Mogwai, The Big Pink, The Horrors, Fake Blood, S.C.U.M. - Field Day: Review
Ian Simpson 06/08/2009
Its Sunday and yesterday I put myself through the third annual Field Day in Victoria Park.
It was messy through nobody's fault but my own. Some of the names have probably been changed to protect the guilty.
Waking up in bed is no unusual start to a day but five times out of seven I have to make my way to the office just late enough for it not to be considered a liberty. This being the weekend I get that extra hour or so to charge my batteries or utilise my morning glory (badly).
Out of the house early with the wife to meet my pal Emmet.
Me and the missus picked up some brioche and jelly beans on the way to Emmet's and made our way to his house via Geranium's. The lure of the charity shop on a Saturday morning is too strong for two so weak as us. I can't remember everything we bought but we definitely hit the twenty-five pound mark and someone definitely got some smart Converse All-Stars.
We made it to Emmet's in time to catch him mooching through his kitchen in his boxers but I'll keep the adjectives in my head. Fresh orange juice and cigarettes while he ironed his t-shirt (why?). We played a Mogwai Greatest Hits off his iPod in preparation for the evening.
“Better bring the washing in before we go as well. Looks like rain.” He's so sensible.
We're waiting for another member of our party to arrive so we call, find out they're running late and boot it down to the DLR for making our way East… not before discovering the most beautifully crafted pair of graffiti cocks, skilfully scribed into the dust on the front of the train. There's a necessary changeover at Canary Wharf 'cause we're on the wrong line and somehow the spark is born that we should replicate the DLR dirt-cock in the form of a ridiculous jelly-bean sculpture. It's not even One O'clock yet and this is already the best weekend in ages (!)
There's a Tesco on the walk up to Victoria Park from Bow Road. It's actually a Tesco Express but that's a lie. Only twice in my life have I been in longer queues than that and on both occasions I was rightfully rewarded at the end with a wedding buffet. At the till', there was a buffetless thrice of sour-faced staff. I wanted a cheap half-bottle of vodka but I'd been beaten to the Voshkat, the Wodkar and the Schmirnhof so I had to buy proper Smirnoff which was 1.87p over what I normally like to pay to get wrecked. Nevermind. Outside the supermarket, it had begun to drizzle. Emmet was right to bring the washing in.
I don't know if it was because I hate people or Emmet and Emily (that's the bird's name) love canal-side walks but we opted to go off the beaten track - full of shouts, touts and lager-louts - and adopt the walk along the water's edge - occupied by a worse breed of cunt; the middle classes. I don't care that you and your three kids have matching cycling outfits, I don't care that you and your “partner” named your shit-heel dog Adorno and no, I don't think a Disney themed gondola ride along the canal is a fun way to spend a morning.
To avoid killing someone through mid-morning-misanthropy we nipped into a pub and were given our beer in plastic cups. The locals got glass ones. That's surely some kind of racism. Emily reads our stars from a magazine and we bend our lives around them to help them ring true.
At the entrance to Victoria Park, we join the press line and as a team, discreetly stuff the previously procured liquor down the front of my pants 'cause we can see the security are quite over-zealous. Wristbands acquired, we were right, it was to be a somewhat frisky frisking. The guy doing me caught a glancing blow of the vodka bottle at my crotch and gave Emily a knowing glance. I cant' decide which of the two of us has actually been violated.
Through dawdling we'd missed the looping violin genius of Owen Pallet but we'd seen him earlier in the year at The Union Chapel so it didn't sting so bad.
A text message told me to be at the big blue and yellow one for S.C.U.M. and I didn't argue. What followed was without doubt, the musical highlight of the day. An art-rock dirge of filth and fire. Thomas Cohen, hair perfect and dressed impeccably in black embroidered shirt, loose grey slacks and leather braces (that matched his slim brogues) seemed to be conducting some kind of witches coven, he wasn't singing, he was chanting. A voodoo spell, the result of which was a bass-driven tribal rhythm swathed in reverb that engulfed the crowd in a pyroclastic flow. Movements pained and spasmodic, every shape he threw seemed to help him exorcise a demon within. Believe the hype. This was this was a real show from a real band who know most definitely what they're doing. I have two gripes about the set; it was too early and it wasn't long enough. I have one issue that was not about the set but directly contributed to detracting from my experience… if you're going to become completely new people when you step on the stage and be overwhelmed by your art in order to infect people with your dark and chilling presence while you perform, tell your girlfriend and her mates not to peek through the upstage curtain and wave out to their pals in the audience. It kinda breaks the illusion (!)
