Field Day, Victoria Park, London
Wednesday 10 August 2011
A one-day festival in east London's Victoria Park, Field Day is awash with names faintly familiar from ones-to-watch and best-new-album lists. Now in its fifth year, Field Day has a swelled capacity of 20,000. You can feel it; just getting under canvas to see certain bands can be a challenge.
Twin Shadow being a case in point: their debut album, Forget, has clearly become a hit and the tent is heaving. For good reason – they make accomplished indie pop steeped in Eighties new wave. George Lewis Jr lends deadpan vocals, while shiny waves of synth gloss guitar tunes. Ones to watch? Absolutely.
It's not all unknowns. Taking a mid-afternoon slot is John Cale. He's got a new EP coming out, called Extra Playful, which seems apt – his set includes some fairly bonkers numbers, from the almost spoken-word vocals and funky backing of "Hey Ray" to the tinny synths and squelchy bass of "Satellite Walk".
Best known for covering Feist's "Limit to Your Love", James Blake's outstanding set is an intense, all-encompassing thing, the cool, dark beauty of that Justin Vernon-esque voice looped to eerie effect with a bass so strong it makes my friend's cough shudder through the tent. Blake, whose eponymous debut was Mercury nominated, sits behind his keyboards and thanks us politely. But he also knows how to please a crowd, swirling his sounds up and adding layers of speeding beats till you can't help but dance.
Anna Calvi is also riding a wave of critical success off the back of a first album. She stares fiercely out at us from her heavy make-up, mouth wide open, unleashing an equally fierce voice – although the soundsystem fails to do justice to it. She wields an electric guitar with a degree of majesty, before coaxing some terrifically squealy solos out of it.
Wild Beasts' frontman Hayden Thorpe could match Calvi for theatricality of vocals, all velvet power and camply tremulous falsetto.
The band's melodic rock has graduated swiftly to the top of the bill, and while their sound is big enough to work it, they initially seem a little subdued. "Who'd thought it? A bunch of Northern misfits having a party in east London," comments Thorpe. Come now – Field Day is a festival that loves a good misfit.
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