Field Day 2014: A Quietus Village Mentality Retrospective

As we get ready for the news on who's to play Field Day next June, we revisit some of our favourite performances on the Quietus Village Mentality Stage over recent years

Photos by Lucy Johnston, Dave Ma, Shot2bits, Valerio Berdini

It’s about that time of year when we start looking forward to the verdant days of June, when the sun (might) shine and we’ll be once more heading to Victoria Park for Field Day, the festival that’s become one of the highlights of the Quietus’ calendar.

2014 will be the fourth year that we’ve worked with Field Day promoters to curate the Village Mentality Stage, and although we do tend to say this every year, we think that (the way it’s looking now) this is going to be the best one yet. Names are all under wraps thus far, but we can tell you that the Quietus Village Mentality stage will have our usual mixture of music old & new and from near and far. Indeed, it’s the ‘far’ bit we most love about doing this every year – my personal favourite Field Day moments (after Liars’ face-shredding set in 2007) have been seeing the incredible reaction that non-Western musicians get from the London crowd… I swear we’ve had more dancing going on than in the Bugged Out tent.

Stay tuned for announcements about what’s happening this year, and in the meantime have a read of some of our highlights of the Village Mentality Stage at Field Days past below. See you on June 7th…

2010 – 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 tQHQ, 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. Luke Turner

2010 – Silver Apples

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-eye Joe’) Simeon 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. – David Moats

2011 – Konono No 1

The bazombo trance group (today coming in the form of a sextet) from Kinsasha in the Democratic Republic of Congo inspire arguably the biggest reaction of the day in terms of dancing. The lineup of two drummers, female singer and percussionist, and three electronic likembe (thumb piano) players are led by Augustin Mingiedi, son of Mawungu, the man who formed the band during the 1970s. Arriving late and squeezing into the front row, it takes a little while, but before long the incessant complex web of rhythm, and dancing likembe and vocal melodies take over. They don’t call it trance for nothing: noted for the repetition of their music, it feels like they play one long song with a few breaks. It is the key to keeping the tempo up, and by midway through the set the majority in the Village Mentality tent are moving as the musicians calmly get on with what they have been doing for years. The crowd dances without thinking, as if stamping out the relevance of that silly term, "world music". – Tim Burrows

2011 – Omar Souleyman

Omar Souleyman’s an itinerant Syrian wedding singer who, along with his mate on a sole Casio, plays a strange, sparse desert rave music, but I’m kind of bored of that story now. Or not bored of it, exactly, but it does seem less novel, given the amount of the internet given over to wacky wedding dance videos made by middle class American people. (Why do so many people do that? I had no idea the crossover between OK GO! fans and Gleeks was so vast.) Omar’s garb seems a little less exotic, too – something I’m going to lazily attribute to the widespread and (well-deserved) coverage of the Arab Spring in the UK media. But – and I think the Quietus’ stated love for the man in the keffiyeh and the sunglasses should make this next part obvious – this is A Good Thing. Now the novelty’s been stripped away, people can enjoy Omar’s music for what it is; an intoxicating meeting of sturdy low-end and snaking high-end frequencies, united by his voice, in reverb, shouting about things we don’t know and "Yeaaaaaaaaaaaah!" – Kev Kharas

2011 – Mark Kozelek

A lot of people turn out for Mark Kozelek. Despite a number of people talking (over a rather quiet mix) this was an impressive reminder of the cult esteem within which Kozelek is held. A particularly dedicated throng lined the front row and the centre of the audience, whose applause gave the impression that many of them had come to Field Day just to see this.

Kozelek is about as unassuming a solo artist as you can get. He sits centre stage, playing a classical guitar, dressed in what can only be compared to the sort of all-weather coat that a rower might put on after a race. But by the time he plays ‘Heron Blue’, even the talkers amongst the audience are listening. He fingerpicks a mesmerizing pattern, and sings with the kind of voice that you can imagine lasting forever; it’s so effortless and rich.

