By all accounts, last year’s inaugural Field Day festival in Hackney’s Victoria Park was a disaster. While I was watching my cousin get hitched, my friends were texting me horror stories about hour-long bar queues, with a similar wait facing anyone with the temerity to want to relieve themselves after downing their drink. The sound was weedy, and sets on different stages were scheduled to clash so that all you could do in the downtime between bands was go and queue for another drink. Fair play, then, to Eat Your Own Ears—normally, it must be said, gig promoters of discernment and distinction—for having the balls to stage Field Day again.
Immediately after the last Field Day they sent out grovelling letters to all their ticket-buyers, promising vastly improved conditions this time around. The legend on their website read “Fine words butter no parsnips” which I took to imply a certain amount of money being put where mouths were and deemed it safe to attend. Hurrah! For bars were joyously over-staffed, sound systems effective and musical line-ups impressive. Shame about the day’s weather, which plumped for that annoying fine rain that bad observational comedians seem to glean so much material from. Still, can’t blame Eat Your Own Ears for that.
Accordingly, Victoria Park was besieged by the indie hipster East London massive, cute vintage dresses and mussy haircuts poking out from beneath North Face cagoules. Standing out amid the sea of waterproof fabrics was a gold bomber jacket—turned out it belonged to Paul from the soon-to-be-rather-popular Magistrates who was about to play a set on a sky-blue double decker bus. I’ll admit it wasn’t the best forum for their lithe, white soulboy talents—this is basically what I saw, although presumably a video from actually inside the bus will surface on MySpace sooner or later.
Onward! To where the deliciously good Wild Beasts were busy forcing the sodden rabble gathered in front of the main stage to fall in love with them. ‘His Grinning Skull’ is rapidly become my song of the year, a thing of almost classical beauty and grandeur. Later I ran into gentlemanly singer Hayden clutching his free pair of Converse, a gift for gracing the sponsor’s stage. Like the singers of all the best weirdo bands, Hayden is unaware that his music is in any way unusual, and in a very endearing way, is genuinely a bit miffed that Wild Beasts aren’t up there with Basshunter and Kid Rock yet. But he’s not grumbling. I assured him their moment of glory will come.
The concept of Field Day was that it was a bit like a big summer fete, so the urban indie elite could indulge in their old childhood favourites like sack racing, skittles, crockery smashing and peasant stoning without actually having to go back and visit Ma & Pa in the shires. I’m always amazed that even when it’s pissing with rain and there is a tent around the corner playing music and selling beer, that some people will still want to have a tug’o’war against a bunch of strangers. Proud to be British and all that.
Anyway, I was curious to see what The Emperor Machine—representing the UK wing of the cosmic disco underground—did live, on what was apparently only their third ever gig. The trio made a pretty decent fist of it, reminding me, in a good way, of Death In Vegas at some big beat festival in a London park about ten years ago. Good times. Replacing the sadly hospital-bound Mystery Jets were the delightful Lightspeed Champion, although I later gave Dev a rather unwarranted hard time for not inviting Emmy The Great to sing her parts from the album on stage, even though she was there. It’s not as simple as that, Emmy patiently explained. Sorry Dev. I was also being a bit sniffy about Foals after seeing Yannis wander around the backstage area with a bad Christmas jumper and that big furrowed brow of his. But then I ended up watching them from the side of the stage and it all made sense.
Suddenly it was over, and I boarded I bus direct to Dalston to a night hosted by the Late Night Audio crowd at a curious but friendly little place called the Visions Video Bar. Truth be told, there was a little too much straight-up disco and not enough the cosmic stuff for my personal taste, but then our old friend Toby Tobias came on and tore up what little there was left of Saturday. It was a good one. May never summer end, even if a dry spell wouldn’t go amiss.