NEW YORK – Saturday’s Field Day Music Festival was a success for merely taking place. After weeks of legal squabbles, promoters were forced to condense the two-day superstar-billed camping/concert extravaganza into a one-day affair, and move it from a grassy field in Calverton, N.Y., to stoic Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Disappointed fans showed up from all over the world to endure a day’s worth of rain for the likes of Radiohead, the Beastie Boys, Beck and more. And while the rain dampened spirits for most of the day, Radiohead’s closing set erased all misgivings.
The fest’s expected 50,000 attendance was radically downsized in the move to Jersey, and the event seemed justifiably disorganized given the short prep time. Failure on the part of the state of New York and Suffolk County to supply enough security necessitated the move, and the crowd’s displeasure reared its head when a “Fuck Suffolk” T-shirt drew a large cheer when shown on the two jumbo screens.
Some of the fest’s most anticipated acts were lost in its abridgement, including such as Sigur Ros and Interpol, and most of its hip-hop contingent, including the Roots, N.E.R.D. and the Streets. Still, as if this was not enough, an official came on a minute before Beck’s set was to start to announce that Mr. Hansen “took a spill” backstage and was hospital bound.
Worried about riots? I was. But the rain-soaked crowd took it in stride, instead throwing their enthusiasm on an extended Beasties Boys set list. Drawing most of the songs off their 1999 record Hello Nasty, and completely avoiding old-school classic License to Ill. With the rain finally stopping five minutes into their set, the middle-aged rappers performed an unscripted high-wire act. Yet, even as the boys stopped to repair mistakes and lost memories, they kept it ill.
Earlier performances featured all too brief sets (Beth Orton, Spiritualized, Liz Phair), energetic second stage performances (Ours, Thursday) and the thumping techno of Underworld that brought life to the poncho-clad spectators. A cheerfully clumsy performance by Elliott Smith and Blur’s Britpop explosion highlighted the rest of the day’s activities. But in the end, the night belonged to headliners Radiohead.
Throughout their two hour set, Thom Yorke and members leaned on new LP Hail to the Thief, starting with the bassy percussion of single “There There.” Even with the album not officially being released until Tuesday, the crowd cheered loudly as they recognized each new track, forcing Yorke to joyfully bemoan, “Everyone comes up to me saying, ‘Great record.’ It’s not out yet!” The startlingly beautiful newbie “Sail to the Moon” brought a blissful hush over the crowd only outdone by the violent loud-soft interchange of “Paranoid Android.” With Yorke’s cries of “Rain down, rain down / Come on rain down on me,” the early flow of despised water received a welcome invitation from the entranced crowd.