Field Day @ The Domain, Sydney (01/01/11)

Image for Field Day @ The Domain, Sydney (01/01/11)

It’s summer time and that means festival fever. But for me the ever-growing list of outdoor music events is all too overwhelming. I seems, as a response to their soaring popularity, festivals are catering to more diverse musical tastes than ever before. Think Ke$ha headlining Future Music. On the flipside, Field Day 2011 is a lesson in how to do it right. The usually DJ-heavy NYD bash really embraced it’s live component. Thanks to an array of musicians and genres, the Domain attracted one of the most eclectic crowd of Sydneysiders i’ve witnessed in some years. For its tenth anniversary, Fuzzy’s annual romp in the field was bound to pull out all the stops. And impress it did, bringing together world class acts, smooth organisation and stinking hot weather.

While most punters were recovering from a big NYE, the audience (or lack thereof) that did arrive for early sets by Ember and Goldfields opted to ease into things, listening casually from the shady outskirts of the stage. This was disappointing, especially when both artists threw down some remarkably dance-inspiring tracks. Within an hour though, the crowd swelled to a size worthy of headline status at Centre Field as the previous night’s party animals emerged for Chromeo. After an agonising fifteen minute wait, the impatient masses ached for some Dave1 and P-Thugg lovin’. Eventually, the boys emerged, a suit-clad Dave1 exuding geeky cool even in the sweltering heat, as P-Thugg tore up the talk box. The duo dropped some older tunes from both their earlier albums, but it was Night by Night and Don’t Turn the Lights On from last year’s Business Casual that received the loudest reaction. While in the interest of an honest review I am forced to admit that the on-stage action was nothing exciting, Chromeo’s cheeky lyrics and synth-pop sound alone, are enough to keep any audience entertained.

From one sibling to another, the most crump-inspiring set of the day belonged to A-Trak (Dave1’s brother).The baller hats were out in their oodles, as indie kids and urban music followers alike gyrated (or at least attempted to) and passionately belted out the lyrics of Jay Z classic 99 Problems and Big Boi’s Shutterbug. In spite of the DJ’s short-lived samples and a technical glitch early on, punters let loose their inner Ludacris and Busta Rhymes, really lapping up The Island set. After an impressive performance by The Rapture, A-Trak’s collaborative project with Armand Van Helden was being summoned to the decks by quacking fans, as organisers erected a mammoth inflatable duck. Apart from the disappointing sound quality, to witness such a comfortable partnership between the two Duck Sauce DJs was truly a pleasure. And while their disco infused house tunes still went down a treat, there was no doubt fans converged at the main stage to hear two words. Barbara Streisand .The pair not only instigated a group hoe-down upon playing the track mid-set, but also collective walk outs once it ended.

As the blistering sun began to set, Tame Impala took to the stage. Their timing couldn’t have been better. Retiring to a patch of grass among a bunch of other die-hard fans, the mid afternoon seemed a perfect time to indulge in the band’s chilled psychedelic rock. Slogging through their Innerspeaker hits, as well as Blues Boys cover Remember Me, Kevin’s dreamy vocals floated out to mesmerised punters, casting a mellow nirvana over The Island, if only for 45 minutes. Enter Peaches. With a visual mess of boobs, flesh, dancers, studs and leather, the performance artist created a pure spectacle which perhaps intentionally overshadowed her mixing skills. Of the music, all I can recall is the Canadian-born troublemaker dropping Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers, a song that seemed to aptly sum up the entire performance. In what was supposed to be an exclusive DJ set, Peaches did surprise fans with her vocal version of Why Don’t You Talk To Me, reminding the audience why we love her original tracks so much.

After the mayhem, it was a welcome relief to see two lone figures step out under The Island lights. Noise-pop duo, Sleigh Bells kicked off their short set with a huge wall of sound. Although issues with mic volume meant Alexis’ sweet vocals were often drowned out by the loud riff-laden guitar, this didn’t deter the singer. Alexis owned the stage, her movements across it so sultry and musical that men and women alike were left swooning. Meanwhile, the benefit of Fuzzy’s well-placed big screen outside Centre Field meant I could also keep an eye on acclaimed electronic spinner Erol Alkan. Appearing worn out moments into his 75 minute performance, I’ve never seen such a thorough hardworking DJ. Head down and hands busy on the decks, I felt compelled to catch the final leg of his performance. Yes, Erol’s mixes weren’t always so seamlessly executed, but these flaws only indicate his distaste for pre-packaged set lists which, in my opinion, was really admirable.

Art vs. Science sat high on the Field Day bill securing a late evening slot. Despite playing to an adoring crowd of hometown fans, I still have to question whether the Sydney lads could have been better placed earlier in the day. Nevertheless, the festival regulars rattled off their repertoire of stellar dance hits, and strangely revealed an almost hardstyle persuasion, with new song Bumblebee receiving mixed reactions.

Then, left with the unenviable choice between big guns Trentemoller, Public Enemy and Justice, I guess it was my deep admiration for the French mixmasters that ultimately kept me at the main stage. As the iconic Justice crucifix flashed up on the screen, the Ed Banger duo appeared centre stage donning their signature leather jackets. For me, the image of Gaspard’s unruly locks in silhouette against the white background screen is still seared into my memory. And so the domination began. Remixing everything from Soulwax favourite NY Excuse to the classic T-Rex track Get it On, the boys managed to light a spark in an otherwise exhausted collection of punters, dancing purely out of respect for the electronic legends. The pair took the max-capacity crowd on a journey with every crescendo, only winding down for an isolated moment before mixing in crowdpleasers like the ever-popular D.A.N.C.E., which encouraged thunderous bouts of applause. At the end of their set, the masses begged for an encore, uniting in an impromptu synchronised slow clap. And the Justice lads conceded, playing We Are Your Friends to close. For me it was a performance that required no gimmicks; it was all about the music. In stark contrast, sneaking over to The Island during the second half of Justice, I caught Public Enemy’s Flava Flav throwing himself all over the stage and eventually into the crowd, as the 51-year-old rapper proved he’s still got it. Recreating their legendary Fear of Black Planet album, released over 20 years ago, the veteran hip hoppers showed that their music hasn’t aged either, playing to an entertained audience of mostly twenty-somethings, who probably weren’t even in nappies back when the record raced up music charts.

During a season when the music market is absolutely saturated with festivals and competition to produce the best bill or most memorable experience for punters is fierce, I must say, Fuzzy have come out swinging. Their explosive line-up of both international and local music superstars, which (minor glitches aside) ran like a well oiled machine, guaranteed Field Day goers in their thousands a start to 2011 that they’re not likely to forget in the near future (well at least not until NYD 2012).

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