Field Day 2021

On the last weekend of August, London’s Victoria Park welcomed the return of Field Day in a quintessentially electronic homecoming

The day began as we bounced our way onto the overground, only to be met by a swarm of festival goers; the influx of glittery faces, patterned shirts, make-shift drinks and bumbags gave them away instantly. We walked from Whitechapel, many others did the same, and the weather was typically British – muggy and grey. But despite the somewhat bleak skies that casted over the city, there was a real sense of anticipation sweeping the air. Field Day, London’s annual outdoor music festival that originated in 2007, had returned. And with it came a sell-out event and line-up comprising a mix of electronic genres and six arenas, not to mention a thrillingly moody headline performance from production duo BICEP at the main stage – the first performance since 2018.

After a year of cancellations, the elation for the UK’s return to festivals was unmissable. As we edged closer to the gates, the bassy hum of the stage openers exaggerated this: IMOGEN, Jaguar, Flip the Lid, Sofia Kourtesis, Grainger and Yung Singh were all kicking off what would be a blissful homecoming to the original playground of Victoria Park. Other bookings included O’Flynn, Hot Chip Megamix, Artwork, Mall Grab, Rosie Low, Floating Points, TSHA and Poté to name a few, and it’s safe to say that those in attendance were more than enthusiastic. 

“It’s been different,” said the festival’s director, Luke Huxham, as I sat down with him to ask about the expected and enduring hurdles. “It’s been challenging trying to navigate through the rescheduling and reacting to the government messaging. But, I think festivals in general are challenging, so it’s just been another challenge we’ve had to deal with. However, things are back and they’re back for good. It’s exciting.”

With the previous event held in south London’s Brockwell Park, Luke explained that it was a thrilling return to the festival’s birthplace in east London. “This is where we’re going to stay for a while,” he said. Coupled with a quick reaction to the news of the pandemic, the team were able to roll over the line-up from 2019, which inadvertently worked in their favour. “In a way, the delay has been a good thing because BICEP’s profile is now much bigger than it was or would have been for last year’s event,” said Luke. “So we’ve got one of the hottest headlines at the peak of their career.”

Photo credit: Ro Murphy / Hotchip

Poté, a Paris-based artist who also goes by the name Sylvern Mathurin, took to The North Stage in the early evening for his DJ set. A little different to his live performances, the set was still brimming with energy. The return to festivals, he said, had been rejuvenating: “It gave me a lot of time to re-think what I want to stand for and how I want to portray myself in the future.” Having just finished working on an album, he explained how his experiences over the pandemic have been self-defining; he’s thought a lot about who he is. “For the first time, I’ve got into therapy and started diving into who I am. Especially with all that was going around – Black Lives Matter and Me Too – it made me question who I am and what I stand for. I never had that existential moment before.” 

This was Poté’s second UK festival of the year so far, with Lost Village being the first a couple of days prior. For him, like many of the artists performing that day, the come-back was exhilarating. “As soon as you go up on the stage and get that roar of energy, there’s nothing else to do but give it back, releasing it and dancing.”

TSHA

TSHA is a London-based DJ producer who was one of the early performers at the Victoria Park East stage. Catching her after the set, there’s no denying that she set the mood for what was to come later on. “It’s difficult to play early but it’s always nice,” she said. “Not everyone gets here at this time or people aren’t drunk enough yet, or ready enough. But it’s been a good vibe – I think everyone’s been pretty on it with a lot of the festivals, which is wicked.”

Field Day was TSHA’s second festival of the weekend, so it’s been a busy return for the DJ. “It’s been really energising but at the same time exhausting,” TSHA added. She’s just dropped an EP and has been utilising the past year or so to write. But as things opened up again, her focus then shifted to performing. “You’re there meeting people and finally seeing friends you haven’t seen in a long time, finally being able to be together and dance together, catching other performers I haven’t seen in a long time; it’s a hole that’s been missing and it’s been filled now.”

Photo Credit: Karolina Wielocha / Mall Grab
Photo Credit: Ro Murphy / Bicep
Floating Points
Jaguar
Photo credit: Karolina Wielocha
DJ Seinfeld and George FitzGerald

Soundtrack: O’Flynn

Electronic musician Ben Norris shares the music that shaped him

For as long as I can remember my parents had this Bang and Olufsen Hi Fi system at home, which at the time was very high tech. It had these motion activated glass sliding doors, so you would wave your hand in front and the glass doors would part. To load a CD you pressed the eject button and a silver disc in the middle would swing up, sort of like the wing doors on supercars that lift vertically upwards. Then you put the CD in and press the load button and the silver disc would lower and it would start playing. I used to just spend a long time loading and unloading cd’s just because it was so satisfying to do so. They were all my parent’s CDs, my favourite was actually a Bryan Adams album. That was probably the first time I felt connected to music in some way. I would have been about six or seven.

