent is shoulder-to-shoulder rammed. In fact, I spend much of their set with my face in someone’s backpack, yet still manage to have a good time, which is entirely down to Mount Kimbie’s deft detailing of their evolution. The bass swells and controlled tics of their debut album ‘Crooks & Lovers’ dance up to the rockier elements of new LP ‘Cold Spring Fault Less Youth’ (my festival notes somewhat bewilderingly include “country soul”, “country rock” and “slow, skipping funk”) and gift the gig with a pleasing frisson. And it is very much a gig now, with instrument-swapping pauses in-between songs in contrast to the jointless sets of their early days. New album track Home Recording in particular is a shuffling pleasure, but sadly Blood & Form’s drum-led strut is a tad deflated by the sound quality (did I mention the size of the tent?). While Maybes understandably gets a huge reception, with everyone around me singing along, happily the biggest cheer is reserved for closer Made To Stray – a sign that whatever direction Mount Kimbie are headed in, their fans are going with them. [RS]


Mount Kimbie – Maybes live at Field Day 2013.

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