“The end is nigh” a hobo assures me as I exit Mile End tube station. “Back off you crazy bastard!” I respond with my fingers hexed towards him, though the man’s probably right. Tattoo sleeves, beards and purple hair surround me; a wave of hipster wankers. Having made no attempt to map the route to Victoria Park, I initially follow the destructive trail of beer cans and confused police officers etched into the road before discovering a group of youths walking in mass. Doing my best to not resemble a pervert unsuspectingly stumbling into a Yewtree sting, I shadow the group hoping they will unknowingly escort me to Field Day 2014.
The group make a left onto Roman Road and into a darkened park area. As my concern over the lack of music and stages creeps in, I’m approached by one of the male youths who, with his groin covered with pastry crumbs, appeared to have a croissant confused with a condom. “I wasn’t following you!” I reassure him, “What? Listen, got any mandy?” he responds. I’d followed these patisserie perverts to a pre-festival drugs meet. “I don’t want to alarm you, but the police have the area surrounded, they tipped the press off, expect batons man! Batons!” I yelled at the boy. The drugs flared his panic and I fled, leaving him in a confused, Robbie Savage-like state, before finding my bearings and venturing into Victoria Park.
After my editor kindly squared some issues in the press box, I entered and purchased a beer to level with the strangely beautiful, Haim dressed decadent pseudo counter-culture heathens that surrounded me. I eyed their tattoos and wondered how a nurse would find their veins when they grew old. Shoreditch is prophesied as a community of twats, and that appeared an accurate description as more tattooed bearded sheep flocked into the field. But as the beer took hold and another kid offered me drugs, I considered… they could be nice people; they’ve made some bad decisions, but hell, they’re polite after all. I was approached by a young girl during Blood Orange’s set on the Main Stage, whose name I didn’t care to remember as she asked for a cigarette when I was running low. Dev Hynes, put on an outstandingly soulful show as the sun bleached Victoria Park’s grass and its patron’s skin as I sat with the girl, sharing a cigarette and our irreverent thoughts on life. I agreed to walk with her to the Jamie xx set that, by this time had a crowd spilling from the tent. The music could still be heard however and I danced with my new cigarette mooching friend.
I ditched the cigarette moocher in favour of Warpaint’s main stage set, and left her in a bewildered state, still not able to quite digest that’d she’d need to find a new tobacco source. Warpaint set the tone for a hazy sun licked evening, with dirt at its core, inducing waves of heathen chemistry. Couple PDA’s spawned a mass expedition to the surrounding bars for those with no one to grab. Continuing the theme of hedonistic bastardry was Jagwar Ma in the confines of the Click Magazine tent. Love and violence filled the arena as the bands psychedelic reverie lifted spirits and feet from the ground. I noticed Tim Burgess, who’d been DJing between bands, bouncing his grinning face from the side of stage watching the masses plunge into drunken hysteria. The sun crept into the tent as it fell over London, seeping through the pillars and flickering it rays from the trees beyond, creating an almost dreamlike setting.
Jagwar Ma then put me into a crazed panic. My ears rang and I grabbed the nearest security guard and screamed at him, “I can’t hear anything godammnit!” The bastard tapped on the earplug within his ear and gave me the O.K sign. “None left though” he confirmed, “You goddamn liar! Help me!” I replied, to stuffed ears and a nonchalant face. After the set ended and fearing I’d lost all hearing in my left ear, I uneasily made my way to the Shacklewell Arms tent. The imbalance from tinnitus and lack of depth perception from eye swelling hayfever, as well as a heavy Red Stripe consumption made it considerably harder to tackle the assault course created from emaciated bodies covering the ground of Victoria Park. I stepped on a large number of fingers, arms, legs and heads only half hearing the screams and possible breakages before I found myself in the Shacklewell Arms tent. Dark and enigmatic, East India Youth’s one man band of electronic synths and guitar wielding lunacy brought the intimate crowd to a rapture. William Doyle’s wild eyed energy was infectious as he threw his body around, violently slamming fingers on keys and strings. Intrigue and obscenity filled the air, as the arrival of Brixton’s Fat White Family drew nearer. They’d already raised their profile from their degenerate gigs and lack of concern for clothes, morals, safety and Alex Turner.
A surge from the wild eyed mob overwhelmed the tent as the band walked on stage as the Mystery Jets finished up their DJ filler set. My eyes reached the security guard with indifference for patron’s ears from earlier. As the crowd barrier shook to the weight of the drunken mob behind it, his left eye brow raised. The man had a remarkable likeness to Charles Bronson and I considered his possible penchant for violence. No evidence of any Lurpak though. Has anyone else in this heinous crowd seen Bronson’s temperature rising? No point in telling them. They’ll see it soon enough. Having taken enough of a beating from the crowd and wanting to avoid Bronson’s tipping point I edged back to the side of stage considering what surrounded me. It was hard to pull my eyes away from the band, their infectious music and behaviour was overwhelmingly drawing. ‘No one knows what it means but its provocative’ etc. I cleansed my pallet with Metronomy’s headline set, worthy of more note than what I remember, before adding bruises to bruises at Fat White Family’s gig at the Shacklewell Arms uptown.
