Review: Field Day 2015.

What a difference a day – or, in this specific instance, a night – makes, for although the Field Day 2015 ‘pre-party’ down The Shacklewell Arms may seem comparatively inconsequential, it makes the whole event feel like, well, like more of an event, essentially. For having been expanded to a two-day hoedown just last year, this time around, the sense that this is Field Day’s weekend – a bender, comprising overpriced beers, one day brimming with razor-bladed beats and another that’s all the more “blokey” – becomes all the more irrefutable. And on the evidence of this incomparably galvanising edition, few would turn their noses up at the prospect of Field Week 2016…

Tei Shi, Field Day 2015

Storming both The Shacklewell Arms on the Friday night, and the scuzzy Dalston Mecca’s namesake stage on Saturday lunchtime, is Tei Shi; Valerie Teicher taking up the mantle left behind by many a stylistically analogous forebear before her. See Me, for instance, proves vividly reminiscent of a decelerated take on Lykke Li’s Let It Fall (via a number of thinly veiled Mariah Carey moments), while her rendition of No Angel perhaps has more in common with FKA twigs than it does Beyoncé. However, as will probably, basically, always be the way, this afternoon is all about Bassically; an incongruously propulsive electro-pop thumper, that’s as vibrant as Teicher’s newly cut, dried and dyed hairdo.

Again hosting the main stage are promotional leviathans Eat Your Own Ears, and when not (in light of the circumstances,) rather absurdly plugging their Facebook page or attempting to flog a CD or two, (or indeed a dead horse, in light of those same circumstances aforereferenced,) the Hackney Colliery Band transpire to prove an inspired booking. Less inspirational, if incontrovertibly enjoyable, is their Prodigy medley; a brassy, exigent rethinking of Jericho crumbling to leave a languid interpretation of Out of Space and, subsequently, a commensurately thunderous No Good in its wake. An exceptional wake-up call, albeit one that’s never quite as close to its roots as their chosen nom de plume might otherwise suggest…

HONNE, Field Day 2015

Rather more suggestive, meanwhile, are the soft, faintly pornographic stylings of HONNE, who’ve both audibly and visibly honed their live show in such a way so as to come across akin to a cross between Messrs Blake and Cullum. All In The Value proves their most invaluable to date today, James’ virtuosic guitar solo a searing ray of scorching glory, but if this bit breaks the proverbial mould, then hon(n)estly? It’s all too infrequently groundbreaking.

Owen Pallett, Field Day 2015

Charting all sorts of territories, breaking ground, boundaries and so on, however, is the one and only Owen Pallett. All sorts are stood to the side of the stage, including sometime collaborator Dan Snaith and tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus, but it’s what’s going on on the sodding thing – the intricate looping, infinite layering, and the like – that’s most eye- and ear-catching. Indeed, nobody does such stuff better than the polymathic composer suprême, with material lifted from his sublime In Conflict effort from yesteryear the forcible beauties on which the afternoon’s successes are built. From Song For Five & Six and The Secret Seven, to a more amorphous Infernal Fantasy, replete with creamy riffs and licks, as well as an unprecedentedly crunchy breakdown, Pallett improbably proves the real hero of the weekender. And his pièce de résistance? Well, that would have to be the surging, positively unstoppable The Riverbed; an overwhelming maelstrom of plucked Strad frills and pulsing, truly pulsating drum fills. “Thanks for indulging me,” he remarks with a certain reticence, when not commenting on how concertedly he’s been “working on [his] ‘festival voice’.” He needn’t worry about such minor trivialities and minutiae, mind; for while there’s no “time for a question and answer period, or anything”, when he’s later able to call upon such classics as the juddering This Is the Dream of Win & Regine and the arpeggiated genius that is Lewis Takes Off His Shirt, Pallett has reemerged from the embers of his illustrious previous completely empowered.

LA PRIEST, Field Day 2015

Genuinely joyous, if probably slightly less so, is LA PRIEST, whose live show goes from strength to strength with its every (very fibrous) outing. A motorik, mesmeric Engine goes out to the late Ross Dawson – “This one’s for a friend of mine; I think he’d like this one” Sam [Dust / Eastgate] says, his tribute endearingly deferential – while a climactic Party Zute / Learning To Love recalls a scruffier Mr. Scruff in its closing moments. His is an eminently danceable, but still quietly difficult set; the sort that changes pace at around the same whimsical rate as that at which Late of the Pier once skipped from one musical space and/ or time to another. And while those in search of more conventional, bugged-out beats may be elsewhere, whilst Oino continues to sound not dissimilar to something from a Chris Morris satire, LA PRIEST once again presents a compelling case for the liberty to preside over the coming summer months…

