Field Day Festival
Victoria Park, London
8th August 2011
“Sorry I missed your wedding,” says Jean-Herve Peron, the smiler in the test card t-shirt. Later, he jokes about “Krautrock”, and how it’s a roundly offensive expression. Yeah, “Krautfunk” or “Krautgroove”, they’d be better. If you’ve seen Faust of late, they’re pretty much as we’ve come to expect, tight as a gnat’s chuff, Hamburg’s very own JB’s, albeit with added angle grinders and sledgehammers.
After Anika – Yang Yang magnificent, I Go To Sleep less so, query Flying Lizards – Pearson Sound – I know that one, I’ve got that one, what’s that one again? – the Sun Ra Arkestra – Rocket Number Nine! – it’s time for Ariel Pink, maker of 2010’s finest long player, from which his gig is largely drawn. Looking like a cross between Luther from The Warriors (topical) and the young Genesis P. (really good documentary on Gen. if you get the chance to see it), Ariel appears a tad intense, which is fine. A metal excursion makes me think of the wayward Bobby Conn. Americans can have a hard to fathom relationship with metal, often too warm for my liking. Todd Rundgren, another Ariel-alike, “restless”, “difficult”, “genius”, has been known to mangle the odd string or two. The show? Short and wonderful, like the fellow himself.
Oneohtrixpointnever, on the other hand, mangles noise, well maybe not mangles, but stretches, tweaks. Its new stuff, and it’s loud, the best sound of the day. Dan doesn’t do much. He stands up. He sits down. He waves his arms in big circles. He waves his hands in small circles, up next to his ears. The music, on this evidence the most accessible of his solo offerings, has the feel of swathes of lush hip hop swelling. Lovely.
A couple of ex-girlfriends of mine find Zola Jesus annoying. “But that’s what I was trying to do!” they say. I say, “No, you weren’t. Don’t be silly.” They say, “But you hate stuff like that. And don’t call me silly.” Fair point, but I really like Zola Jesus. And I don’t know why. Some people – Parsons, Drake, Jesus (?) – transcend their dodgy given genres. Hers is a very controlled performance. The new material has an element of lush to it as well. Who knows, she may one day make a record as gripping as Heaven or Las Vegas. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Recently, John Cale’s been playing Paris 1919. Today, he gives us Captain Hook, Hey Ray, Perfect, Jumbo in the Modern World, Sold Motel, Catastrofunk, Whaddyamean By That and Satellite Walk. The new songs are pleasant and catchy. To be honest, it’s a tad perfunctory. Mind you, a perfunctory Paris 1919 would be upsetting.
There follows a quick dash and a quick twenty minutes with Omar Souleyman, a man whose name is usually appended by some superlative or other. I’m here to testify not one of these superlatives has been misused. Here’s another: Omar Souleyman, hard as nails. It’s Syrian wedding dance music. If you get an invite, go.
And then everything just seems to get stupidly busy, not dangerously busy, but stupidly busy. Jamie XX should be playing one of the larger tents. It’s daft. My mate texts, “Is it full of artless, godless bastards talking all the way through the sets?” Thirty odd years ago we never went to Futurama because HE decided it would be full of “artless, godless bastards talking all the way through the sets”. Grudgingly, I text back, “Yeah, and the thing is, they’re barging to the front to do so.” Something which is bad enough at gigs can be intolerable at festivals. One conversation goes, “I just entered this competition at work.” “Really, what’s it for?” “Holiday in Bermuda.” “Nice one.” “Yeah, and all I had to do was find out how many sides there were to a triangle.” They go on about this for ages. Mundane plus plus plus. Time was we were encouraged to laugh at stupid folk. Now we’re encouraged to laugh at clever folk (eg Dave TV). I think about discussing this, but don’t, even though it’s pertinent plus plus plus.
Field Day tends to get a kicking for its organization. With seven stages, there’s too much. At six o clock there’s a choice of Actress, John Cale, Omar Souleyman, Jamie Woon, Erol Alkan and Clock Opera, all of whom I want to see. The food and drink’s ridiculously expensive. And where does the money go? It’s only kids serving. Surely they’re not getting it? There are lengthy queues at some of the bars, toilets and food vans. (Ideal breeding ground for inane chatoholics.) And the audience is nearly all of a certain type. The number of old people (forty plus) and black people probably accounts for less than one per cent of the paying public.
Yet, in its defence, Field Day’s one up on your normal festival landfill, an astounding 600 in the UK this year alone. The line-up’s fantastic. It’s like a one day ATP minus the increasingly sickening nostalgia angle. The charge is a not unreasonable ÃÂ£40. There’s a Quietus stage, a Bloggers stage and a Resident Advisor stage, where I spend most of my chillout time, tapping a toe, shaking a shoulder, and trying to put names to tunes. The net does a grand job re. good new music. If anything, Field Day’s a showcase.
We end with Factory Floor, right now the best band in the world. And tonight they’re awesome. Imagine Cabaret Voltaire’s Walls of Jericho mixed with Underworld’s Rez. Imagine Jeff Mills with a drummer. Imagine the most amazing racket you’ve ever heard. And you’re not even close. And, you know what; they make it seem so easy. They could just as easily be the kids from the vans, downing their spatulas and Tupperware salads for a bit of a wig out.
Pop, it takes all sorts. Long may it do so.