Field Day 2012 review

'A madly eclectic line-up under barmy British weather'

Photographer:Sara Bowrey

Kyriaki Karadelis - 03 June 2012

As Field Day’s doors open for the sixth time, a couple of months earlier than its usual August slot, East London’s Victoria Park is a sea of green parkas and plastic-rimmed geek chic sunglasses. The date change presumably more to avoid the 2012 Olympics than to celebrate the nationwide royal fanfare, since there’s nothing whatsoever Diamond Jubilee related in sight.
London’s first and foremost hipster festival seems to have tidied up its act a little this year, with a better layout to help the inevitable overcrowding and the erstwhile sound-clashes between stages no longer audible. With a madly eclectic line-up and barmy British weather that goes from marl grey skies, to scorching sun and then a euphoric night time downpour, it’s the perfect outlet for those who want to celebrate eccentric Englishness without cooing over the monarchy.
Around the site you can take part in egg and spoon races on the village green – a rectangle cordoned off with hay bales and bunting in Village Mentality area, have a massage, go on a fair ride, dance to retro sounds in the Cocktails and Coolers Bar and even challenge your friend to some cardboard cow milking (the fastest one to empty those udders gets tickets to see Atlas Sound, the solo project of Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox).
Some of the punters are a little Lost in Shoreditch (as opposed to space), which adds to the general feel of beautiful and trendy 18 to 35 year-olds having fun, seeing others and being seen. One girl has a beehive hairdo so fabulously large it could count for another tent. Another has drawn-on whiskers and the word 'RAWR!' on her forehead. Different strokes for different folks.
For a one-day event that ends early enough to get the last tube home and even stop for a kebab on the way, the music is varied – and there’s lots of it. There are seven main stages absolutely jam-packed with acts from midday onwards.
Africa-inspired electro rockers Django Django (9/10 – see review) and post-dubstep producer SBTRKT (8/10) draw the largest crowds. Some people attending the latter engage in vertigo-inducing escapades to catch a glimpse of him, balancing on fences outside the tent and hanging from the heights of its guide ropes. Early in SBTRKT’s set, disaster strikes when the power blows, but this is ironed out within minutes and the rave continues.
Elsewhere on the bill there is lounge, grunge, world, folk and art rock.
Sunless ’97 (8/10) have a very apt name for their sound, which sits beautifully among the current 90s revival and harks back to the days of Ibiza chill out sessions. The way they build up to discord and live saxophone played by a be-hatted jazzman who oozes New Orleans cool makes them stand out.
Australian band Pond’s (7/10) psychedelic grungy style owes a little nod to Led Zeppelin. Flute-playing frontman Nick Allbrook gyrates around making airplane arms as he wears a kiss t-shirt and brown velour skinny trousers. Later, he spins the microphone around by the wire and it accidentally bounces on the side of the stage. Highly enjoyable, visually and aurally.
A world away – literally – Afrocubism (8/10) is a collaboration between Cuban guitarist Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club fame and some of Mali’s most famous traditional musicians. The result is latin Bossa Nova laced with frantic African strings and drums – music made for dancing to. Irresistible Ochoa addresses the audience in Spanish and gives an appreciative thumbs up when he sees them move.
Comprising variously of ukelele, guitar, brass, piano and accordion, the music of indie-folk outfit Beirut (8/10) can best be described as sounding like the circus or the wild wild west. They give a crowd-pleasing performance featuring favourites such as 'Santa Fe' and 'Postcards from Italy' under a dusky purple sky.
With Franz Ferdinand (9/10) having been away for a few years, it’s easy to forget the sheer number of hits they have under their belts: 'Take Me Out', 'The Dark of the Matinée', 'Do You Want To' and 'No you Girls' result in breakouts of frenetic stomping among watchers, despite the heavens opening at the beginning of the performance and continuing relentlessly so that Alex Kapranos remarks he “can see the steam rising” off the crowd. Some new songs are aired; 'Fresh Strawberries' sounds a bit Beatlesque, while 'Trees and Animals' is accompanied by a kooky film of someone painting a giraffe then defacing it. In one of the best moments, 'Can’t Stop Feeling' is turned into 'I feel Love' in a tribute to the recently deceased Queen of disco Donna Summer. The set – and the festival – ends with a long version of 'This Fire' which leaves drenched punters feeling warmed-up as they head home.

Click here for our full Field Day coverage.

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