by / July 23rd, 2013 /

Festival: Longitude 2013: What State Saw

As far as first years go, Longitude probably couldn’t have asked for much more. The fine weather helped push it over the line to a sell out and good vibes were to be found across the pleasantly compact site, while the main stage had an atmosphere lacking at the Electric Picnic. There are elements that still need work – the bill certainly felt a little lacking in depth, plus the queues for both bars and toilets were ridiculous – but it certainly felt like a success and if they can add more of sister event Latitude’s left-field elements next year should be a winner. Here’s what floated the State boat across the three days…

AlunaGeorge – Heineken Live Project Stage, Friday

Sophistipop tinged with reggae and calypso steel drum effects signals the beginning of what feels like nighttime in the afternoon. AlunaGeorge recall the vibe of long ago childhood summers, ‘Just a Touch’ fusing a Soul II Soul effortlessly cool vibe with something a little more urban and UK garage. Aluna Francis possesses a thin dreamlike voice perfectly suited to being drenched in effects until the point at which you cannot tell where voice ends and artificiality begins. Their nods to the 90s are summed up in a welcome cover of Montell Jordan’s ‘This Is How We Do It’ but it isn’t all retro as the elegantly futuristic ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ finishes the set. (Elizabeth McGeown)

Django Django – Main Stage, Friday

The origin of their name is a mystery and while it’s probably nothing to do with the 1966 Italian Western Django you can’t ignore the Shadows twang throughout their songs, always there under the electronica. The instrumental passages which can act as background noise while listening at home become a beacon for the wandering festival goer, bringing them swarming like bees at honey. Vincent Neff is loving it, his unmistakeable Derry tones shouting evangelical soundbites at the audience while cowbelling like a demon. Everyone lets loose as the snapping beats and haunting harmonies build up to a top-speed ‘Default’ although the song of the set really has to be ‘Firewater’, its relentless Western psychedelic disco wasted if it isn’t the soundtrack to a Longitude montage. (EM)

Drenge – Woodlands Stage, Sunday

The fresh-faced Drenge brothers produce a raucous noise for only two people. A noise that’s intermittent though, as tuning issues plague them and the already small crowd begins to filter away during lengthy periods of silence, awkwardly broken by an audience member singing ‘I Am the Resurrection’ a capella. When they get back on track the drums and guitar recall a bygone era, the deadpan voice of Ian Curtis coupled with something a lot heavier, dirty rock and roll that would not be out of place in the 70s. At times it’s almost swaggeringly sexual, but the valiant drum fills don’t really rescue them from the breaks in continuity. (EM)

Foals – Main Stage, Friday

There’s a lot of expectation surrounding Foals’ second-to-last Main Stage slot. Three critically acclaimed albums under their belt, ranging from math-rock to self-loathing pensiveness means it’s a sure-fire bet that they’ll have something for everyone. Unfortunately, the sun starts to dip low on one of the hottest days of the year and the energy that has kept everyone going seems to dissipate, leaving a mostly lethargic audience that even the sublime ‘My Number’ can’t rouse. Yannis Philippakis notices and challenges the crowd: “Are you ready? You don’t sound fucking ready. You’re meant to be fresh, it’s the first day!” and when they don’t answer his challenge he dives into them, finally waking them up.The screaming intensity of ‘Inhaler’ could wake the dead and it does, finisher ‘Two Steps, Twice’ seeming all the sweeter and more frenzied because at last it takes the crowd with them. (EM)

Frightened Rabbit – Main Stage, Sunday

Frightened Rabbit know they have a difficult task, getting a seated audience to show passion on what, to them, is still a Sunday morning after the night before, even though it’s really 3:15pm. ‘December’s Traditions’ speaks of proactivity in misery, a dirge but certainly not a funereal one. As their tales of non-stagnation reach the crowd with the help of a cool breeze, slowly but surely life is breathed back into the audience. “It’s supposed to be a sad fucking song, but thanks for your input” quips Scott Hutchison as a group of girls do something most of us can’t quite see in the front row during ‘My Backwards Walk’, his banter’s joviality mixed with lyrical despair that causes an almost religious wave of hero worship toward him. It’s strange that songs that appear from such a dark place can be a euphoric experience, but ‘Backyard Skulls’ is catharsis for us as well as him, and we leave feeling a little lighter. (EM)

