Field Day @ Victoria Park

 For whom the Bells toll



It was 3 o'clock in a broody Saturday afternoon when I braved the crowds that clogged the festival entrance.
Within 15 minutes, unexpectedly, I was already standing opposite the Eat Your Own Ears main stage, locking my feet at an ideal spot that would secure me perfect views of the Liars' noise party. The sun was out, finally- both literally and metaphorically.

The above trio's latest offering WIXIW goes surprisingly mellow and electronic hinting here and there at their usual sinister experimentalism, which we have so learned to trust over the years. Both musically and aesthetically (starting from their smart... cultured I'd say outfits) the band has grown up, no matter how ironically they go about it. They've certainly come a long way from their Lycra leotard and clown costume days, which doesn't necessarily mark an improvement in my eyes; (I loved those outfits! And the unhinged craze that went with them). It is certainly an evolution.
Liar 1
Less erratic on record and on stage nowadays (or maybe just this day?...), they do still draw a clear, consistent line with the past:
They willingly bow to their animalistic, and simultaneously urban, no-isy/no-wavy impulses - loud or ambient, contemplative or downright brutal. They do, in places, go Neatherdal in this gig too, and when they do it's cathartic.

Liars were the only gig I managed to see in full and with an unobstructed view. For what characterized more than anything this year's festival, was short time-slots and too many nomadic people getting in the way of any real moments you might have with the band of your choice. Just as you ran off Laneway and towards Bugged Out!, from Sleigh Bells to SBTRKT, the latter was already at his final beat-feast.
 And what a fucking good feast that was, by the way. People danced possessed, and it was contagious from the moment you got within earshot.
Liar 2
As for Sleigh Bells... I often find their studio recordings a salad of girl-screams and guitar-heavy riffs - and that's not very tasty. It's plain tiresome. But their live version turned me around. Not because they're so amazing or anything. They're good, but we've seen more impressive stuff. It's just that that's when they most make sense: Krauss's badass sex kitten voice and persona gives a very different twist to the testosterone-led attack at the back. It readjusts its rhythm and dynamics - though also quite often it gets lost in the rock maze (and you wonder why the f*** do they have her blubbering words we can't even hear). I didn't get swept away like the Brit crowd apparently did but, all in all, it was one of the most fun memories I had at this festival.
The Laneway stage also hosted the wildly popular Vaccines show, which I went to see out of curiosity. The rhythms were definitely Strokes, Young's vocals and appearance definitely Ramones (apparently that has been the word in the music circuit, but I had never thought of it till that very moment...). They were a pretty lively bunch, but too uncreative for me to stick around.
Liar 3
I don't generally get those music pyrotechnics that much more often than not brighten the British music sky, only to abruptly fall off and give way to the next explosion. So I just rushed off to the next one (and towards a stage with a less notoriously dodgy sound).
Before that, and back to the Eat Your Own Ears neighborhood some time earlier, Metronomy decisively added some color to the recipe. I had heard that people had been pretty disappointed at some of their previous performances; but they defied memory and went to see them, again.
This time, the verdict was unanimous.
The English trippy electro-popsters had rhythm, style, and they were in the mood for dancing. Oscar Cash (in the keyboards etc) often stole the show with his spanking moves, and Anna Prior (on the drums) with her glittery outfit. Heartbreaker, She Wants and of course, The Look dominated the field, giving the festival pulse in all sonic coolness.
Sleigh Bells
I got nearly one song out of Austra (who should have gone up on stage a lot sooner at Shacklewell Arms), under the thickening rain and among a burgeoning fanbase. Slightly hippy influences there, in the way the whole band somehow moved (they'd no doubt fit in a post-modern day Woodstock); but they nevertheless gave me the impression that, should I have stayed, they would've proven worthy of their spirited videos.
I got to like the small and unobtrusive Shacklewell Arms stage earlier when, on my way to Village Mentality, I caught The Men in action. The band was heavy and unpolished (at last!) in a hipsters' Ark. People didn't squash around them, but they were definitely my whoopee! discovery this Field Day (after last year's Darkstar, who drew me in so deep I still can't get over it). 
Thanks to Austra's delay, I barely got a decent spot for Mazzy Star, who were the main reason I eventually paid all that money. Under their typical veil of  dim lights and sepia shadows, Hope Sandoval, Roback and co came dressed in a hypnotic melange of rock melodies, with equally dreamy projections at the backdrop. Weighing more towards a psychedelic lullaby, rather than their often engrossing sensual intensity, the band lacked the draggy maelstrom of songs like Hair and Skin (or Mary of Silence, a personal favourite). But they did please the fans with the hit Fade Into You - one among very few of their most known songs.
An amazing paradigm of a rock heroine, that Sandoval. Despite her graceful, fragile-yet-strong, enigmatic beauty and shitloads of talent, she chooses to glow in the dark. Ι wish there were more like her...
Mazzy Star
As for any unmentioned highlights... Afrocubism entertained the crowds, but I'd go for last year's groovy-funky-jazzy Sun Ra Arkestra veterans any time; I could barely catch a few glimpses of Grimes, succeeding them at the Village Mentality stage, but I enjoyed it anyway. She wavers between an enthusiastic (maybe even clueless) teenager and a wicked beat-maker, but she suits the dancefloor alright; Zulu Winter were pop softies... hard on my punk sensibilities.
Finally, Beirut captured a lot of festival hearts. I have interviewed founder Zach Condon in the past and I fully respect his vision; but the result is a bit too folky for my psyche. They provided a really inspiring soundtrack to my race towards the rest of the acts, though!

Review and photography by Danai Molocha

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