Photos: Craig Taylor Broad
Three predictions could be made with relative confidence before the Field Day weekend began – there would be stunning musical moments, rain would turn the site into a mud bath, and England would disappoint in their Euro opener. And indeed, by the end of the first day, all three had occurred. But thankfully, the former meant that even the weather and the football couldn’t dampen the mood. From big name headliners to the newcomers dotting the smaller stages, the quality and diversity of music on offer was exceptional.
Anna Meredith embodied this description early on and, although the rain likely contributed to her packed out tent, anyone sheltering should have been pleasantly enthralled with the Scottish composer’s experimental take on classical. It seems that a distorted tuba and oboe jam is one of those things you didn’t know you needed until first hearing it.
By contrast, Skepta‘s performance fell flat as sound problems, the outdoor stage, intermittent showers and the grime rapper’s low energy meant he boasted none of the intensity he and JME did at Simple Things last year. Fortunately, a run of Deerhunter, DIIV and Girl Band picked up the quality again, the latter particularly impressing with their brand of high energy noise rock. Elsewhere, anyone choosing to forego the football on the big screen for Wild Nothing was richly rewarded. The dream pop outfit delivered one of the standout sets of the weekend, laying down shoegazey guitar lines and danceable grooves to get the whole tent moving.
But as expected the opening day belonged solely to James Blake. Taking the stage in his trade mark pea coat despite the mild evening, the London musician showcased tracks from new album The Colour in Anything mixed in with older hits. It’s great to see an electronic artist using live instrumentation as much as possible with even vocal samples being played by a drummer via sample pad. It’s Blake’s voice which really highlights his quality though, as he perfectly translates the lush croons of his records to the live setting. Once the final beats of ‘The Wilhelm Stream’ faded out it was time to trudge home, dry off and prepare for another feast of music on day two.
Traditionally this is a more rock oriented and a main stage featuring Parquet Courts, Thurston Moore and Brian Jonestown Massacre seemed to support this. All three bands tore through their back catalogues, delivering crowd pleasing sets and, despite a misplaced US to UK plug adapter delaying Parquet Courts’ start by 25 minutes, the timings weren’t disrupted too much.
Second stage headliners Beach House also charmed, with the addition of more meaty live drums bringing a relentless energy not seen on their albums. But it was Air directly after who won out in the battle of the indie duos. The French group stunned as they delivered a beautifully slick performance, and the closing trio of Moon Safari songs was an unbeatable moment.
It then fell on PJ Harvey to close out in the festival in style. Playing nearly the whole of The Hope Six Demolition Project, this wasn’t a show aimed at the casual observer. But the extensive backing band brought the grandeur of her work to life and the image of Harvey, sax in hand and arms outstretched, surely one of the most iconic images of modern music, will linger long in the memory. However, you can’t help but feel that if she’d delved into her back catalogue further it could have been so much more. The rousing sing along to closer ‘A Perfect Day, Elise’ highlights this but the chorus of “it’s a Perfect Day” proves an apt descriptor for the weekend itself – another excellent edition to mark Field Day’s tenth year.
Check out PJ Harvey’s ‘The Orange Monkey’ right here: