Thunder and heavy downpours at 11am is not a good sign on the day of a summer festival. Nor is a forecast predicting rain until 3pm when Gerd Janson is on stage at 2pm. Luckily though, the weatherman is way off, so when we arrive to find Seun Kuti and a main stage full of musicians trotting out Afrobeat in the glorious sunshine, it feels more like Nigeria than north east London.
It's a relief to say the least. London is never an easy place to put on a festival. Too much hinges on an unreliable climate and Environmental Health has sound levels on lockdown. It's no wonder the circuit is so close to saturation — something that makes the aforementioned elements even more of a bugbear. Still, on a good day, few cities in the world can compete with the English capital. The appetite for electronic music here, in east London in particular, is insatiable, therefore opening the door for festivals like Field Day, growing in stature each year and spread over two days for the first time this year. Without compromise too. Wall-to-wall leftfield electronic delights, from stages hosted by the likes of Eat Your Own Ears, Bugged Out! and Shacklewell Arms, supported by talent such as John Wizards, Jessy Lanza and Ryan Hemsworth.
With a wicked line-up like this and the weather working out, the only thing left to let us down today is likely to be the sound. Following the jubilation of Fela's son's set (where the sonics are decent), our next stop is the Bugged Out! tent, where we find Jackmaster/Oneman doing their best to fill an enormous big-top fitted only with a single stack either side of the stage at the front. Throwing together rudeboy techno and guttural half-step alongside the odd '90s house record, it doesn't help that the space is rammed to the rafters with people soaking up the meagre sound. Presenting 'Can You Dance?', the answer is, quite simply, not a chance, unless you're one of the people throwing their hands in the air at the very front.
A swampy quagmire of garbled sound waves, the busy tent is a buzzing hive of activity, with people strewn messily out on the grass outside, clearly enjoying the occasion, while groups loiter on the outskirts of the tent — chatting jovially — some straining to hear the music before heading for the exit. Later on it's no real surprise to see the place practically deserted, even for Dixon and Âme — two of the most bookable underground DJs in the world right now. Still, at least it's easy to get to the front.
Over at the smaller Resident Advisor tent, the sound is only marginally better thanks to the size, where George Fitzgerald can be heard squeezing out what sounds like meaty tech house, a succession of obfuscated hi-hats and dampened kick-drums kept alive by diva vocal loops and the occasional piano melody. Nearer the middle, there'd be more luck, if we could be arsed to negotiate the chock-a-block crowd. Instead, not feeling it, we head over to the Red Bull Music tent where Hyperdub darling Jessy Lanza is ready to go on.
Dressed in a cap and baggy shirt, she could be a bassist in a shoegazing slacker rock band if it weren't for the laptop, Roland synth and effects box laid out in front of her. Opening with 'Giddy', the first track on 'Pull My Hair Back', her debut LP co-produced with Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, it's a slow start to the set, but it already has the small undulating crowd in awe.
A rolling analogue bottom-line, soft mellow chords and the understated echo of her vocals proving a tender foil to a squidgy, acidic topline, we're already hooked. The system, big enough to support the small space, has the congregation swaying in satisfaction as '5785021' takes things up a gear until... boy, can this girl sing!? Her effortless pipes are more than a patch on Aaliyah and, by 'Keep Moving', the tent is a giddy huddle of singing and dancing.
Now feeling ecstatic, we head to the main stage where worryingly, initially it sounds like Jon Hopkins has blown a speaker. Either he's twisted some knobs to adjust the levels or farting distortion is his intentional intro. Regardless, the crunching angles of 'We Disappear' sound sharp, if a little rusty, while 'Open Eye Signal', an obvious highlight, is a woozy halcyon dream made all the more wondrous by a cascade of gigantic white balloons bouncing over our heads.
To finish off, the unexpected set of the day is Metronomy, also on the main stage. Making amends after their severely disappointing fifth album, 'Love Letters', Joe Mount and his new-look band have come an awful long way from the scruffy antics of before, adapting to justify why they're one of the sole surviving indie-dance acts left over from the noughties.
Even 'Month of Sundays', which sounds flat and ridden with bum notes on the LP, is an epic festival moment. Classics like 'A Thing For You' is a restless slice of infectious pop that is even better live and 'Heartbreaker' sounds like vintage gold.
Thanks in no small part to their tightness held together by the absurdly skilful bassist Gbenga Adelekan, immaculately dressed in matching pink suits, Metronomy ensure Field Day is an indelible mark on summer 2014. Helping to prove the best acts at dance fests are not always DJs in the big-top.
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