I have a brother who is eight years older than me and when I was 13 he showed me the music he was listening to. Two big albums stood out. Pendulum – ‘Hold Your Colour’ and The Streets ‘Original Pirate Material’. I would constantly listen to these and a sort of fascination grew with wondering how they were made. I was introduced to Garageband at 13 by my school, who had decided that year to give music production lessons. I only had a couple of lessons but it was enough to convince me that it was what I wanted to do. So I convinced my parents to buy me a Laptop, Cubase, Reason, some speakers and a Midi keyboard. Which was a lot of ask for at that age but as I was so convincingly below average at everything else, I think they felt there was not much to lose.

One of my best mates had an older brother as well who lent me his CD collection to rip to iTunes. This included two Daft Punk albums, DJ Format, Boards of Canada, Lemon Jelly, Chemical Brothers, Air and lots of others like that. Suddenly the world of electronic music was opened up to me. It was incredibly exciting. I just used to love making stuff, there would be no pressure to finish ideas like now. I could just have fun and because I was in school it didn’t matter how good or bad the music was. It just gave me so much pleasure that I was able to create and express myself in some way.

 

I went to a big boarding school at the age of 13, and one day I was walking past this guy’s room when I heard Justice – ‘D.A.N.C.E’ playing out. I had never heard anything like it. Even having the other wealth of electronic music I had just been introduced to, this was different. I couldn’t quite work it out. I started to research Justice and read some interviews they had done online. I think the term someone used to describe one of their techniques was ‘micro-sampling’. Putting together lots a tiny clips of audio to give the highly detailed, choppy effect.

When I was 15 I found it a little frustrating I wasn’t good enough to make the level of music I was listening to. I was completely teaching myself, never had a proper music production lesson at that age. In hindsight that was a massive blessing. Spending hours trying to work things out in my own way has led to doing things in unorthodox ways, which gives you a different sound.

A year later I heard ‘Archangel’ by Burial for the first time. This was another moment when I suddenly heard a completely different take on electronic music. I couldn’t make sense of it in my head. By now I could understand how a lot of music was made, even if I couldn’t do it myself. But with Burial I couldn’t break it down in my head. I still can’t to be honest. I know the drums were not made on a typical DAW, he dragged samples in without a grid, but it’s more the sounds that are used that puzzle me. I spend most days looking for new sounds I can use in my own productions and still haven’t really found stuff as cool as he did.

At my sixth form college I had a teacher who was in to similar music to me, he gave me a USB stick of tunes which contained Flying Lotus, Amon Tobin, Four Tet, Bonobo, RJD2 and others like that. They were all really low quality mp3s so for Christmas that year I put together a list of albums I wanted on CD. I always liked CDs because they were so much better quality than iTunes and Spotify wasn’t as big back then and I hadn’t started to collect vinyl. The albums I got that year were Zomby – ‘Dedication’, Burial – ‘Untrue’, Bonobo – ‘Black Sands’ by Bonobo, Four Tet – ‘There is love in you’ and ‘Rounds’, RJD2 – ‘Deadringer’ and Flying Lotus – ‘Cosmogramma’ + ‘LA’. It was just a complete gold mine of incredible music. I honestly felt like the richest man in the world when I was listening to those albums. They all came at once for me. That’s when my mind started opening up. Zomby showed me that you didn’t have to pack out tracks with loads of sounds for them to be powerful. Flying Lotus, Burial and Four Tet showed me how interesting you could make the sonics of a track with samples. Bonobo set an incredibly high standard of songwriting mixed with sampling for ‘Black Sands’. I think RJD2 made ‘Deadringer’ on an Akai MPC which showed you didn’t need all the expensive equipment to create something amazing. Every one of those meant so much to me and influences me to this day and probably will do for as long as I’m here.

My favourite album of all time is probably Flying Lotus – ‘Cosmogramma’. He creates this entire world with it. I go somewhere completely different in my head when I listen to it. It’s so beautifully crafted and put together and is full of fun little creative moments that so many albums lack. It really sounds as if it was written as one body of work. I love the fact that the ‘Intro’ is four tracks into the album and the first three are really aggressive tracks.

The release I’m about to put out on my label Hundred Flowers by my friends Ekhe and Spooky J is called ‘Get High / Y U No’. It’s honestly one of my favourite EPs I’ve heard in a long time. On NYE just gone they played an all analog live set with synths, drum machines and sequencers. I listened to the whole set and picked out two sections and asked if they would make them into full tracks for me for a release on my label. They nailed it in about a month and we have just sent off the tunes to get cut to vinyl.

O’Flynn plays alongside Bicep, Floating Points, Mall Grab and many more at Field Day on 11th July 2020