I knew yesterday was going to be all about Ginger Baker, but a wonderful London Field Day also delivered the excitement of seeing Palma Violets at full throttle, a boogie-inducing set of pure showmanship by Django Django, and the privilege of hearing the loudest song ever sung on this planet – that of a blue whale, courtesy of Chris Watson's Nature Disco.
To my shame, the first time I heard of drumming legend Ginger Baker was in Rough Trade East a couple of weeks ago. I'd only popped into to buy 'Holloway' – Robert Macfarlane & Dan Richard's tale of rambling sunken paths in Dorset, beautifully illustrated by Stanley Donwood – but inevitably I got chatting to one of the assistants, trying to wheedle out a few recommendations. He turned out to be in the midst of a Fela Kuti collecting spree and suggested I listen to a Fela live track on Rough Trade's 'Field Day' compilation. I was mesmerised within a few beats and spent the next fifteen headphoned minutes alarming other record shoppers with exclaimations of 'wow!'
The track is essentially a twelve minute drum duel, featuring Afrobeat originator, Tony Allen, and former Cream percussionist, Ginger Baker. It is just stunning and I defy anyone to listen to it (the best bit is about 45 minutes into this YouTube clip) without at the very least engaging in some involuntary toe-tapping. Do so and you'll also realise why Liz and I had to go to see a now septugenarian Ginger Baker playing at Field Day London 2013.
He was bloody marvellous, if understanably slightly less energetic, picking out surprising rhythms from every angle. But Baker's set was all over by 5.30pm and I feared that the day's aural delights had peaked rather early. Fortunately, Caught By The River were on site and candidate for Luckiest Man Alive, Chris Watson, was there with his Nature Disco.
Watson has made a BBC career out of travelling the globe recording the sounds of some of world's most exotic species, often in support of David Attenborough. Yesterday's treats included the sound of vultures tucking into a fallen zebra in the Masai Mara (Watson does school talks, to enthuse kids about nature, and often introduces this track with the warning that “you're about to hear the last sound you'll ever hear if you're unlucky enough to eaten alive on the Kenyan savanna), chortling hippos, munching elephants and, best of all, the low rumble and grime-like beats of a Blue Whale's love song.
The whales sounded pretty happy and so were we as we ambled out into the evening sunshine. As night settled in we supped a San Miguel, watched the fairground rides, caught the last few songs of a frenetic Palma Violets set (a band we first enjoyed at the Port Eliot festival last year) and then danced ourselves dizzy to Django Django. On stage in their identical uniforms of white shirts emblanzoned with jagged black lines they resemble a kind of wound-up Kraftwerk. But while the German electronica masters ouvre can tend towards the melancholic, Django Django's songs are there just to put a smile on your face and energy in your dancing shoes. Cracking stuff.
A perfect bank holiday Saturday ended with a stroll to the Silver Lining, faithfully moored up alongside Victoria Park and undoutedly the most convenient festival 'tent' location I have ever enjoyed. Thank you Field Day!