And then the noise of drums rises from a nearby tent, and stays at a level that’s distracting even for the audience. Kozelek has noted it too. He compares trying to play his songs against the noise to “trying to have sex with somebody who’s on the telephone.” The audience erupts in laughter at the shared frustration, but after two attempts to start the next song suddenly everything hangs in the balance – will he just stop? But once he’s off again a beautiful, yearning ‘Carry Me Ohio’ gets the loudest cheers yet. The audience couldn’t be more onside, willing him in his battle. And he pulls it off with complete dignity. When a synth-line from the nearby stage dive-bombs across his song he just breathes into the mic and the whole audience laughs, then he silences them by climbing the chorus melody again. Not an easy show, but a good one. Ralegh Long

2012 – Papa M

Ex-Slint man David Pajo seems singularly unconcerned by the heat and noise of a festival in full swing. Navigating through a set of quiet but compelling songs, Pajo and his bassist companion struggle to project against the background throng outside the Village Mentality stage. An appreciative audience crowd in closer, forming their own little demilitarised zone in which to stand in mute appreciation. Pajo’s vocals barely feature at all, supplying only the occasional wordless melody. Instead, the focus is on delicately elongated guitar lines, earthy drones and austere improvisation, drawing as much on Steve Reich’s blissed-out minimalism as on the desolate expansiveness of Americana.  The duo close with a long-form, Reich-esque loop pedal workout, guitar lines overlapping, interlocking and refracting into endlessly varying shapes. The resultant structure has an understated but stately sense of purpose: a peaceful, hermetic world in which to be absorbed. – Angus Finlayson

2012 – Afrocubism

Pick a festival. Go on, pick a festival, any festival – it could be Glastonbury, Reading, WOMAD, whichever one you like – and the one thing that’s always guaranteed is that something that’s so off your radar will grab you by the lapels, have you dancing as if your life depended on it and end up seared on your brain forever. Field Day is no different, and it’s over at the Quietus tent (where else?) that the Cuban-Malian collective that is Afrocubism is causing an unrestrained outbreak of swinging hips, waving arms and grooving feet. Their music is a joyful fusion of Malian music – ebullient singing, koras, guitars and talking drums – and Cuban rhythms powered by strummed guitars, brass instruments and, once again, ebullient singing. A flamboyantly potent mix of musical styles, this is music that’s utterly impossible to stand still to, and so it proves as those audience members who start moving at the start of their set are soon joined by the curious who have picked on the infectious music as it wafts outside. The cheers between songs are loud and heartfelt and deservedly so; this is music that’s instinctive, passionate and honest, and makes for one of the true highlights of the day. – Julian Marszalek

2012 – Grimes

“GRIMES!” yells some drunken bellend. “GRIMES! GRIIIMES!”. Minutes pass, and Claire Boucher has not yet responded to the call of her people. Our bellower is at a loss. “GRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY!” As well as giving us a smashing headline to store away for when she goes shit, our friend has given a fairly accurate legal summation of the experience of being in the heart of the crowd for Boucher’s early-evening set, a tent spilling over with hammered, desperate bodies. Once she gets started, though, you’d have to be a grouch beyond all hope to begrudge Boucher any of her sudden huge success. The rippling, snaking-beat spine of ‘Circumambient’ loops in the shrieking revellers, and we’re all a polychromatic party beyond genre, beyond hipness. The taut, moody, sexy ‘Be A Body’ seals the deal, and if the skippy trascendence of ‘Genesis’ and the the doe-eyed squelch of ‘Oblivion’ (accompanied by white-clad, Catwoman-masked dancer) still bring the biggest screams, there’s not a dropped ball or a dull moment here – Boucher works her massive, maniacal crowd expertly. GRIMES: NO PUNISHMENT. – Emily Mackay

2012 – Tortoise

Thanks to legions of copyists wearing the sound threadbare thin, most 90s post-rock hasn’t weathered the last couple of decades too well. Slint have remained an obvious exception; Tortoise are the other. With Thrill Jockey reissuing some of their best-loved records on LP this year – in particular the still-stunning Millions Now Living Will Never Die – it feels like a decent time for the Chicago band to remind people how it’s supposed to be done. They do a good job – the Quietus Village Mentality Stage is well attended considering the non-immediacy of Tortoise’s material and the time of day. (Outside, a thunderstorm threatens, and the party hour is approaching; a fair few punters appear to have lost control of their lower jaws.) Like Canada’s Do Make Say Think, who again have weathered the test of time, they excel at creating a sense of rhythmic freefall, with their two drummers tracing parabolic arcs through a stream of chiming guitar figures. Tortoise’s firm emphasis on maintenance of groove, drive and jazzy modality has always prevented them from lapsing into straight quiet-LOUD-quiet territory, and while the set suffers (to these ears) from arriving after a stunning exercise in dancefloor restraint from Kassem Mosse, its continual shifts between earthy and cosmic are a nice match for the darkening skies outside. – Rory Gibb

Field Day takes place on June 7th and 8th 2013. Keep close to The Quietus next Tuesday, November 26th and keep an eye on the Field Day website for tickets and line-up news

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