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Three Songs No Flash

Move It Move It: Field Day Reviewed
The Quietus , June 5th, 2018 08:07

The festival moves to south London, rethinks its priorities a bit, and joyfully worships at the righteous altars of jazz and rave

Fever Ray - photo by Keira Cullinane

We all love a David and Goliath story. This year, Field Day (aka David) relocated to Brockwell Park after festival behemoth AEG (Goliath) steamed in with its massive wallet and took over Victoria Park, which had been Field Day’s home for the past decade. So Hackney got All Points East last weekend, with Nick Cave (yay!) and Björk (yaroo!) but also (apparently) a pretty clunky corporate vibe and a stall offering temporary tattoos advertising the event’s sponsors. Aieesh. Meanwhile Field Day spent untold hours negotiating with local council officers and massive logistics spreadsheets, and found a new, smaller home in Brixton.

Field Day is a bit too big and successful to really be the underdog in this story, but they did come out victorious last week after a few worrying months. They didn’t have the option of throwing whopping piles of cash at massive names, so they put together a juicy, exciting and thoughtful lineup: Fever Ray and Erykah Badu were the big, and brilliant, headliners but the real winning move was to dig right into two of the richest, ripest music networks in the UK. On Friday afternoon you could zip between Nubya Garcia, Sons Of Kemet, Zara McFarlane and Ezra Collective, across three of the four main stages, and revel in the joys brought to us by London’s current sprawling and magnificent jazz scene. On Saturday, it was the turn of the cosmic rave squadron - from James Holden to Daphni to Floating Points to Four Tet - to give a sense of a common thread, a community, running through the day. I began mid-afternoon by allowing Daphni’s set - Thelma Houston! UKG! Italo piano! - to reactivate the MDMA which I like to believe is forever stored in my spine, and ended with a sublime high during Four Tet’s closing set. The curfew was strict - it was all over at 10:30 sharp, both nights - and more worryingly there was overcrowding in the Barn tent just as Four Tet started. His set had to be delayed and shortened as a result, but the festival managed the crowd, took the risk seriously, and brought it back to mass pleasure.

Other less important aspects of Field Day remain hard to love - mainly the ‘village green’ where you are invited to do some welly wanging while admiring the bunting - but this change of scene suits them. Sunshine, a greener smaller space, a noticeable drop in the number of east London wankers (I say that as a veteran east London wanker), lovely professional staff and some of the best arepas I’ve ever eaten. And ace music: more of that below, from our team of intrepid festival reporters: Tej Adeleye, Thilini Gunaratna, Alice Kemp-Habib, Tara Joshi and Adam Quarshie. All photos by the excellent Keira Cullinane. (Anna Wood)

“If you know the words, sing along. If you don’t, you fucking should, bitch.” This kind of amusingly unabashed, hip-hop-esque bravado permeates the set of rising Mancunian star, Diana Debrito, aka IAMDDB (a name which she repeatedly sings in trademark melismatic tags throughout). She teasingly opens the performance by singing from offstage, before the heaving tent shouts back almost all the words to a set largely taken from her dark and swirling Hoodrich Vol 3 tape (which boasts a potent infusion of soul, trap and “urban jazz”). There’s something collected and cool about her lithe, strutting presence - even when the crowd is going wild for the reload of her biggest track ‘Shade’ relatively early on, she tells us she has reconsidered “going slow and saving it for last”. The fierce veneer cracks a little when she happily admits to not expecting this kind of reception outside her home city – but she shouldn’t be surprised: the ‘rising’ label feels defunct at this point, and her star power feels so much more tangible live than it does recorded. If IAMDDB acts like she’s made it, it’s because - frankly - she has. (TJ)

Loyle Carner
A persian rug, a ragged armchair and a shelf packed full of vinyl: when Loyle Carner swaggers on stage he is immediately at home. He fills every inch of the space with energy and the stage pulsates with his signature brand of narrative hip-hop. He pauses occasionally to prop one foot up on the speaker and absorb his audience: “I’ve been waiting a long time to play a very big festival in south London.”

Carner’s soft, undulating verses are just about audible over the throbbing bass, and his boyish delight is infectious; between guest appearances from friends and collaborators and gushing declarations of love for his mum, you can tell he’s just happy to be here. (AKH)

Princess Nokia - photo by Keira Cullinane

Princess Nokia
Princess Nokia gives no fucks. This much is clear when mid-set the New York rapper does a full cover of Blink-182’s ‘I Miss You’, singing earnestly while a fairly mass exodus takes place – sure, all the 1992 stans are happy she got to do her emo thing on latest tape A Girl Cried Red, but they still seem to unanimously feel it’s not for them. It’s a shame they don't stick around, because there’s no denying the boisterous, fiery energy of Princess Nokia’s performance, opening with ‘Brujas’ into ‘Kitana’ into ‘Tomboy’ (a bold trio of her biggest certified rap singles). Toying with everything from cuts of Solange to Sum 41’s ‘Fat Lip’ while she twerks and gives dem a run, Princess Nokia is doing exactly what she loves, and - whether it’s for you or not, it’s a joy to see. (TJ)

Lee Fields & The Expressions
“DO YOU HAVE A SOUL?” It’s one of Lee Fields’ favourite questions. To be fair, if you’d been cajoling mankind to walk right since the days of the Vietnam war, it’d probably be one of your small talk go-to lines, too. For their rollicking set, Fields - all in white save his shimmering silver jacket - and his band turn their sweltering tent into a gathering that is part love shack and part megachurch watchtower night. Standout moment? Fans of all ages (and at various stages of peak drunk) with their hands in the air, repeating after Fields,: ‘Waaaaalk that walk that walk!!!” (TA)

Sudan Archives
Brittney Parks, better known as Sudan Archives, appears suddenly, dressed in day-glo orange with a pair of huge gold earrings dangling beneath her magnificent afro. She struts back and forth across the stage for several minutes, plucking at her electric violin, and the rhythms soon merge with the crackling percussion samples that flicker playfully in and out of her set.

