Photography: Éamonn Freel
Words: Rachel Speed
Celebrating the tenth anniversary of Field Day, the crowds descended upon Victoria Park in East London and, undeterred by the weather and determined to party, were treated to a wide selection of acts, from festival veterans to brand new bands.
It was near impossible to avoid the rain on each day, but everyone took it in their stoically-British stride and that giddy feeling of joy when the sun came out, as the waterproofs were peeled off and the sunglasses went on, was infectious throughout the crowds. The joy of day festivals is that a shower is never too far away so the rain becomes part of the fun of it all.
Wandering through the Village Green we watched space hopper and three-legged races brighten the gloomy afternoons; presided over by a sign saying “it’s sunny somewhere in Europe”, the same humour spread throughout the festival: light-hearted, self-deprecating, happy. The crowds truly make a festival and there was a buoyant charm about everyone we met, which the bands echoed to their adoring fans.
James Blake stepped up to the occasion to headline the Eat Your Own Ears stage. Often quiet, reserved and stuck in a tent somewhere at other festivals, Blake seemed to relish the task to close Saturday night. His breath-taking performance with powerful vocals and charismatic beats, featuring songs from across his back catalogue captivated the audience; a perfect end to the first day.
Other highlights on Saturday included fresh young things, Happy Meal Ltd, who packed out the tiny Jägerhaus stage early in the afternoon. A performance filled with energy, passion, and sexy moans into the mics. They were mesmerising as they clattered into each other on stage, glittering together in their metallics.
Skepta had a mosh pit from the word go, the crowd simply loved him. They chanted back to him in a frenzy, going wild when the hits were pumped out from the main stage. Ata Kak brought the dance party to the Moth Club stage. Spitting quick lyrics, it was like being transported back to the good part of 90s music, as the crowd swayed and shimmied their evening away.
Sunday brought more rain, but it didn’t deter. Fat White Family’s raucous and sweaty performance drew the crowds to the overflowing Shacklewell Arms tent. Ferocious and energetic, the pure passion and enthusiasm from this band is incredible to watch, it made for a memorable performance, especially when frontman Lias Saoudi stripped to his pants and climbed over the barrier to his screaming fans.
John Grant’s dark and funny lyrics alongside his witty stage presence made for an enjoyable late afternoon set on the main stage – his voice never faulted, the crowd sang along, and the sun shone: it was an excellent set. Discontented rumbling from The Avalanches’ DJ set meant a huge crowd for PJ Harvey to close the night. She walked out on stage with her band, marching-band style, playing the saxophone and adorned in black feathers. On a stage filled with ten band members, all eyes were on Harvey. She commanded attention with her powerful performance, featuring mainly songs off her new album The Hope Six Demolition Project, and classics such as 50ft Queenie which the crowd gladly screamed along with her. She signed off on Sunday night, and the festival as a whole with the verve and presence of a true music icon, an incredible performance.
After a week of miserable news from around the world, where terrible acts make us take a dim view of humanity, there is a special fondness reserved for the simple joy of watching live music in the (sporadic) sunshine, with your friends, and a warming can of Red Stripe in your hand. Long may it continue.
Photography © Éamonn Freel