Field Day 2014: The Quietus Review, Sunday

Julian Marszalek, Ben Graham, Tristan Bath and Laurie Tuffrey report back from the inaugural, rock-heavy second day of Field Day. Photographs courtesy of Valerio Berdini

Alright, enough already with the weather, but Sunday was mighty in meteorological terms. With not even the faintest hint of precipitation and the sun doing its best to work the festival end of Victoria Park into a miniature dust bowl, Field Day’s second half balanced Saturday’s laptops and synths-leaning line-up with a more wood and strings-heavy billing. Leading up to the Pixies closing proceedings with their sole appearance in London this year – quite a claim, given that the Bostonians could rightly call the capital their second home – Sunday’s slightly leaner line-up also provided ample chance to take in some of Field Day’s food and drinks offerings (Anna Mae’s ace "Kanye Western" macaroni cheese deserves special mention for my part) as well as the opportunity to linger on the grass and, delete as appropriate, develop a tan/bridge the human-lobster divide. Ultimately though, as we said yesterday, Field Day’s doubling up feels like a brilliant extension and when Frank Black and co. waved goodbye on Sunday night, it’s a little sad to think that it’ll be a full year before the weekend rolls around again. Read on for the Quietus writers’ rundown of highlights from day two.

15:40 – The Bohicas, Shacklewell Arms stage

There’s a classicism surrounding The Bohicas that should set alarm bells ringing – they wear leather in a hot tent, the deployment of three-part harmonies is deftly handled and their sense of push-and-pull rock & roll dynamics is well met by the kind of pop sensibility that beat at the centre of The Jesus And Mary Chain’s black heart – but this is a band that pulls it off with an almost consummate ease.

Not that what they do is tossed off in any casual manner. Their understanding of the sense of occasion is palpable but rather than being overwhelmed by their surroundings, the Essex quartet grab the afternoon by the lapels, nut it square between the eyes and ride the love turbine at high speed into the distance to leave a cloud of dust and dirt in their wake. ‘Rampage’ is where things click into place for the band. A small but stunning detonation, it finally grabs the attention of the Shacklewell Arms before delivering the sucker punch of solidly driving single ‘XXX’. By the end of the set it’s hard to gauge who has enjoyed this more – the breathless audience or a band high on the sweet smell of success. Julian Marszalek

16:00 – Pond, Eat Your Own Ears/The Quietus stage

Experiencing such heat and glorious sunshine this early into a British summer can easily catch anyone unprepared; not least many of the bands on today’s bill, who are naturally more suited to late-night darkness and subterranean cool. Luckily, Australian freak bandits Pond know just how to entertain a sun-baked festival crowd in the mid-afternoon, striking a perfect balance of carefree, good-time rock and twisted psychedelic weirdness. Wiry blonde singer Nick Allbrook provides much of the edge; sporting silvery-blue facepaint (or coloured sunblock) and noticeably shorter than his bandmates, he’s all jittery angles and confrontational motion, bashing against the bars of an imaginary cage, while his big ol’ pals in their shades and beards just grin and play. Unusual, complex song structures and jarring time changes are sweetened by anthemic lead guitar riffs, invariably doubled up on synth to make them soar to the back of the field, as on ‘Giant Tortoise’ which gets the tanned hippy girls in front of me singing joyfully along to its needling, razor-sharp riffs.

Pond are confident enough to drop several new tracks into their set, including one introduced as ‘Heroic Shart’ ("Like a shit fart," Allbrook suggests unhelpfully). ‘Colouring The Streets’ from the soundtrack to Andrew Kidman’s recently-released surf movie The Spirit Of Akasha is a gloriously summery piece of melodic dislocation, while ‘You Broke My Cool’ is a tongue-in-cheek scarf-waver that skirts perilously close to Argent’s ‘God Gave Rock And Roll To You’. Everything comes finally together on Hobo Rocket tracks ‘Whatever Happened To The Million Head Collide?’ and a disco-paced ‘Midnight Mass (At The Market Street Payphone)’ which sound like The Flaming Lips, The Dandy Warhols, Cheap Trick, Cardiacs, Pink Floyd and a pomposity-free Smashing Pumpkins all playing at the same time. Awesome. Ben Graham

16:30 – Childhood, Shacklewell Arms stage

This year, the Shacklewell Arms tent is far and away the best place to experience the day’s neo-psych guitar-centric lineup. While the main stage hosts killer sets from Temples and Pond, up and comers Childhood and Telegram – each one essentially a mini-me of their main stage counterparts – are actually able to melt a few faces in the relatively smaller realm of the Shacklewell tent. The sounds from the main stage seemingly reach tamely out over the crowd and into the horizon, but the tent ensures the roar of Telegram’s bass-heavy grooves and Childhood’s increasingly grandiose psych-pop get blasted straight in the face of the crowd – just like it should be.

