Field Day 2017 review

Kristian Birch-Hurst was in the capital for the mightily eclectic one-dayer.

Henry Lewis

Last updated: 10th Jul 2017.
Originally published: 9th Jun 2017

Image: Field Day/Andrew Whitton

This year’s Field Day stood to be one of the most dominating outings yet; with throngs of wavy shirts and edgy leotards, uncharacteristically sunny weather, a diverse music canon from hip-hop to disco, dubstep to psychedelic rock and a colossally large indoor arena called The Barn - a verified wet dream for any techno enthusiast. 

Celebrating its 11th anniversary, the day festival - which rests amongst the greying tower blocks of London’s east end in the welcoming greenery of Victoria Park - has strengthened exponentially year on year, boasting ever more impressive line-ups and a growing smorgasbord of music diversity. Aside from the eight stages of carefully curated bookings, plenty of additional entertainment could also be found on site with delectable street food, swanky pop-up cocktail bars and, if you were feeling like bloody champion, a competitive sack race. 

Kicking off proceedings we had Midland hunkered down in the Bugged Out tent, bringing a saucy blend of disco bangers, dreamy synths and tribal drum progressions, easing those weary early risers into the festival vibe. Despite it being the start of the day the DJ/producer couldn’t help but capitalise on the irony of playing his ‘Final Credits’ euphoric tickler, garnering an appropriate crowd response of “wooping” and co-ordinated hip shaking - a near on perfect festival warm up set. 

  

Meandering through the festival its small quirks and details punctuate the enormous park space; the walkways are strewn with bunting, while benches and hay bales contained in small wooden structures, offer picturesque sanctuary to those seeking a breather from the madness. With all this tactically placed next to wide selections of craft lager, traditional cider, cask ales and local brews, it’s clear the organisers have a firm understanding of the importance of chillin’.   

The sun high in the sky and sunglasses in full force, Hyperdub label boss Kode9 took to the aptly named Bandstand stage. A permanent fixture in the park, and a year round working bandstand for orchestras, jazz outfits and a variety of other performers, the Bandstand offers a unique outdoor festival space complete with 360 degree view. The crowd swarming on all sides Kode9 unleashed a barrage of moody grime beats, hard bashment, tight junglist breaks and rhythmic footwork, whipping up a high-energy frenzy which quickly translated into one of the more memorable sets of the day. 

Fancying a change of pace from the myriad DJ sets, we set up shop in the Shackwell Arms where best-band-name-of-all-time psychedelic rock outfit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard were poised to perform. Exploding on stage with the heavy and infectious ‘Rattlesnake’, the tone was unashamedly set. 

With a penchant for delivering unrelenting, no-breaks mosh-a-thons, Gizzard did not disappoint; lacing the flailing masses with their signature regimented drum work, reverberated synths, synchronised guitar riffs and of course, catchy lyrics (‘People-Vultures’ tore the place up in spectacular fashion). If you ever have the chance to see them, prepare to sweat, prepare to mosh and prepare to have an unforgettable fucking riot.

 

As daylight began to fade we headed back to new festival addition The Barn; having seen Marcel Dettmann earlier in the day, we’d been given a true sense of the sheer vastness of the metal structure. The domed ceiling, its long yet narrow spacial positioning and intricate network of girders and support beams presented the ideal setting for Dettmann’s back catalogue of dark and sinister industrial techno, but how would it stack up as Aphex Twin donned the stage. 

It became quite clear, very quickly, that everyone had come to see Aphex Twin. This became rather problematic. Room to manoeuvre was minimal if not non-existent and huge surges in the crowd would send dozens of fans to the horizontal position. However it wasn’t a complete disaster as we were treated to one of the most awe-inspiring feats of visual mastery; a complex web of lasers would occasionally drown the crowd in synthetic light while illuminated geometric patterns and fluidly shifting holograms cascaded behind the DJ booth and over the heads of captivated onlookers. 

Playing a mix of eerie techno, acid house, ambient white noise and a crop of home-made weirdness, it was a spectacular soundscape of debauched madness that could only be pulled off by the twisted mind of Aphex Twin. ‘Windowlicker’ - enough said. 

 

With such a vast line-up at Field Day and only a measly day to experience it all, we’re left wishing for more.  Even as the atrocities of London Bridge begin to spread through the festival, the sense of community and togetherness is not lost; a testament to the uniting powers of music, to the resonance of human empathy, and to the unwavering defiance of London. 

If you’re not already planning to go next year… you should be. 

Festivals 2018