Field Day @ Domain, Sydney (01/01/2012)

Image for Field Day @ Domain, Sydney (01/01/2012)

For those who prefer to avoid the hassle of bar hopping or pyrotechnic spotting on NYE, Field Day provides a superb alternative to bring in 2012 with a bang. Now in its eleventh year, Fuzzy’s premier dance festival is stronger than ever, boasting an eclectic and diverse lineup of local and international talent that drew a crowd of over 20,000 for a sensational romp in Sydney’s picturesque Domain.

Upon arriving to a gargantuan queue stretching from the Art Gallery to St Mary’s Cathedral it became immediately clear that plenty of punters were keen to shake off any NYE hangover and get in quickly to avoid missing any of the early international acts. A wise decision! For Calvin Harris wasted no time in smashing out a set of trademark electro-pop dominated by fan favourites including Bounce and We Found Love with a healthy smattering of Dizzee Rascal and the obligatory Feel So Close – complete with live vocals. It was a solid, cheesy and surprisingly aggressive set for a 2.30pm timeslot. However, the gathered punters enthusiastically lapped it all up and by the end of the performance there was a sizeable crowd writhing and sizzling under the harsh summer sun.

Next up at The Island Stage, Cloud Control emerged to lay down a considerably more subdued slab of alternative rock harmonies that rippled gracefully through the soft afternoon breeze. With a set that included their tried and tested hits as well as a smattering of new material, the band engaged well with their initially meagre audience. Frontman Alister Wright appeared particularly charismatic (and apparently sympathetic), drawing enthusiastic applause upon inquiring “Is anyone else here really f*cking hung over?”

However, before long it was time to trek back to the main stage to catch Tiga. The Canadian musical mastermind was quoted in a recent interview with inthemix discussing the difficulty of crafting festival sets that are both unique and experimental, without becoming obscure and irrelevant to audiences wanting to “go crazy” on the dance floor. Judging by his performance today, it seems that he has dealt with this challenge successfully, laying down a set that began with a mix of darker techno before moving into more well charted territory with Mind Dimension 2, a reworked mix of You Gonna Want Me, Beat for the Douches and my personal favourite, a climactic, banging mashup of Proxy’s Raven with Mr Oizo’s remix of Shoes.

Up next, Canberra’s Aston Shuffle took to the stage with the live show they have been touring recently nationally. Opening with the thumping Start Again, they kept the adrenaline running high. For those who have had the pleasure of witnessing this show earlier in the year there were few surprises. The set centres on a polished but heavily scripted mix of live reworked material from their LP Seventeen Past Midnight. In fairness, however, it was great to see that this show translates well from more intimate club gigs to the festival arena. Highlights included Your Love and the duo’s live remix of Joe Goddard’s Gabriel.

As the sun finally began to dip below the western skyline, providing some serious relief for the masses of singed shoulders it was time to swing by Gotye. There is no doubt that Wally De Backer has captured the hearts of many Australian music fans. However, it was initially unclear to me as to whether it was really the time and place for his serene band to perform on the main stage at 5.40pm at this dance-heavy festival. Fortunately, his calming influence was simply superb. Performing a mixed selection of tracks from Like Drawing Blood and Making Mirrors, this performance was simultaneously cathartic and invigorating. All tracks were received well, apart from a minor awkward hiccup when De Backer unsuccessfully attempted to get the crowd to sing Kimbra’s vocals during Someone That I Used to Know.

Nearing the business (read: French) end of the festival, it was soon time for Yuksek to bring back the bass at The Island stage with their banging live show. Oozing raw optimism and vigor, frontman and producer Pierre-Alexandre Busson wasted no time in whipping the crowd into a frenzy with stunning live renditions of Always on the Run, On a Train and a blistering remix of Tonight. Special mention must go to the band’s touring female drummer – who literally brought the house down (and the crowd up) with her thrashing enthusiasm. Tonight, Yuksek provided another example of thumping electro pop done live and done properly.

With sore feet and knees it was soon time to refuel with much needed food and drinks, before cruising over to stake out some prime real-estate at the main stage to continue the French theme of the evening. Before long, Busy P graced the decks and pumped out a rather standard but nonetheless playful and evocative set featuring Carte Blanche’s Gare Du Nord, The Rapture’s How Deep is Your Love, and reworked material from Soulwax. However, as the clock ticked onwards and technicians began materialising behind him to assemble stacks of tantalisingly familiar Marshall Amps and THAT cross the set intensified, culminating with YesOwner of a Lonely Heart.

Then, as the lights were extinguished a hush fell over the crowd. The excitement in the air was truly electric and as the opening notes of Genesis tumbled across the Domain, rapturous screams of elation erupted from the gathered. As their trademark cross began to throb relentlessly in time with the beat, Justice’s Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay stood proudly – kings behind their masses of synths and surrounded by a three dimensional LED array bursting with colour. True to their latest LP, what followed was an extraordinary, delicious feast of audio, video and unyielding disco. This set was of similar character to their live LP A Cross the Universe, but drew equally on material from both of their old and most recent studio albums. Highlights included a frantic rendition of Stress, Phantom Part 2 and a superb, thumping remix of Audio Video Disco – all topped off with an utterly electrifying light show. What a pleasure it was to be the first in the world to experience this audio-visual bonanza in all its glory.

Overall, today was an extraordinary and diverse display of local and international musical talent. From humble beginnings in 2002, Field Day has grown considerably over the past eleven years to take the crown as Sydney’s premier dance festival and NYD event. Once again, Fuzzy have done a marvellous job in crafting a quality and memorable event – not to mention a smashing start to the New Year.