I’m spending the day with two mates of mine – non-musos who don’t even really know or care who The Horrors are, let alone the relative newbies on the Shacklewell Arms stage. The sight of Childhood’s big-haired slackers, and their gristly reverb chamber run-through of debut single, ‘Blue Velvet’, which came across almost laughably grand considering the tent setting, is initially greeted tepidly by the other two. Presumably as sets finish off elsewhere the half empty tent suddenly fills up, and the quartet’s far-reaching tunes make more and more sense. Everybody loosens up, ubiquitous nodding kicks in, and the setlist shifts from the quartet’s catchy Mac Demarco radio riffs of that earlier single to the deeper groove of latest release ‘Falls Away’ and ultimately climaxes with an extended wah wah jam over the relentless coda of last year’s ‘Solemn Skies’, climbing to a crescendo that sees applause switch aptly from tentative to rapturous. Not bad. Not bad at all… TIme for a quick break before Telegram, so we head back out into the throng in search of Argentinian steak sandwiches and beer. Tristan Bath

17:20 – Telegram, Shacklewell Arms stage

After a successful steak hunt, and with those all important Red Stripe tinnies fully replenished, we make it back to Shacklewell just in time to see Telegram kick off. These long-hairs have barely been around for a year, and are making far more of an effort to look rough around the edges. They make Childhood look twee and charming in comparison, swaggering to the nth degree beneath leather jackets as they take the stage. They kick off with absolutely mental amounts of energy, and attention quickly turns to bassist Oli Paget-Moon – clearly the beating heart of the group – as he flails his way madly through the group’s jam-heavy tunes. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Saunders balances proceedings with choruses that soar pretty damn high amid the raucousness of his bandmates’ freak-outs. Like all of Sunday’s psych contemporaries, Telegram are too punk to be even vaguely progressive or funky. Most vitally, both Telegram and Childhood make music with almost no space at all, filling every possible inch with bass thuds and crushing guitar sprawl. This is not the 60s redux – it’s something else, and Telegram are best thought of as a higher-energy addition to the list of contemporary ‘psychedelic’ indie bands, pedalling heavy walls of groovy chamber rock and weaving in the odd sweeping chorus much to the pleasure of the crowd. They jam harder than Toy, put on a better show than The Horrors, and already look the part enough to happily adorn an NME cover any day. Tristan Bath

17:30 – Temples, Eat Your Own Ears/The Quietus stage

I was undecided about Temples before seeing them live, and their set left me no more certain as to where I stand on the photogenic Kettering quartet. Their psychedelically-informed soft rock is never less than pleasant, and the likes of ‘Move With The Season’ are packed with chiming riffs and haunting, minor-key melodies that nod to folk but are driven by a pulsing, purring Rolls Royce engine of a rhythm section rather than clopping horses’ hooves. The fact that they’re closer to The Moody Blues than The Mothers Of Invention shouldn’t be held against them, and when I say that the glam rock swoon and stomp of ‘Keep In The Dark’ is like the best Wombles anthem that Mike Batt never wrote, I truly mean it affectionately.

