Tights were joyfully stripped from sun-starved legs, sleeves rolled up and dungarees donned as a week-long smudgy cloud hanging over East London made way for glorious blue sky to welcome Field Day to Victoria Park.
Acoustic treats greeted punters as they flowed into the festival to the pacey parp of trumpets and trombones from local lads Hackney Colliery Band, kicking things off on the main stage. They were later followed by father and son duo Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté from Mali, playing the kora – a traditional West African instrument.
Glamorous hordes swanned by as a couple lay face down on the grass near the stage, their cheeks pressed against a cling-wrapped copy of Saturday’s Guardian, the sound of the world’s best harp players the perfect lullaby for a quick power-nap.
So far, so sedate. But as the sun began to set as dancing feet tossed dust into the air. Some reckless rapping from teenage hip-hop trio RatKing, who have been touring with Run the Jewels higher up on the Field day bill, got bodies shifting on the i-D Mix stage.
Sneaking under the awnings of the Shacklewell Arms tent came the bewitching vocals of Tei Shi, moniker of New York-based but Bogota-begot singer/songwriter Valerie Teicher. Her atmospheric electronic R&B left the crowd shouting for more.
But as with previous years, bigger acts seemed to struggle with sound. In the Crack tent, Chet Faker could hardly be heard, though the crowd seemed more than happy to sing blithely along to ‘No Diggedy’ all the same.
Punters crammed the main outdoor stage eager to hear Caribou – the perfect choice for the headline slot. But the sound on the Eat Your Own Ears stage was also weak. “I feel like I’m watching this on TV”, one chap said to his friend, staring glumly up at the video screens beaming images of crowd-surfers and girls hoisted on shoulders.
If Saturday night was all right for partying, then Field Day Sunday put music firmly back in focus. A more seasoned festival crowd gathered to see the likes of Patti Smith, Ride and Mac Demarco on the main stage, with the weather gods once again looking kindly on proceedings.
Feeling disorientated in your local park by the array of tents, stalls and stages is a strange sensation at first, though wandering between them all to discover new acts whilst grazing on some of the stellar street food offerings is no bad thing.
Gulf were an early find, a psychedelic guitar-pop group from Liverpool playing to a modest crowd in the Moth Club tent. For a new band, festivals are like a shop window, a place to find new fans, and Gulf’s lilting, melancholic melodies and full-throttle guitars are sure to have won them friends.
Walking between stages it was surprisingly easy to be distracted by the sight of adults sack-racing, or in the words of the bawdy announcer, showing “athletic prowess in the sack”. Silly but actually rather fun, the ‘Village Mentality’ area is an enduring feature of Field Day that makes it stand out from its festival brethren.
Packing out the Verity tent were Leopold and His Fiction, who wowed the afternoon crowd with a high tempo set of vintage rock, complete with singing drummer. “This song is about Detroit,” declared frontman Daniel James, the crowd roaring their approval. “Has anyone ever been to Detroit?” he followed up, to a more muted response – though enthusiasm for this all-American blend of Detroit rock and soul was well placed.
In an early evening slot, Patti Smith and band played Horses in full, with punk poet Smith showing she’s lost none of her energy or stage presence in the 40 years since the album was released. From the snarled opening line of “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine,” it was clear Smith meant business.
Smith railed against governments and corporations and implored everyone to be free, to whoops and cheers. By the end, audience members were calling out the names of lost loved ones during an emotional rendition of ‘Elegie’, dedicated to all those people “who we have loved and are no longer with us”.
Those who left after Patti Smith must have felt there was no room for improvement, but the remaining faithful were rewarded with a serene set from headliners Ride. Playing songs from across their four albums and various EPs, the reformed cult act and original ‘shoegazers’ have lost none of their intensity, their guitar ‘wall of sound’ thankfully still intact.
With cruel punctuality the curfew was reached. Happy, sunburnt and a little worse for wear the crowd filed out, leaving only glimpses of grass under a carpet of plastic cups, broken sunglasses and crushed cans of Red Stripe.
Could the sound have been better? Probably. But Field Day has all the elements for a great party and emerged with its reputation for devising an eclectic line-up unscathed, though a few decibels short of fever pitch.