Field Day 2011: Luke’s Roundup

By on Wednesday, 17th August 2011 at 2:00 pm

Photos by Tom Curtis

Although on paper Field Day looks like an East London hipster fest one-dayer that lacks passion and soul it is, in fact, to the contrary. Of course Victoria Park has attracted a number of visitors who are more interested in what they look like than the bands they’re here for, but there is also an air of respect for the artists playing in the on/off Saturday afternoon sun.

This respect is boosted by the very British feel of the festival. Not only is there a full brass band playing to anyone who cares to listen but there are also egg and spoon races for prizes. Intended irony or not, the simple and twee feel to Field Day brought out the best in people.

Opening the Main Stage to an ever-growing number of early(ish) risers is Willy Mason with his own brand of folk. Keeping the tempo calm and the talking to a minimum, Mason provides a powerful set of favourites from his two albums. A warm welcome is given to 2007’s ‘Save Myself’ but set closer ‘Oxygen’ is what the crowd are here for. Despite being Mason’s first single, it’s still the favourite of Field Day.

The mood is kept high but the music takes on a form of its own with Sun Ra Arkestra making their way onto Main Stage. Dressed in brightly coloured robes and armed with violins, tablas, saxophones and a multitude of other instruments, Sun Ra Arkestra transform Victoria Park into a vast outdoor jazz club. Credited with being pioneers in the world of experimental jazz, the large crowd which has gathered appear to either ‘get it’ or definitely not ‘get it’. As the free sounds of nine veterans ring throughout the Main Stage area, it’s unfortunate to see people who leave mid-way through what is undoubtedly a special band.

Following on from the experience of the Arkestra, the Irish rockers Villagers play to possibly the largest crowd of the day so far. Conor J. O’Brien’s haunting Dublin accent soars over Victoria Park and draws everyone in. But the mistress of the powerful vocals is giving Field Day a remarkable performance on the Bloggers Delight stage.

Zola Jesus‘ performance attracts thousands of people to the Bloggers Delight stage, many of which are forced to stand outside the tent. Playing with a full band, Zola Jesus (aka Nika Danilova) provides an experience like no other at Field Day. The emotive vocal display and dynamic delivery shake the tent throughout. At only 22, Zola Jesus has amassed a cult-like following of fans in the UK who are standing in awe of her singing ability. ‘I Can’t Stand’ and ‘Stridulum’ garner the appreciation she deserves, but set closer ‘Vessel’ (from her upcoming album) leaves her audience in a state of awe and dizziness at what they just saw. She might be a small Wisconsin girl offstage, but once she grabs that microphone she’s bigger than ever.

Back at Main Stage are possibly one of the hottest properties playing this festival – Warpaint. Taking to the stage in the early evening the four women from LA play a mesmerising set to thousands of onlookers. Opening on ‘Warpaint’, the band look as appreciative as they do shocked at how many fans they have in East London. Dedicating the majority of their set to 2010’s ‘The Fool’, the inclusion of 2009’s ‘Billie Holiday’ is a treat for long-time fans. As expected, though, breakthrough single ‘Undertow’ sees the first true singalong of the set. Despite playing to one of the biggest crowds of the day, their set is fairly short but closer ‘Elephants’ is as haunting as it is majestic.

Over on the Laneway Festival stage, The Horrors are closing the day. Huge throngs of people are persistently pushing their way into what seems like a sardine tin to try and get a glimpse of the Southend shoegazers. Ploughing through an 11-song set, the band are hindered by volume problems. Faris Badwan’s vocals are too low in the mix to be heard distinctively and just blend into the background. Despite this flaw, the packed tent scream along to every word to the likes of ‘Scarlet Fields’, ‘Endless Blue’ and ‘Mirror’s Image’. Set closer ‘Moving Further Away’ has Field Day dancing into the night as Victoria Park is left unhip for another year. But with the success of this year, 2012 can only be bigger and better.

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[…] Tuesday, 23rd August 2011 at 12:00 pm/**//**/ Prior to her haunting set at this year’s Field Day, I spoke to Nika Danilova, aka Zola Jesus, about her upcoming album, current tour and […]

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