Yet James Bagshaw and the boys seem somewhat stiff on stage in the early evening sunshine, struggling to engage with the crowd despite the loud and heartfelt enthusiasm of several small pockets of sunburnt, lager-happy lads in polo shirts and football vests. They chant along with catchy b-side ‘Ankh’ and sing the riff to ‘Shelter Song’ between every other number (occasionally it morphs into ‘Hey Jude’) before the band finally play it, their acknowledged finest few minutes to date. One would think that these are the sort of mob that the beautiful, androgynous Bagshaw, with his teased-up corkscrew hair and Bolan-esque glitter make-up, on a face that looks like it’s never required shaving, would cross several streets and a canal to avoid if he wanted to keep his teeth in place and his nose on straight. Yet the lads love them, and maybe Temples – with their stomping rhythms, big riffs and light-psych dusting – are just the fey Kasabian. On the other hand, sometimes the scallies know their stuff, too, and as the glam descend of ‘Mesmerise’ swirls into an extended drone-raga coda I resolve to lay down my reservations for the moment, and let Temples stand. Ben Graham

17:50 – Nguzunguzu, Red Bull Music Academy stage

Given the day’s leaning towards guitar bands, there’s probably a smaller contingent of electronic music fans in the crowd than yesterday, but it seems that those that are here have rapidly flocked to the enlarged RBMA tent for the L.A. production/DJ duo’s set. And once here, Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda’s shapeshifting scan across club, hip-hop and R&B bangers is received like manna. Even a power cut can’t rob the tent of the singular atmosphere the duo create, where tracks from DJ Marfox and Britney Spears get collided, underlaid all the time by a mix of kick drum throb, hyperactive snares and wheeling vocal samples. ‘Enemy’, their production on Kelela’s CUT 4 ME, gets maybe the biggest response, its crystalline shards of synths and stuttering beats carving up the tent, and from thereon in the set’s a total blast, the only regret being that it couldn’t have run on until Victoria Park’s curfew. Laurie Tuffrey

18:20 – Drenge, Shacklewell Arms stage

Over in the Shacklewell Arms tent, no one could accuse Derbyshire hard rock duo Drenge of lacking in passion. Songs like ‘Bloodsports’ and ‘Fuckabout’ have an energy and urgency that leaves their studio versions mumbling apologetically in the dust, and when Eoin Loveless sings, "I don’t give a fuck about people in love", the packed-in crowd meet his emotion with an equal surge of their own. The enthusiasm is contagious, and a special mention must go out to the half-naked crowd surfer who repeatedly hugs and kisses the bald head of the security guy who’s just dragged him over the barriers. Meanwhile, engulfed in lightning-flashing clouds of dry ice, Eoin and his drumming brother Rory power through the Motorhead/early Damned charge of ‘I Want To Break You In Half’ with no concession to their minimalist line-up, sounding like a band twice their size and stature. Drenge’s name makes it too easy to label them as grunge, but in fact they’re closer to an earlier post-punk/metal crossover, and at their best Drenge approach the power and intensity of a stripped-back Killing Joke. Ben Graham

19:00 – The Horrors, Eat Your Own Ears/The Quietus stage

Catching The Horrors in broad daylight on the kind of evening that has come to exemplify the start of the English summer – that’ll be a cloudless, sunny sky beating down on faces set to peel the following morning – is akin to finding out that Count Dracula is, in fact, an elderly Eastern European gentleman partial to an afternoon tea and scone. Moreover, as evidenced by a stalking Faris Badwan who is draped in a thick leather biker’s jacket, the goth summer collection still has some distance to go before reaching anything resembling practical fruition.

With the material from tonight’s set resting firmly on contributions from Luminous, Skying and, to a much lesser extent, Primary Colours, The Horrors’ bass and keyboard-heavy sound struggles to find the perfect balance in an environment beyond their comfort zone. So it is that Rhys Webb’s low-end grooves cut through far too sharply to the detriment of Josh Hayward’s guitar while Tom Cowan’s keyboard whooshes flit in and out the mix. But on the occasions that The Horrors and the elements lock in together, most notably on the driving ‘Sea Within A Sea’ and an infectious ‘I See You’, the quintet make good on their promise and prominent placing. Julian Marszalek