Though she faces the crowd alone, her energy fills every corner of the tent. She has something of a mischievous streak: she plays well-known songs from her eponymous debut, including ‘Come Meh Way’ and ‘Nont for Sale’, but they morph into each other or suddenly switch direction. She manipulates samples of East African-inspired strings which then disappear into a haze of distortion while her sumptuous vocals take over. This, combined with her unique and refreshing technique on the violin, makes it an unpredictable, slightly weird and wholly engrossing performance. (AQ)

Thundercat - photo by Keira Cullinane

“I love Tokyo so much, I tried to fuck it,” Stephen Bruner tells the stoned crowd. His quixotic mix of devastating honesty and ethereal humour lingers in the air as he delivers a stripped-back rendition of ‘Tokyo’. It transpires that the dark adventures in the city described on record - the overdosing on fish, the nearly pregnancy, the suicide forest – actually bloody happened. He visited the city when he was around “17 or 18”, in the company of soul titan Leon Ware, no less.

When he isn’t sharing anecdotes with us, his back is to the crowd and Bruner is lost in a spaced-out sonic conversation with his band, all three hell bent on pushing chords and grooves way past any logical conclusions. Justin Brown offers interlocking licks, sometimes spacious and soft as a whisper, other times thunderous and full of pace to match the trippy phrasing of the bandleader’s bass, both resting on the cool, intuitive ambience of Dennis Hamm’s keys.

And then.

“Nobody move / There’s blood on the floor,” don vocalist Durand Bernarr bursts out from the side of the stage with FAT BELLY FREAKING BELLA herself for a pre-encore rendition of everyone’s favourite heartache salve, ‘Them Changes’. He returns solo to close the show with ‘Show You The Way’, Badu impishly sneaking on stage to shower his balladry with sunset keys. Mon dieu, mon dieu, mon dieu. (TA)

Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu is more than 20 minutes late for her headline set. At 25 past nine she sashays on, in lawn-green puffa jacket, sky-high platforms and signature Bona Capello hat. She slides straight into ‘Hello’, and the audience is under her spell.

A bellowing petition to the rain gods comes next. Badu takes to her drum machine, tapping sporadically and demanding they open the heavens. Her south London spectators groan in apprehension: if anyone can summon the bad weather surely it’s the ethereal songstress Erykah? Thankfully the deities are otherwise occupied and we enjoy a magical, dry show.

Badu sails through her best-known tracks with seductive aplomb, leaning deep into the microphone and punctuating her set with anecdotes (the Ankh hieroglyph she often wears represents completion, the power stance she assumes at the end of songs represents nothing). Her backing vocalists are wildly energetic and her band play with ease, ebbing and flowing with her every ad lib.

Some tracks are missing, ‘Didn’t Cha Know’ and ‘Appletree’ most noticeably, perhaps due to her lateness. But she still manages to wrap her audience in an hour’s worth of enchanting, nostalgic bliss. No one is fazed when she lays flat on the floor towards the end of her set, bar the two security guards that flank her, and perhaps the powers that be who turn off her microphone. (AKH)

The Comet is Coming
I confess I’ve never spent that much time thinking about comets. But I’m getting my senses pulverised by the sax playing of Shabaka Hutchings (who, busy as ever, also played with Sons Of Kemet a couple of hours earlier). Meanwhile, Betamax Killer is trying to punch a hole through my left ventricle with his drumming and Danalogue The Conqueror (Dan Leavers to his mum) is soothing and smothering me at the same time with his hypnotic and otherworldly synth playing. So, like everyone else in the audience, all I can really do is accept my oncoming oblivion and keep dancing until the vortex swallows me up. (AQ)

Fever Ray
Just up the hill, the Barn is getting overfull as Four Tet’s set gets underway. This smaller tent is packed out too, as Fever Ray stalks onto the stage, but the atmosphere here is darker, moodier and, in an unfamiliar and wonderful way, very sexy. Fever Ray is flanked by her muscle-suited dancers and her band, her coven pretty much, and she commands the tent. Her voice is incredible, piercing, the lo-fi lighting (it’s just really dark in here) heightens the intensity. The set is full of bass and party and pleasure, and a kind of wholesome glorious filth. At one point, the crowd is almost silent, rapt, then minutes later it’s all WHOOPs and drunken salsa-ing to When I Grow Up and then, ace, hundreds of women sing-shouting “I WANT TO RUN MY FINGER UP YOUR PUSSY.” It’s a line that is yet to grow old, a vibe that will always be magnificent. (TG)