What exactly is Field Day and who is it for? Considering the glut of summer one-dayers in the capital, it feels although the festival has never quite had a defining niche, despite its enduring popularity.
Originally billed as a “new psychedelic summer fete” when it debuted in 2007, the inner-city event began life as a host for late 2000s new rave and indie pop, with the likes of Late of the Pier, Foals, and Mystery Jets featuring in its maiden outing. Skepta, Jorja Smith, Ride, and Animal Collective have all headlined in the years since, providing an eclectic if a little confused collection of artists. The festival has also shifted around London over the years, from Brockwell Park in the south, to Meridian Water in the north, and the expansive Victoria Park in the east – its first home and where it made a triumphant return in 2021 after a pandemic-enforced hiatus.
This year, operating as part of All Points East festival – held across two weekends in Victoria Park – Field Day seems to have found its footing as a celebration of electronic music, presenting both heritage and current acts to cater for a wide audience.
There’s also a concerted effort to address gender imbalance in festival bookings, with Mary Anne Hobbs curating an ‘All Queens’ line-up over over on the BBC 6 Music stage, inviting along artists such as Juliana Huxtable, Jessy Lanza, and Tygapaw for a spread of thumping techno cuts and ribcage rattlers in the afternoon sun. Squarepusher was on hand shortly after at the North Stage – a great cavernous tent that barely contained his explosive rapid-fire percussion and impossibly warped basslines. Intricately programmed drum patterns triggered glitchy visuals and flashing strobes, creating the most intimate and club-like experience of the day.
Playing his fourth Field Day, Floating Points comfortably churned out the hard-hitters on the main stage, including his recent single Vocoder – a snappy club-ready cut and arguably his heaviest track yet. There was also plenty of house and disco mixed in with his own melodic synth-driven tracks to get people moving in the early evening.
Of course, Kraftwerk was pure dad heaven, complete with at least one reveller rocking an original 1970s Kraftwerk tour tee. But, on the whole, the audience was truly cross-generational, united in awe at the German group’s flawless execution of their pristine electro-pop back catalogue. The minimalist 3D renderings providing a backdrop to the set perfectly matched Kraftwerk’s clean electronics. The one surviving founding member and vocalist, Ralf Hütter, made no song and dance about the fact this show fell on his own 76th birthday, instead he coolly reeled through classic after classic: Trans-Europe Express, Autobahn, and perhaps most emphatically, The Robots.
Closing out the day as headliners, The Chemical Brothers served up a mesmerising set piece. Cinematic visuals of energetic dance choreography swept across screens flanking the stage as Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, barely visible behind a stack of modular synthesisers and drum machines, worked their rave magic on the crowd. It can’t go unmentioned, however, that the sound on the main stage did seem to be lacking: muddy, imprecise at times, and not quite loud enough for the back half of the crowd. But Field Day is back and better than ever. A staple of the London festival circuit.