This Is Really Happening . . .

The condensed Field Day that sloshed through a half-empty Giants Stadium Saturday was, unmistakably, a rescue operation—audience and performers alike trying to salvage good times, in the pissing chilly rain, from remnants of what might have been a thrilling weekend. Headliners rarely announce, “I’m sorry it had to come, in the end, to this,” as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke did. What it had come to was, well, a stadium rock show, despite a few gestures of resistance. Heroine of the day: the young woman who summoned the video screens’ audience-boob-cam, coyly grasped the hem of her T-shirt, then whipped out a middle finger and distinctly mouthed, “FUCK YOU.”

The general vibe was “alt-rock’s glories revisited,” and big cheers saluted its mid-’90s heyday: “Born Slippy,” “Sure Shot,” Liz Phair’s acoustic “Supernova,” “Song 2,” woo-hoo. (“Devil’s Haircut” might’ve made that list, had Beck not tumbled and landed in the hospital.) Some of it still works great—the Beasties play, humans reflexively bounce. But no alarms and no surprises please, even on stage two, in the parking lot, featuring the likes of Ours (named after Radiohead’s bear?), My Morning Jacket (say it slurry and it sounds like “emo Molly Hatchet”), and Elliott Smith (who seemed really unwell, and forgot how a Beatles song goes).

The crowd strove to be cheerful, although New Yorkers aren’t used to the polymorphous hedonism of the Euro-festivals that were meant to be Field Day’s model. Of the people grooving to Underworld only slightly less vigorously than Karl Hyde himself, which ones were actually on Ecstasy? Probably just that one girl who was still dancing to the god-awful new Blur song. And usually when Yorke sings “Paranoid Android,” the audience hollers along with “rain down on me”; not so much this time. The rain resumed shortly thereafter anyway. —Douglas Wolk

Got Heads on Sticks

Securing entry to MTV’s $2 Radiohead show Thursday was a bit like finding a golden ticket in a Willy Wonka bar. Celebs like Elijah Wood skulked through the crowd, and the hoopla machine was on overdrive. But Radiohead fans are a tenacious bunch—one stubborn defiant, $150 ripped from his hands by an unscrupulous scalper, waited patiently at the Beacon entrance with a fresh roll of bills.

After a late start, the audience immediately locked into familiar arrhythms. Drummer Phil Selway’s two-tone tread anchored Colin Greenwood’s bass drone and the warm dissonance of Ed O’Brian’s guitar. With the exception of several torqued spirals across the stage, Thom Yorke commandeered from front and center—jerking to the beat like a manic elf, ears plumped to Alfred E. Neuman proportions by a wiry head mic. Guitarist-deks ‘n’ efx wiz Jonny Greenwood, when not channeling Hendrix, switched between what looked like an ancient typewriter, an upright W.O.P.R., and a theremin-like ondes martinet, kneeling as he ground the hapless device into the floor. New tracks from Hail to the Thief like “The Gloaming” and “Scatterbrain” were treated as old friends; only a shade more enthusiasm met jukebox regulars like “Fake Plastic Trees.” Introducing “Kid A,” Yorke quipped, “This song has much joy it in, forsooth,” as Janus-faced gargoyles above him cast quiet approbation, and Frodo, tucked away in a corner of the balcony, raised a fist in solidarity. For fans that night, hobbits and humans alike, an inchoate ideological void was filled with, if not the quiet hum of unified vision, the music of purpose set to the meter of dissent. —Adrienne Day

Field of Nightmares

Five weeks ago, TicketWeb founder (and Jersey native) Andrew Dreskin, executive producer of Field Day, spoke like a visionary. The Riverhead, Long Island, festival would be “a different kind of event,” a two-day camp-out in the spirit of European fests like Glastonbury. Following California’s Coachella, Dreskin, backed by entertainment giant Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG)—a major Clear Channel live-events competitor—was ready to lose money now in order to get established. He mentioned then that the fest “would have been a lot less expensive to stage at Giants Stadium, but that wasn’t the vibe we wanted to create.”

On June 4, the Suffolk County Department of Health upheld a May 27 ruling denying a mass gathering permit, contending that organizers hadn’t planned for enough police to handle a 35,000-to-50,000-person crowd. County officials chastised organizers and Riverhead administrators for rushing through the permit process. All hogwash, according to Dreskin. He says the application was submitted to the County Department of Health on February 27, far earlier than the 45-day advance that state laws require. He cites an April 7 transportation and security meeting attended by reps of the Suffolk County Police Department, the first of “a minimum of five meetings” they sat in on, raising no contention with fest plans until mid May. Dreskin also points to an April 11 letter Riverhead chief of police David Hegermiller sent to the county police commissioner approving the plan, and requesting officers for Field Day, as well as August’s Bonnaroo and September’s New York Air Show.

“This had nothing to do with time,” says Dreskin. At a June 3 press conference announcing Riverhead’s disentanglement from the fest, town supervisor Robert Kozakiewicz, who worked on the deal, was quoted in Riverhead’s News Review, “Suffolk County police were brought in very early on. They were going to provide assistance, as was the county sheriff. It wasn’t until May 22 that they told us they wouldn’t provide the police. Until then, the county participated in this fully. But then they abandoned it, for whatever reason. I don’t know why.” —Piotr Orlov