Photos by Neil Van.
Last year the second day of Field Trip was almost cancelled, the thunder and power rain made attending impossible. Thankfully the skies cleared up and while they had to cancel a few acts all the later ones agreed to perform condensed sets allowing most of the day to still occur. This year almost the same thing happened. While Saturday was hot and sunny, Sunday’s forecast called for thunderstorms early and periodic rain throughout the day. Fears of a repeat of 2016 were a bound, in the end the good vibes prevailed and the sun stayed out allowing everyone to enjoy a rain and mud free day.
LP, an artist with an impossible difficult name to Google, was an early act on the side stage possibly being the hidden gem of the whole festival. Laura Pergolizzi asked the crowd if it was too early for a beer as a good chunk of the audience raised their beverages of choice proving her wrong. The band’s folk pop sounded great in the sun and while they may have been mostly unknown they were plenty experienced with four full length albums dating back to 2001.
Vancouver by ways of New Market singer songwriter Hannah Georgas played a varied set over on the main stage. Her breezy jazz pop alternated between being somber and beautiful and dance filled blasts. Georgas joked about how she was so happy when her set was finishing because she planned on checking out a bunch of acts later just as a fan. Gerogas was far from the only artist checking out things. Over the course of the weekend artists like Kevin Drew, Emily Haines (and her young children), Matt Mays, Cold Specks, Feurd from The Elwins, Devin Cuddy, Torquil Campbell and others were spotted throughout the main grounds, VIP and back stage checking out acts showing just how well curated and friendly the festival was.
Irish singer James Vincent McMorrow had a massive crowd at his set, even if most people there were sitting down as it oddly suited his music to be enjoyed in that manner. The Irish (and the British Isles as a whole) have always had an interesting relationship with Soul and RnB music, making it their own after being greatly influenced throughout the generations. McMorrow, a brethren of Brit James Blake, with his effects laden vocals and smooth piano playing was a delight and as his set went on the music got more upbeat slowly getting the crowd to dance along.
Thundercat was one of the most hotly anticipated acts of the weekend as he finally had his big breakthrough with his latest album Drunk came out this year. For the last half decade plus he has been the go to bass player for just about everyone including Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Erykah Badu and way more but his own material never really took off. With his magenta hair, Muay Thai shorts, Mike Piazza Dodgers jersey, and white Birketstock’s with black tube socks he dressed as unconventionally as the music he makes. Playing a set mostly from Drunk he impressed the crowd with his frenetic playing making his six string bass sound out of this world. He e disappears completely into the music with his eyes clenched shut, mouth agape and his hands moving along his fret board like he was a piano master. Every intense solo was met with cheers from the crowd that wanted to stay put instead of getting good spots for the headliners.
Feist just released her first album, Pleasure, in six years with not so much a peep from the chanteuse. She appeared in a thrilling set by Broken Social Scene on the first night and didn’t disappoint on her own either. Her electric guitar tuning was done super low giving her a heavy edge that you wouldn’t expect from the dainty singer as she ripped her way through the title track of her latest record showing just how hard she rocks out. Feist proceeded to play almost all of her new album in one go alternating between electric and acoustic guitars and performing with the swagger that her friends in Mastodon are known for. For Century she brought out Stars frontman and BSS trumpet player Torquil Campbell to sing Jarvis Cocker’s part. She proceeded to inform the crowd after playing seven new songs that she was turning the clocks way back and asked what people were doing back in 2004, the year her breakthrough single Mushaboom came out before playing it. While the new material was great to hear it eventually started to drag a bit before picking up greatly in the second half with what was essentially a greatest hits show. Playing two of the more upbeat songs from the Polaris Prize winning Metals, an album that is for the most part very sparse sounding, was a blast. She eventually went to play three songs from her career peaking, and most straightforward poppy record, The Reminder. On My Moon My Man she absolutely shredded on the guitar in what was inspiring to see that the girls can be as intense as any male musician. Her set ended with 1234 a song that she detailed as having an interesting relationship with and how was its own thing and would “write postcards” to her about the life it was having.
On a normal year Feist absolutely would have headlined Field Trip, she had a new album, is a chart topping and award winning performer, is on the same label that puts on the show and was coming back from the wilderness. Instead she was second to last to Phoenix, which would have been insulting to her if they didn’t also rip up the stage after her. The band at the time of their performance was less than a week away from their latest album, Ti Amo, coming out. The band has already released several singles including the title track, which they played first. Phoenix has always been a band of grandeur as magnificent as their hometown of Versailles France. With a mirror ceiling angled at a 45-degree angle behind the band and a floor made of a giant screen it allowed them to play on top of their graphics that were also displayed behind them creating a unique atmosphere that is easier to see then explain. While their last album Bankrupt! was a slight disappointment it did produce a few excellent tracks like the stadium rocker Entertainment, which seems to get more epic the longer it is around for.
For their biggest hit Litzomania lead singer Thomas Mars walked away from his microphone during the chorus as the crowd sung louder than the speakers go could. The Japanese influenced J-Boy from their new album was a blast as the floor/mirror ceiling looked like a frenzied disco club brightly and quickly changing colours every second. Mars joked about how ten years earlier Feist had opened for the band on tour and they were glad that she was there again to play before the band. Phoenix is a band that thrives on it’s high energy live shows, as their music isn’t necessarily ground breaking it’s just expertly crafted dance rock music. For the instrumental Love Like a Sunset Part 1 Mars laid down on stage as constellations formed on the screen making him look like he was floating among the stars as the band jammed out on a live staple showing just how massive their sound is. Phoenix is the type of band that should be a headliner at every festival when you see them live, but if you just look at them at a post you would be disappointed because of the lack of big hits in their catalogue a rouse since every song they play seems like the greatest piece of music ever played.
It was a bit of a shame that the band didn’t play any material earlier than 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix especially since their first three records have plenty of great material to choose from. People would cheer and scream so loud after songs that Mars’ amplified voice could barely be heard thanking the crowd for coming out throughout the evening. By the time the show was ending after playing 1901 the band went into a mostly instrumental repeat of Ti Amo as Mars performed what is now a staple of Phoenix shows as he ran through the crowd before being lifted up and he crawled/body surfed his way back to the front allowing him to still get close to fans something the band never forgets is the reason why they are there.
While Kevin Drew has postulated that this might be the end of Field Trip, the festival could not have gone better. The crowds showed up, the weather stayed nice and the bands booked played their hearts out. The festival was so well curated it was heartbreaking having to miss acts like BadBadNotGood, The Pharcyde, Cloud Nothings and others. Having three headlining level acts all play brand new material was a treasure trove of treats for music lovers. One can only hope that Drew and the rest of the folks at Arts and Crafts change their minds and organize a 6th annual Field Trip next year.