Field Day 2016 @ London, 11 – 12/06/2016

Field Day 2016Field Day 2016 offers an escape from the urban city life of London into a fun playground of farm events, races and games. Celebrating its 10th birthday this year, it always promises a super fun weekend, mixing indie with electronic music, and doing it so well. Although there are loads of festivals in London, none rival Field Day for its sheer likability and unique attempt at capturing, for lack of a better word, the millennial market like no other. On the bill this year are headline acts James Blake and PJ Harvey, backed up by a plethora of smaller acts including The Avalanches, Four Tet, Skepta and Air, all fairly diverse on the genre spectrum but all under the contemporary Field Day umbrella.

We’re not the only ones willing to travel to London for the weekend festival, with the Bristol coach full of fellow Field Day attendees discussing the line-up. When we get through the wristband exchange however, the beautiful sunshine lasts all of about 10 minutes before Field Day 2016 turns into what can only be described as a British festival. And when I say a British festival, I mean it really chucks it down. People scramble for shelter. Clearly on the right track, we decide to stake it out with DJ Koze’s techno in the nearby Resident Advisor tent, and wait for it all to blow over.

Once the rain lightens up slightly, we ease ourselves into the dreary day with Skepta (the irony). The main stage is awash with umbrellas and hoods but it doesn’t dampen the crowd’s energy. There are some slight sound issues and Skepta does an expectant and awkward pause every now and again, without too much of a crowd response. But there’s a really good atmosphere for so early on in the day, especially in the rain, bringing everything you would expect from a Skepta gig. Like some kind of Skepta miracle, the sun even comes out for his encore, “Man”.

Onto the next act, we head to Roots Manuva which is incredibly loud and busy, packing out the Crack Magazine tent. Sporting a bright orange bowler hat, Roots Manuva does not disappoint, showing us some of the rap that put Britain on the rap map in the first place. “Witness the Fitness” of course earns the most attention from the crowd and finishes his set on a high.

Diiv are on next at the Crack tent, with an edgy handmade backdrop that looks like a three year old drew it. I’m quite a fan of Diiv but their quiet vocals lend themselves to an unengaging performance and, standing towards the back of the tent, it’s easy to drift off and think about what’s on next. We catch the end of Gold Panda, also performing in the Crack tent, which proves much livelier, showcasing his newly released album, Good Luck and Do Your Best but mixed in with some of the favourites.

Waiting for sets from Four Tet and James Blake, we spot the bandstand stage tucked away in the trees (and through a lot of mud). It has to be the best stage, making full use of Victoria Park and completely reiterating the fairground vibe, although hosting the weekend's house and techno acts. It’s filled with huge speakers, leaving some room for a few people to join together inside, looking like some kind of outdoor Boiler Room set. Plastician plays some heavy dub step slash breakstep tracks when we venture forward, but to a small crowd of maybe 30 to 40 people. It’s refreshing for a big name to be on such a teeny tiny stage.

Four Tet is no stranger to a big crowd but it’s amazing how the whole field gets dancing when he’s on stage. Subbing James Blake tonight, he certainly knows how to work up a crowd; his cover of Eric Pyrdz’s "Opus" proves a personal favourite.

Bringing the Saturday to a close is headliner James Blake. Opening with “Life Round Here”, Blake demands silence but the crowd can’t resist singing the lyrics back. His soothing voice lends to a calming performance, with synth and thundering bass here and there. He mainly performs tracks from his new album (which I have played on repeat waiting for this day) including a slightly shaky start to “Radio Silence”, but of course can’t miss crowd pleasers, “Limit to Your Love” and finale, “Wilhelm Scream”. His humble apology for the bad weather makes you forget it ever rained, ending the day on a beautiful note.

Everything is so much more difficult in the mud. Due to lack of motivation to step out into the rain, we sadly miss out on Formation, who I was particularly looking forward to. Possibly due to stupidity, possibly hangover, we also forget about the stage mix around for the Sunday, missing the majority of the Mystery Jets set, but catching Fat White Family for a good few minutes before realising (I did think it was very odd that someone in Mystery Jets would have stripped to their boxers: it all makes sense now).

Wandering around some of the more drum and bass and techno stages, we watch Tourist rapidly switch discs and all that other stuff that actual DJs do, with an amazing strobe light show behind him. Daphni aka Caribou performs at the Redbull Music Academy stage, completely tucked away from the rest of the Sunday layout and quite unnoticed. No one else seems to have trouble finding the stage, which draws quite a large crowd in the rain. Having been invited to a VIP loft at the JagerHaus stage, we head over to watch Oscar who seems fun and catchy, blending indie pop and synth pop. Favourite moments include a super funky jacket from lead singer and, I quote, “It’s so hot in here. But go bold or go home”.

The Avalanches are next and get off to a poor start: disappointingly they perform a DJ set rather than their own tracks. A woman I overhear hits the nail on the head when she says they don’t know what tracks they want to play, swapping and changing mid-song. That said, it’s a damn good DJ set, playing some funky beats rather than the more techno kind of vibe the stage has seen throughout the weekend.

As they start to play new single “Frank Sinatra” it definitely gets more exciting. Crowd pleaser, “Frontier Psychiatrist”, reminds the crowd who The Avalanches were and we actually catch a glimpse of Jagwar Ma dancing around at the back of the tent. For their first live performance in 15 years, the set gets off to a ropey start, but the duo completely redeem themselves by the end. (Note: apparently it had to be a DJ set due to a Visa mess up).

Beach House are at the far end of the festival and by the time we get there, the tent is far too busy for us to get in. Sitting down on the damp floor, it’s difficult to hear anything, but big responses from the crowd suggest they were good. Racing back across the bog for Air, we manage to get a spot near the front. Their 90s and 00s dreamy tracks are received by what’s got to be the most reactive crowd of the day. A firm favourite with the Field Day 2016 crowd, the French duo play hits including “Sexy Boy”, “Cherry Blossom Girl” and “Alpha Beta Gaga” seeming genuinely humbled by the huge response from the crowd.

The final act of the night and closing the whole festival is PJ Harvey. Now, I’m not a big PJ fan, but she certainly pulls out all the stops for her performance which is definitely tons better than any of her recorded stuff. Her huge backing band is brass heavy, including 9 people, two drum kits, a saxophone and more, while she sports her amazing voice that genuinely echoes around the whole main field more than any other act of the weekend.

Despite the rain and mud and bog, Field Day 2016 pulls it out of the bag for the 10th year running. It's refreshing that most people don’t seem to care about the rain, returning on the Sunday prepared with wellies, umbrellas and rain macs – Britain sure knows how to prep for the weather and no manner of rain will dampen a festival spirit.

What I personally like best about Field Day 2016 is the way it shines a spotlight on lots of smaller acts yet props up some internationally loved artists, that perhaps couldn’t headline anywhere else in the UK. Although possibly the best electronic musician to come out of London over recent years, James Blake will not headline any other major event in 2016. And PJ Harvey hasn’t been too active on the festival front recently, either, Field Day 2016 being her first UK live show with a full band in 6 years.

It’s clear that all the bands and artists are articulately booked with complementing genres that work so well for the millennial crowd, and will still be a firm definite on my festival list for next year.

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