[18 January 2005]
De La Soul
As far as Sydney clubbers are concerned, where you spend New Year’s Day is no more important than where you spent the night before. Still, the annual Field Day festival is the place to be for young, beautiful, drug-fuelled people looking to ring in a hazy New Year. Fresh from the previous night’s activities, tens of thousands pour messily into the Domain, Sydney’s huge central park, as the party heats up alongside a roasting, hot summer day.
There’s something unsettling, exposing, about clubbing in the harsh light of day, so I spent most of the afternoon hidden behind black-as-night sunglasses. You can do worse than lounging around the park chatting to friends as Poxy Music keeps the background beats thumping from the Breaks arena. Next up was James Zabiela, who provided an amazing mix of tech-house and breaks. Many proclaimed his set to be the absolute highlight of the day, not without justification. He was the first to drop what seemed to be the day’s ubiquitous sample, Missy Elliott appropriately asking “Can we get kinky tonight?”
The fight over which stage to visit next was fierce, but the lure of Matt B Safer from The Rapture spinning on the Killer Stage proved too strong to resist. Serving up some nasty electro, with the occasional guitar churning from the huge speaker stacks, Safer had the small day-time crowd grinding hips, hands waving in the air to some dirty-phat beats. This was no mean feat considering the sweltering heat.
Soon enough De La Soul took the main stage and got thousands competing to prove that their side of the crowd could party the hardest. Although they mostly concentrated on more recent material, including a run through the title track from the new album The Grind Date, De La Soul’s set was peppered with classics. The crowd stomped along to the likes of “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays.’” There was something minimalist about their performance, something that hindered our crew’s enjoyment. But there was enough bump and grind to keep smiles firmly planted on the faces of the more hip-hop-minded party people.
As darkness fell, excitement grew and a walk through the field, which was by now strewn with bodies, revealed a thousand discussions about the strength, length, or lack of “E.”
Black Grass and Kid Kenobi with MC Shureschock kept us rocking from the Breaks stage until it was time for the headliners. Plump DJs took to the Breaks stage accompanied by great fanfare. It was heartbreaking to tear myself away after only half an hour of their set, just as the squeaks and bleeps began to drive the crowd into a jumping, whooping frenzy.
The pain of separation was worth it, as 2ManyDJs are a group I have waited a very long time to see. Initially promised to us almost a year ago, Sydney fans have had to wait until now to see the Belgian group (a.k.a. Soulwax) spin live. Chewing up dance and pop history and spitting it back at their audience like an electronic incarnation of Sid Vicious, the DJs tore the roof off the psychedelic marquee. Seamlessly merging crunching tech beats into jarringly familiar pop, these guys had the loved-up crowd eating out of their palms. The place went wild when tunes more familiar to a rock audience—Franz Ferdinand and Depeche Mode to name but two—made an appearance.
All too soon the end was upon us, and we began to wonder what was planned for the listed “Fuzzy Farewell.” The farewell turned out to be Jonathan Wall, honcho of Fuzzy, the group that planned each Field Day, laying down beats for a live performance by Terra Deva. Having never fully appreciated vocal house, I was a little suspicious of this sudden turn of events, but the quality of performance from both artists was so high as to erase any doubts I might have had.
Rolling into the heart of the city through the warm night air, with a stupid grin on my face and non-stop beats rolling through my brain, I couldn’t help but wonder what delights await the next time Field Day crashes through the New Year. Of course, that’s a year away. Right now I’ve got something more important to think about: tomorrow night.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/field-day-2005/