Field Day 2011
Photos: Sarah Dorman
Photos of The Horrors, James Blake and Wild Beasts by Valerio Berdini
Faust were a surprising opening to the festival, the experienced and well respected Krautrock band should have been playing higher up the bill where they would have drawn the audience they deserved. However, despite their meagre crowd the group put on an excellent performance. Barely a note was missed, and the sound remained perfect throughout. An assuringly good start to the day. The disturbingly young S.C.U.M managed to nearly be as good, providing a pleasant yet still happily abrasive experience. Their attempts to get an early morning crowd going very much fell on resolutely folded arms, but they showed a huge amount of promise.
Anika has caused huge waves within the industry, gushed adorations have been flung her way by such luminaries as Geoff Barrows. To the outside observer it would appear that Anika is headed somewhere big, fast. However there was little of this within her performance. She wasn't helped by the bass driven and never quite comfortable sound, but her static stage presence and lack of any sort of enthusiasm did not help her sedate songs along. A pleasant early morning distraction, but it's difficult to imagine anybody becoming truly enthralled by this set.
Sun Ra Arkestra were confusing band to watch. Without prior experience of the group the disorganised mess blurting out from the Main stage seemed completely without merit. Perhaps I missed the point, but I was glad to walk out of earshot of the group. As was fast becoming a theme of the day Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti had to struggle through an awful sound quality. This somewhat ruined the beginning of his set, vocals were nowhere near loud enough, odd instruments rose to prominence at odd times and nothing sounded quite right. The band managed to provide a rapt audience with a great show, despite the problems, through an energetic stage show and the sheer quality of their material.
Sun Ra Arkestra
Critical Dub-step darlings Mount Kimbie reinforced their sterling reputation with a set that pleased an audience who weren’t really at the festival for the music. The dance driven set provided the first real thrill of the day, with most of the tent bobbing along to the music happily. Perhaps a little too static on stage, but that comes with the territory. Twin Shadow, the next band on the Laneway Festival Stage, were probably amongst the most disappointing acts of the day. It’s difficult to divine quite how much of this were their fault as their sound within the tent was, again, awful. The band transmitted none of the indie-pop sheen they do on record, sounding dull, muddy and distinctly average.
By this time it had become clear that the festival was too crowded. Each tent was full to the brim, with most attendees being forced to stand outside. It was a genuine struggle to get from the Laneway Festival stage to the Eat Your Own Ears Main Stage. This overcrowded, sweaty, frustratingly slow atmosphere was one of the many blights that ruined this year’s field day. On the plus side the rain had stopped, so we didn’t have that to contend with.
Having finally made my way across the festival, I was just in time to catch John Cale wandering in front of the audience. It’s difficult to know quite what I was expecting from the Welsh genius, but I didn’t get it. I think most of the audience were looking for a set dominated by Paris 1919 material. In its stead we got prog covers of Heartbreak Hotel, and growled ballads to obscure historical figures. It’s would be impossible to call John Cale bad, as he was one of the strongest acts of the day in terms of performance. However it’s difficult to shake the feeling that he could have been so much better.
Warpaint provided a strong, energetic and eccentric performance but the lack of a real genuine quality within their material hindered them, and they were never anything more than a pleasant distraction. Having struggled through the crowds that clogged up the small festival, I bustled my way to the front of the large group of people waiting for James Blake. The waiting masses had to hold their high levels of anticipation for a fair amount of time, as there were apparently a huge raft of technical problems that needed to be fixed before James Blake could arrive. Upon Blake arriving, it became apparent that these problems had not been fixed. Nothing sounded right, and the band had to stop just so the keyboard could get working. It’s a huge shame as the group played some excellent stuff, and seemed to be getting everything right, but they couldn’t get past the awful sound. Limit To Your Love was particularly bad with the Piano being practically inaudible. In addition to this I’m not convince James is ever going to work in a festival environment, he requires a level of intimacy and quiet to be really effective, neither of which he found at field day.
The Horrors were appearing off the back of a second excellent album in a row, showing the musical world that they had really reformed and re-styled with aplomb. The band may have added substance, but it’s impossible to write about them without mentioning how fantastic they look. A crazy medley of hair and black, the band are perfectly composed, jerkily moving within the heavy fog on stage. Disappointingly, but entirely within the grounds of expectation, the band sounded shocking. This was hardly their fault, but a slightly less bassy mix that demonstrated their melody driven style slightly better would have worked wonders. In addition to this the group made some odd setlist choices. Moving Further Away was dragged out far too long, inciting only boredom within the crowd. Hardly a bad set, there were some genuinely excellent tracks, but far from a classic performance.
Festival Headliners Wild Beasts were far too quiet, and lacked the gravitas or real quality to give the festival a positive end. They simply didn’t sound big, or impressive enough to really hold the attention of a large audience. A disappointment considering the hype surrounded their latest album, but there was really very little within the Wild Beasts set worthy of mention, and it ended without any feeling of grand occasion. A disappointing Field Day this year then, awful sound, too crowded and the stages interrupted each other to the point of making quieter acts inaudible. Field Day is poorly organised and in need of much improvement if it’s ever going to live up the line up it attracts.
An in photo review of Slow Club at Shepherds Bush Empire. [read more]
Sapphire Mason-Brown captured the triple header of Tribes, Dog Is Dead and The Supernovas at Electric Ballroom in Camden. [read more]
Photographer Nick Miners went on down to 93 Feet East for the Iceland Airwaves Pre-party to snap Gus Gus & Reptile and Retards [read more]