Festival Review: Field Day – The Domain, Sydney (01.01.14)

With a big night before in check, Field Day offered enough dance music to keep the celebrators happy while offering a few more chilled out options for those still recovering from New Year’s Eve. Its size, slightly smaller than a regular festival, meant that it was easier to get around and criss-cross genres throughout the day.

Flight Facilities embraced their wide knowledge of dance music and mixing skills for a 90s-themed DJ set (the decade chosen by popular vote online.) In matching tracksuits and aviation hats the duo bopped together along to forgotten classics both hip-hop and pop. While Field Day tends to celebrate the best of new Australian producers, there is also the opportunity to indulge and revel in nostalgia.

Meanwhile, Ta-ku was playing The Island stage and considering his prolific amount of releases, it was a rich set of familiar remixes, R&B vibes, new original jams and tricky beats. He kept to himself, not saying much during the set, but the visuals behind him spoke for the dynamics of his music.

Back on the main stage, Hermitude were on high energy- always an act to rally up the crowd, it’s no surprise that they are favourites on the Australian festival circuit. Among familiar tracks “The Villain” and “Speak of the Devil”, the two played new jams, including of newly dubbed genre mariachi trap, and kept the crowd moving during improvised jams. While Field Day favours electronic music, other acts such as Crystal Fighters and London Grammar slowed down the pace and offered a slower pace much-needed on January 1st. Crystal Fighters engaged the crowd, walking right to the edge of the stage, shaking around in gypsy clothes, fully immersed in their own playing (their topless bassist didn’t hesitate to show some tricks) and reached beyond the singles in their catalogues.

Similarly, London Grammar gathered an enthusiastic (loud) crowd but weren’t particularly chatty, keeping absorbed in the music which was slowed down and deliberated. Of course, Hannah Reid impressed with the intensity of her voice (even stronger than the record) and began the set with drawn out vocal throws.

The strongest set of the day (mainly in terms of audience interaction and presence) was from A$AP Rocky. The ASAP mob was out in full force, with most of the crowd singing along (and rapping) to each track from “Fuckin’ Problems” to “Goldie”. He wasn’t solo on stage, with fellow rappers and musicians spread out in colour-coordinated black and white. After making sure an injured crowd member was escorted to safety (‘we need to clear the mosh out) he blast into “Wild For the Night” and hordes of people rushed on stage to dance and spray champagne into the crowd.

In between main stage sets, Alison Wonderland played short DJ sets. Although she repeated earlier mixes, the sets focused less on trap and more on sing-along or older hip-hop, which worked for a waiting crowd. Chet Faker maintained his casual persona for one of the last daylight sets. His vocals are stronger than ever, and with a strong set of tracks and collaborations now behind him, his live act is one of the standouts of the past year.

Away from the larger stages at the Left Field was a smaller pavilion dedicated to the best of young producers. Tucked away from the chaos under the shade of Domain trees, the fierce lighting stood out and solidified the space. UK-based Shadow Child brought rhythmic bass-driven music and Dusky followed with swishy dance floor creations. In a return to rap, Wiz Khalifa followed A$ap with a mix of energetic and slower R&B tracks. He performed a few of his collaborations solo, including “Remember You” (ft. The Weeknd) and “23” (ft. Miley Cyrus.) Then his youth anthem “Young, Wild & Free” exploded into a mass sing-a-long (“So what we get drunk…we don’t care who sees”) and Wiz even took it upon himself to preach the value of “God-created” weed in spoken word mid-song.

For those who preferred a smaller, more intimate dance floor, the Red Bull stage held continuous DJ sets. The 80s themed set onto another 90s theme showed that punters were there to celebrate both past and future. A much-anticipated set was Solange Knowles. Despite constant comparisons to sister Beyoncé, she has gained an indie following all in her own. From the first track, Solange gave a passionate performance – speaking gently to the audience, swaying freely and covering a lot of stage space. With an almost floor-length weave replaced her signature Afro and decked in a long blue dress there was almost a holy feel to her performance. “Lovers in the Parking Lot” was very passionate and showcased her as a proper vocalist.

As a general rule, the artists slowed down tracks or focused on vocals rather than raving, except for Flux Pavilion. The English producer spoke fiercely to an ever-growing crowd (come on Sydney!) and despite a short technical issue interrupting his set, the crazy visuals and constantly changing dynamics of his set kept the energy high. Among original tracks, he played his remixes of Major Lazer’s “Jah No Partial” and T.E.E.D. “Without You.”

Closing the night, Flume played a slightly tuned version of his Infinity Prism set. His quick rise to fame only highlighted by the fact that he opened the smallest stage at Field Day 2011. He played familiar songs off his debut album “Insane”, “Sintra” and “Holdin’ On”, at a slower pace and meshed with added rap verses (which worked, especially as most were familiar with his work.) He also played new collaborations “Touched” (a What So Not production) and “The Greatest View”. He was energetic, dancing along to tracks and calling up applause.

As a secret encore, Flume called Chet Faker back on stage to play “Drop The Game” and further had Skrillex (in Sydney for NYE festival Shore Thing) and Chris Emerson (of What So Not) on stage for an impromptu DJ set to finish off the night.

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