Field Day 2013 - Live In Victoria Park, London

A blinding day...

Bacchus and assorted gods of debauchery are clearly with us today, as the only sign of Friday’s torrential rain is the occasional muddy furrow in an otherwise dry Victoria Park. The sun beams down as fashionably clad revellers arrive at this year’s Field Day, and a killer line-up promises a blinding day.

Kicking off our FD2013 is Glaswegian electro-pop trio CHVRCHES, in the cavernous Laneway tent. Tapping into the spirit of '80s disco Madonna and with echoes of Chairlift, it’s not surprising the tent is packed. Like many diminutive front women, Lauren Mayberry is greater than the sum of her, er, parts: a tiny dynamo exuding charisma and, it turns out, humour. "I’m basically a smurf," she tells us in a delightful Scots chirrup. "At T In The Park I couldn’t see anything, and got hit by a cup of piss."

Next to command the Laneway are the equally-hyped but far more dangerous Savages, up a few slots on the bill from last year. Let’s be clear: Savages are hyped for a reason, the reason being that they kick motherf***ing ass. Visually, Jehnny Beth continues to channel the spirit of Ian Curtis, but if anything, the band has become heavier and harder, skittering along the line between post-punk and out-and-out metal, their menacing basslines not dissimilar to 'Bleach'-era Nirvana. We’re particularly transfixed by drummer Fay Milton who, enormous grin on her features, delivers a master class in how a drum kit should be battered.

Still jittering with the awesomeness of it all, we head over to The Shacklewell Arms tent where French outfit Francois And The Atlas Mountains are pedalling their delightful and, yes, classy folk, to a laid-back crowd. Soul suitably soothed, we find ourselves back at Laneway again, drowning in the woozy brilliance of Kurt Vile And The Violators. Sound is always a gamble with outdoor festivals and in this vast space it gets a bit washed out, obscuring the quieter, nuanced moments. The quality of the material shines through against the odds, but we’re left yearning to see Kurt in a more intimate setting.

It’s time for the first heavyweights of the day, Everything Everything, currently riding high after successfully negotiating the gauntlet of that tricky second album. Unfortunately, it’s a similar story as with Vile, and patchy sound slightly dampens some of the intricacies that make the band so unique. Despite this, the lads put on a good show, mixing songs from their equally brilliant debut album, and favourites such as ‘Suffragette Suffragette’ and ‘MY KZ, UR BF’ get a rapturous response.

It all comes together, however, for Natasha Khan, AKA Bat For Lashes who, in rainbow skirt and cape, is as dazzling and mesmeric as she sounds. Samba-ing across the stage, throwing theatrical shapes with her arms, she combines tracks from her back catalogue as well as last year's release, 'The Haunted Man'. From the frantic harpsichord of ‘Horse And I’, to the Fleetwood Mac-esque beat of ‘Daniel’, to the tragic, piano-led ballad of ‘Laura’, Khan demonstrates the breadth of her sound and establishes herself as one of the most diverse and gifted artists working today.

There’s just time for a brief boogie to Four Tet before we traverse the length of the park for godfather of Ethiopian Jazz, Mulatu Astatke, in the Village Mentality tent. Flanked by a squadron of virtuoso jazz musicians, Astatke is the last word in cool as he doodles away on a marimba and assorted percussion, as if complex, syncopated harmonies were the easiest thing in the world. We feel truly in the presence of greatness.

We can’t leave Field Day without a decent groove, so we round off the evening with Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, or TNGHT, who wriggled into everyone’s ears with club track ‘Higher Ground’. As lasers soar and nasty beats drop, they raise the roof over several hundred ecstatic souls. They’re a more than worthy match for last year’s Bugged Out! stage closers, Modeselektor, and a fitting end to an epic day. Talking vaguely of seeking out The Shacklewell Arms after-party, we bumble happily off into the night.

Words: Theresa Heath

Photos: Matt Wash

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