Field Day round-up: Animal Collective, Savages, Kurt Vile, Django Django and more!
Published on May 27th, 2013 | Theo Gorst
Rocksucker scribe Theo Gorst went to Field Day in London’s Victoria Park on Saturday. He saw some damn fine bands there, too…
Inside Victoria Park, towering green fences have been erected to prevent the ticketless mixing with those who have paid. They don’t exactly scream fun, but within them the great and good of those with independent leanings will later perform.
Above the walls, ominous clouds gather undecided on whether to split or not. Indeed the overcast weather can be seen as symbolic for Field Day’s fortunes; like the crowd, small festivals are increasingly under threat from the downpour of weak sales. The only way to combat this is through a festival’s line-up, rather the strength of it.
High up the bill, headlining the festival’s second biggest stage, is Django Django. Having played earlier on at last year’s bash, the London-based quartet’s rapid ascent is heart-warming, brought about as it was by relentless touring; and yet, there’s something undeniably unsatisfactory about seeing a band performing virtually the same set as from the year before.
Playing the lion’s share of the tracks from their eponymous debut LP of last year, their show is bereft of new tracks and, while their debut worked due to its idiosyncratic amalgamation of styles, their reliance on tropical synths and rich guitar tones can lead to repetition. This is a problem their live set suffers from, and as such Django Django become chained by their own formula.
Whereas Django Django occasionally lack intensity, this doesn’t appear to be a problem for Savages, intensity seemingly being frontwoman Jehnny Beth’s middle name. While comparisons are often made to former post-punk stallions such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division and Wire, Savages seem to concoct a force that is uniquely theirs.
Beth prowls the stage pounding the air as if the sharp guitar lines on “Shut Up” and “She Will” have coursed through her like bolts of electricity. Resplendent as black silhouettes amidst an abundance of smoke, the quartet play a set that surges through the omnipresent haze.
Speaking of haze, it was a treat to see Wild Nothing open their early evening set with “Golden Haze”. Playing a rare UK date, Jack Tatum leads his touring ensemble through select cuts from the band’s fantastic back catalogue, closing with a joyous “Summer Holiday”.
The magic of Field Day becomes apparent when showcasing overseas talent. Dark Dark Dark provide luxuriant splendour, bewitching the Shacklewell Arms tent as they waltz through sorrowful baroque tales of heartbreak; “Daydreaming” is beautiful and soothes the sore ears of those who had caught the previous band, Canadian hardcore trio Metz.
Similarly delightful is Connan Mockasin, treating the packed tent to his distinctive psychedelia. Visually arresting in a wide brim hat and cape, Mockasin is an enthralling performer; watery guitars shimmer atop gently pulsating bass and percussion, while Mockasin’s voice tentatively floats across the ethereal soundscape of his band’s instrumentation.
As he guides the crowd through new tracks, Mockasin continually apologises for the lack of recognisable material, save for a triumphant “Forever Dolphin Love”. He needn’t, though, because if the New Zealander’s half-hour set is anything to go by then his new record should make for an enthralling listen.
As the clouds part, the equally endearing Kurt Vile takes to the Laneway Stage with his Violators in tow. Flowing curls of brown hair cover the majority of Vile’s face leaving just an innocent grin, but for all his amiability his set is tainted by Field Day’s infamously poor sound. Needlessly prominent drums spoil the fluidity his tracks possess on record, and as such opener “Walking on a Pretty Day” loses its sleepy elegance.
A highlight of the American’s set is when his band are dispatched of in order for him to play “Peeping Tomboy” solo, his delicate guitar work allowing accoustic intricacies to flourish.
Whereas highlights of Vile’s set are defined by nuance, Palma Violets don’t seem to be familiar with the word; Chilli Jesson’s vocal range seems only to encompass abrasive shrieks, and equally limited is the band’s repertoire. There’s something charming about “Best of Friends” but when its hyperactive yelling is recurrently repeated, as it is in most every other track, its charm is lost and it becomes something far more tiresome.
Possessing far more grace are experimental stalwarts and festival headliners Animal Collective. Nimbly gliding from slick electronic folk into agitated pyschedelia, the group close Field Day with a plethora of classic tracks, the liquescent joy of “My Girls” sounding impossibly blissful.
Operating as the only festival to offer such a line up within the capital, the annual event has become something of an institution in its seven years. Although this year’s occurrence may not have matched the heady heights of events gone by, there was still an irresistibly rich eclecticism on display. For now the outlook appears to be sunny for Field Day.
For more information, please visit the official Field Day website.