There is then a rather prolix lull of sorts in the schedule; the perfect opportunity to meander, and marvel at the number of Nokia bricks kicking about. Indeed, it’s difficult to tell who’s swapped phones for their first festival (or faint semblance thereof) of the summer, and who’s sticking with the 32 and 3310s, and so on and on, in some form of fucking incredulous, nonsensical non-statement. By dint of this – most probably – there’s as much talking about, as on, the mobile blowers this year. But hold the bloody phone! Because not only has Todd Terje returned to Victoria Park for a second consecutive year, but he’s brought with him The Olsens, thus enabling him to perform the ‘live’ show he promised, but ultimately proved incapable of delivering, twelve months ago to the afternoon. He of the sonically louche sleaze looks as though he’s kitted himself out top to toe in Nauticalia fayre, but aurally, he atones for the errors of yesteryear, the widespread criticism that met that particular show aforesaid seemingly having been heeded. Abetted by drums, bongos, live bass and the like, all that’s missing this time is the sodding kitchen sink; and he and The Olsens subsequently compel any remaining naysayers to shut it, move it, and mix it with an ecstatic throng numbering several thousand. ‘Got any Chris Rea?’ his sardonic slogan T-shirt reads, although the likes of the squelchy Strandbar, the racy Delorean Dynamite, and the Spice Up Your Life-pilfering Svensk Sås ensure this is the sort of set that you could quite happily cope with all summer long.

Todd Terje, Field Day 2015

If first remarked upon long ago, comparisons between Donna Summer’s I Feel Love and the similarly loveable Oh Joy persist, although it’s that most sordid of cases – namely Inspector Norse – that steals the show. Sure, these may be extenuating circumstances – it’s really too early in the afternoon for this sort of larking around, not least outside on a sprawling main stage – but much like Jon Hopkins no fewer than twelve months before him, Terje proves the day’s improbable triumph. He’s come good on a promise left unfulfilled; one that, in the end, feels supremely fulfilling. And there is thus this affecting feeling of prerequisite reciprocation; of affection and, in more severe cases, infatuation requited: for in much the same way that so many took It’s Album Time to heart, Terje has evidently done likewise with the grousing and grumblings of the disgruntled of last year. Few of those would have been anticipating this visibly ‘live’ a show to incorporate the distant strains of a dulcet lap steel guitar in much the same way that, as a slew of dancers of all sorts of shapes, sizes and, seemingly, genders congregate onstage, every expectation is in need of severe revision. But fewer still could possibly complain about, nor controvert the sheer joy to be derived from this one…

These are scenes that are, as has been newly revealed, completely incompatible with the retrograde, downright regressive outlook of Lithuania’s Marijus Adomaitis; alias Ten Walls. His ‘conservative and intolerant’ views on the LGBTI community – people he sees as being of a ‘different breed’ – have, and have quite rightly, landed him in all sorts of rapidly warming water, which essentially, and instantly negates all the enjoyment that was taken from a barnstorming Walking With Elephants. There is, or perhaps rather there was, an almost gravitational attraction to it; an ultimate flatulence meeting with a flagrant Massive Attack influence, and a massive sense of attack there was to it, too. But for all of its vitality, Ten Walls’ career looks to be crumbling all about him, and while he can always resurrect himself as some pig-ignorant ghost producer some time down the line, triumph has swiftly turned to trial and tribulation for this Lithuanian ignoramus.

Of course, and in keeping with a rather perturbing number of the acts billed across the weekend, Future Brown are no strangers to outspoken controversy either; and irrespective of previous misdemeanours, the four producers fail to match the monumental vim experienced no more than a mere few moments prior thereto. Several later, and FKA twigs still isn’t onstage. Her stage, well, that’s being dutifully arranged with all the punctilious lunacy of an L.A. film set. Which is perhaps apt, given the porcelaneous looks and A-list associations of the widely revered Tahliah Debrett Barnett, but Danny L Harle’s saccharine Broken Flowers does little to tide over those eager to chide her for the momentary no-show. I never see the show unfortunately, with this particular debacle about as close as my weekend ever came to either one of FKA twigs or the fuddy, dud PC Music fad…

Caribou, Field Day 2015

Instead, it’s the turn of tonight’s headliners, Caribou. Who, in truth, have yet to get a handle on, or the hang of, blowouts of such bloody huge magnitude. Nonetheless, Snaith et alii put in a valiant shift and are, ultimately, very much swimming against a tide of gurning jaws and nattering teeth that, for one reason or another, chatter more or less incessantly throughout. The sound, and the atmosphere with it, is infinitely preferable down the front, select cuts from the superlative Our Love – such as its heady title track, the wompy Silver and the slippery, quicksilver Mars – sating the people of the park. In roping in Owen Pallett – who’ll later ameliorate Our Love tenfold – for what is his live début in this particular context, Snaith panders to the weight of expectation put upon each and every festival headliner; and Caribou indeed perform with professionalism and aplomb in equal measure. It’s merely that, for one reason or another, the night never quite works as well as it really ought to. Which, when taking into account the ecstasy to be extracted from Can’t Do Without You, Odessa, Sun and so on, is as much of a shame as it is a surprise.

