For all intents and purposes, Field Day serves as the kick-off to Australia’s 2019 festival season. Somehow, almost 30,000 hungover people head to The Domain in Sydney every year on New Year’s Day, despite the pounding headache, to have a party in the heat with some of the world’s best pop, hip-hop and electronic acts.
2019 was no different.
In all fairness to Field Day, punters can see buzzing electronic acts at every festival. They got some huge pulls in Flight Facilities, Peggy Gou, RUFUS DU SOL and Fisher, but these – for the most part - are acts punters can see somewhat often. They’re more guaranteed crowd-pleasers as opposed to exclusive ‘had-to-be-there’ performers, and their sets were still wildly impressive nonetheless.
But it is Field Day’s focus on certain pop and hip-hop artists that make it an unmissable festival, and no act was more unmissable than Cardi B.
Rap superstar and one of the most famous people to ever step on the hallowed Centre Stage, Cardi B strutted out with flair, fierceness and her completely infectious personality that the entire world has fallen in love with over the past two years. She pulled the biggest crowd of the day by far, and they were hanging on every word of her hit-filled setlist.
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Whether it be her fiery opener ‘Get Up 10’, her club-filler ‘I Like It’, her catchy feature verses in ‘Finesse’ and ‘Motorsport’ or the song that started it all – ‘Bodak Yellow’ – the crowd was as air tight as Cardi’s flow. Interesting, isn’t it, how some festival bookers still seem to think that a woman can’t fill a crowd when Cardi blew every single other bloke on the lineup out of the water? Hmm!
Of course, she wasn’t the only rap superstar that got crowds riled up. Two newcomers who celebrated amazing 2018's weren’t even on the lineup ‘til the eleventh hour, but Sheck Wes and Juice WRLD still showed up and showed out anyway. It was the perfect contrast – Sheck Wes’ chaotic, riotous bangers like ‘Mo Bamba’ balanced out with the emo, heartbreaking lyrics of Juice WRLD made for two consecutive sets that gave every hip-hop fan something they could thrive off.
But, as we all know, Aussie festivals have a strange and troubled connection with pop music. And, by that, we mean there is barely a connection at all. One pop performer that festivals and punters alike adore, however, is Mallrat. Playing an afternoon set, she had the elements against her as the heat blazed down upon the crowd but the crowd didn’t seem to care – they were bouncing along to ‘Groceries’, ‘Better’ and ‘Uninvited’ completely unbothered by the heat. But, that heat got turned up several notches when Mallrat gave us the festival’s biggest surprise – bringing The Veronicas out on stage.
The crowd lost it. I mean, truly lost it. Not only did Mallrat bring out Jess and Lisa Origliasso out on to what has to be their first triple j-sponsored festival stage, she brought them out to play ‘Untouched’. As soon as those opening violin notes hit, people sprinted to the Island stage. The crowd practically doubled in size and screamed out every lyric to a song they probably haven’t heard in ten years.
Now, it’s hard to say whether the crowd was there for the song or the meme, but the crowd was there regardless. When crowds expand to that size like they did for Mallrat, and like they did for Cardi, it becomes pretty hard for festivals to ignore that crowds love pop and crowds love hip-hop. We’re not just talking about the acts you see on every festival lineup, we’re talking some of the big guns that don’t even get triple j radio play.
So, how about in 2019, festivals look outside the obvious and book acts that might shock and delight punters. As scary as it might be, risks are what festivals are remembered for and we need to be taking more of them from here on out.
Photo by Anna Warr Photography
Words by JACKSON LANGFORD