Welsh folkstress Cate Le Bon kicks off proceedings on the Adventures in the Beetroot Field stage just after midday. With a laid back style complimenting her slightly dark laments, she treats us to half an hour of songs presumably culled mainly from her recent full-length effort Me Oh My. Whilst far from inspiring, Le Bon got the day’s proceedings off to a civilised and amiable start.
Highest on my to-do list today was Memory Tapes, having lived with (and indeed loved) Seek Magic for roughly a year now I have been both excited and intrigued to see how the soundtrack to my summer would translate in a live environment. Regrettably I was somewhat disappointed, the set taken almost entirely from Seek Magic concentrated on the more organic elements of live guitar and drums which rendered the songs not unrecognisable, but somehow different. In doing so, Dayve Hawk highlighted his own shortcomings as both a singer and songwriter with the songs coming across as bland and uninspiring. Seek Magic has existed mostly in headphones for me and I have come to realise that what I love most about it is the more artificial layers and pastel hues that swell around and engulf the songs themselves like a thick winter coat, for me there just wasn’t enough emphasis on these aspects in the live setting. I was left, not euphoric as I had hoped but instead concerned about the follow up to Seek Magic.
On the Tavern Stage, Glasgows Dam Mantle proved to be both the biggest surprise and probably the highlight of Field Day 2010 with an energetic set of bedroom produced dubstep glitch with stop start samples and haunting warbled groans. Kind of similar to what James Blake is currently doing, Dam Mantle add a hazy dream-pop quality to their wonderful whirlwind of beats, bleeps and synths.
I’m still sat firmly on the fence when it comes to These New Puritans, whilst I can enjoy the cold rythms, monotone vocals and post-punk vitriol of ‘Hidden’, I do consider it overrated. Today’s set did nothing to tip me in either direction, taking the stage in chainmail Jack Barnett leads TNPs in to Time Xone the apocalyptic opener of the aforementioned album. Of particular note here was the sheer volume of the drums and the bone shuddering bass which reminded me of an experiment in sound I once read about that resulted in a crowd defecating due to the lowest of low ends. TNPs were LOUD, not comfortably so either, from the front you could see the audience wincing at every all too frequent squeal of feedback and after admitting defeat, from the back the mix sounded distorted from under the sheer weight of the noise. Having collaborated with fashion designer Hedi Slimane, TNP may well have been preaching their well-connected art-rock to an already converted trendy London crowd but to these slightly damaged ears they verged a little too close to style over substance.
No Age on the other hand could not have been any further removed from anything else I witnessed today, with their no frills, DIY art rock aesthetic they proved themselves once again to be one of the most incendiary live bands currently flying the lo-fi flag. Simple is better with No Age and with the general annoyances of setting up and sound check swiftly out of the way the three piece (two piece last time I saw them) got down to doing what they do best, heads down, balls to the wall art-punk for the hipster kids. Relentless for almost the entire half hour set, they barely broke stride for the relatively slow crowd favourite and set highlight Eraser. Both in terms of todays line-up and in the wider context of their relevance to the current music scene, No Age proved themselves to be nothing less than vital.
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble brought some much needed soul to the Eat Your Own Ears stage, the former street performing nine piece are to brass bands what the Wu-Tang Clan are to Hip Hop. With nothing more than a drummer, various trumpets, trombones and some cringe worthy crowd participation they proved to be the perfect accompaniment to the beautiful blue sky and sinking sun.
Having released arguably the album of his career and certainly one of the best of the year so far, Dan Snaith and his band Caribou were a fine merit-based choice as the penultimate act on the main stage. It’s a shame that the circumstances didn’t lend themselves especially well to Caribous intricate and at times delicate IDM tinged pop. Tracks such as Sun and Odessa were pitch-perfect but suffered from a slight lack of volume and the tendency for the mix to swirl in and out with the breeze. Other main stage acts might overcome this with gusto and festival anthems but Caribou are a more introverted kettle of fish and the beauty of these songs lies in the detail and intimacy that they are afforded through repeated headphone listening. Through main stage indifference and their own complexity it could be argued that Caribou would have been more suited to the confines of one of the tents or better yet, a nice sweaty club.
What with Field Day being a London festival there was a large contingency of fashionably late wankers, trilby hats and turned up denim shorts in attendance. A large proportion of the crowd were more pre-occupied with themselves and each other than with what was going on onstage. When you add this general lack of interest and bullshit posturing to the noise restrictions that organisers must adhere to, I was left struggling to hear headliners Phoenix over the countless conversations going on around me. From what I could make out, the Parisians were on fine form and gave the crowd pretty much what they wanted although general concentration nosedived for every non-Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix cut that was aired. Not surprising really as Field Day succeeded in gathering together a fantastic line-up, put together for the ‘music fan’ by the ‘music fan’, it’s just a shame that there didn’t seem to be a great deal of these in attendance to enjoy it.