DIIV, Field Day 2015

For reasons self-explanatory, Sunday assumes a more leisurely pace. Misplaced brains and crossed wires ensure Ex Hex alas, fall by the wayside, while the closing seconds of Liverpudlian psych pedlars Gulf prove far too little for latecomers such as myself. Delays continue throughout the day, with DIIV readily, willingly delving into their allotted set time, if not quite enough to ensure they no longer clash with Viet Cong – one of the more divvy clashes of the entire weekend, if not Field Day’s illustrious nine-year history, needless to say. So far as DIIV may be concerned mind, it’s a case of out with the old and in with the new, for aside from How Long Have You Known, Oshin (Subsume) and a merciless, live-wired rendition of Doused, the set is composed of all-new compositions of varying quality. None of it necessarily sounds all that ‘new’, with the likes of Dust and Under the Sun closely recalling so much of Oshin; another number – entitled Waste of Breath – conversely sounds not too dissimilar to the stylistically dissonant Drinking in L.A. (incidentally, the city in which the forthcoming sophomore full-length was perfected earlier on in the year). But DIIV ain’t broke – or not yet, at any rate; well, aside from Zachary Cole Smith’s continual, seemingly OCD reiterating, “We’re DIIV, from New York City” – and so there should be no real need to fix things per se. One thing that does need immediate remedying, however, is the ongoing involvement of another of the weekend’s worryingly numerous bigots; namely bassist Devin Ruben Perez. For as long as that particular, figurative stone remains unturned, it can only be a matter of time before fans, aficionados and maybe even friends start to turn away themselves. Out with the old, and old-fashioned attitudes right, Cole?

My Brightest Diamond, Field Day 2015

All the more peppy by direct contrast is Shara Worden, aka My Brightest Diamond, who plays with all the performative vim of an erratic ballerina loaded up on ergogenic aids. Lover Killer errs on the side of the latter half of its wholly appropriate title, Shara’s enigmatic words taking centre stage in lieu of the rousing brass heard blaring on record, while This Is My Hand sees the songstress marry synchronised gesticulations together with flamenco timbres and tonalities. It’s a somewhat disparate set, although the bullish exuberance applied to every single number ties it all together, binding artist and audience that bit tighter as it rumbles along. They had, as Worden duly informs, “been looking forward to this [show] for a long time,” and it’s one that will likely now live on in memory for as long, if not longer still; an absolutely scintillating denouement quite rightly met with absolute rapture.

It’s this with which incorrigible bozo Mac DeMarco engenders wherever he goes these days, and he does so all over on the EYOE stage; but the Canuck schmuck should be encouraged no more. His goofball antics – dumbed up, rather than down, in recent times – have gone on for too long and gotten boring; and so, although the likes of Still Together and Chamber of Reflection suggest he’s still the chops to regurgitate “something good” every once in a while, otherwise, there’s precious little to cling to. And so, midway through a purportedly impromptu “jam” that sees capos put in place and half-formed lyrics slurred, attentions drift, with a fair share of feet then following no more than a pace or two behind.

Baxter Dury, Field Day 2015

And so it’s left to perma-cheeky chappy Baxter Dury to bring proceedings to a close. Nonchalantly, he swigs from what must be the last remaining can of Red Stripe on the premises, the Jamaican bracer rather deplorably selling out midway through Saturday afternoon. A gaggle of cans gather around his feet, as fresh off a plane in from Portugal, Dury recalls Isabel – who may, or may not have slept with an anonymous mate once upon a time in said country – and, subsequently, Claire as though he were reciting a list of previous sexual conquests, rather than reading from a tatty setlist ensconced in cans. “About the apocalypse of the heart,” Leak At the Disco proves all the more lovelorn than Lothario-like; the sort of pseudo-love song that he may never better, which is said to his great credit, rather than as some grim criticism. Of course, in dishing out so healthy a serving of Happy Soup, it’s pretty apparent to all in attendance which is his magnum opus thus far, with the tensile, perennially springy Trellic and the punk-puked Picnic On the Edge remaining eminently tasty delicacies to this day. Pleasure, a more contemporary piece, also ranks among the more, if not most pleasurable, although it’s the permanently moody Cocaine Man – “about you, and all your parents, and all your parents’ friends” – which ensures that, much like the stagnating stench of knockoff fags smoked the preceding Saturday, Dury and the memories aroused cling to you long after Field Day’s gates slam shut for yet another, thoroughly genial year. Field Days, indeed; now, how’s about that Field Week, then?