It’s a miracle that Victoria Park looks good as new by the time Midday rolls in on Sunday. An opening day of berserk PC Music sets, emotional headline occasions and chaos-ensuing sets from Run the Jewels and Rat Boy ensured that Field Day’s location was a right state by the time curfew arrived. Somehow, it’s never seemed more ready for round two.
An apologetic Viet Cong take to the DIY stage amidst an overrunning soundcheck. “We arrived at the festival about three minutes ago…. not on purpose” they offer as explanation, but it’s all soon forgotten - staunchly devoted to melody amongst all the razor-sharp noise, they prove their worth immediately. Marking themselves out as a step above their peers through Matt Flegel’s embracing of the bass guitar’s full fretboard potential and Ian McCulloch-esque vocal, as they slice straight through the summer sun these self-proclaimed “sloppy Canadian fucks” prove themselves to be anything but.
“Hi, we’re called DIIV, we’re from New York City,” drawls Zachary Cole Smith for approximately the seventh time between songs in his band’s main stage set. Everybody already knows it anyway, though, and the meandering echoing melodies of ‘Doused’ and ‘How Long Have You Known’ sound as radiant and blue as the relentless sun bearing down on Victoria Park. The band’s new material sounds equally sublime, too. “This doesn’t feel like a UK festival,” jokes Cole Smith, squinting up at the sky. DIIV’s set even features a brief appearance from Mac DeMarco - acting as a guitar tech - and a quick photo opportunity at the end as the band snap their crowd on a phone. It’s an effortless, heady show from start to finish.
Photos: Beach Baby, DIIV, Ex Hex.
Nothing is going right for Andrew Charles White, the topless and ‘tached Mac DeMarco guitarist with a thousand woes. “I think this’ll be my last show,” he jokes towards the end of a set scattered with technical issues. When his amp is broken, he ends up improvising by singing solos, and by the time Mac’s set finishes, he throws his guitar up six feet high in frustration. White knows it as much as everyone else, though - Mac DeMarco shows are actually better when stuff goes wrong. Chaos lends itself to impromptu covers, between-song quips and crude jokes. At one point, a loaf of bread gets thrown on stage, and within half a second, DeMarco quips: “Don’t you know we’re gluten free?!” and throws the thing back. He’s quick. Sticking resolutely to material from his first three releases - new mini-LP ‘Another One’ will have to wait another day - when things go well, Mac and his pack are on fire. When things go terribly, they’re just as enamouring. They can’t lose, really.
On the main stage, Patti Smith is making excuses for her rock star sunnies. “They’re prescription” she protests, adding “I’m not wearing these shades to look cool”. Thing is, Patti Smith would still look insanely, untouchably cool even if she was wearing an outfit made out of tea towels, and an empty pot of mac and cheese as a hat. She’s a legend, a pioneer, and the punk poet laureate, and she’s pitched up casually at Field Day to play her debut record ‘Horses’ in full.
On ‘Land:’ she reaches her urgent, aggressive high point, snarling and yelling ‘horses, horses, horses’ with the backing of Victoria Park. “I only fuck up perfectly,” quips Patti Smith later after fluffing a cue at the beginning of ‘Birdland,’ before adding later “I’m, like, 97 years old” between songs. So much stage patter can feel a little wooden or pre-meditated, but Patti - sometimes self-deprecating, occasionally incredibly heartfelt, always quick-witted - is warmly genuine. She dedicates ‘Elegie’ - the song she originally wrote in memory of Jimi Hendrix - to lost loved ones everywhere, reading out a solemn list of names including her late husband Fred Sonic Smith, and her friend Lou Reed to close the song. It’s a genuinely touching moment of reflection before she launches into joyful renditions of ‘Because The Night,’ and her The Who cover, ‘My Generation’. Since seeing huge celebratory shows at Hyde Park, she’s always dreamed of playing a show like this, Patti Smith admits, onstage. “You are all my Hyde Park” beams Patti, taking her bows, and today feels like yet another landmark moment in her phenomenal artistic life.
Photos: Gengahr and Mac DeMarco.
Something’s stirring with Savages. They’re not the only band to showcase a huge bulk of new material at Field Day - this is their first UK show in months - but they’re a rare outlier in that they’re actually strengthened by the decision. They’ve already claimed that a “beast of a record” is in the works, but tonight’s closing set on the DIY stage suggests they might have been understating things. A one-off release, ‘Fucker’, throbs like a techno-nodding juggernaut, giving hints of Factory Floor in its industrial punch. And material that’s even fresher follows suit. Giant, all-encompassing rock with a fizzing twist, this is a bigger, braver, more bolshy Savages. They’ve taken all the strengths of ’Silence Yourself’, before surging forwards. Jehnny Beth fronts everything with more confidence than ever, crowdsurfing and holding a packed-out tent in her palms. If Savages seemed assured and exciting first time round, just wait for the next step.
Sunday is the unofficial day of returns, and Ride kick off underneath a gold and purple haze of lights with ‘Leave Them All Behind,’ the opener from 92’s ‘Going Blank Again’. Until this year, the shoegaze-staples had only toyed with the odd acoustic appearance, and a proper reformation was not an option. This summer, though, Ride are playing together as a full band for the first time in twenty years. No biggy, then.
It’s towards the tail end of the set during ‘Vapour Trails’ that Ride really hit on magic. That unmistakably baggy drum beat, and those washy, quivering guitar lines sound absolutely massive blaring out into the night in potent combination. Prior to their reunion, Ride were worried about not meeting people’s expectations. On the evidence of the jubilant crowd - many of them dancing about in Ride band t-shirts - they needn’t have worried.
Photos: Ride and Savages.
All photos: Emma Swann / DIY. Words: Tom Connick, El Hunt and Jamie Milton.
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