Field Day 2011 review

The fifth anniversary for the alternative subculture festival

Field Day 2011 review

Photographer: Peter CorkhillChris Swindells on 07 August 2011

Too hip to be square? Victoria Park is the location where for one day every annum east-London vintage wear hoarding hipsters can shake it on down with their brothers and sisters. Field Day celebrated its fifth birthday this year and the festival has never been packed with as many surprises, questionable fashion accessories and musical treats.

Victoria Park has become a regular venue for one day and weekend festivals so Field Day organisers seem ever keen to stamp their identity onto proceedings with a village green central to the site for everything from tug of wars to scone throwing. Dalston’s very own WI group, with some sense of supposed irony, have been invited too just to send the twee levels up to eleven.

Virtual Festivals 

Partly to the rearranged layout, the Shacklewell Arm/Lock Tavern stage is welcoming a newcoming band subject to much good will, Givers (7/10) who put about as much love into their set as any band through day. A chirpier version of Grouplove they, despite little recorded music to speak of, get equally emotive return as the tent moves with a vibrant swaying of hands.

With 2011 the main stage has moved 180 degrees and the change brings a greater open space and louder volume (previously criticized) for the many acts who grace it. Villagers (7/10) have recently toned their live sets down but with a full backing band Conor O’Brien debuts new electro-folk infused ditties alongside old numbers like ‘Becoming A Jackal’ with a sense of zestful vitality. Across the site and under canvas zola jesus (9/10) shows beguiled crowds why she’s been such an undiscovered star since her debut in 2009. The Russian American singer-songwriter powers home a forceful set of acoustic variance and tormented-twisted melodies.

Zola Jesus 

Elsewhere Jamie Woon (6/10) takes what The XX did for minimalism and melody and takes it one step forward, two back. Likewise James Blake (5/10) seems to have nothing to say live. Just months since his critically lauded debut the hype machine is killing off the scene. Shifting through technical hiccups and vocal variations, the solo post-dubstep pioneer takes a hard lesson in live showmanship as the ‘Laneway Festival’ tent remains still to talk over him.

Tribes (8/10) sing about 'dumbing down' but bring a measure of pop sensibility that Razorlight can only aspire to. Thankfully the references to the pop-radio sound are long forgotten and the band can play a blissfully innocent set of rock anthems, including sublime single ‘Saphho’. Their sound doesn’t feel a million miles away from The Coral (6/10) who are the only band to have bono-fide, actual hits at Field Day. Sadly no one at the festival has Absolute Radio on their presets and therefore no one knows them, but the band at least gallantly try to shake the dad-rock tag.

Anna Calvi's (8/10) rigid set and pose seems the perfect antidote to the smug east-London bourgeois. Both matriarchal and mysterious the front woman plays through the best half of her Mercury nominated self-titled debut and with some biblical blessing a short sharp downpour keeps them inside the tent.

Anna Calvi

American female troupe Warpaint (9/10) have solidified their fanbase off the back of their 2010 debut 'The Fool', and with the grace period all their captivating harmonies and stripped back guitar-led attitude have only gathered more allusive qualities. 'Undertow' proves again the jewel in the crown of these understated indie sirens. 

Wild Beasts (10/10) headline Field Day 2011 with an albatross flavoured headline set. Full of the falsetto highs and harmonised lows that the Kendal lads have been brewing up together for years, the most rich moments of which feature from their critically acclaimed latest album ‘Smother’. The set feels like a coming-of-age show and the goodwill for the band as they return to Field Day for the third time is almost palpable.

"This song is for clear summer nights like tonight, it's called ‘reaching a bit further’." Their frontman Hayden Thorpe remarks, his posturing and songs pull in the thousands under the star-free sky of the main stage to make tonight feel as warm and intimate as it ever has. Field Day remains about good quality music, electric atmospheres and, most importantly, celebrating an alternative culture in the capital, in all its varied forms. Just don’t try too hard to celebrate it.

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