I must find somewhere to listen to the boxing. Froch v Kessler is surely the British fight of the decade (if you can ignore Hatton/Tszyu). This was priority Numero Uno. Field day was the second. A one day festival filled to the brim with an eclectic line up of big name acts playing throughout the day; an exciting prospect for any music fan.
Bursting out of a packed Mile End station into the sun with my girl on my arm we head towards Victoria Park; the home of Field Day. Head full of whatever was the night before we shuffle along amidst the other worms making their way to the site.
On the approach to the entrance the usual birds circle around us; touts and other predatory sorts. I hear the first song of the day “TICKETS? TICKETS! BUYIN’ OR SELLIN’”. A fellow with a slur and a mean look about him comes and sits down next to me as I speed eat a sandwich which I have found isn’t permitted inside the site. Remember no food or drink or banners or weapons or puppets or estranged family members allowed past the gate. His girlfriend wasn’t best pleased that I occupied the space next to her man. She loomed over me scowling.
“Sharon sit over there and let me handle the business that’s a good girl!’ he growls.
Through the drunken drawl I can hear a posh upper class accent. Perhaps it is Lord Lucan under that greasy mop. I could imagine him hiding out as a ticket tout for all these years; the creep!
A quick search and I’m in. To the booze we cry! With beer and ciders in our hands we head to the main stage. Thomas Mapfumo And The Blacks are currently playing; a lively African band whose enthusiasm and energy is well appreciated by an equally lively crowd. Especially the antics of Mapfumo’s backing dancers who often freestyle along to the music much to the enjoyment of the crowd.
I’m happy here. Sun, beer and good conversation; we shouldn’t have ever left that spot.But we did and there the problems began.
We said goodbye to Mapfumo and his company as I wanted to check out Savages who were playing at the Laneway stage. I had no idea where that was and I was loathed if I was going to buy a programme with a map on (which always ruins the art of adventuring). Marching to a distant spot and passing every other stage on the way we ended up at an old bandstand set up for something called ‘Dig It Soundsystem’. A friendly bunch dancing away in front of a makeshift set up of decks and speakers.
“Savages? At Laneway’s right? That’s over the other side mate!” Someone helpfully shouts over a Talking Heads track.
“Time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us… Time isn’t holding us, time doesn’t hold you back…”
We thanked them and danced away quickly (I don’t think they would have liked it if we hadn’t danced) and bounced off back the way we had come.As we finally arrived at the Laneway Stage I knew they had finished. The crowds were all bustling out of there making for the next act; we had missed it.
This was going to be a problem as I normally like to flit about; dashing from stage to stage trying to take in as much new/old/different music as I can. The problem here wasn’t just distance though; I mean once I found the stages it was still quite far end to end but it could be done fairly quickly. It was actually more to do with the fact that Field Day goers are organised motherfuckers. They are everywhere. And as an unorganised and scatty individual I couldn’t compete. I am far more used to 3 or 4 day festivals. You see at the longer festivals people always turn up with a head full of plans and schedules and acts that they want to catch, however it all goes out the window after a heavy night of drunken tomfoolery. The next day all they end up doing until mid-afternoon is nothing more than unzipping their tent and catching a cool breeze as they snooze. Often then re-planning and deciding on the bands they definitely want to see and forgetting the rest in a happy slumber. This creates the effect of thinning out the crowd somewhat and it becomes easier to get a good spot at a stage for smaller bands.
But Field Day’ers are everywhere.
Arriving well before Kurt Vile and his Violators were due on it was already predictably packed. However with a bit of clever crowd tactics (honed over years of gig going) which doesn’t involve being one of those hideous pushing types we manage get a pretty good spot.
“I don’t wanna workkkk but I don’t wanna sit around, all dayyy frowninggg”
Vile’s voice swills around my consciousness like whiskey in a cheap decanter. It’s a pretty impressive set with a mix of some old numbers and some off the new record and it all seems to go down pretty well with the crowd. The final moments consist of the band leaving the stage with only Kurt left, effects box in hand twisting and turning the knobs next to the mic trying to make one last noise before he leaves. It’s moments like these I remember.
More drink and walking and I am watching that old stick master Ginger Baker; half in stitches and half in awe. In between a song he croaks out the names of the other members of his band but when the crowd cheer for him he sticks up his two middle fingers and snarls before jumping into the next track; the old bastard. He is the draw I guess but it is really the music I am after here and I am not disappointed, as it dips and shifts and curves as really only Jazz music can. As I watch in front of me a girl with a short bob cut and a beret clicks her fingers manically to the beat like its 1955.
