One of the trickier aspects of running a festival appealing to a discerning market is that your customers are hard to please, and it's no secret that previous editions of Field Day have been praised for the inspired music and lineups, but not always for the sound, the queues and, um, the weather.
Having not attended previously, all seemed fine to us, though a bit of confusion on the door lead to us missing Julia Holter's "brunch set," as fine a way to start this kind of affair as you could hope for. According to reports, her lilting tones fulfilled expectations, though given her 12:30 slot, perhaps not as many got to hear it as she deserved. Nevertheless, Peaking Lights made a pretty good starting act for us, filling the Bleed tent with cuts from their forthcoming LP that seemed to indicate a sunnier, digi-dub mood is on the cards. Taking its cue from early '90s dubby ambient house and swaddling it in hazy fuzz, it was hard to tell whether some of their tracks were intentionally lo-fi or whether they were battling with those infamous Field Day sound restrictions, but their spirited performance went down well with the crowd all the same.
From there we scooted to the smaller, brighter RBMA tent, where Blanck Mass, AKA Ben Powers of Fuck Buttons, was showcasing the follow-up material to his quietly acclaimed 2011 solo album. Starting with 20 odd minutes of rasping, celestial ambience that's marked out his project so far, he surprised by moving into more rhythmic territory, introducing a skeletal syncopated beat with a warped Plastikman vibe. It would have been interesting to see where the set went, but in one of those inevitable clashes that festivals are made of, the day's other big dark ambient act Fennesz was starting up back at the Bleed stage, and unsurprisingly, the veteran performer didn't disappoint. Riding colossal waves of sound tempered by plaintive shoegaze twangs on his beloved Fender, it was an hour or so of awesome, otherworldly glory.
Going from Fennesz to Hudson Mohawke possibly wasn't the wisest idea. While his turbo-bass-rave live show sent a huge crowd into rapturous spasms, it was all a bit noisy and obnoxious to these ears. So soon enough we were back in reverb land with Laurel Halo, who energetically showcased some freeform versions of tracks from her excellent recent album—a cleaner, more classically Detroit-inspired effort than her previous work—to great effect. Elsewhere, Grimes had a huge tent roaring and dancing to "Genesis," Maya Jane Coles had a tough time catching the big room vibe after a jugular-oriented set from SBTRKT, Gold Panda mysteriously drew thousands—or maybe he's bigger than we thought—and the wonderful Beirut inspired a startling bout of en masse country dancing in the middle of the park.
While Modeselektor did their headlining megatechno thing with typically devastating results, we reflected that if you live near London, and like hearing good new music outside, Field Day—after a few teething problems in previous years—is now really fulfilling the promise it always had. As proved by the big queue for fashionable London BBQ van Boedean's, while other vendors sat empty beside it, a discerning crowd will usually be prepared to wait for something worthwhile.