After last years wash out (and a fair few years prior to that as well) we were pleasantly surprised to find the forecast for Saturday June 3rd was favourable, to say the least. The dawn broke on Saturday to reveal a beautiful day, and the excitement (or bewilderment) was coursing through the streets of east London, with revelers meandering through Hackney to Fieldday with faces aglow.
Having been split over two days in recent years Fieldday 2017 returned to its origins as a single day festival, with an eclectic line up covering a host of musical genres. Condensing the line up in this way resulted in a site bigger than I can remember compared to previous years, but it was set out magnificently, and now in its tenth year (I think) the team has compiled a thoroughly professional array of entertainment.
The newest addition to the festival is simply impossible to miss… ‘The Barn’!… though ‘The Aircraft Hanger’ is perhaps a more appropriate architectural comparison. It’s enormous. It would be in here where we’d spend most of the evening and night, but before we did, there were other sight’s and sounds to sample in the London sun.
Geoff Barrow and the guys were on fine warbly walking bassline form, and were charming the Moth Club tent on our arrival. They set the tone well… and the sound… so often a gripe for visitors in the past… was sufficiently clear and punchy. Sat down for the most part, and difficult to see as a result, Beak wandered seamlessly between tracks such as ‘Sex Music’ and ‘Wolfstan II’ , encouraged generously by an engaged crowd.
The young London MC was is his element on the main stage, rejoicing in the fact that it “wasn’t fucking raining”. Couldn’t have agreed more at the time. His stripped melodic style of hip hop was perfectly suited to the time and the place. People tapped toes and nodded along, and everything in the world was good.
We struggled with Death Grips unfortunately. Although their sound is particularly raw, gritty and undeniably aggressive, the sound from where we were stood didn’t match the clarity or volume as the Moth Club or Main Stage we’d visited previously. It didn’t seem to matter to those moshing though. Maybe we just didn’t get it.
Walking into ‘The Barn’ for the first time we saddled up front and center to enjoy a throbbing live set from Jon Hopkins. The scale of the structure is more akin to Sonar by Night than Fieldday. The cubic meters covered by this canvas are astonishing in volume. So too is the rig they’ve installed. Fieldday has taken it up a notch, and our experience was all the better for it. Please, please, please let it return next year. The Barn was possibly 40% full for Jon’s set, which equates to 4000 people, which is enough to sell out the Roundhouse twice and then some. Working his way through tracks such as ‘Open Eye Signal’ and ‘Light Through the Veins’ the bass was pulsing and we were more than ready to get going but first, we needed to detour to the RA tent.
Old KDJ was on good form, with his usual “entourage” stood beside him on the stage looking purdy. Stopping off at DnB, hip hop, and all round jamz such as Childish Gambino’s ‘Redbone’, he caused a bit of a stir when he dropped King’s of Leon “Sex is on Fire”. An irritating track to say the least, but not uncommon for KDJ to play the odd rock record. It was too much for some though, and a decent number of folk left. Fudge Fingas’ summed it up on his FB, ‘All this fuss about KDJ playing rock records seems to conveniently forget he took his name (in much the same way as Syd Barrett did when he named Pink Floyd after black blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council) from white rock bands The Moody Blues and Manfred Mann. True story.’
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan per se, but the sun had set, and we were headed to The Barn to ensure ourselves a good spot for Richard D James. Nina was belting out an enjoyable 4/4 tech house set, and although a little quiet in places, people were on board. There were moments when she changed it up, memorably playing Mala – “Blue Notez”, and the lasers, lights and visuals were much clearer in the dusk setting… but that was about to change. Massively.
The first UK show from Aphex Twin in 5 years. Fuck me. Please don’t make us wait that long again… but worth the wait it most certainly was. I’d heard rumours during the week that the soundsystem in the barn was tailor made to his spec by his people (whoever they are). Nothing I heard that evening made me doubt those rumours. Somehow, and I’m not sure from where, his entire set sounded twice as loud as anything else we’d heard all day, and it was all the better for it. For 2 hours he strung us along an aural pleasure ride, splicing between edited versions of Caustic Window and other AFX tracks and intertwined with artists such as Squarepusher and Plastician. The lights and visuals were turned up to 11, and the crowd were in raptures. The 10000 capacity barn was now 1 in, 1 out. Hidden from the crowd Aphex Twin led us on a merry dance from start to end… and to cap it all off, it was broadcast live via NTS. The show can now be relived in all its glory on youtube.
Best Fieldday yet. By a country mile. More of the same next year please…