The walk from Mile End Tube to Victoria Park has become a modern-day pilgrimage. Every year thousands upon thousands of London’s most musically inclined residents make the trek to enjoy what’s become the city’s most reliably excellent festival. Condensed back down to one day, Field Day 2017’s line-up was bursting at the seams with every niche filled and every possible angle covered. You want blistering techno at 3 PM? Check out Marcel Dettman in The Barn. Want to witness the future of RnB? Abra’s on at 2. Fancy some good old-fashioned guitar rock? The entire Shacklewell Arms stage was the one for you.
Early sets from the aforementioned ABRA and Dettman went down a treat, warming up the after-lunch crowds nicely. However, it was around 4 PM that things started to get underway properly. Watching Loyle Carner command a mainstage has become a staple of any good UK festival. The young South London MC has an effortless charm and an excellent stage presence, not to mention a now pretty hefty arsenal of tunes to boot. Bounding across Field Day’s biggest stage with endless enthusiasm Carner treated the crowd to the best moment from his recent album, including moving renditions of ‘Damselfly’ and ‘Sun of Jean’, the latter of which was dedicated, as always, to his mum.
Meanwhile, in the Crack Magazine tent, the far less wholesome Death Grips were unleashing their signature brand of chaos, whipping up mosh pit after mosh pit until the crowd was essentially a never end churn of bodies and sweat. ‘Giving Bad People Good Ideas’ proved the defining moment of the set, providing the closest thing to a singalong Death Grips are capable of. However it was when MC Ride and co pulled out hits (do Death Grips have hits? Is that where we are now?) like ‘I’ve Seen Footage’, ‘No Love Deep Web’ and ‘Guillotine’ that the most damage was done, shoes, phones and even someone’s passport all going flying in the crowd’s never-ending attempt to get noided. Those who have listened to Death Grips’ music may have a good idea of what their live show is like, but it’s not until you’ve seen drummer Zach Hill pummelling a drum kit with every ounce of strength in his body that you really understand how brutal this band is.
Providing some much-needed calm and a chance to cool off after Death Grips’ workout were Whitney, the Chicago group responsible for one of the best albums of last year, the gorgeous Light Upon the Lake. The group fell prey to a lacklustre crowd and an hours sleep, having played Primavera in Barcelona the night before, but still found the energy to cover the Golden Girls’ theme tune, debut a new song and, of course, treat Victoria Park to a luscious rendition of their breakout single ‘No Woman.’
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard could well be the greatest live rock band of their generation. Approaching the release of their second album this year, they command an incredibly dedicated fanbase which can turn from docile crowd of early-20 somethings and the odd dad to a swirling, crowd surfing mob within one flick of frontman Stu McKenzie’s guitar. Playing without interruption for over an hour (no small feat for a band with seven members) they turned the Shacklewell Arms into the friendliest riot you’ve ever been in.
Then, at last, it was time for the mother of all clashes; Run The Jewels on the mainstage or Aphex Twin in the aeroplane hanger-esque Barn. Pity poor Omar Souleyman resigned to the Moth Club stage between these two behemoths.
While Run The Jewels were on form as always, Aphex Twin’s first UK show in half a decade was not to be missed. The iconic producer took full advantage of Field Day’s newest stage, pushing its sound system to the limit with bruising bass, terrifying drums and constantly shifting grooves. Challenging the audience to find a rhythm in his assault of a set, Richard D. James himself was typically hidden on stage, submerged in the DJ booth as a staggering laser and projection display flashed overhead. His set concluded the only way it could have, a screeching robotic voice commanding the crowd to ‘Fuck Off’ over nightmarishly warped gabber. Dystopian in the best possible way.