Based in the salubrious environs of Victoria Park, right in the heart of East London’s historic ‘long walk from the nearest tube’ district; Field Day 2015 was a two day explosion of tremendous fun and spasmodic sound quality. The weather was on the correct side of summer and — rightly so — the good people of London (and elsewhere) arrived in their droves to enjoy pricey beer and dazzling music.
This year, Drowned In Sound are proud to present their first ever, 9th annual Field Day awards. But who’ll be going home with the trophies…and who’ll leave with nothing but a goody bag of Catflap And The Bottletop memorabilia?
Best Most Undervalued Act
Despite the thankless task of playing the main stage at 2pm on Saturday —as most people were still making their way up from Mile End station or waking up to realise they had tickets for Field Day — the London four-piece played with all the exuberance of a band set on great things. Deserving of a later slot and a bigger audience, the material from their debut felt reinvigorated with the passage of time, while cuts from their new LP lit up the stage. It’s just a shame more weren’t there to see frontman Fred McPherson hit the high-notes in ‘Bad Boyfriend’ or enjoy his pleasing existential banter before ‘All The Sad Young Men’.
Runner Up: Errors – who got stuffed in a similarly early spot the following day.
Best Act To Amplify Summertime
Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté
We can confirm that — despite some woefully unpleasant comments elsewhere on the Internet — the one-two uppercut of this father and son duo delighted the stage on Saturday afternoon. Intoxicating Malian rhythms taking the gathered crowd — for the briefest of moments — from a park in East London surrounded by bedsits and pigeons, to the plains and gullies of West Africa. The pair’s mastery of the 21-stringed Kora catching us off guard in the heat of the day; leading us from tracks of delicate intimacy to surprising some real…err…bangers.
Runner Up: tUnE-yArDs – Merrill Garbus adding warmth to the air with the pure joy of her sound.
Best Act In A Tent Too Small For Their Crowd
Run The Jewels
The buzz in the air is so great, we arrived almost forty minutes early to await the powerhouse duo of Killer Mike and El-P; such was the collective fear that the tiny tent they were playing will already be full to capacity. In an alternate dimension they’d surely have been crushing the main stage, but Saturday was not that day. “We’re gonna burn this motherfucker to the ground” growled Killer Mike as they began a set that took in both their albums and — weirdly for the start of June — closed on ‘A Christmas Fucking Miracle’... But while the venue remained intact, it shook with the momentum of a thousand revelers losing it at every beat and breath of rap’s supreme team.
Runner Up: LA Priest – While this incarnation of Sam Dust might be a relatively new act; his performance begs him to be set free on a bigger stage.
Best Most Overhyped Act
Late last year in a heaving tent in the Breacon Beacons at Green Man, Dan Snaith blew our minds with his brilliance. And just about everyone we’ve talked to who saw him at Primavera last month says the same. On Saturday night however, despite the spectacle of the moment, you couldn’t help but feel it was a lost opportunity. The speakers felt inexplicably dampened for a headliner and when you match that with a drunken, chatty crowd it all fell a bit flat. Wherever you stood it felt like Snaith and his band were playing the backroom of a particularly large pub. And while he did manage to pull it back by the end, it felt like a hollow victory rather than a sweeping triumph.
Runner Up: Todd Terje & The Olsens – An overeager crowd, dancers and good weather couldn’t make up for the fact Terje sounded about as exciting as an album playback in a living room.
Best Act Having The Most Fun
It’s a joint win here for an unlikely pairing. Youthful New York rappers Ratking bristled with enough heat on one of the festival’s smaller stages — keeping the crowd on an incessant bounce throughout — that they could have generated enough energy for all the lights for the main stage. While Oxford’s literal old-boys — Ride — proved their reunion wasn’t just for middle-aged men who can’t let go of the Nineties; surprising the crowd with their sound and seeming equally surprised at the ecstatic reception they received.
Runner Up: Leopold And His Fiction – Drawing many who’d been unaware of these Texan noisenicks, they had a whale of a time sheltering from the midday sun.
Best Act Of The Weekend
In hindsight, it seems foolish to imagine that Patti Smith — who played her seminal album Horses in full — would be anything less than spectacular. But some had their doubts that the sixty-eight year old could pull out such a perfect show. I don’t need to tell you that the music on her forty-year-old album is of course sublime. But the magic comes in her delivery; her response to the crowd; her jubilant cover of G.L.O.R.I.A.; her humour and righteousness; her urgency and delight. It’s not an imperfect set, but that’s what makes it perfect. A wise woman once wrote, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”, and on the strength of tonight’s performance we can be thankful for that.
Of course, as will all ceremonies of this kind, some of the awards were presented earlier. The following are a list of the ones we couldn’t fit in here…
Best Act We Had No Expectations For But Were Truly Excellent
Best Act To Jumpstart Our Sunday Afternoon
Best Act Drowned Out By Someone Else’s Soundcheck
Best Act Who We Tried To Catch Between Sets But Didn’t See Enough Of
Gaz Coombes/Savages (joint winners)
Best Festival In The Centre Of London You’d Be A Fool To Have Missed in 2015
Field Day 2015
Please note: The lead image on this article is from last year's Field Day festival.