20:00 – Future Islands, Shacklewell Arms stage

"Let’s get fucking rowdy y’all!" You have to hand it to Future Islands’ frontman Samuel T. Herring – never once is he less than blazingly positive. With no other acts in this penultimate time slot, their audience of devoted followers gets swelled by those most likely come to see what all the fuss is about. On the one hand, it’d be easy to feel a little nonplussed by the band – this is well-written but essentially no frills synthpop with very little by way of a stage show. What they do have, though, is Herring’s unrelenting sincerity, and he’s given that most tarnished of qualities an exuberant, passionate boost in 2014. His eight years’ worth of fronting the band gives him a stage presence that’s beyond confident and all of his between-song chatter – ranging from simple declarations, "I’m drunk as fuck!", to cheese-heavy preamble, "This a song about a long walk home, all aloooone, in a little town on the coast of North Carolina, but that could be here, there or everywhere – maybe you’ve had that walk", to audaciously obvious statements, "[spotting a fairground ride] Look at that fucking swing man. It’s taking me around man" – ratchet up the celebratory atmosphere in the tent. All of his moves – the artist’s muse, the Rodin’s Thinker, the chest-beating silverback, the self-described "whirling dervish" – are present and correct, and the fact that they’re made by a man who looks like Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear rendered human makes them all the better. Sometimes it’s dizzy-making to watch – you hope that he’ll hold together and one of his arms won’t just flirt off as his limbs splay. Best of all though is his metal growl, kept in check on the Letterman performance but emerging with free abandon today, every time delivered with a Jack-Nicholson-in-The-Shining-whites-of-the-eyes glint of frenzy.

In the final event, the band’s set is a good lead-up to the Pixies’. Both bank on excellent songs – in ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ and ‘Spirit’, Future Islands have a couple of great ones – and are fronted by a larger gentleman with a knack for channelling his unhinged subconscious. The band give it their all – and they work hard; this is their last show on these shores before November, and they’re playing almost non-stop in-between – and for those who fall on the thumbs-up side of the Marmite divide, it’s a thrill to watch. Laurie Tuffrey

21:00 – Pixies, Eat Your Own Ears/The Quietus stage

We’re in the now all-but deserted beer tent, grabbing the last ale of the evening, when the first ‘DRAANG’ of ‘Wave Of Mutilation’ breaks across the park. Hurrying towards the main stage as fast as a full plastic pint glass will allow, any lingering reservations are vanquished in the rush of noise and emotional memory, and by the time we hit the wall of bodies beyond the mixing desk we’re all shouting along to ‘Debaser’: several thousand self-proclaimed Andalusian hounds, baying at the setting sun. Sure, Kim Deal’s replacement is still a weird one; Paz Lenchantin is a talented musician with her own strong personality, but tonight she’s method-acting Kim, singing in her voice and dressed in a prim skirt and high-necked cream blouse that recall the days when La Deal was still credited as "Mrs John Murphy" on Pixies album sleeves. But we let it slide, for a hardcore set that draws largely on the great early stuff; blasting through classic after classic, without chat or niceties, just as they always did, but looser, never just reproducing the records. They don’t have to say anything – it’s Pixies, after all. We’re old friends. Hey – we’re all still chained. Ben Graham

Pixies have always been a band with little or no time for audience banter and so it proves again tonight. But then again, with an arsenal of devastating firepower at their disposal – lest we forget, sonic weapons of such force and potency that they helped redefine the lexicon of modern rock music – any chit-chat would ring hollow and remain superfluous.

Pixies have found themselves in the strange position of – whisper it – daring to record new material after spending over a decade since their return effectively becoming their own tribute act and the backlash from certain quarters suggested a sin so foul that these monkeys would not be going to heaven. Yet the love displayed here for Pixies, even in the absence of erstwhile bassist Kim Deal, is palpable and repaid with a set of gems weighed heavily in favour of Surfer Rosa and Doolittle and bite-sized chunks from the rest of their back catalogue including the opinion-splitting Indie Cindy.

The latter material sits fairly comfortably with the more established numbers and bassist Paz Lenchantin fills that big hole with enough personality of her own but it’s those established gems that unite band and audience as one. Opener ‘Wave Of Mutilation’ causes a spontaneous outbreak of singing in a crowd delirious with joy and so it continues as Pixies continue one detonation after another. There’s a minor wobble on ‘River Euphrates’ as Joey Santiago’s facial expression and playing suggest a man searching for song but the dips into Bossanova‘s screaming ‘Rock Music’ and ‘Velouria’ satisfy those with a soft spot for their undervalued third album.

The real highlight comes in the form of ‘Here Comes Your Man’ which unites the audience from back to front and side to side in a mass outbreak of singing and dancing, the like and scale of which hasn’t really been seen at Field Day before. It’s a truly beautiful moment and one that will linger in the memory for some time to come. Julian Marszalek

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