Kicking off to a torrential downpour, as the sounds of LUH echo resoundingly across a sopping wet tent, it’s a slightly disheartening start for Field Day’s 10th birthday celebrations.
Inciting all out dancing and word-perfect sing-a-longs, Skepta champions his every moment on the main stage on Saturday afternoon. “It would have to be on my set,” he grumbles of sound issues through the weather – though no amount of spluttering speakers, rain, or mud seem to dampen the spirits of the gathered as they shake their way through the performance. From the anthemic choruses of ‘That’s Not Me’ through to the calamitous energy of ‘Man (Gang)’ there’s no better way to find resolve against the rain.
Sheltered on the Shacklewell Arms stage, Toronto’s Dilly Dally tear through their set with a tumultuous vitality that’s entirely their own. Shrouded in smoke sometimes so thick they’re obscured from view, Katie Monks’ distinctive vocals cut through the haze like a blade. Switching from a coarse rasp to husky whisper and screaming with a shiver-inducing ferocity, the group put on a performance that’s both electrified and energised.
It’s a near-deafening din that emanates from the stage while Girl Band frolic in the limelight, their barely discernible lyrics and throw-yourself-around rhythms calling out for a chaos that takes no time at all to kick in. Cut loose and fancy free, the Dublin quartet’s characteristically wild nature unhinges inhibitions and sends the festival screeching into a freewheeling fervour. Overdriven distortion is met with rampant cheers, and as the tent headbang, drop, and vogue to the bludgeoning refrains, there’s no other performance that gives quite such a sense of thrill.
Illuminated by a golden light, Wild Nothing bring a sense of the summer back to the (now muddy) festival fields. Shimmering melodies and potent pop hooks transport the crowd somewhere brighter, while across the festival site Four Tet’s dancefloor-filler set keeps the masses discoing through the drizzle.
“How you doing? Wet, I imagine,” James Blake laughs. Headlining the festival’s main stage at the end of a long and miserably stormy day, his performance proves nothing short of majestic. A backdrop of twinkling lights spirals and twirls through ever-evolving visualisations as the glistening synths of ‘Life Round Here’ signal the audience into action. Drawing mostly from recent album ‘The Colour In Anything’, James draws out the groovers and shakers in all their force.
Sending piano melodies rippling through the space age with ‘Love Me In Whatever Way’, before being joined by 1-800-Dinosaur collaborator MC Trim for a performance of ‘Confidence Boost’, there’s something here to instil awe in everyone. Expressing a very sincere gratitude for being able to do such a performance in his home city, and introducing the band that makes it possible for any of it to happen, it’s ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ that draws the night to a resounding close, the field echoing with the words “falling, falling, falling, falling” as the rain starts pouring.
“I’m just gonna apologise in advance to whoever’s set gets cut short, ‘cause we’re just gonna play the full thing,” Parquet Courts announce as they belatedly take to the main stage the next afternoon. Their post-punk stylings and wry sense of humour are effortlessly engaging, whilst new album tracks ‘One Man, No City’, ‘Dust’, and ‘Human Performance’ instantly get the punters dancing on the still-damp ground.
Deadpan humour and smoothly crooning melodies collide as John Grant takes to the main stage for a performance that’d be enchanting if only it could engage attentions away from every other stage. At the far end of the field, with an inflatable banana bouncing above the crowd before the group have even finished soundchecking, Goat embody the spirit of festival fun. Driving percussion and chunky guitar refrains meet dance displays and a dash of cowbell as the outfit’s tribal psych sounds get spirits soaring and limbs flailing to the beat.
As lavish as on record, Beach House transform their stage into a world of their own. As the crowd spills all the way out of the tent and into the sun, the band hold the gathered in a trance, glistening melodies and bubbling echoes enveloping the setting in an ethereal daze.
Over on the main stage, marching drums signal the beginning of the end as festival closer PJ Harvey, resplendent in feathered attire, takes her place under the stage lights. Sultry shapes and seductive sounds are laced with sinister undertones, captivating with an unyielding power. Built mostly around new album ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’, the performance rings out through the fields, steadfast against an approaching thunderstorm.
“It’s a perfect day,” she sings before taking her final bow. Through thunderstorms and ever-present mud, that might be an oversight, but that hasn’t stopped anyone attending from having the most wholly enjoyable of times.