Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
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This weekend saw the latest installment of Field Day festival at London's Victoria Park. Now expanded to take place on two days instead of one, this year boasted a spread of legendary bands, artists who have only recently come into their own, and some of the best brightest new stars of the underground.
Despite initial rain warnings, both Saturday and Sunday were bright and breezy days. And although there were familiar issues with sound across a few stages (John Wizards sounded like mud; Blood Orange was wispy and thin – he and his band might have been a joy noodling away in one of the smaller tents, but on such a big outdoor stage, Hynes' wanderings through past pop expanses were mostly lost to the wind and idle chat), it ended up being easily one of the better Field Days we've been to in a few years. There were clashes aplenty – Jackmaster and Oneman's Can U Dance? vs. Blood Orange vs. SOPHIE vs. Oneohtrix Point Never might've been the most excruciating – but there was enough variety of music over the weekend to block these misses from your memory. In fact, it's hard to recall the last festival we went to where we were just so busy seeing excellent music at all times.
Below, we pick out a few of the highlights from the weekend, and above, Joe Wilson captured some of the performances for posterity.
The best things we saw
Metronomy have been Field Day mainstays for ages now, plugging away at increasingly larger stages over the past six-or-so years, so it was great to see them take a well-deserved headline slot this year. They really embraced it, too: while they were once the epitome of that awkward strain of indietronica, their live shows deliberately (but charmingly) ropey, on Saturday night they actually, finally, for once, seemed comfortable with themselves. Obviously it was still pretty English and quaint – this is still Metronomy, after all – but they were a tighter unit, their presentation was slicker, and their wits quicker. And, perhaps most importantly, they've now got a huge back catalogue of seriously good jams to choose from. Selim Bulut
Erol Alkan and Daniel Avery’s headline set at the Resident Advisor tent was masterly. Despite many moments of magic over its two hours – like Saint Etienne's Only Love Can Break Your Heart over Erol's A Hold On Love – it was still the drops for Daniel Avery's own tearouts like Drone Logic that really lit the place up. Robert Darnell
Listening to SOPHIE is tracing the outlines of what he's doing – and he will occasionally play a track that jumps out like the unreleased Hey QT (the last song from that Just Jam performance in February) or Crazy in the Park – while giving yourself over to some of the stranger passages that you will just have to see develop later. His early-to-mid afternoon slot may have seemed a little unsuited for someone of his talent and potential, but maybe it was the right call after all; if forming super-perfect dance pop is SOPHIE's ultimate goal, then the Red Bull Music Academy stage was a cocoon to let it grow. Anthony Walker
Early doors scheduling meant that James Holden was one of the first artists to perform over the whole weekend, but he proved to be one of the most memorable. Last year's 'The Inheritors' was full of improvisatory explorations that lent themselves perfectly to Holden's live setup – a drummer, a saxophonist(!), and Holden himself manning the laptop and modular synth – and together, the band made tracks like Gone Feral and The Caterpillar's Intervention come alive. Selim Bulut
Jessy Lanza gave a strong performance that covered the highlights of her album 'Pull My Hair Back' and introduced some new songs too. Her modest but refined style charmed fans and no doubt won over more unsure people in the crowd. Anthony Walker
The things we learnt
Despite being familiar with Erol Alkan and Daniel Avery as producers, and being well aware of their reputation as DJs, I was still not prepared for the devotion people had for them when I was walked into their headline b2b show at the Resident Advisor tent. Their thumpy, mechanistic set had people going hard from the off – and well after I had to leave, by the sound of it. Anthony Walker
Having heard stories of some very nonchalant performances, it was more a relief to see what a wicked time Omar Souleyman was having when he played the Resident Advisor tent. Robert Darnell
The most energetic sets
Having played a similar Sunday lunchtime slot at the Dummy AGM last year, patten’s re-edit set again provided necessary jolts of energy at the RBMA tent as he head-banged and knob-twiddled his way through Burial, Joy Division, and a ream of relentless snatches of this, that, and the other. Robert Darnell
The most energetic person on stage award easily goes to Lunice, who plays the part of both the DJ and the MC/hypeman with an unfettered joy that really resonates with the audience. He got off the decks onto the front of the stage during songs, chanted along to some of the biggest tracks and even invited Evian Christ out when he played I'm In It, which was a nice thing to do. Anthony Walker
The biggest surprises
Compared to the mania of Saturday, Sunday's bill was a lot more grown-up, with a good percentage of the lineup taken up by floppy-haired dudes with guitars playing spaced-out psych rock. Nguzunguzu were pretty far removed from the rest of the festival. Playing on the RBMA stage late in the afternoon, they absolutely tore the place up with a hectic collision of grime, Jersey club, lesser-known international dance styles, and that substrand of bass-heavy tracks that loosely fall under the "club constructions" umbrella. I'd heard that Nguzunguzu's sets could be very heavy, very abrasive, and very, very strange, but the biggest surprise here was just how much fun it was. Selim Bulut
Lunice was the final performer on the RBMA stage, a stage that featured many hotly tipped artists mining the same extroverted, rap-influenced dance music that – with solo work dating back to 2009 and collaborations with Hudson Mohawke as TNGHT – he is a (relative) veteran of. He came in and killed it. It wasn't so much a surprise as an acknowledgement that, if we're going to be all about 'the turn up' now, there are levels to this shit. Anthony Walker
The ultimate "moments"
Metronomy reppin’ 2006, closing their first ever headline festival set by harking back to first album ‘Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe)’ with You Could Easily Have Me – still such a psychotic little jam. Joe Mount introduced it by referencing Jamie Reynolds’ recent (and hopefully tongue-in-cheek) description of new rave as "like the ‘60s – if you can remember it then you weren't there." Some of the crowd seemed a bit lost, but those of a certain age bounded about with some serious I was there, kind of! dance moves. Robert Darnell
Daniel Avery had been working away for years to a dedicated, but nevertheless small response, but with last year's 'Drone Logic' he finally reached the audience he deserved to. Likewise, last year saw Erol Alkan finally release music under his own name after about a decade DJing, producing, and making remixes. As a fan who's been following both musicians for years now, seeing such a huge response from the crowd when they ended on their own music – Drone Logic and A Hold On Love respectively – felt like an acknowledgement of how far they've both come as musicians more than DJs, simply by following their own paths. Selim Bulut