Victoria Park, London
2 June 2012
Providing an escape from the Union Flags and rampaging Royalism of the Jubilee, Field Day took over Victoria Park for an eclectic and solidly non-corporate take on a music festival.
This week in 1977, punk gobbed its way into the mainstream just as The Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations got underway, as the Sex Pistols mocked the royal pageant by staging a gig on a boat as it cruised along the Thames. Intended to inflame the tabloid outrage which had already seen them banished from the airwaves, the event descended into chaos with Johnny Rotten screaming “No Fuuuunnn” into the faces of the arresting police officers.
Today, as a solitary Union Flag hangs precariously from the balcony of nearby tower block, there’s as little anti-royalist sentiment as there is support for the monarchy on show in Victoria Park.
As the Pistols disintegrated just months after ”ËGod Save The Queen’ and disillusionment set in, punk as a cultural movement was fleeting. However, as musicians in the late 70’s experimented with electronics and dance music, and multiracial line-ups united in protest against the rise of the National Front (culminating with Rock Against Racism in this very park), it is punk’s DIY ethos and spirit of independence which has prevailed.
Field Day is a more intimate and credible alternative to the soulless, corporate beasts which have saturated the festival season (although the beer prices may have you believe otherwise).
The line-up at least appears to be assembled by people who, you know, actually give a shit about music, as opposed to those promoters who continually rotate headliners like crops and toss American Idol contestants, Peter Andre and PiL onto the same bill and hope for the best.
We need eclecticism, but not variety. Certainly not “variety”Â in the Jimmy Tarbuck sense, anyway.
At Field Day you are, mercifully, unlikely to encounter Fearne Cotton linking to a set by Olly Murs. This is a gig for the sonically adventurous, the experimental, the innovators, the pioneers, and, for some reason, Spector. Yes, someone’s actually been booked them to perform rather than have them impaled on the spire of The Shard.
This is a day when you can partake in teabag tossing on the village green, before seeking refuge from threatening skies in the Village Mentality tent and catching Tim Burgess nervously shaking a tambourine to R Stevie Moore’s musically chaotic but compelling set, and then exiting into scorching sunlight to join the wide-eyed revellers enthusiastically surfing the irresistible peaks of Rustie’s old-skool rave sounds.
If that’s not your cuppa, you can bask in the rambunctious, prog-fused haze of Pond, who both look and sound like they’ve been recently drenched in an alarming number of hallucinogens. “We’ve been INXS,”Â they claim as they bid farewell. Oh come on, you weren’t that bad.
If the tug of wars and Corgi Crufts are sending you giddy, there’s time to allow the fragile, glitchy ambience of Fennesz to wash over you, or watch Laurel Halo whip up a sinister brew of brutal electronics and discordant beats. Given the congestion caused by an overspill from their tent, Django Django have become rather popular and, along with Grimes, would potentially have benefited from up upgrade to the main stage. We’re assured they were pretty terrific, but we’re bound for Liars.
It’s almost 10 years to the day since they played at the Sonic Mook Golden Jubilee weekender at London’s ICA. Since then, they’ve never failed to thrill and confound in equal measure, and today’s set in anticipation of their ”ËWIXIW’ album is fantastically bass-heavy, with ”ËBrats’ in particular touching the places others can’t reach.
Toy are essentially a wall of guitars and fringes and they deliver an amp-melting collection of melodic cacophonies to an impressive and appreciative audience.
Likewise, The Men play highlights from their recent ”ËLeave Home’ and ”ËOpen Your Heart’ with such intense ferocity, it’s as if someone has strapped explosive devices to them and is threatening to detonate them should they ever pause for breath. 30 skull-shattering minutes and no messing.
Five years ago you’d never have imagined that Metronomy would be touring a Mercury Prize-nominated album around American stadiums with Coldplay, but here in Vicky Park it’s like those lazy, hazy, crazy days of the 2007 summer of nu-rave are back, albeit with added slap bass. Both they and Beirut are inspired choices and provoke spontaneous outbreaks of dancing.
The day’s finale offers the blissed-out country blues of Mazzy Star in one corner of the field, and the equally seductive Modeselektor in another. Somewhere in between, Franz Ferdinand brave an English summer downpour to debut new material amongst their arsenal of noughties dancefloor classics. Their ‘Can’t Stop Feeling’ dissolves wonderfully into Donna Summer‘s ‘I Feel Love’.
Events like Field Day are, of course, rarely about the headliners. If you’re lucky, you may unexpectedly stumble across your new favourite band. In this case, we’ve saved you the bother. They’re called Savages. You’ll have to ignore the fact that their gigs to date have been full of middle-aged A&R types wanking furiously into their cheque books.
Even if seeing them in daylight at lunchtime feels wrong, they are further proof that all of the best bands dress in black. But do they have the tunes which not only justify the hype but pack a punch so potent that it knocks you right back to your mid-teens? Doesn’t their abrasive, spiky, invigorated sound ooze a cool unlike anything else you’ll see all day? Do they not exude that nervy, rush of adrenaline that every special band you’ve ever seen had? Yes, yes and yes.
They are Elastica, Joy Division, the Banshees and pretty much every cool post-punk reference you could think of all rolled into one but if, in years to come, we catch them hula hooping their way through their greatest hits on The Queen’s driveway, there’s gonna be trouble.
ÃÂ All words and images by Kevin Robinson. You can follow him on Twitter.