Field Day Festival Fiasco – Why It Was The Worst Festival I Have Attended

I’ve been to hundreds of shows. I’ve been to festivals, such as Coachella, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Reading/Leeds, V Festival (in England and Canada), dozens of times. After Zulu Winter spoke highly of Field Day and reading other good things, I was excited for the 6th edition of Field Day Festival in London’s Victoria Park. Never have I been to a festival that was as poorly organized as the Field Day Festival. Let me tell you why.

I ordered my tickets from See Tickets, as I tried to avoid North American ticket giant Ticketmaster, and give a company I knew nothing about my business. I have ordered twice from See Tickets, and both times my tickets that were supposedly sent by mail never made it. Talking to people in the queue, this is a regular occurrence. It’s a brilliant business plan – charge people for delivery and then don’t deliver the tickets. If they were sent, and I’m skeptical, the famed Royal Mail must not be pulling their weight.

Not the end of the world – we’ll pick up our tickets at the box office. As we entered Victoria Park, we saw a MASSIVE queue. “Oh, that must be for new ticket purchases” we thought. No, it was for people who wanted to pick up Ticketmaster tickets. Suckers, we laughed. Then we asked people where the See Tickets queue was. Oh, it was the longer one further away. We figured we arrived at the same time as everyone else, and rued our luck.

After barely moving for 10 minutes, we went to investigate. There are a total of 10 box office ticket windows. 10. For thousands of people to collect their tickets. These 10 windows were then divided up between Ticketmaster, We Got Tickets, and See Tickets. See Tickets had 2 windows. 2 windows and easily a few hundred people in the queue. Admittedly, I don’t know how the financials work – do the companies pay to have booths, or does Field Day only supply 10 booths and then split these up? Either way, for a festival that attracts tens of thousands of people and is in its SIXTH year of existence, it’s third rate and unacceptable.

I tried to take to Twitter and express my anger, but due to thousands of others doing the same, internet and phone reception was done (a theme that happened all day). “I want to express my dissatisfaction on social media!!!” Thankfully, I am part of this blog, so my voice at least makes it to a few hundred people.

Ticket Collection Madness

The ticket collection was straight ahead, but the queue snaked to the right off camera

I went to try and see what the problem was, why there were only 2 windows. There were about 10 people/volunteers in pink HELP shirts. How about instead of 10 of them pointing to where the entrance is, 9 of them help See Tickets and Ticketmaster? Why can’t you print your tickets at home with See Tickets? Or why can’t companies move towards mobile phone tickets? “You must queue for 2 hours!”

After about 2 hours, See Tickets got another ticket window! The sign moved over 2 spots, giving the illusion of 2 more windows. However, one of the windows sat empty. Well, 1 more is better than nothing. People stampeded into this new line, by-passing the people who had been in the original queue, including the girl behind us who we kept company and gave her water and offered her a beer. I ran into her inside the festival and got satisfaction jokingly telling her off.

See Tickets sucks

See Tickets: The illusion of service

I will finish my never ending queue rant with this fact. The men’s world record marathon time is 2:03:38. A man ran 42.2km in 2 hrs and 3 minutes – an amazing feat. We were in line at a professional festival in its sixth year of existence, with tickets from a professional ticket supplier for 2 hours and 20 minutes. You could fly to Amsterdam, have an airport beer, and fly back in about 2 hours. The classic Citizen Kane movie is 2 hours long – we could’ve watched a classic movie while in line. Since we missed 50% of the festival, do we get a 50% refund?

Am I the only one that feels this way? No – check out a round up of Twitter complains below – I’ve excluded the tweets that I did throughout the day for obvious reasons.

What should’ve been a 10 to 15 minute pick up process meant that we missed Errors, Summer Camp, and perhaps the band I wanted to see the most, Django Django. We rushed to try and catch Zulu Winter’s set, to hear them again since they have released their debut album. We only managed to catch Never Leave, Silver Tongue, and another tune. It sounded good, but a little hard to give a proper assessment. I tried to do an instant post, but again, no internet service.

After some much needed food and beer, we tried to find our way to where Grimes was playing. Since programs with maps were being sold for a massive £5 ($8), we had no clue where to go. After asking some kind girl with a map, we made our way to the tent. Grimes seemed to have attracted everyone in the park to her tent, and the crowd spilled out. The sound was pretty quiet and dreadful from the outskirts of the tent. The crowd reacted favourably to a few of her hits. But what was with all the girls on guys’ shoulders? Not cool, especially given the layout and viewing window of the tent.

