Back to festival time for the blog after close to 2 years of drought as the last one I went to was the excellent Paris Pitchfork Festival in November ’13. So with a big smile on my face and with the pleasure in having a sunny weather throughout the two days, here is my review of this event.
I had taken my 2-day pass ages ago as I did not succeed in being fast enough to get tickets to see Ride at the Roundhouse late May so going to this festival was an excellent opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Held in the beautiful Victoria Park in the North-Eastern side of London, it is almost the first one of the outdoor British festivals of the year. I was particularly impressed by the way the logistics were taken care of and by the fact the Festival was offering a few big names whilst keeping a decent size. 16 bands reviewed and scrutinised below ; I must admit that to me the second day was by far better than the first sold-out one. Pity for the prestigious guests I had convinced to put on their red shoes and dance the blues with me..
I lately realised that the different posts on this blog might appear slightly boring as always describing good to great concerts and/or books, records, etc… I must say that by getting older every day, one wants probably to keep their energy in writing positive things… On top of it, years of listening and spending well-earned money probably made me aware about which gigs I want to go to. This is why a Festival is always welcome for me as this is a very good opportunity to write about bad bands or bands good on records but less so on stage.
This is for instance the case with Caribou who were the headliners on Saturday evening. Their music and record have been a must in the recent years for those interested in intelligent and melodic dance music but I must say I have been waiting for the show to really start and give a bit of emotion or groove… Almost same deception for me regarding tUnE-yArDs. Exclusively the brainchild of Merrill Garbus, this is an almost-female fronted band whose ambition is apparently now only to mix high-pitched indie rock with tribal drums plaid in an African style. At the end of the day, nothing is particularly bad here but you keep hoping the concert will end soon as nothing really happens. A real pity as she was a real new original voice and presence when the band started but it looks from another age now.
Kindness was the third major deception of Day One as although Adam Bainbridge’s will to mix uptempo melodies with Prince gimmicks and soul chorists looks like a great idea, you actually feel like watching an average band covering funky standards. I thought I would have interesting things to say about new UK band Gulf…but no really apart that it sounded to me like (another) soon to be forgotten UK band.
OK in the meaning that I did not spend a bad moment per se and that I even enjoyed part of the show…but, well, you know, ok means ok…
Philip Selway is the drummer of one of our most cherished band (Radiohead) and that was funny seeing this great musician playing his delicate songs in front of around 300/400 people under one of the tent stages whereas the guy is used to play arenas in front of worshipping fans. Nice to see such a humble man singing and presenting his songs …and he has a nice voice by the way. But shall I be severely spanked to say that it was on the edge of being boring ? Too late I am afraid… Another good band watched on the same stage was the Allah-Las from Los Angeles. Their music is a mix of garage rock with nice 60’s West Coast influence melodies and they sometimes are on the verge of greatness. My only feeling is that their sound is so retro that this is a bit embarrassing sometimes.
Third ok concert for me was that played by hype Scottish band Django Django. Their new second LP “Born Under Saturn” is really good but is it for the real reasons? What I try to say is that they are very clever guys much interested in new sounds and textures. They have everything to succeed as their good sense of melodies have already made them popular while at the same time pleasing the indie rock aficionados…but something is missing here. Not sure what this is (soul ? authenticity ?) but I pretended a bit to have a good time whereas in reality I was a bit indifferent to their songs.
Either unexpected good surprises or confirmation of what I thought, these are bands I would be really happy to see again if opportunity were to knock again.
The first band you see on Day One is always something special in a festival ; it will not necessarily give you the tempo about what is to come but it might give you a flavour of the mood, the audience, etc… Yossarian is a new band from the UK and their set was impressive in terms of energy and good songs (influences I spotted went from Pink Floyd to early Radiohead). Their first album was offered as a free download for those attending the set so nice initiative too! Another very good act on Saturday was the Norwegian Todd Terje. Although I did not have the best spot to see his very nice lounge/dance music, the tracks he played (mainly from his latest LP “It’s Album Time“) were as good live as they were on record, thanks in particular to an excellent drummer on stage. Perfect music to warm up on a declining sunny day!
The next three acts were as good as I had expected them to be. I started my Day Two with the female trio Ex Hex. Held by singer/guitarist Mary Timony, a woman who has been around for many years in excellent different bands, their music is a mix of grungy sounds with nice choirs. A kind of modern female Ramones and this is a real compliment! DIIV on their sides were presenting on the main stage extracts from their soon to come second LP and it sounded very promising. Although Zachary Cole Smith looks like a guy getting out of bed in terms of attitude…and clothes, he was actually very much there and focused. I must say the band made me a much better impression than the last time I had seen them at the Pitchfork Festival in Paris and I cannot wait to hear the new LP. Last but not least, I managed to watch the second part of Mac DeMarco‘s set and the guy was the way we like him. Dr. Jekyll on one side mainly on the way his songs are really moving and beautiful (his latest LP was part of our 2014 Top 20) and Mr. Hyde on the other one jamming sometimes stupidly with this bare-chested viking guitarist or crowd-surfing.
My only real emotion of Day One was for Owen Pallett and his violin. This Canadian from Toronto used to be known in the business through his multiple activities and in particular as the one arranging strings for his friends Arcade Fire. On top of these many extra-curricular activities, he is now a solo artist on his own and his latest 2014 “In Conflict” LP is particularly recommended. What he does with his violin is really amazing but the skill he has with this instrument is always at the service of the songs and melodies.
Day Two was particularly heavy in emotions, starting with the great Shara Worden who plays under the guise of My Brightest Diamond. She is a super talented musician but I was not sure about how her intimate songs would get on stage. Exam more than succeeded as far as I am concerned first because her rhythm bass and drums section were astonishing but as well because of her personality. Here is a woman who can be funny, make you dance, give you the creeps,… and all this in a 40-minute set. Discover her if not done yet.
Patti Smith playing the seminal “Horses” under a beautiful day with on her side Lenny Kaye on guitar ; can life be any better? Well, probably not, due to the fact that she was on top form at 68 years old and keeping the same balance of stamina and poetry as she has been famous for all her life. Nothing much to say apart from the fact the great lady is amongst our Top 100 of all times and that “Horses” is an album I have literally been listening to hundreds of times with always the same enthusiasm. The rest of the set was amazing as well and the band finished with their traditional cover of “My Generation” by The Who. Catch her if you can as she will have a few extra-dates comes Autumn.
Last but not least, I ended up this 2-day marathon with the amazing Ride from Oxford, UK. This band is part too of our favourite ones and the least I could say is that a year ago I would not have believed such a tour possible. What made the reunion of the original four-member band possible was the good idea Liam Gallagher had last year of disbanding the post-Oasis mediocre Beady Eye, thus leading for an event all rock fans were waiting for almost twenty years. I had only caught them once in April 1990 as the opening act of The House of Love (remember them?) and that show was still a very strong memory. Faith and belief are two key words in rock’n’roll and Ride played at Field Day Festival as if their story had just begun. They opened their fantastic set with “Leave Them All Behind” and kept the pace as such throughout the whole gig. Not sure what will happen next (is this reunion for long ? any plan in trying to record new songs ?) but tonight there was magic in the air so thank you gents.
Field Day, see you next year!