Field Day 2010 In Words & Pictures
, August 8th, 2010 13:42
The Quietus presents a written and pictoral remembrance of a fantastic Field Day 2010
And so Field Day passed about a week ago, and the Quietus has finally recovered from hosting our first stage at a music jamboree, and just about got all the dust from the dry and hot Victoria Park out of our nozzle. A fine time was had by all - Runners opened the bash and dragged in a pretty good crowd considering the inclement hour. Well, half twelve. We'd thought they'd be good live, and they proved we were right to have them win our Field Day competition - live it was a melodious digital racket, the vocals combining with which had the effect of a collaboration between Pere Ubu and the Units, but decidedly up-to-date. You'll be hearing plenty more of them, hopefully even at Field Day next year.
Below, Ben Hewitt, Charles Ubaghs, Al Denney, Ben Cardew, Niall O'Keeffe, Maria Jefferis, Lucy Johnston and Luke Turner remember the day...
Esben and the Witch
We spend so much time kissing the feet of the mighty Factory Floor here in The Quietus bunker that our other favourite new band, Brighton's Esben & the Witch, often get overlooked. Equally as startling a proposition live as the trio albeit for very different reasons, their set sees hordes of punters swarm into our Village Mentality tent and escape the blazing sunshine for some gothic pop and transported to a world of mythical armies, doomed maidens and other such macabre delights.
Every time The Quietus sees Esben & the Witch live, we're amazed at how much more polished they sound - and today is no exception. There's a confidence - a swagger, even - to the likes of 'Marching Song' now; its swelled into a monster of a track, its eerie guitar and swooning vocals punctuated by pounding drums and crashing symbols. 'Lucia, At The Precipice', meanwhile, remains the finest pop song to ever be penned about the demise of James Joyce's disturbed daughter, and 'About This Peninsula' demonstrates the trio's knack for knitting myth and music together - "Consumed with hubris/ Like Icarus skirting around the sun." BH
With the sun beating down and Lightspeed Champion's set safely out of the way, the stage is set for a festival-friendly Fall set that converts a new generation. But The Fall wouldn’t be The Fall if they didn’t scorn the opportunity, and Field Day is duly delivered a rancorous, uneven set. "London idiots!" yells Smith at his audience, before spreading the hate around: "Like you lot – or the group – half a-fucking-sleep!" Yet even as they glower, The Fall can shine, with 'Slippy Floor' providing a bracing blast of ferocity amid more mischievous material from latest album 'Your Future Our Clutter'. During 'Mexico Wax Solvent', Smith reads from A4 sheets of lyrics, when not fiddling with band-mates’ amps. Elsewhere, there's an apparently new song that, in typical Fall fashion, provides the set’s highpoint, before caustic closer 'I'm Not From Bury' leaves London idiots chastised and a reputation for ornery brilliance intact.
Quietus writers are required to pledge their allegiance to all things Fall when signing their contracts. And so on a day filled with numerous clashes, we prostrate ourselves before the mighty Mark E. Smith for absolution. Duty done, we quickly make our way to the Eat Your Own Ears stage for the second half of L.A.'s No Age. One of the mightier duos to appear in recent years, the core of drummer Randy Randall and guitarist Dean Spunt are now joined on stage by noise and electronics maker, William Kai Stangeland Menchaca. Lengthy name aside, the addition of William injects the long missed ambience of Weirdo Rippers back into the band's live sound, turning their lively but standard noise punk routine into the bold forward charge into the future they've always displayed on record, yet rarely replicated live, until now. The bar for upcoming full length, Everything In Between has just been set a few notches higher.