After some more beers, we made our way to see SBTRKT, who was delayed for either his own or previous reasons. He came on and played a thumping set – so much so that he blew the power. No one knew what happened, but the music unexpectedly cut out. After about 5 minutes, they came back on, with SBTRKT saying “Sorry about that, we seem to have blown the power. Round 2.” At least Field Day and their stages are learning about power in year 6 of existence. The crowd danced and seemed to have loved what SBTRKT was throwing down. Due to the delays, we left early to catch Beirut on the main “Eat Your Own Ears” stage.

We managed to time this perfectly, as Beirut started just as we edged our way as close as we could (without being assholes, of course). The band has an accordion and their usual horns, which were all played pretty much note perfect. However, the sound was pretty quiet, as noted by people around us. The crowd reaction around us was tepid, but I wasn’t right at the front with the super fans. One of the best things about live music is the added energy and extra tempo that the live versions take on. This was not true at all for Beirut, as the songs were the same, or perhaps slower, in a live setting.

Another band I was looking forward to seeing was Austra. The rain started to come down, and people crammed into the Shacklewell Arms tent, trying to hide from the rain. For some reason, Austra were delayed about 30 minutes. Delays seem to be the norm, which is NOT usually the case at well-run music festivals. We had to decide whether to stay in the dry tent and miss Franz Ferdinand and fight with the drunks for personal space, or trek back out in the rain for the first UK show by Franz Ferdinand for some time. I was out voted and left Austra after Darken Her Horse for the space and calm of Franz Ferdinand.

Oddly, the crowd was quite small for Franz Ferdinand – smaller than Beirut. We managed to walk up even close this time, and stand a bit off to the side and open up our umbrella and not block anyone (cheers to Tony for carrying the umbrella all day despite my mocking of him when it was sunny). The band’s sound was the best mix we heard all day. Franz Ferdinand played all the old hits, and threw in some new ones, including an odd number about strawberries (complete with a picture of a giant bowl of strawberries).

The rain was relentless, and thinned out the already small crowd. Those that remained were treated to an umbrella dance party, featuring classic FF hits, and some new ones that didn’t go over so well. Hopefully it was a lack of familiarity that made the songs seem average.

So how was my first Field Day Festival? Well, I can tell you it was my last Field Day Festival, as well as my last time ordering through See Tickets. What should’ve been an 8 or a 9 out of 10 day turned out more like a 4 or 5. If I sound like a grumpy old man, I apologize – everything went wrong, everyone was poorly organized, and the highlight of the day was having an ostrich burger. Twitter showed that those fans that actually did get into the festival early had a great time, and I am probably in the minority of displeased people. I generally don’t rant and complain and love everything about live music and festivals. Yesterday was by far the worst experience in the 16 years across 4 continents and many countries of concert and festival attending. Thanks, Field Day!

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4 Responses

  1. You quoted my tweet, and I had much the same experience queueing. My god. I was wondering if it’d be worth chatting up the girl next to me in the hope that our children or grandchildren might eventually see the inside of that place.

    And I can’t believe that there was no queue to buy a ticket on the door! gnnnnnnn

  2. pete says:

    It sounds like you made a good day out of it though. Glad you got to enjoy Austra, too.

  3. REStuart says:

    You haven’t even mentioned the astronomical beer prices? £4.30 for one can of san miguel? Do me a favour. It is supposed to be a festival (and a recession), where people come together and eat and drink and listen to music (ok thats a bit of a biblically rosey image but you get the gist). Instead we are herded about into a large pen, not allowed to bring in our own dietary foods and drinks (ham & Mustard sandwiches from sainsburys and 8 cans of fosters notwithstanding) , we are not allowed to escape for quiet reprieve (to the pub / off licence to stock up) otherwise we are unduly banished for the remainder of the day. Hoiking up the beer prices infuriates me no end. All festivals do this and I will complain about every time they do it, it isn’t on to monopolies a situation where you are paying 3-4 times over the odds on a can of warm larger / burger etc. In the end by about 7pm I had ran out of money and patience and left, I enjoyed all the music I saw, Com Truise, Errors, Fennsz (Not Django Django or Grimes cos it was too full). So to recap we bought in total, between 3 of us over the course of the day (or 5 hours), 24 beers. That’s one case of san miguel that comes to a festive price of over £103!!! I stopped going to festivals because of the beer monopoly. I must have forgotten what a rip off they are.

  4. pete says:

    I didn’t want to complain about EVERY aspect of the festival. Based on the gigs I’ve gone to this year, £4-4.50 is pretty standard. Yes, it’s bloody outrageous, but would you believe it’s less than you’d pay in Canada?

    Coachella runs into the same problems – the tents are too bloody small. At least here, the tents aren’t 110 degrees F, but the sound quality wasn’t spectacular from the outskirts. Oh well, I won’t be attending again.