Mogwai, Malcolm Middleton, The Horrors, Mumford and Sons

Page 01/08/2009

This was my third Field Day and each one's been good enough to make me always want to go back, but the first one was the best. Not in some nostalgic way of the first time always being the best or some other rose tinted view, but because it didn't rain. Field Day in the sun, from what I can remember, is a joy but in the rain it's far too easy to remember you're stuck in Victoria park with some overly pretentious people. The amount of Nathan Barley Hoxton types and geek-chic 70s Librarian or 70s Cambridge graduate types seems to increase in the rain, though I'm pretty sure that's just my bitterness at being cold and wet and obviously at not being as cool as those folk. Thankfully, though, the music always makes up for any weather-related moodiness, with a diverse, eclectic line up that offers a little something for anyone into left-field indie.

This year's bill included names like Mogwai, The Horrors, James Yorkston, Malcolm Middleton, The Big Pink, Little Boots and Mystery Jets. As always with festivals time and stage clashes mean you can't see everything but something is always happening on a stage or in a tent to keep most folk happy. My Field Day started by getting the overground to Hackney Wick station to get to Victoria park. For anyone doing Field Day next year make a mental note: Hackney Wick is not the best station for Victoria park. Okay, there's less people on it than Mile End tube, but the station leads you into a scary looking Hackney industrial estate, not a pub in sight and involves a maze-like walk to get to Victoria park. With the aid of a trusty A to Z, I was finally there and the first band I started to listen to after a little wander and a beer was The Temper Trap. After about 30 seconds of that, I decided another wander was called for, they're not awful but just not very exciting or interesting - and experience of Field Day has proved to me that the festival has more to offer than bog standard indie fare.

The wander was cut short due to the first of the many downpours, so forced into the nearest tent, I caught Micachu and The Shapes. Micachu is very much a Field Day artist, a cut and paste jerky electronica two-piece, fronted by either a women lacking curves or (as I think the programme suggested) a pre-pubescent boy. Achingly hip they may be, but to be fair it left me cold. A bleepy synth and a tiny child's acoustic guitar really did nothing at all for me. The arrival of a proper grown up electric guitar to replace the acoustic at least brought a welcome burst of noise, but the lead singer's whiny Justine Frischmann-style vocals drove me off to pastures new. After another beer, it was time for The Horrors, one of this year's buzz bands, and a band I was interested to see if only to see what the hype was about. Last time I stumbled across The Horrors was at ATP and they looked like they had been dragged out of a Mighty Boosh episode and made passable, if a little uninspired, Birthday Party-esque art-punk - but now the press are hailing them as the new My Bloody Valentine. Okay, first things first: they are not the new MBV, but very few bands can ever reach that level of genius. They have, however, changed beyond recollection; gone is the fast art-punk, replaced by a dark, gothic, Echo and The Bunnymen sound with shredding MBV guitars. I took the hype with a large pinch of salt before I had seen them but after this I almost believe it, The Horrors are a totally new sounding band and their dark gothic shoegazing sound must be recommended listening to anyone with even half an urge to gaze at their shoes.
After the shock of the new sounding Horrors I made my way to the Village Mentality tent for Mumford and Son followed by the mighty Malcolm Middleton. Mumford provided me with another shock, a band I heard doing a session for 6Music and took a note of are not the small unheard-of band I first thought; the tent was packed with fans singing along to almost every song. Well deserved too, Mumford and Son make great folk-inspired singer-songwriter music akin to The Fence Collective artists like King Creosote and The Pictish Trail, or a more folky Liam Frost. Mumford are not Britain's answer to Fleet Foxes, not being country sounding enough, but expect to see some eager journalists hailing them as just that before long. After Mumford it was time for ex-Arab Strap man Malcolm Middleton. If I was a good, eager journalist I would have gone and seen the latest hot tip The Big Pink, who were playing at the same time in another tent, but my heart ruled my head. I was a huge Arabs fan and am an even bigger lover of Malcolm's melancholic singer-songwriter solo output - his five studio albums are amongst the best of recent times, if you ask me, and even with some sound troubles Malcolm was still in impressive form. Showcasing songs from his recent Waxing Gibbons album and ending with an ecstatically received version of Brighter Beat, proof once again that he is the Scottish answer to Connor Oberst or Elliot Smith.

There's not many better ways to end a day of great music than by watching Mogwai - and the Scottish post-rock gods didn't disappoint. A softer more haunting set than may have been expected, Mogwai judged the mood perfectly, the ambient beauty perfect for the pleasingly dry night that was rushing in. There's not much you can say about Mogwai that has not already been said, but their set, that contained songs from almost every period of their carer, did the talking for them, proving that Mogwai are without one of the greatest bands of the past couple of decades. And that, folks, was my Field Day. I got wet, I realised I'm neither achingly hip or cool (or that bothered about being so), and saw some great bands. Rain or shine the eclectically talented line-up Field Day offers is enough to make sure I'll be back next year and recommend that you should be there too. It doesn't have the welcoming feel of your average festival, far too many too-cool-for-school types for that, but the music is enough to make you not care about things like that. One thing I won't be doing though is using Hackney Wick station, one baffling walk through Hackneys industrial estate is enough for me, next year I'll use Mile End.