Aphex Twin and Abra Dominated London's Latest Field Day Festival
Plus PC Music, Nico, Nina, and a really big barn.
This post appeared originally on THUMP UK.
Perhaps because most of the attendees have succumbed to locked jaws and existential crises by the Sunday, the team behind London's Field Day wisely decided to concentrate the party into a one-day affair for 2017. Happily, the supercharged approach was a success. Like most festivals that've lasted beyond a second edition, it possesses a loyal following of fans who'll slap down cash for tickets before a single act's been announced, but this year's bill really did have everything—from Arab Strap to Aphex Twin the organizers had sorted stuff to suit everyone's taste.
Amongst the glittered-faces and backwards snapbacks, the sun shone and all the wounds we'd suffered during the great downpour of 2016 healed. Things felt a little quiet though, but any idea that the festival had suddenly been abandoned by the bright young things that usually make up the crowd was immediately dispelled by the realization that everyone'd made their way to the new stage—a behemoth that was anticlimactically just called The Barn. Said barn was more enormodome than Emerdale, a fuck-off air-hanger that brought Motion in Bristol in mind. Field Day has previously come under fire for dodgy sound, but acoustics and speakers in this new venue were certainly not lacking. Hefty was the word for it. The Barn was the biggest draw for the audience, and with the likes of Nicolas Jaar and Nina Kraviz gracing its stage, electronic music seemed to be the priority.
Over on the main stage, blissed-out RnB singer Abra played a surprisingly early set (despite her recent success) to a field that was only just beginning to fill up. By the time I had managed to get a drink, down said drink, piss that drink out, and find my continuously vanishing friends it was time for Loyle Carner to bring out his laid-back hip-hop to a crowd who evidently adored him. In his refreshingly humble manner, Carner exclaimed that he "couldn't believe so many people [had] turned up." Nearby, playing to a rammed Crack Stage was Mura Masa, an artist who has recently achieved a string of bangers with a zeitgeist hit list of guest vocalists. In the vein of SBTRKT's early sets, and when Disclosure realized they could charge more to put (live) on the lineup, Mura Masa eschewed decks in favor of live instrumentation and vocals. Without the luxury of bringing out Desiigner, A$AP Rocky or Charli XCX, he had a dedicated singer who did a stellar job at hyping up the crowd.
Proving that they're not merely troll music which stopped being funny or interesting in 2014, the PC Music squad threw yet another showcase event, featuring appearances from the post-ringtone godfather AG Cook, the tallest man in music, Danny L Harle, and "Hi" chanteuse, Hannah Diamond. If the reaction they got from the packed crowd at the Moth Club stage is anything to go by, people—fashion students, presumably—still love PC Music.
Everything we've mentioned so far was good, great, amazing, but honestly, we were only really here to see Richard D James tearing the barn a new one. Bathed in lasers and dry ice, Aphex delivered a devastatingly potent set of mangled hardcore and erroneous electronica. Apart from a few shoegazing sadsacks who'd camped out at Slowdive, it felt like the entire festival had decamped to see the strange Cornish bloke's strange-as-ever set.
With the mutated faces of the audience—visually manipulated on the big screens as part of Aphex's A/V experience—rolling around our heads, me and my friends joined the thousands schlepping out of Victoria Park, back to flats full of contented Field Day fans, ready to discuss the event in excruciating detail. Or something like that, anyway.
And, no, we didn't actually witness Moodyman playing "Sex on Fire." Sorry.