Taking the brave, somewhat ambitious decision to extend itself across two days, Field Day entered unknown territory in 2014. Sure, it may well be one of London’s most respected one-day events, but doubling the endurance could have proved beyond even the most hardy of music fans.
Thankfully, that was – largely speaking – not the case. Opening to no small degree of unexpected sunshine, Thurston Moore helped to ramp up the volume in the Crack Magazine tent. Working with a four-piece set up, the Sonic Youth guitarist was joined by Debbie Googe of My Bloody Valentine on bass duties – a true feast, indeed.
The material utilised a Krautrock chassis, with the infinite span of the motorik rhythm underpinning the group’s noise rock oscillations. At times venturing into freeform territory, the strict discipline of kosmische may way for Cecil Taylor-style rhythmic abstraction. Music of a type, for sure, but the sight of four superb musicians blazing with all cylinders would surely win over the most hardened of cynics.
Seun Kuti brought an Afrobeat explosion to the Main Stage, raising temperatures just as the sun began to fully expose itself. 4AD signing SOHN brought his live show to Field Day, greeted by a packed Crack Magazine tent. Returning to his hometown, the Vienna-based musician gives an emotional rendition of debut album ‘Tremors’. Joined by full band, it’s a quite magical performance, one that really hones in on the fine detail of his songwriting without losing sight of its ability to connect.
John Wizards’ debut album was one of 2013’s most idiosyncratic pop efforts, matching indie nous to township beats. Returning to London, the South African band’s performance is a joyous, righteously affirming affair, overcoming sound issues with the sheer energy of their stage play.
Canadian artist Jessy Lanza performs on the rather snug Red Bull Music Academy stage, utilising the space to her full advantage. Appearing solo, the producer is nonetheless able to craft a sense of intimacy, manipulating her vocals amidst a maelstrom of noise.
The Bugged Out tent is a perennial go-to space for breaking electronic music, with Jackmaster and Oneman deciding to premiere their Can U Dance project in Victoria Park. A rousing, no-holds-barred display, the duo are followed by Jamie xx who is, naturally, on sublime form.
Warpaint’s Main Stage only seems to underline their rapidly blossoming abilities. Maintaining a moody sense of noir at one of their biggest UK performances, the set leans heavily on their new, self-titled album. ‘Love Is To Die’ is greeted warmly, with the Los Angeles quartet seeming to play with remarkable confidence, genuine vigour.
Jon Hopkins is given the tough task of taking avant techno to the Main Stage, but responds with gusto. The Mercury Prize nominee has clearly beefed up his live set, taking the crowd on a merry journey in the lead up to Metronomy’s performance.
Playing their first-ever festival headline set, Metronomy are on endearingly charming form. Taking their new holiday camp aesthetic to the Main Stage, the group rampage through material from their recent top-10 album ‘Love Letters’. It’s the older material that surprises, though – although it gained only a cult audience, ‘The English Riviera’ sounds perfect for such grandiose circumstances as these. A triumph.
Sunday opens with blazing sunshine, and the weather allows fans to relax in the surroundings of Victoria Park. Shy Nature perform a confident opening set in the Shacklewell Arms tent, allowing weary revellers to shake off the legacy of the previous evening’s hospitality.
Australian psych-rock juggernaut Pond take to the Main Stage, with their spiralling lysergic adventures beaming out across East London. No doubt a first exposure experience for the majority of the crowd, the band’s lengthy psychedelic meditations are the perfect soundtrack to the summer heat.
Temples continue the psychedelic theme, but their material is perhaps too finely honed for a crowd who spent the majority of their time lazing on the grass. Adding some serious muscle to their sound, the Kettering lads eventually win over weary revellers, ending with a triumphant rendition of breakthrough single ‘Shelter Song’.
With the Sunday schedule allowing a little more space to manoeuvre, The Horrors are greeted by an enormous Main Stage crowd. It’s a fact that Faris Badwan is quick to dismiss, stating tartly: “Let’s fact it, there isn’t much competition.”
Easily able to handle such a crowd, The Horrors play a deft, diverse set that draws on the full force of their catalogue. New cuts such as ‘I See You’ are granted space to breath, while older tracks such as ‘Sea Within A Sea’ continue to evolve, shifting into something new with each performance.
Future Islands’ set is one of the weekend’s most anticipated performances, with the Shacklewell Arms tent quickly filling up with fans. The crowd spills out around the arena, eager to catch a glimpse of a band whose time, seemingly, has come. Buoyed by Samuel T. Herring’s incredible theatrics, his sheer presence seems to push the group to a much higher level. A truly unifying performance, this will surely rank as a highlight to anyone lucky enough to gain access to the tent.
Pixies’ reunion has hit choppy waters of late, with Kim Deal’s departure and a less-than-flattering new album creating all manner of poor press. Handed a headline slot, the band responds with a lengthy set that both belies and reaffirms rumours of discontent.
Rarely communicating onstage, the band is, at times, infuriatingly lacklustre, treating their catalogue with remarkable disdain. Yet, at others, Pixies can still howl like the hounds of hell with classic cuts such as ‘Here Comes Your Man’ delivered with remarkable glee.
Yet it’s the lesser moments that stick in your throat. The new material remains sub-standard even in these circumstances, while the final rendition of ‘Where Is My Mind?’ seems to sum up a group who seem to be growing tired with forever repeating former glories. A frustrating missed opportunity.
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Words: Robin Murray
Photography: Carolina Faruolo / Field Day