There were only two real questions on everyone’s minds at the first day of Field Day at Brixton’s Brockwell Park: number one, where the hell was Erykah Badu and why was she 30 minutes late? And Number Two, how is it physically possible for one crowd of people to consume this much NOS in one short day? Left, right and centre came the distinctive hiss of balloons being filled and by the time the day was over the crowd had to wade through a knee-deep grotty lake of shiny silver canisters to make their exit.
Next were the slender legend from Detroit and the ancient grandfather of afrobeat, Jeff Mills and Tony Allen (and their charismatic synth player) whose set was a small intimate experience as 75% of the festival goers were idling around the main stage in frustration. This performance had a subtlety to it. Mills conducted the performance, all the while intently focused on his drum pad and and other gizmos, his fidgety and incessant touches providing a lusciously syncopated percussive element and those classic edgy electronic sounds which hark back to those seminal tunes coming out of the Underground Resistance. Allen seemed, in contrast, to remain quite still whilst snare rolls, off beat toms and complex cymbal patterns interwove that Cuban-afrobeat sound with Mills’ work. They played 3 or 4 extended compositions all slowly building and suddenly breaking down into spacious grooves. I managed to sneak around and thank Mills for the performance then promptly found myself having a piss next to Tony Allen which was a fairly surreal experience to round off the day.
Deciding to make something more of the day and very keen to catch Objekt b2b Batu, I turned up earlier on the Saturday, just not early enough to catch the whole set by the now bald and alien-esque Objekt alongside Batu of Timedance. What I did hear sounded pretty interesting, and I did spent most of my time down at the Resident Advisor tent. I dipped in and out of the sets following on from that b2b, Tzusing, Avalon Emerson and Helena Hauff, noticing the tension and density of crowd slowly ramping up. Kurupt FM seemed to be kicking off on the main stage, packed with a bus load of people intent on taking hype to the next level. Back in the RA tent Hauff dropped some absolutely killer stuff out of nowhere, some tunes hard enough that somehow the far too densely pack throng of moist bodies managed actually managed to do something that resembled dancing.
Like the day before, the Saturday for me was essentially a warm up for the final act of the day – this time it was Fever Ray. The ex-lead singer of the Scandi brother-sister duo, The Knife, has really taken and run with The Knife’s distinctive atmosphere and energy that is hard to pin down with her new album Plunge. The contrast of digital, celestial euphoria and tension-building programmed and broken beats drag you emotionally all over the place, from states of calmness to frantic hysteria and she, along with her dancers/instrumentalists, evidently relished their power. The soundscapes made me feel liked I’d been dropped, alone, into a cavernous space before I was suddenly confronted by Karin Dreijer Anderson’s emotively strained voice. It confronts you face on and you are forced to realise the political underpinning of the album – a starkly sexual denouncement of patriarchy in it’s political, institutional and everyday manifestations. I’m not sure I have seen a performer who knows who they are – or at least who they want to be – as confidently as Fever Ray seems to. She sets a brilliant and liberating example of ‘I’ll do what the fuck I like’. If Aphex Twin was last year’s Field Day game-changer
Words by Nick Hann
Photos Courtesy of Fanatic Live