The Drumsheds, London
“My name is JPEG motherfucking MAFIA, and they got me in a cage,” Barrington Hendricks grinned as he paced Boiler Room’s in-the-round stage.
The Baltimore icon, known to fans as ‘Peggy’ is beloved for his wild live shows and on Saturday afternoon he barely spent a moment on stage, opting instead to perform on top of speaker stacks, from the middle of mosh pits and hanging off the side of the railings. When his show ended 45 minutes later, he was shirtless, flanked by security trying to keep the stage intact and had hundreds of sweaty and slightly bruised fans chanting his name.
That was Field Day 2019 at its best. As a platform for underground and emerging talent, the festival is almost unrivalled. In its 12 years of existence, Field Day has slowly morphed from an east London indie day out into one of the best showcases for cutting edge music in the country. In a new home at Drumsheds – a series of converted warehouses just north of Tottenham – and with pioneers like Death Grips, The Black Madonna, Tirzah and Kelly Lee Owens joining JPEGMAFIA on the bill, 2019 was supposed to be the year that transformation was complete. Sadly, it didn’t quite reach those heights.
Despite the terrible weather and technical difficulties that blighted the festival’s opening hours, the first day’s performances were promising. Kelly Lee Owens pushed Printworks’ warehouse stage to the limit with her staggering live set, standing silhouetted and triumphant in front of a huge LED screen. Death Grips channelled the slightly chaotic energy that defined Friday afternoon into a typically raucous show and the likes of Tirzah and Deerhunter shone on the Crack Magazine stage. By the time Earl Sweatshirt took the main stage things were looking up. However, Friday’s headliner Skepta, performing just a week after his latest album’s release and on home turf, had his set cut off mid-song as the noise curfew came and went.
By contrast Saturday arrived with good weather; some lessons clearly learned from the day before and a much larger crowd to boot. Channel Tres served up a generous helping of his Moodymann-via-Compton house, igniting a dance party, while MorMor followed it up with grand, ‘you wish this band had played at your prom’ vibes. A textbook set from Pusha T was the cherry on top, splicing together highlights from throughout his career, ending with a particularly bouncing remix of Chief Keef’s eternal Don’t Like.
After JPEGMAFIA’s previously mentioned whirlwind, all that was left was for Jorja Smith to bring it home. The most obvious successor to Adele’s crown but with enough jazz and neo-soul flavour to keep a festival like Field Day happy, she was on triumphant form, with interpolations of Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam and a frantic rendition of On My Mind keeping the energy up for the festival-goers planning on partying in the warehouse stages until 3am. Hints of where Field Day is headed were everywhere but it needs some auditory and organisational tweaks before it lives up to its line-up’s promise.