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Field Day festival 2017 slimmed down and got the sound right – it meant it was the best one yet

The Barn was a big hit, then

Back to one day and a return to form, Field Day 2017 is an absolute triumph. The blistering heat helped, sure, but what really made this year stand out was the impeccably curated line-up; from the psychedelic world-music of Imarhan and the soothing guitars of Kevin Morby to the anarchy of Death Grips’ noise-rap, the straight-up pop of Rae Morris and the warped beats of Nicolas Jaar.

Perhaps equally crucial to the success of this year’s event, though, was the high sound-quality. Don’t laugh! From ABRA to Aphex Twin, Field Day 2017 sounded good, really good.

Speaking of ABRA, it’s her flawless flow and understated ’80s RnB beats that kick off the festival’s 11th edition. The Athens-based, Awful Records-signed artist’s sweet vocals glide through the air, buoyed by a warm breeze and grounded, particularly in set highlight ‘Crybaby’, by the bounciest bass of the day.

Up the other end of the field are glam-punk provocateurs HMLTD. The East London collective are mid-swing, their artistic leader Henry Spychalsk prowling the stage, his bright green suit outdone only by his brighter green hair and smeared pink make-up. Recent single ‘To The Door’ and crowd favourite ‘Stained’ are playful, tempestuous, rallying cries (one using Spaghetti Western guitars, the other using futuristic synths) that leave a thrashing audience breathless.

The next act on my wish list adds a little more innocence to his artistry by rapping about making pancakes (‘Florence’) and arguing with his mum about swearing in the outtakes of his debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’. Young South Londoner Loyle Carner delivers the perfect sun-dappled mid-afternoon set, owning the stage by giving it a nod in ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’… “except the size of this stage”.

Lady Leshurr is up next. Eschewing anything resembling predictable, she races through a set that largely compromises of material from last year’s EP ‘Queen’s Speech’. Despite the fact she is playing to a thin-by-main-stage-standards crowd (pretty much everyone is either in The Barn waiting for Aphex Twin or on their way to wait to watch Aphex Twin), she has those that are present dedicatedly mouthing along to her tongue-and-cheek, observational freestyle.

The Barn, by the way, is the new jewel in the festival’s crown. It’s an intense aeroplane hangar of a space, decked out with huge lighting rigs and an immense sound system – one that had delivered the sounds of Moderat and Nicolas Jaar earlier in the day.

The place is packed but I worm my way inside, just in time to see the lasers, bass and place go wild for one of the most anticipated live comebacks of the year. Richard D James – the smiling face we know as Aphex Twin – delights with an inspiring, life-affirming set packed with the acid beats, crunchy textures, delicate melodies and pure bliss.

The evening ends with reformed shoegaze legends Slowdive. It’s a sizeable drop in heart rate from Aphex Twin, but powerful nonetheless. Their dreamy, fuzzy guitars prove the sonic equivalent of a warm hug – a perfect remedy following the late evening’s downpour. Field Day may be a slimmer offering these days, but it means there’s little in the way of filler. The best edition yet.

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