August 1, 2009
There’s this thing about the date Field Day‘s on, every time I go (ok, twice): IT RAINS. Get over it.
Except… when you’re at a one-dayer whose capacity’s expanded beyond the realms of its own 2007 plans (in spite of them, ahem, selling x tickets – or, double ahem, NOT selling x tickets), and whose organisers have decided that using a PA miles away from being powerful enough for the likes of Mogwai and The Horrors let alone Final Fantasy is the best idea.
That’s just the main stage, let’s talk tents. Through no fault of her own, Micachu‘s set clashes with a torrential downpour. Resilient, she decices to play acoustically for one song. I have absolutely no idea what song she’s playing. I couldn’t tell you even if you gave me £1,000 to find out. She might as well not bother; all that can be heard is that crashing of the rain, the muttering of a load of nimwits who really ought to’ve stayed at home and the occasional beat. It’s such a shame. The echo is such that it feels like a tannoy announcement at Waitrose. Yes, Waitrose; it’s THAT kind of festival.
This continues… I’ve seen much of the line-up (or at least those I highlight as must-sees today), and would classify them as my gig-highlights of the year. Again, it’s The Horrors, Final Fantasy and Wild Beasts. Yet for some reason they just feel lost here. The atmosphere is nigh-on intangible. Intangibly invisible, that is. It’s competitive festival-going. Trying to leave mid-set induces an apparent vitriol, especially if you’ve just about managed to get to the front in between a sea of umbrellas.
Is it unfair to focus a whole load of criticism on the attendees and the weather? Probably, yes. But that’s the majority of the departing mindset that I’m stuck with. It’s not just people-centric bitterness I’m left with (hell, that takes up part of life anyway [!]) but also that the increased number of stages and failure of the park to grow a few more acres means the sound bleeding between them.
Back to the music, Field Day’s bill this year – on paper – looks phenomenal. Extremely 2009 in parts, but with a solidly varied core. Fennesz! Four Tet! Toumani Diabaté! Woodpigeon! But the problems are that the tents are too small/too big dependingly and the clashes are impossible to avoid.
Fanfarlo to me, on record, sound weakly fronted. It sounds like they twinkle away delightfully without too much effort. Live, however, they’re far more exciting; I catch their last few songs and must say, it’s all rather stronger. Errors play early to an equally keen crowd, their crunchy bleeps tucking neatly inside endless combinations of motifs. It’s a diverse set, and there’s a buzz. Now luckily for folk like moi, there’s plenty of their stuff on Spotify.
I’ve got my doubts about just how Final Fantasy will work out, what with Owen Pallett’s amazing showing at the Union Chapel a few months ago with the projections. And unfortunately, they’re rightly placed; too close to the stage and the sound is something like being surrounded by a metal tent, and too far away it feels completely distant, foreign.
The Horrors‘ dramaticism from their Electric Ballroom show (reviewed here) has evaporated and they look miniscule on the Eat Your Own Ears Stage. Primary Colours‘ extravagance fuses into a sea of too-quiet re-hash. And I love that album. AND aforementioned Electric Ballroom show is one of my favourites of the year. AND the crowd then were mostly under 15. The melodies just don’t come through on the PA or the massive stage. And this is not a band designed for anything other than nighttime. Or rather darkness.
And next up are Wild Beasts, in a tent. A surprisingly emptyish tent, other than if you happen to be next to the tool-filled (and tsunami-dripping) entrance. As ever. The sound isn’t too bad (i.e. Wild Beasts can be heard), but it’s still not them at their best. Their phenomenal best. My precious album-of-the-year-so-far Two Dancers is something to live in and this just isn’t the right place to get that level of involvement, that intimacy.
Santigold isn’t quite sure what she wants to sound like, but after a 30-minute delay (the defence of “technical difficulties” met with an astoundingly vicious – and unsurprising – “boo hiss” riposte) she starts. Charisma. ‘L.E.S. Artistes’ and ‘Creator’ are great but there are parts where I’d much rather listen to something out of a selection from Pure Garage 1, M.I.A. or even Girls Aloud. I guess that’s where I see the name-changed one’s non-genre straddling ways eventually settling.
Four Tet tonight are barely audible. Sound limits, sure – these levels, though? Better luck next time. The village fete feel of Field Day is all very well but dang, it’s impractical. They might as well have handed us all disposable iPods with ‘As Serious As Your Life’ on repeat. Would’ve been more audible.
Mogwai do save the day to an extent, complete with stunning pyrotechnics. The blissful feedback is all there in ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ and ‘Batcat’ (from last year’s The Hawk Is Howling), and they sound simply brutal at points. There’s people with closed eyes, picturing a scene. The levels could do with being cranked up another 10 notches, sure, but there’s no headliner out there more epic than Mogwai. They’re in skullcrushing form.
Field Day is a mixed bag, that’s the conclusion. Along with a question: how do bands feel about playing to a sea of umbrellas? And a comment: Live music is not an extension of a conversation at a pub, with stuff on your iPod being performed out of sheer chance. And organisers – sort your PA.