Archie Bronson Outfit
Why can't more bands don psychedelic robes like Archie Bronson Outfit? They arrive onstage at the Village Mentality tent looking more like mystical shamans than a rock & roll band. Such elaborate fancy dress would all be for naught if Sam Windett and co didn't have the tunes as well, but they rip through a tight, taut and terrific set largely culled from their latest album Coconut that's exhilarating and exhausting in equal measures. There's an argument to suggest that Archie Bronson Outfit are one of the most criminally overlooked British guitar bands of the past few years, but today, those wrongs are righted as 'Shark's Tooth' and 'Hoola' are greeted like the anthems they deserve to be. Their set is only marred for The Quietus by two unfortunate incidents: firstly, we're jeered by a group of impatiently queuing girls for using a portaloo instead of a urinal during a swift break; and secondly, upon our return, we spot an audience member lurking at the back listening to his iPod - which, when presented with as righteous a band as Archie Bronson Outfit, is indefensible. What a cunt.
Gruff Rhys & Tony Da Gatorra
Gruff Rhys' project with underknown Brazilian telly repair man, instrument designer and radical longhair Tony Da Gatorra has been curiously divisive at tQ HQ, with a lambasting album review, and an interview that's full of praise. You get the impression, though, that the protagonists wouldn't be phased. For one, they're simply having too much of a good time up there, despite the lack of a common language that requires much gesticulation and vague attempts at Portugeuse/Welsh/English grunted articulation during the setting up. The gig itself is a stripped back set of electric stick drums and caustic fuzz, with the odd lecture on the state of Brazilian politics from Da Gatorra, who admittedly looks like an extra from Cheech & Chong. It's the most peculiar thing on the Village Mentality stage all day - it's saying something when Gruff Rhys, standing watching Da Gatorra chanting and coaxing insanity from his instrument, looks entirely bemused. My personal Village Mentality highlight. LT
Today, Bradford Cox goes it alone. Stepping on stage sans his Deerhunter bandmates, let alone any of the cast who backed him up for early Atlas Sound gigs, the lanky performer walks to the mic with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, a harmonica and, from the sound of it, a few pedals at his feet. Is it to be a Dylan like rebirth for the contrarian king of blogger friendly experimentalism? Not quite but it's evident that reports of Cox's admiration for Kurt Vile's acoustic strum-scapes are true. Stripped down to the bare essentials, Cox plucks his way through layered soundscapes of his own, periodically emitting blasts of melody out of his harmonica as he treats us all to an evening with Atlas Sound unplugged. The peak is 'Walkabout', the standout single from last year's Logos. Bereft of the Dover's sample and Noah Lennox's nasal harmonies, Cox leaves the song to stand on its naked own. The result is a moment of fragile beauty, revealing the true strength of Cox's songwriting and reminding us that for all his indulgences on record, in the press and onstage – of which there are a few even today - Bradford Cox is a figure whose talents will rightfully have our attention for some time to come.
Matthew Herbert's One Club
Matthew Herbert, it appears, is late and the crowd are contemplating the exit. Suddenly, a balding man in his late 30s dashes from the tent that has been set up on the stage and starts slapping, tweaking and abusing the half-hidden rack of equipment set up stage left, teasing a patchwork of scuffed, organic techno from its bowels. Oh so that's where he's been. And this isn't going to be a normal show.
Musically, the mix is closer to Herbert's earlier, dancier roots, using scraps of samples and electronic noise to fashion a noisy techno that is filthy, fun and not a million miles away from the electronic bludgery of classic Jeff Mills, but with an idea-a-minute maximalism replacing the sleekly minimal Detroit style.
And, in an approach that would probably make Robert Hood weep, the One Club is notably theatrical: Herbert spends the hour dashing between the tent, the bank of equipment and a keyboard placed at the top of a fairly-light strewn ladder, in a manner that is probably intended to make a point about something, but really only underlines quite what a unique character Herbert is in modern music. The effect is stunning. BC
Air Rifle Range
tQ editor John Doran takes a pot shot at a hipster.
