Field Day at All Points East
After a relentless washout of a damp British summer, finally, the planets aligned and delivered an absolute stunner of a weekend for Field Day.
It seemed all of East London had descended on Victoria Park for the electro instalment of All Points East Festival on Saturday. Perhaps a reflection of the times we’re in, the raver bro-heavy crowds of yesteryear (its first edition dates back to 2007) seemed to have given way to a far more eclectic mix, and the people-watching opportunities offered by the crème de la crème of the city’s oh-so-2023 hipsters flooding the festival grounds – in fashion trends that spanned from 90s cargo pants and croptops to punk and goth, markedly celebrating gender fluidity and freedom of expression – were as much a source of entertainment as the music.
In terms of organisation and layout, the daytime was just a pure pleasure to indulge in: plenty of space to get to the front row or hang back and sprawl on the grass with a beverage in hand for the already solid starters for the lineup. The impressive BBC 6 Music tent, in particular, was a beauty to dance beneath when the bigger acts weren’t beckoning, with its art installation-esque black arches.
As the day wore on, however, the back-to-back sets and hordes of people gave off more of a frenzied feeling, as disparate chains of inebriated mates tore from East to West stage and in and out of the arena to catch snippets of overlapping gigs of an overloaded schedule. Still, too many great acts to catch in record time is arguably a nice problem to have.
Canadian-born, London-based Jayda G was an undoubted highlight of the mid-afternoon. A force of joy and positivity, cutting some serious shapes atop the stage in a teal sequined jumpsuit, she blasted out track after track, ending on the sound of the summer, the Grammy-nominated Both of Us, “I just want to be with you” providing the ultimate accompaniment to dancing in the sunshine.
The likes of Fever Ray, formerly of The Knife, also brought out-there outfits and experimental sounds to the East Stage, as did Arca, a cataclysm of percussive and discordant beats against a rose-bedecked space.
Over on the West Stage, purple leather-clad Sudan Archives was a force to be reckoned with on her avant-garde violin; Jon Hopkins brought his trademark mix of more edgy techno and hypnotic psychedelics, while Bonobo, aka Simon Green, used the full gamut of instrumentation at his disposal for a stunning, if mellow, live performance.
But while the outdoor stages had the blissful allure of al fresco raving, it was the Cupra North Arena that unexpectedly held some of the best moments of the day. SBTRKT was sensational, bringing killer bassy tracks such as New Dorp. New York well suited to the moody interior of the tent. Closing number Wildfire, his collaboration with Little Dragon, combining dubstep-infused, urban, wonky beats with witty, sultry vocals (“Your innocence, who’s brave? / Drowning in, would you save me?”), set the crowd alight.
Later, it was the inimitable German supergroup Moderat who sent an electric atmosphere pulsing through a thronging pack of festivalgoers, with Berlin-scene progressive house numbers such as A New Order and the transporting Bad Kingdom, backed with black-and-white illustrations, had everyone chiming in unison: “This is not / What you wanted / Not / What you had in mind.”
Then it was on to Aphex Twin, aka Richard D James. There always seems to be one drawback to the headline act at All Points East: after a packed lineup, it can feel slightly anti-climatic if the energy doesn’t match the adrenaline of the day, not helped by a rather conservative soundsystem volume level. Nevertheless, his mesmerising visuals and boundary-pushing take on electronic music, bringing together all the park’s attendees to one place underneath a crisp summer night sky, felt euphoric and displayed why he is one of the most influential artists of recent decades in the genre.
Even if not every act on the bill was a favourite, Field Day remains hands-down one of the best day festivals you can find, which also reflects and brings out the best in London – a heartwarming display of its diversity, inclusivity, free-spirited and fun-loving vibes, accentuated by the much-missed sunshine. And it’s precisely its cutting-edge range of alternative artists that can surprise and delight. Bringing the underground out into the fresh air, it’s quite literally a field day for ravers and electronic music lovers.
Photos: Ambra Vernuccio
For further information and future events visit Field Day’s website here.