One of the best festival line-ups of the year
Grimes - Field Day 2012

We hit Field Day running, armed with clothing for all seasons and our gig clashfinder chart - probably the best invention since penicillin. With a new site layout this year it’s a little disorientating at first, but after some confused wanderings and a detour to the bar, we locate the Eat Your Own Ears stage for all-girl newcomers, Savages. A last minute addition to the line-up, their sound draws on old school punk and ‘90s Riot Girrl, with echoes of dark, ‘80s, Cure and a smattering of new wave. With a deep, powerful vocal reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux, front woman Jhenny Beth is a compelling stage presence and the rest of the black-clad band already look like dyed-in-the-wool rock stars. An exciting start to the day.

After a fortifying pie from Venn Street Market it’s off to boy-girl duo Summer Camp for some sparkly ‘80s homage. Unfortunately, slightly fuzzy sound means that the brilliance of their debut album doesn’t initially translate to the live performance and things feel a bit lacklustre. Luckily, the energy picks up with new track ‘Always’, the disco-synth equivalent to a shot of Red Bull into the brain. All in all they pull it off, but 4pm in a huge tent is always a tough slot to fill. One band that has no problem creating a party atmosphere in the middle of the day is Afrocubism, the group that missed out to Buena Vista Social Club when visa problems scuppered early recording plans. Fusing Cuban and Malian musical styles as though it was always meant to be, the band are clearly as overjoyed as the crowd to be here. Headed up by Cuban legend Eliades Ochoa on vocals and guitar, and with Malian superstar Toumani Diabeté on kora, it’s an all-star line-up that showcases some of the best talent in world music today.

It could be the Cubo-Malian party spirit or the freakish English weather, but at this point the sun comes out and a thousand pair of Ray-Bans are donned as festival revellers bask in the warmth. Into the light comes Grimes, wonder-girl of the moment and deservedly so, after her critically acclaimed and truly excellent last record, ‘Visions’. The sound is like crystal, and highlights from the album such as ‘Be A Body’ and ‘Genesis’ transform The Village Mentality tent into an electronic paradise. With our dancing legs firmly on we sprint over to the Red Bull Music Academy for Chairlift, a band who refuse to buckle in the face of adversity. After a difficult split with boyfriend and third member of the band, Aaron Pfenning, Caroline Polachek opted not to spend three months in bed with a supersize tub of Ben and Jerry’s and instead wrote their blinding second album, ‘Something’. With a much more coherent, ‘80s synth-pop sound than their previous offering, the tent is soon making like the ‘90s never happened.

After a quick detour via a packed out SBTRKT, the weather becomes suitably dark and overcast for electro-goth outfit Austra at the Shacklewell Arms tent. After reports that Friends’ and Crocodiles’ sound earlier in the afternoon was less than great, it’s disappointing to find that this hasn’t been sorted. Katie Stelmanis, she of the immense, operatic voice, does her level best but her vocal is still lost on occasion, as is some of the treble on the synths. Nevertheless, there’s no detracting from the sheer greatness of tracks like ‘Darken Her Horse’ and ‘Lose It’, taken from last year’s phenomenal debut, ‘Feel The Break’. Sadly, a second blow comes when, due to a late start, the band depart after only twenty minutes and without playing ‘The Future’. Clearly, a tent plagued by technical issues this year.

On cue, the heavens truly open, but this doesn’t bother the devoted crowd who are jammed into Bugged Out for eclectic Berliners and Clash favourites, Modeselektor who, in no uncertain terms, kill it. They’ve had just about every dance genre in the world thrown at them and a few new ones made up besides, and the maverick Deutschers don’t disappoint tonight. With a set taken from their more high-octane material, the tent is soon a sweaty, ecstatic, heaving mess – a total Field Day win.

As the last strains of Mazzy Star echo across the site, all that’s left is to make the damp slog back to Mile End tube. The organisers can’t control the weather, but they have delivered one of the best festival line-ups of the year, and a decent pie. And that’s fine by us.

Words by Theresa Heath
Photo by Elinor Jones


Click here for a photo gallery of Field Day, 2012.
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