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Radiohead to the Rescue at Field Day

Despite poor attendance and rain, great music helps salvage Field Day

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Thom Yorke of Radiohead during Field Day Music Festival 2003 at Giants Stadium on June 7th, 2003 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

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I‘d been looking forward to Field Day since it was announced,” said Blur frontman Damon Albarn backstage, just before his band’s set at New Jersey’s Giants Stadium. “It’s a shame that it will be remembered more for the rain than anything else.”

Albarn wasn’t alone in his disappointment. The two-day festival, planned for an idyllic field at the end of Long Island, was moved three days before to a massive concrete-and-rubber stadium. On top of dropping twenty bands so the festival could be streamlined into one day, heavy rains soaked most of the 25,000 ticket buyers all afternoon, At its peak, the stadium was more than half empty. But, against the odds, Field Day was not a total disaster. Fans who endured got to see a stellar two-hour performance from Radiohead as well as great sets on the parking-lot second stage from Bright Eyes, twenty-five-year-old Irish songstress Gemma Hayes, Kentucky rockers My Morning Jacket and Jersey’s own punk kings, Thursday. Other highlights included a spirit-raising singalong with Blur on “Tender,” Elliott Smith‘s stark guitar-and-drums rendition of “Miss Misery” and Underworld’s clever sampling of the Stones‘ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which inspired hundreds to dance in the rain.

Then, after stumbling through most of a set plagued by skipping records and muffed rhymes, the Beastie Boys finally got on track with “Root Down” and the Paul’s Boutique classic “Shake Your Rump.” Before “In a World Gone Mad,” written in response to the war in Iraq, Adam Horovitz got huge applause when he told the crowd, “Let’s do whatever we can to make sure President Bush doesn’t get elected again.”

By the time Radiohead came on around 9:30, the rain had finally stopped. Opening with “There There,” the single from their new album, Hail to the Thief, Radiohead amazed the crowd with a flawless electric set that mixed new songs such as “2+2=5” and “Sit Down, Stand Up” with old favorites including “No Surprises” and “Everything in its Right Place.” They dedicated “Lucky” to Beck, who had to cancel his performance after a security guard accidentally knocked into him backstage, sending him to the hospital. “I wanted to tell organizers that I’m sorry [the concert] had to come to this,” Radiohead singer Thom Yorke told the crowd. “But we’ll live to fight another day.”

This story is from the July 10th, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.


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