Field Day always gets off to a slow start. Unlike other one day festivals where most begin the day fresh, you’ve got to put in work to overcome the post-NYE haze. There’s a collective hangover spirit though that seems to bring people together and once the music hits your ears, the night before becomes a distant memory. That, of course, is dependent on great music and Field Day had one of their best and most diverse lineups yet to celebrate the first day of 2017.
AlunaGeorge on the main stage was one of the first to really ramp up the temperature even though rain was hovering over The Domain. Aluna is a formidable frontwoman, one that oozes effortless cool and commands a massive stage like it’s only two metres wide. She took the crowd to the tropics with the dancehall-flavoured ‘I’m In Control’ and then took us to the depths of the clubs with the DJ Snake flip of ‘You Know You Like It’. AlunaGeorge’s 2016 record I Remember was one of the most consistent pop records of the year and it was good to see punters coming out in droves to get down to it.
From one fierce leading lady to another, Tkay Maidza took to the stage hot, ready to roll out tracks from her excellent debut album TKAY. Opening with ‘Carry On’ she hit her stride amongst rollicking drums and never let the energy dip for the whole thing. She whipped her hair, glided across the stage and got down during drops. 2014’s ‘Uh-Huh’ sounds like a classic now as does the attitude-filled ‘M.O.B.’ She covers rap, electronica and pop, traversing genres like they aren’t even a thing. As she ended on one of the best singles of 2016 ‘Simulation’ it was clear that every festival should be making Tkay a mainstage priority. She’s without a doubt one of the most vivacious performers we’ve got.
Canadian producer Ryan Hemsworth provided a welcome haven of calm as the crowds swelled around the main stage. He delivered a niche, effortless set that oscillated between Japanese electronica and hip-hop. That sounds like a juxtaposition that shouldn’t work but surprisingly Travis Scott sits well alongside an anime-sounding remix of Beyonce’s ‘Formation’. It seemed all the devoted rap fans, there for Chance The Rapper, gathered for Hemsworth and suitably lost it when he dropped Migos’ viral track ‘Bad And Boujee’.
The dark clouds became even more damning as Alison Wonderland’s illuminated ‘AW’ was rolled onto the stage. There was a storm brewing but it was Wonderland’s set as the weather kept mostly at bay. If someone handed you her setlist, you’d flatly tell her it won’t work but somehow she finds a way to slot in heavy metal alongside hip-hop and then cut in her own bangers off Run. Kanye’s ‘Fade’ was a highlight but it was also good to hear her own newie ‘Messiah’ in there. As always she gave 100 per cent and left the stage looking like there was nothing left in the tank. The raucous crowd at the front also looked much the same.
Field Day delivered hit after hit with no sets hitting a sour note. It was always going to be hard to beat Chance The Rapper, arguably the biggest rapper in the world at the moment, and expectedly, nobody could beat him. Backed by his band The Social Experiment, he battled a bad throat throughout a brass-heavy, joyous set. His banter in between each song was endearing and genuine as he told the crowd he was ecstatic to be in our “beautiful city”. He pleased the core fans with a slew of tracks from Acid Rap but it was the Coloring Book drops that really got the crowd going. ‘All Night’ lit up The Domain like we were settling in for an all night dance party and ‘No Problem’ had punters jumping for Sydney Tower. His 2016-defining verse on Kanye’s ‘Ultralight Beam’ got a spin, making the set somewhat of a spiritual experience. He ended on ‘Summer Friends’ and had everyone swooning, as helaid downn poignant, melodic bars. He’s without a doubt the most fluid and thoughtful rapper in the game and it’s clear that he also appreciated the audience’s support. Thousands of collective hearts swelled for Chance and rightfully so.
During his set, Chance humbly noted that he was opening for Childish Gambino and while he’s far from being a support act it was a pretty fire back-to-back lineup. Australia is one of Gambino’s most devoted audiences and even with the stylistic changes of Awaken, My Love, we’ve stuck with him. Awaken, My Love isn’t perfect but live it takes on another life. Taking cues from George Clinton, he opened with Me And Your Mama and immediately set a euphoric vibe. Interestingly his hip-hop cuts didn’t sound like intruders and one would’ve suspected. The crowd was visibly rowdier during Because Of The Internet tracks like ‘Crawl’ but Gambino looked much happier when soaking in the soul of ‘Redbone’ or ‘Riot’. He left the crowd content with ‘3005’ but you can’t help but feel Awaken, My Love would benefit from being played in start to finish without his older tracks diluting the vibe. As a rapper, he pales in comparison to Chance The Rapper but he may just have found his lane as a soul man.
It was hard to find any faults with Field Day 2017. On the most part the crowd was well-behaved, the lineup was incredible and while thunderstorms loomed, they never actually arrived. That’s one great day in the bag for this year, now only 364 to go.
Gallery: Field Day 2017 / Photos: Angelica Madani