Photos by Tim Boddy unless otherwise notes.

Despite its uninspired name for a festival, Field Day was blessed with the two key ingredients for any successful festival: a strong line up and (for the most part) good weather. While it was my first time at Field Day, I quickly learnt that the festival is a pretty typical affair, with overpriced alcohol, hip clientele and over-subscribed tents. Representing, supposedly, ‘the current sound of London’, this year’s music was noticeably electronic-centric. .

Peaking Lights @ Field Day 2012

I started my day with Wisconsin duo Peaking Lights, whose distinctive brand of ‘psychedelic-dub-pop’ thankfully managed to coax the sun out. Consisting of a kind of playback device, some samples, and singer Indra Dunis’s heavily effected vocals, their performance would have been fine if it had not been so half-hearted and insipid. As it was, I left after just a few songs: while the band’s sound is probably best suited to smaller and more intimate settings, it became glaringly obvious that adapting lo-fi music for a live festival performance takes some effort.

R. Stevie Moore

Photo by Mike Winship

R. Stevie. Moore’s performance straddled utterly bizarre and enthralling. Accompanied on-stage by three band members young enough to be his children, and in eccentric Jesus-like appearance and outlandish clothing, Moore’s oddball approach to music – and life – translated well live. While his on-stage presence was charismatic and endearing, his songs (very few of which I had heard before) weren’t especially striking. However, while it must be difficult to decide what to play when one has over 400 releases to select from, Moore had certainly worked hard to put together a memorable set, if not for his music then certainly for his personality.


Photo by Leon Steber

I then set off to the main stage to see multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird, whose performance turned out to be disappointingly underwhelming. Despite his excellent back-catalogue and competent musicianship, Bird’s sound seemed weak and lacking on the huge stage. To be nestled amongst an electronic-heavy line-up was perhaps Bird’s biggest set back – after all, I’m not sure that whistling is the current ‘sound of London’. I soon left to see Hudson Mohawke, whose set couldn’t have been further from Bird’s: the Glaswegian’s performance was a true spectacle, aided by monstrous sound and an impressive lighting show. As much as I felt out of place lingering at the back of the tent, Ross Birchard’s performance was so intense and engaging that it was difficult not be impressed.

John McEntire (Tortoise)

Photo by Mike Winship

After a futile attempt to see electro-pop queen Grimes, the Village Mentality’s crowd tent dispersed like a bomb scare upon seeing seminal 5-piece Chicago post-rock band Tortoise take to the stage. Accompanied by a myriad of instruments that made Grimes’s set up look like a Fisher Price first instrument kit, Tortoise, though not looking like a typical Field Day band – half of the members I wouldn’t have thought twice about offering my seat to on the tube – performed a set that was nothing short of mesmerising. Offering extraordinary musicianship and an effortlessly slick performance, their set was gripping; while perhaps an odd choice for the festival (being, after all, maybe the only bald people in Victoria Park), it was easy to see why Tortoise continue to be so influential.


Photo by Leon Steber

And then it was time for the band I was most excited for: Beirut. Despite poor sound, the band’s performance was stirring and passionate. Blasting through a set that spanned their previous three albums, it was refreshing to see Zach Condon genuinely lost for words following the overwhelming crowd participation for songs like ‘Postcards From Italy’ and ‘A Sunday Smile’. I’ve wanted to see Beirut live since their album Gulag Orkestar came out in 2006, and with a performance as cohesive and polished as it was, it was worth the wait.

Field Day 2012

I must admit that I had had no intention of watching headliners Franz Ferdinand. I don’t own an album, have never wanted to see them live, and, for the most part, have avoided them as much as possible. But there I was, standing in a field, getting soaked, and watching the band play through over an hour’s worth of material. Despite all this, the band’s set was nothing short of enjoyable. While somehow managing to pull out every cliché possible, they delivered a set-list that comprised of hit after hit, the majority of which worked well live with the help of Alex Kapranos’s charismatic on-stage presence. While their new material was fairly uninspiring, it takes a lot for a band to overcome a torrential downpour. At the close of this year’s Field Day, Franz Ferdinand managed to do just that.