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Wedged in amongst the Sydney metropolis, the Domain was yesterday host to the annual New Year’s Field Day Festival. The stellar line-up delivered on what was a sweaty Sydney Thursday filled with epic performances and staggeringly overpriced drinks.
After emerging artists Moon Holiday, Accaddamy and Kilter kicked off at midday, Thundamentals began dropping the first highly anticipated set, just as the crowds began to roll in. To a sea of beating fists, they delivered much of their latest album, climaxing with Something I Said, climaxing with an enthusiastic crowd chant of “f**k Tony Abbott” led by the group.
After an interval replete with memes featuring Kim Kardashian as a hotdog, and beefed-up kangaroos, Salt N Pepa took to the stage for their set — or the “Salt N Pepa Experience”, as they put it. It might be nearly 30 years since their greatest hit, Push It, was released, but they haven’t lost a step, or any of their old-school attitude for that matter. Twerking and working the stage in an impressively co-ordinated dance routine with their male dancers, it was a dose of nostalgia in an otherwise explosive party atmosphere.
Consequently, walking from Salt N Pepa to Glass Animals almost felt like walking through time and, as the first victim of a cruel timetable clash, only two songs remained in their set. An oozing, mellow cover of Kanye West’s Love Lockdown delighted the crowd. They finished with Gooey, sans shoes, and beads of sweat racing to their chins.
A technical difficulty reduced American ambient electronic artist Tycho’s set to a brief intermission, managing just a few songs before time ran out. What was offered was inspired. His organic, down-tempo creations created a well-timed relaxed mood, as hundreds began the frustrating saga of lining up for the fairly dismal selection of food on offer just behind the stage.
Germany’s Milky Chance were the first standout of the day. Frontman Clemens Rehbein, he of the outrageous hairstyle, is blessed with a raw voice so hoarse it threatens to tear in half at any moment. Cycling through their brilliant, underrated debut album, Sadnecessary, they channelled folk and electronic influences into a compelling set, which included an unnamed new song. Naturally, the massively popular Stolen Dance came last. Perhaps preoccupied by the entire crowd chanting each word, the last 20 seconds was reduced to a slightly awkward humming. A confused, cheeky look between band members gave away their mistake, not that the crowd minded.
The Kite String Tangle followed with a transfixing set that defied expectations. One of the day’s only individual performers, he deftly managed to multitask working his electronic deck and singing. It was almost bizarre watching him deliver rich, echoing, flawless vocals unaided and live, set to some seriously infectious beats. Though not one of his most popular, What If proved the highlight, elongating and manipulating the track as the climax ebbed and eased, drumming the beat himself on the equipment. His cover of Lorde’s Tennis Court was equally breathtaking, enhanced by the crowd’s ability to recite almost every word.
By the time Kite String Tangle came to a close, hoards of people had flocked to the main stage to see Canberra’s Peking Duk. Introduced by a comical video from Today show’s Karl Stefanovic, the Peking Duk boys toyed with the crowd, at one stage even reducing the thousands of people to their knees. Most of their hits received an airing, with a remix of Sam Smith’s Stay With Me and their cover of Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head featured. High undoubtedly brought the loudest roar from the crowd, understandable considering it’s tipped to top Triple J’s Hottest 100 this month.
RÜFÜS’ set eclipsed most before it. Employing their mature, clean sound, they delivered a flawless set to a rapturous crowd. It began with an extended instrumental version of Tonight, injecting a healthy dose of suspense before they unleashed a slew of rich, electronic tracks. The Sydneysiders endeared themselves to their audience with reflections on their progression from spectators at Field Day to one of the main headliners. A cover of Foals’ My Number split the set, before an epic rendition of their single Take Me. Most impressive was the quality of their drummer, whose frenzied strokes were almost impossible to follow.
After a somewhat tedious 30 minute break, SBTRKT arrived on stage, complete with ceremonial mask. Wasting no time utilising the onset of darkness, their first track New Dorp, New York was set to a background of a marginally terrifying masked werewolf. While largely doing justice to their recorded material, the group suffers from a lack of live singers, thus leaving the tracks to fend for themselves, which due to their unique zaniness can often get lost in a festival atmosphere. Luckily, Sampha was on hand to feature in many, including Hold On and Temporary View.
As the night drew to a close, people’s feet shuffled, every last drop of water was squeezed from the bottle and the dancing became positively lethargic. Fortunately, Alt-J proved as close as to a cure to these ailments as possible, much of the crowd flocking to the Island Stage to close the night with the alternative, indie rock band. With an extra 15 minutes up their sleeve, they were able to get across most of the best tracks from both their albums.
Kicking off with Hunger of the Pine, the bar was set high from the outset. Bats circling overhead, they moved through Something Good to Tesselate. It’s one thing to hear Joe Newman’s unique voice on record, quite another to experience live. His deep, resonating notes can equally make the ground tremble from the bass, or the hair stand up on the back of your neck. When coupled with some delicious lyrics, it roused and wringed the last of the energy from the crowd, closing the night with sentimental favourite Breezeblocks.
Field Day again delivered in what was one of the best one-day festivals in recent memory. Though the stellar line-up was largely to thank, a combination of lovely weather, tolerable crowds and, of course, free water transformed what is normally a day spent in bed with a hangover into an explosive start to 2015.
Photo Ashley Mar