Field Day is a New Years Day tradition to many people in Sydney. After a big New Years Eve, you can attend Field Day the day after and dance away your hangover while listing to world class electronic music. You can understand where they got their slogan of “The Antidote” from. Boasting a very line up of international and local musicians, the one unifying factor seemed to be the preference for making music using anything other than rock instruments. It was situated at The Domain, a pristine location nestled between the Royal Botanic Gardens and tall city buildings.
Before I could even get in the festival gates I was drawn to the sounds coming from one of the smaller stages nearby. My first act of the day was the producer and internet-hype artist Cashmere Cat who was nothing more than a name to me. Cashmere Cat weaved in and out of playing his original tracks and remixes with playing instruments like sample pads to keep the vibe constantly high. Purely through his musical skills he controlled the entire crowd to keep literally everyone dancing uninhibitedly for the entire set. And because everyone danced badly, the only way to look embarrassing was to refuse to participate and not dance badly. I was so enthralled that I ended up spending 45 minutes listening to Cashmere Cat before I realised I was meant to be at another stage.
Salt N Pepa swarmed the Main Stage to a truly massive crowd, playing a set of their well known hit singles and popular crowd pleasers. Even though a majority of the crowd probably wouldn’t have been born during their peaked, several of their singles managed to transcend time such as ‘Push It’ and ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’, resulting in large crowd sing alongs. Salt and Pepa’s on stage banter was genuinely enjoyable to listen to, as they are still clearly comfortable on stage.
Golden Features was the next act, sporting his golden face-obscuring mask that he has became known for. He played an amalgamation of all the bouncy dance music that you would have heard on Triple J since Disclosure exploded onto the scene in 2013. The crowd was just as receptive to Golden Features as they were to Cashmere Cat, the only real difference being that suddenly there were two to three dozen people on shoulders at all times. He predominantly played songs in whole and mixed, giving him plenty of time away from the decks hyping the crowd. He didn’t need to do anything more.
There were very clear organisational problems present at Field Day. The line ups for every bar was constantly over 50 metres long, resulting in obscene levels of congestion on every footpath as you had to weave through several lines. The 30 degree day didn’t much help, making liquid consumption even higher. Food and toilet lines were all at a similar level, so at times it was easier to just put of from using any facilities unless you desperately had to use them.
By the time that The Kite String Tangle came on stage the sun was finally starting to duck behind the surrounding buildings, leaving Danny Harley to play a poignant-feeling set through dusk. Constantly active, he jumped between a range of synths, touch pads, and mics as he seemed to attempt to play every instrument at once. Stretched between two instruments seemed to be where he was made to be and Danny relished in this environment. It is also worth noting that rather amazingly his voice was capable of perfectly replicating what is laid down on record.
The biggest crowd-pleaser of the day would have gone to Peking Duk who made sure that they had a little something for everyone in their set. Like EDM?? They played their collaboration with Laidback Luke. Like nostalgia?? They played Sandstorm by Darude (and announced that it would be the last time they ever do that). Like your morning TV?? They played a video of Karl Stevanovic introducing the band. Like special guests?? They had 4. Like Flume and Kanye West?? They mixed Kanye rapping over a Flume track. Their set wasn’t very coherent and didn’t really flow as it was constantly interrupted by dialogue, but nobody cared in the slightest. Everyone was there to have a good time and a good time was had by all. It is clear why Peking Duk have played almost every festival in Australia in the last year
Jamie xx took things down a notch next, unleashing a continuous 60 minute sparse house set on the smaller side stage that I kept on returning to. As always Jamie was as on-par as always, building up intricate and powerful soundscapes layer by later then stripping them back down to nothing in front of us. He was also assisted by some vinyls which is always a treat. I get the feeling that it went slightly over the heads of some people in the crowd who only knew him as the dude from The xx and wanted to hear him play Angels, as by about 5 minutes into his set many people’s enthusiasm dwindled and ended up standing there awkwardly.
The anticipation in the crowd was very high in the wait for top-billed headliner SBTRKT. As it was a SBTRKT live set, Aaron Foulds was accompanied by two to three other members on stage performing additional drums, instrumentation, and vocals over the electronica. This live set up gave the songs a raw and organic edge, allowing you to hear everything you love from the album recordings while making it feel like a unique and one off experience. Unfortunately the crowd didn’t seem to know how to handle SBTRKT, as people awkwardly shuffled from left foot to right foot the whole set. This wasn’t helped by the choice of predominantly playing songs from their new album which most people seemed not to know.
Dillon Francis closed the evening on a pristine note of glitchy hyperactive dance. Enthusiasm was injected back into the night, as Dillon jumped from song to song at an obscenely fast pace, never getting further into a song than the first chorus before hastily jumping to another crowd pleaser. To compliment this sporadic style, the stage was wrapped in 3 backing screens that played a variety of animations of emoji, word art, and badly photoshopped images of his face all interacting with each other. Dillon Francis presents himself as the loveliest dude and everyone’s best friend, and his casual on-stage banter and casual beer-drinking from a shoe made everyone want to hang out with him after the festival.
With a crowd of 24,000 attendees present, it was clear why Field Day is currently prospering in a crowded Australian festival market. It had a wide variety of musicians from different genres, is in an amazing location, and a friendly crowd. It was almost an extension of the New Years Eve parties of the night before. And despite some minor organisational faults, it is clear that Field Day is going to continue thriving for many hers to come.