At £4.50 for a can of beer it’s an expensive business trying to get drunk at Field Day. I am already halfway there and at this stage it comes to my mind that I would quite like a little rest. I see a fence by the main stage that looks perfect. I lounge against it basking in the sun, a bloke next to me snoozes away contentedly as Everything Everything do what they do on the stage. I start to feel myself also drifting off until suddenly a wave of ill feeling sweeps over me. I open my eyes and before me I see none other than my arch nemesis from my student days Mr Janet Bling-Bling (possibly not his real name…).
This little devil is the fourth most dangerous man I have ever met in my life (behind Barran Feeder, The Stranger and of course the most cunning of the lot Herman Raké) and a hideous foe.
I have only actually ever properly met him once before. He appeared one evening as a guest of one of my housemates. I had just returned from a night out and was in a mean mood. Predictably we did not hit it off. In fact I think we nearly hit each other. Drinks flowed and words were exchanged, and the evening ended when he kicked over his chair in fury and stormed out of the house vowing revenge.
I barely glimpsed him the rest of my time at University but his presence was felt. Any near arrests, narrow brushes with death or general misdeeds you could always trace back to Janet. He once turned up at my old halls and began walking around the area trying to find people who knew me in an attempt to gather information on me. I found out about it through a friend who called me up and told me about how there was this surly looking woman asking people strange questions about me. I knew it was Janet right away. I hadn’t seen him for years, yet here he was. He carried on staring at me for a time until with a sly smile he slowly backed away into the crowd and disappeared.
I had no time to reflect on Mr Janet’s presence because Bat For Lashes were on. Natasha Khan shining out like a beacon as the evening drew in; spinning and hopping and flying around the stage. However it’s the more low-key ‘Laura’ that brings out the most emotive response from the crowd and ‘Daniel’ which brings the biggest cheers. Khan’s voice is so effortlessly beautiful. She is certainly a rare talent.
Hunger has set in now so it’s time we hunt for some decent food. Finding it (Spanish wrap Chorizo et al) we sit and watch Four Tet from a distance work the crowd into a frenzied mass. You can feel the excitement in the air and this is obviously one of the sets that many people have come to see. The only thing unnerving me are the various coloured giant balloons that are being buffeted around the crowd. An unnatural size… Unnatural… Had Janet filled these orbs with some chemical death and watching in the wings somewhere at a safe distance he is waiting for the precise moment that one lands close to me where upon he will fire his blow dart and pop the balloon releasing the poison and killing me dead! Sure some others would die, but what are a few worms to Janet if he can get to the main cat! I spit out the delicious wrap I was eating. Perhaps that was poisoned too… I’m taking no chances today.
The final act of the day are up; the sapid Animal Collective. Giant teeth stretch across the stage amidst other hideous and happy shapes, but the night has turned. Oh God the night has turned. People’s faces look ugly now. A man in a witch’s hat cackles as he passes me. I don’t think I like this anymore. Animal Collective are not helping the vibe. I’ve got to get out. Now! But as soon as it has come the moment passes as Animal Collective transition from ‘Applesauce’ into the far more calming ‘My Girls’. The terror has passed and I watch the rest of the set in comfort with even the witch having a good time.
Sadly the music is over and the mass moves towards the exit as lights from the now empty bumper car pool illuminate the faces of the wriggling shuffling crowd. For one terrifying moment I think I see Janet’s ghastly face lit up in a greenish glow grinning madly at me but then it disappears into black. When light shines onto the same spot again there is no one to be seen, Janet has gone.
The boxing! I almost forgot! I pull out my portable radio on the train and squashed into a packed carriage I listen as Carl Froch goes toe to toe with Mikkel Kessler. A truly wonderful fight! Glum Borussia Dortmund fans (their team had just lost the Champions League Final 2-1 to Bayern Munich) look on bemusedly as I jump and howl and punch at the air. Eventually the final bell sounds and the scorecards reveal a Froch victory. I cheer and woop. Nobody cares in here except me and Carl Froch.
I ponder over the day post Froch-victory. It has been a good day mostly. I guess Field Day is all about excess, squeezing as much as they possibly can into one day of pure musical hedonism. For me I am all for excess, and music just helps it to slip down that bit easier.
P.S Our final train home was cancelled and all others following until the morning. Apparently some of the track had been stolen or some important cables along the line had been cut. It reeked of Janet’s evil stink. Luckily we managed to find a bus that went our way or who knows what Bling-Bling would have had in store for us as we slept on the station floor. I shudder at the very thought. As I sat on the bus on the way home I found a picture that I had taken as I lay against the fence. I sat up. It wasn’t the snoozer but something in the background which had me startled. It is the only picture evidence I have ever got of Mr Janet Bling-Bling. Look closely and you will be able to see his shadow reflecting upon the fence as he stood there watching me.
You didn’t manage to succeed in your revenge today Mr Bling-Bling but we will meet again. I am sure of it.
Find out more information about the festival here, and check back weekly for more C/T Festivals coverage