FIELD DAY – Victoria Park, Hackney – 7th June 2015

CPP - Field Day

Mark K opted for Field Day’s Sunday line-up and it’s guitar-based greatness – and a damn fine time he had! Read on for the many highs and a couple of lows of “London’s premier indie festival”… 

 

Since its inception in 2007, the Field Day has become London’s premier indie festival. This year, for the first time, the two days have been loosely themed. Saturday has more of an electro-cum-dance theme, whereas Sunday is broadly dedicated to guitar bands. Having never been too much of an electro-head, I opt to attend on the Sunday.

CPP - Field Day aerial banner

Soon after arriving on-site we catch Ex Hex, who after the briefest of sound-checks crash straight into their set. Formed last year by ex-member of Wild Flag Mary Timony, they already have a superb album in the racks called Rips, which you really ought to get your sweaty mitts on. I’ve seen them described as ‘punk’ but essentially they’re closer to 4AD indie bands such as Pixies, The Breeders, Throwing Muses, and Belly; which is no bad thing.

CPP - Ex Hex Their performance is pleasingly rough around the edges. They’ve just flown in from the US after playing a gig last night, so that probably explains it! With their sunny melodies and punchy tuneful material, they really should have been higher up the bill.

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The injustice of Ex Hex’s position on the bill is only emphasised by Allah-Las, who follow them. Their laid-back US indie recalls early REM with a dash of mid-sixties Dylan thrown in. Unfortunately they compare badly to their influences, being disappointingly one-dimensional. At times they sound like a backing band in need of a frontman. Ultimately, they need a massive charisma injection. Next!!!

CPP - Leopold and his Fiction The immediate future is comprehensively saved by Leopold and his Fiction, a three piece playing utterly electrifying blues rock. Obviously this is music that hasn’t only been done before, it’s arguably been done to death! However, Leopold and his Fiction achieve the unlikely by managing to not sound like anybody else! They also make this music sound fresh and new. Recommended.
We wander over to the main stage and see DIIV. Their dreamy, psychedelic indie flavoured with wonderfully fluid guitar lines (think Steve Hillage) is absolutely perfect for a hot sunny afternoon, which this is. CPP - DIIV
After grabbing a bit of Viet Cong (resembling a manic version of Spiritualized, minus keyboards) we go to see Matthew E White, whose Rock and Roll Is Cold has been all over the radio. He covers Neil Young’s Going To The Country and is joined by Natalie Prass for a couple of songs, but ultimately this is standard singer/songwriterly fare. More unremarkable than I’d expected.

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However, more promising is the appearance of Gaz Coombes, here to present his more ‘grown-up’ post-Supergrass material. Gaz certainly looks dapper in a jacket, black shirt and red tie. He’s backed by a five piece band including Loz Colbert from Ride. Goodness, he’s going to be busy today!

CPP - Gaz Coombes The opening song is every bit as punchy as the ‘grass, but for the second song Gaz sits at the piano and delivers an introspective ballad possibly called The Trip. The crowd is mostly inquisitive. Nobody seems to know the new songs, but nevertheless Gaz manages to keep everybody rooted to the spot.

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The songs seem well crafted, but lack the immediacy of Supergrass. This isn’t necessarily a negative point, as the crowd are loving it! Gaz is entering a different era, that of a songwriting craftsman. Some of the newer material borders on Mercury Rev territory, which I certainly hadn’t expected! It would appear that Mr Coombes is embarking upon a most interesting journey.

Next up is what I’m hoping will be a highlight for me: Patti Smith performing Horses to mark forty years (count ‘em!) since that album was released. Her band includes Lenny Kaye on guitar and Jay Dee Daugherty on drums, both of whom were in the Patti Smith Group, and indeed played on the original Horses album.

Patti does not disappoint, and we get a fairly authentic essay of Horses. It is not without humour however, as Smith wishes the crowd “goodbye” after Redondo Beach (the second song!). The performance of Horses definitely feels like a ‘moment’, although sadly it’s a moment that is lost on some sections of the crowd, who insist on chattering at the tops of their voices! Grrrrrr!!! CPP - Patti Smith

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Horses
duly despatched, we get a quick tour of Patti Smith’s finest moments: Dancing Barefoot (from Wave), Pumping (My Heart) (from Radio Ethiopa), Because The Night (from Easter, and Smith’s only hit single), and People Have The Power from her first ‘post-retirement’ album, Dream of Life. Patti then reads a list of ‘those we have lost’ including artist Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Sohl (the keyboard player from the Patti Smith Group who passed away at the age of 37), and last but not least, her late husband Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, ex of The MC5. Lest this should end her set on a somewhat sombre note, the band crashed into a 100 mph cover of The Who’s My Generation, just as they did when Horses was being toured forty years ago! This was an extraordinary set, and was worth the price of admission on its own.

Also extraordinary, but possibly not for all of the right reasons, is Savages’ set, which is seemingly being used to road-test material for their new album. I’ve seen the band on three previous occasions, when they have never been less than outstanding. Today they are glacial, tight, powerful, and very definitely well drilled. However, the new material is certainly not what you’d call ‘immediate’. One new song has a great riff and appears to be called I Need Something New.

Could it be that they’re possibly trying that bit too hard? The new material is not exactly avant-garde, but it’s certainly not an easy listen first timeout! It sounds as if they’re challenging the very concept of song structure. Perhaps the new songs will make more sense once they’ve been heard a few times more.

CPP - Ride As the sun heads towards setting most people amble down to the main stage in order to catch the return of Ride. This is a band that split up way before their time, and whose reunion looked extremely unlikely whilst Andy Bell was a member of Oasis, and later Beady Eye. I always thought that his membership of these bands was a tremendous waste of talent. I’m sure that there was much quiet celebration in Oxford once Beady Eye split up!

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As Ride take the stage it’s gratifying to see that unlike many re-formed bands, the stage isn’t littered with auxiliary musicians that they in no way needed previously. There’s just the four of them. There’s certainly no arguing with set opener Leave Them All Behind. Indeed, the whole set is peppered with highlights from the period 1990 – 1992. Time of Her Time, was just sublime, the guitar lines sounding as if they are living organisms in their own right. As they finish with Chelsea Girl from the Ride EP of 1990, it honestly feels as if they’ve never been away. They’ve remained true to their original modus operandi, and sound every bit as vital as they did twenty plus years ago. Welcome back lads. Can we have some more music please?

The line-up for the Sunday of Field Day this year certainly boasted an embarrassment of riches. There were certainly timetable clashes, and I’m sure that there were few people who saw absolutely every act that they would have liked to. I for one will enjoy this festival far more when the technology has been developed that will allow me to be in more than one place simultaneously.

Mark Kelly

 

Check out also Mark K’s coverage of this year’s CAMDEN ROCKS!

 

Field Day Highlights’ twitter and summary:

@exhexband – “pleasingly rough around the edges”, “sunny melodies and punchy tuneful material”

 – “utterly electrifying blues rock”, “Fresh and new. Recommended”

@DIIV – “dreamy, psychedelic indie”, “wonderfully fluid guitar lines”

@GazCoombes – “the crowd are loving it”, “a songwriting craftsman”

@rideox4 – “just sublime”, “every bit as vital”

 

CPP - Field Day London fr Facebook

(From Field Day’s Facebook page)