Victoria Park, London
6 - 7 June
It always sucks when you miss out on a nearby festival that all your friends are going to, but our hearts really go out to those who skipped Field Day this year. The festival team’s ability to book nearly every hype act on the touring circuit is pretty much unrivalled at this stage, and that’s what makes it one of Crack’s favourite weekends on the calendar. Here’s a rundown of what we experienced.
Considering her 1pm time slot on Saturday, an impressively large crowd gathers for Tei Shi, who soars confidently over a modest setting of presets and drum pads. The people here range between the dumbfounded and the merely intrigued, and her set is scored with seductive aspiration. As we’re enjoying a burst of late afternoon sunshine a little later, Malian father and son duo Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté provide the soundtrack with their blissfully melodic kora playing on the main stage.
Elijah & Skilliam are grime’s crowning grafters. Their ability to read a crowd’s consciousness is absolute. As a duo, they know exactly what we want. We want JME, Meridian Dan, Skepta, Wiley. We want classic eski beats alongside today’s emerging talent. This is what Elijah & Skilliam do and no one does it better. Yes, it feels like their chamber of choice is limited, but today, nothing works better than banging out an archetypal set of homespun grime. Next up in the i-D tent is the slightly underrated NYC rap group Ratking. While the group’s bratty flows and twisted beats don’t make for the most conventional sunny day soundtrack, there’s enough kinetic energy and bass thuds to satisfy this up-for-it crowd.
During his obsessive, compulsive, disorderly set, A.G. Cook builds and builds upon candied hooks, stirring in even more chopped-up vocal sweeteners. Constantly gear shifting, constantly alternating, he’s like a spoiled child with too many toys and too little time. It’s addictive, yet somehow bitter to taste. While Cook’s shit-stirring PC Music collective often invite controversy and debate, the following act Future Brown were enraged when they became the subject of a thinkpiece-induced scandal about authenticity and appropriation a few months back. It’s hard to fault this exhilarating appearance however, as the group open their set up to a huge squadron of MCs that includes Roachee, Riko Dan, Prince Rapid, Dirty Danger, emerging talent such as Jammz and North London’s YGG and – to everyone’s surprise – former pop star and Ruff Sqwad alumni Tinchy Stryder. Arguably one of the weekend’s highlights.
Later, it’s a much more sultry affair as we head to the Crack stage for FKA twigs’ headline show. As her low-key collaboration with Chicago rapper Lucki Eck$ drifts from the speakers, twigs strolls onstage wearing an orange bomber jacket, loose-fitted printed trousers and black heels. Amidst all the enchanting majesty, the elusive chanteuse reminds us she’s human when she describes being chatted up by a man twice her age, purchasing a set of broken headphones and nearly being run over earlier in Bethnal Green that day. “It’s good to be home,” she says affectionately. Seemingly hypnotised, our team then splits up to check out the second half of more raucous sets from Caribou, Hudson Mohawke and Nina Kraviz – such is the range of choice that this event throws up.
Like our experience on Field-Sunday last year, the festival’s second day is marked by a more relaxed atmosphere, more guitars and an adorable mix of trendy 20-somethings and grey-haired ticket holders. While the listenable but middle-of-the-road Brooklyn band DIIV fail to impress by opening with a couple of particularly bland-sounding new songs, Mac DeMarco effortlessly charms the crowd with sleazy soft rock licks, goofy stage banter and a crowdsurfing session that lasts for at least five minutes.
Savages remind us of the ice-cold ferocity that fuels their hype, and reformed shoegazers Ride perform a highly-anticipated headline slot later that evening, but Sunday’s vibe really reaches its peak during Patti Smith’s beautifully euphoric set. Horses is now 40 years old, and although its rock instrumentation feels far from radical in 2015, Smith’s profound poetry can still rouse a crowd that ranges from 17 to 70. Once the album has been performed in full, Smith’s encore climaxes with a cover of My Generation, and her inspiring sloganeering (“be strong!” “be free!” “fear nothing!” “live your life!”) is delivered with fist-clenched glory. It seems like the true finale to the weekend and it feels like once again, Field Day have raised the bar of just how special an inner city festival can be. Do the right thing, and get your tickets sorted early next year.