We meet up with the author of the text message and agree on how sublime the melee of S.C.U.M. was. We say “Hi” and “Bye” to another mate who had to dash but we'd see him later anyways.
Next on the agenda was beer. Obviously. More typically British queuing which was set to be boring but wasn't - I met some members of Black Squadron via a well-played dealing of Stevenage which earned me a high-five. If that means nothing to you, I'm sorry. At the front of the queue it seemed like good practice to get two beers to half the number of visits to the bar. Twenty-three quid for six cans is daylight robbery but you'd be naïve to have assumed it'd be any other way.
Fully loaded, we make our way over to the Bugged Out tent to see Fake Blood. We've been listening to them a lot recently and we wanted to see them apparently playing “live”. I don't know if our timing was off or if we'd got our facts wrong but for forty minutes we watched some men adjust the lights and another man play some records that - call me a philistine - all sounded exactly the same. The rain outside forced people to seek sanctuary and the place got a little crowded. The only thing that made it tolerable was the suspense in waiting to witness the effect on some naughty boys nearby of some pills that seemed to appear from nowhere (cause the security was so strict). It never came. Boring.
The fun police came and told me to extinguish my cigarette and same naughty boys did a wee in a can and arched it into the crowd. It was surely time to move on.
We made it to the main stage just in time to see Faris Badwan and his band of ghouls(The Horrors) take up their positions. What a lovely jumper Faris has got on. Through the sea of umbrellas we're treated to renditions of tracks from their Mercury nominated sophomore album Primary Colours in all their live glory. Despite having this fantastic record in the can and the world's press wanting to know how they did it, they haven't forgotten why they're here; to entertain. Joshua Hayward has perfected a technique that involves turning his head with every guitar stroke and flicking his hair about as if advertising a Goth shampoo. Rhys Webb and Tom Cowan are playing swapsies with bass and synths seemingly just to show off and Faris is using Richard Butler's voice to hold court out front. The rain is adding to the Horrors show by giving a gloomy tint to the air and it appears all is fine in their world. The crowd loves it. A definite high point for some.
I don't remember why but we didn't see the whole set. We slimed our way over to the artist's village to extend the size of our gang. There was more drinking and some wristband related mischief that will probably get someone in trouble if I repeat it so I'll shut up but basically, it started to get blurry and I now have a large amount of assorted cacography scribbled on my jacket and a couple of penis drawings to boot. I don't know where the vodka went but my mouth now has the texture of suede and I don't yet feel too terrible.
I don't know who made the decision but it was time to see The Big Pink. I didn't make it. I went for a piss and joined yet another queue, this time for cash with a three-quid fee for the privilege. Huzzah!
This is gonna sound really fucked up but I don't actually know what happened for the next two hours except that I smoked twenty fags (that's nearly fifty in the day so far) and put more beer in my body than I ever have before.
Our group made it to Mogwai. It hurts me to type these words because the whole point of the day was to see this band; I heard some songs I recognised and knew that I loved and I saw a fat, bald Scottish bloke playing guitar really loud and I knew he meant something but by this point I was too wrecked to enjoy anything. I think I'd pretty much ruined myself and the people propping me up weren't too impressed I'm sure. There was still post-rock ringing in my ears as we waited for our taxi at the gates of the park. I lay on the pavement, not puking, just spitting down the side of my face because I had nothing to throw up really. The cab arrived and I got straight in while everyone else played Alphonse and Gaston to decipher who was coming in this one and who in the next.
Emily tore up her plastic poncho to create a kind of spit-bib for my drool; I insisted on gobbing on myself some more before we reached our destination. Field Day had been a definite success at the end of a queue but the night was not yet over. The lights outside the window had stopped moving so I assumed our cabs had made it. I fell across the road into my usual haunt, The Fox and Firkin, fell across the floor, fell across the punters and fell onto the stage. Someone dressed me with a bass and a plectrum and wrapped a mic around my neck. I felt like a Christmas tree. I played like an idiot and acted like an idiot. I probably lost some friends.
Like I said, it's Sunday now and yesterday was messy. The brightness of this screen is compounding my headache so I'm gonna sleep some more.
See you later.