I awoke, bruised and broken to the sounds of England’s 0-0 draw with Honduras repeat on tv. I’d stayed at a hotel on the outskirts of town and over breakfast I found its patrons seemingly more concerned with poor quality croissants than of any festival taking place. I warned the lady next to me about what locals appear to do with their croissants around here, but she seemed too fixated to care.
With the sun once again trying to push festival goers west, in a dust bowl movement – I made my way to the tube station and to Victoria Park, this time knowing better than to follow litter and youths with a fetish for pastry. I entered the festival and made use of Meantime’s beer tank whilst it was still quiet. Some bodies lay strewn over by the trees, looking as though they’d evaded yesterday’s eviction and slept in the trees, too numb to know they’d landed. Lovepark awoke me from my ale daydream and alerted everyone else sleeping their hangovers off on the grass to the fact that the festival is now a two day event. They attracted a respectable crowd for that time of day, whatever time that was. Brighton’s The Wytches finished off whatever was left of my flailing left ear with their surf-psych rock giving a hard slap to anyone still trying to nap on the grass at the back. The band refreshingly let the music do the talking with minimal crowd interaction, ‘shut up and play the hits’ as it were.
With Sundays schedule trimmed down from Saturday’s pore seeping abundance, I made my way to the Village Mentality area at the heart of the festival. There I found straw bales, bunting and notably a brass band playing hip hop classics. I also discovered a food eating contest. Four willing troglodytes were due to ingest a heady mix of marshmallows and mushrooms, along with a pint of milk in the hot sun. The men were prepped and ready, and began, cheered on by friends throwing their mouths into the buckets provided. I noticed the man on the far end quietly eating, who appeared to be there merely because he was hungry and wanted something to eat, unaware of the contest taking place. Three minutes in and there was concern from the crowd, the front row lurched back as a contestant spilt undigested mushrooms through his fingers. Liberated? You think you are and then one day you’re watching a grown man throw up on a child whilst a hippy dressed in a Boy Scout uniform screams in a loudspeaker at the bastard to eat more.
With my appetite dead, I headed back to the Eat Your Own Ear’s stage for Temples. Though somewhat stiff, their blissful psychedelic fuzz complimented the sun pouring over them and made for a better sound than the mushroom chunder endured moments earlier. Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr both lauded Temples as the best new band in the UK, if that kind of thing interests you. The Horrors were due on stage next which drew crowds from across the field. As my photographer let me down, I decided better pictures were needed and a close-up most certainly required. I made my way to the photography pit and drew out my camera for a better shot as The Horrors arrived on stage to mass ovation. If you ever want to piss a photographer off, just use your 5 megapixel camera phone – Christ, they get riled when you block their shot with an iPhone. “What the hell are you doing?!” one photographer asked. “Pictures man, pictures! Get out of my way!” I responded, to a perplexed, angry sweaty face.
‘Still Life’ sat beautifully in the warm London sun, and their tracks from Luminous transferred well to the live setting. Faris Badwan even made it through the sun soaked set without bursting into flames. Having pissed enough photographers off, I moved on to the Shacklewell Arms tent to gaze in wonder at Samuel T Herring’s mind-altering dance moves at Future Islands set. The Baltimore bands leader screamed “Let’s get fucking rowdy y’all!” and the crowd did just that; which warmed things up nicely for the Pixies headline set. ‘Wave of Mutilation’ broke across Victoria Park as the Pixies tour through their near 30 year history [forgetting the gap]. ‘Debaser’, ‘Hear Comes Your Man’ and the obvious ‘Where is My Mind?’ spread delirium across the field in ways I’ve only seen at intimate gigs. As always there were minimal words to the crowd, but who needs it? Instead a canonical body of music was launched at the mob, finishing off the sun and a festival with very little to dislike.
I’ve been at times, harsh and crass about this festival, mostly about its attendees. I’m not even sure if I subscribe to these views and it would be naïve to think of this festival as pretentious. Everyone I met was warm, friendly and intriguing, the food was great (nod to Hot Box’s beef rib burger and the lovely girl serving it) the entertainment outside of the music was beautifully wholesome and of course, the music was incredible. The bands I mentioned deserve more damn credit than I could give, along with the bands I haven’t. Spreading its legs to two days has made Field Day an even better festival, and there’s just nothing not to like. My love of festivals has been restored. If Bronson doesn’t find me, I’ll be returning next year.
More on Field Day here.