Pantha Du Prince
Along with Factory Floor offering the most unabashedly euphoric moment of this year's event is Pantha du Prince, whose Hendrik Weber cuts a dashing figure at the business end of a derisorily small tent tonight. The minimal tech maestro beams in a set culled largely from recent 4AD debut Black Noise, and with indie consensus more closely aligned with dance culture than it has been for nigh on two decades, Weber's lush, cleanly fizzing productions seem weirdly at home on the guitar-music mainstay. Long may his moment last. AD
Another proud son of 2010's electronica revival arrives in the shape of Caribou over on main stage. He's been around for an age, has Canada's Dan Snaith, but this year saw our learned beatsmith ditch the psych inflections of last record Andorra in favour of more explicitly club-derived tones with the superb Swim. The hooky likes of 'Odessa' offer perfect solace for the guitar-jaded but even better is 'Sun', a monumental, trance-influenced jam paying woozy tribute to the pale yellow disc whose failing performance is by now forcing reluctant punters to part company with their Wayfarer specs. AD
Simeon, the remaining member of 60s electronic fronteersman Silver Apples, cuts a lonely figure on stage without David Taylor. Taylor, who died in 2005, was one of the most distinctive drummers of all time and it was as much his syncopated rhythms as Simeon's noodling on oscillators which became the foundations for electronic dance music.
But even if the drum machine that replaces him sounds a bit limp and dated, (a friend remarked that one of their banjo infused songs sounded suspiciously like 'Cotton-eyed Joe') Simian is still a commanding performer, shaman-like, though his wiry frame makes him look a bit like Jack Skellington in a cowboy hat. Take note, this is how you play electronic music live: not noodling or laptop jamming or mixing but manipulating pure tones expressively in real time. It certainly got the kids dancing this Field Day, even if half of them probably thought this music was 10 years old, not 40. DM
And so we come to the main event. Tonight is a night that should by all rights be the final leg of what has now been a lengthy victory lap for Phoenix. Last year's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix proved to be the Parisian group's long sought for breakthrough. It is little surprise that the Field Day mass has flocked to the Eat Your Own Ears stage to witness the band's firm grasp of pop rock. Focusing almost entirely on Wolfgang during their set, Phoenix politely blast forth with the sounds of 'Lisztomania'. What follows is an able run through the rest of the album. Yet for all their efforts, which are met by throngs of young women being hoisted into the air on the backs of their boyfriends and male companions, Phoenix are an anaemic experience. Boxes are ticked left, right and centre but the final result confirms that the band's once vibrant sense of mischief is now truly gone. Tonight is all about clean, underwhelming, rom-com rock. A montage friendly and advert ready proposition, it leaves us shaking our heads, wondering if we've just witnessed the whimpering birth of 'status update' pop, before brushing the terrible notion aside as we wander off into the night in search of something astringent to scrub our ears and eyes with. CU
It's nearly impossible to move in the Lock Tavern tent. Factory Floor were expected onstage nearly an hour ago, and would have already been an uncomfortable squeeze at 9. 20pm has now swelled into a chaotic throng of heaving bodies. Still, if there's any band worth waiting this long for, it's Factory Floor. Even their sound check sounds compelling: intermittent fizzes of guitar, splayed synthesisers and booming drums. Factory Floor make the most enjoyable racket imaginable, and no amount of elbows in faces and spilt beer can change that.
Eventually, we're off with the metronomic drum beat and relentless synthesiser of 'Lying'. "One in a room,” intones Nik Void dispassionately as the tension begins to mount up, "two in a room”. Or tent. If Factory Floor used to be London's best kept secret, they're not anymore: a ripple effect spreads through the crowd as, row by row, everyone starts to dance. As always, the track is only slightly recognisable from its recorded counterpart; re-written and re-worked, twisted into something frighteningly new so that even hardened fans are unsure where it will mutate next. How much time elapses we're not sure, but eventually they transition into set closing new track before departing from the tent, leaving only a wake of frazzled and hissing amplifiers behind. Still The Quietus's favourite live band, without question.
Your genial hosts
_Thanks to Tom Baker, Marcus Weedon, Jack Thomas and all at Field Day. All pics courtesy Shot2Bits except Esben & The Witch by Lucy Johnston and helmet by Turner