The East End's eclectic one-dayer shrugs off the rain with sweet sounds and thundering noise. Victoria Park, London, Saturday, August 1
Nineteenth century architect Sir James Pennethorne’s grand vision for Victoria Park was to provide a green lung in the midst of the squalor and depravity of London’s East End. His skeleton must therefore have spun in its grave during the last two Field Days: female buttocks could be seen protruding from behind market stalls as the epic loo queues made the site one huge urinal, and the screams of folks crazed with a thirst for gin and juice drowned out the sound from the pitifully quiet stages. But what a difference a year makes.
“My name is Owen. I come from the British colony of Canada,” chirps Final Fantasy’s Mr Pallett from the main stage. His mastery of pedals to loop his violin into refreshing pop numbers proves compelling enough to stop a twit from rolling a crystal ball up and down his arm and around his shoulders before someone uses it as a Miss Marple murder weapon to stop him. “There’s no hope for the village!” sings Pallett, clearly not in reference to the excellent supplementary entertainments here – sack racing is clearly tricky when drunk, the Farnborough Concert Band Of The Royal British Legion are the hardest working musicians on site, nut brown ale involves little queuing and NME is tempted to steal an air rifle from the shooting stall to blast a way into the packed Bloggers Delight tent for The XX. Bodes well for the band, but somewhat unfortunate for those left outside with the thunder of the BUGGED Out! stage drowning out the London four-piece’s spidery melancholia.
The infernal noise of The Thing would make for a fine crowd-dispersing weapon. A meaty cove with a bald head hammers away at a double bass with the enthusiasm of a psychotic butcher plucking away on a bull’s entrails as Mats Gustafsson unleashes richly abrasive honks and squawks from his baritone sax. With freeform, jazzy drum patterns and statisticians reporting that 87.3 per cent of the festival’s beards are inside this tent, this could be directionless and indulgent, but the madness of The Thing is to be ignored at your peril – Field Day, this is the sound of your head tomorrow morning.
Outside, hay bales are strewn across an increasingly sodden landscape and a chap in a disintegrating straw hat wails at the leaking clouds. It’s a village fete apocalypse, and the perfect setting for Wild Beasts – with ‘Two Dancers’ imminent, Field Day is theirs for the taking. Hayden Thorpe, in his denim jacket and tight trews, looks like a twisted sheep dipper out on the prowl. As he sings, he grimaces as if in the ecstatic culmination of
a knee-trembler behind the bandstand. Wild Beasts are dirty and sly but never smutty, instead revelling in an unconscious eccentricity and lascivious charm. In the past year they’ve honed this into ditties as likely to get brogues moving in the mud as anything from the gramophone technicians over in the dance tent. ‘Hooting And Howling’ is the song you wish those drunkards under your bedroom window would sing on their stumble home, and ‘His Grinning Skull’ sounds more sprightly than ever as the girls of Field Day gather bundles of straw in the hope of a tumble, and the boys let loose a loud hurrah.
And now, the night by rights should belong to noise. It might be the all-pervading damp, but The Big Pink’s oft-formidable industrial brew fails to rouse, and it’s left to Mogwai to provide a thunderous culmination to a day that even the weather’s been unable to spoil. When, during ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’, they bring the sound down to barely audible levels, it’s not because of the intervention of a jobsworth noise abatement official but because Mogwai are still kings of the loud-quiet-loud. Just one guitar can be heard, then… suddenly, it’s as if the echo of a barrage from the anti-aircraft guns that were stationed in Vicky Park during World War Two could still be heard. These days, Mogwai might look a bit old for their sportswear but, as a coruscating ‘Batcat’ shows, they’re aging garrulously. And with that it’s sadly all over, and Sir James Pennethorne’s soul can rest safe in the knowledge that Victoria Park is being used in the manner in which he intended. If only he could have a word with whoever up there
is in control of the plumbing before next year…