Gold Panda – Heineken Live Project Stage, Saturday

Gold Panda does his own soundcheck. That fact neatly much sums the London producer up: for all the extraordinary flavours that can be tasted in his music, he is just one balding man on a stage to himself. He goes about his business, giving no indication that things are about to begin until the music builds and the projections light up the Heineken tent. A sizeable crowd is taken around the world in 45 minutes as sounds from Hong Kong, Brazil and Europe combine in one seamless mix, with only ‘We Work Nights’ and its bedraggled string riff standing out amid the internationalist chaos. Percussive might is added in as the set wears on, giving it that extra needed kick. Condoms are used as beach balls, and the Spanish guy asking if that’s Gold Panda on stage is left in no doubt. (George Morahan)

Hot Chip – Main Stage, Sunday

Hot Chip kill it, plain and simple. There’s no room for their more emotionally resonant work – even ‘Boy From School’ gets a fitting house/funk makeover – only hits, but that’s ok because everyone is in the mood to dance. ‘Don’t Deny Your Heart’s cheesiest overtones are forgiven thanks to a great melody and a better chorus, while ‘Flutes’ gets the band doing their take on the Macarena.

It’s startling how good a frontman Alexis Taylor has become. He bounds on stage with his lapels flicked up and proceeds to bound around, cheerily giving someone in the front row the middle-finger at one point. When Joe Goddard takes the lead for a brief minute on ‘I Feel Better’, it’s sort of cringeworthy, but Taylor sounds confident and assured when taking the reins again, and it’s a relief to hear him in such good voice.

His take on Prince’s ‘Irresistible Bitch’ is a highlight: self-deprecating but swaggering all the same, much like his band, who continue to defy expectation. Hot Chip were never meant to be great pop stars, but five albums in, they’ve boiled performance down to a perfect alchemy. They’ve got tunes to spare; tunes that build on top one another; they give the people what they want, and they do it with verve. As one happy punter puts it: Hot Chip are “dangerously good”. (GM)

Jake Bugg – Main Stage, Friday

On first brief listen to Bugg’s admittedly constipated Dylaneasque tones it’s easy to dismiss him as a follower – or indeed a downright copycat – of the prolific man himself, while he also brings the Oasis fans in droves. Meanwhile, the rest of us wonder if he has anything to offer. ‘Broken’ is the answer. Probably helped by the decision to perform it solo and acoustic, it starts off routine yet somewhere along the way morphs into a stunning torch song, the first of the festival. His voice reaches tenor heights, showcasing a range Dylan never had in his heyday. Admittedly, the rest of the 19-year-old’s set namechecks budget cider White Lightning and instructs us to “raise two fingers to yesterday”, but it’s as hard to begin disliking him now as it would be to dismiss the entire Beatles’ back catalogue. If he simmers in a pot for a few years, he may just emerge a songwriter. (EM)

Jessie Ware – Heineken Live Project Stage, Friday

There’s a reason Jessie Ware isn’t the pop supernova she deserves to be. Despite the jaw-dropping voice and an album, Devotion, that does well to highlight her talent without compromising songcraft, there’s something still so real and upfront about her. Her warmth is infectious; she’s bubbly, eager to engage and acts like everyone is her best friend, completely at ease with the tens declaring their undying love every second.

She slinks around the stage and would look as if she might be about to pop off to the shops were it not for the black silk one-piece she is wearing and the odd piercing look here and there. It all comes very easy to her to this performance’s detriment. Early reference is made to last November’s debut Irish show at the Sugar Club, where she blew the doors off early with opener ‘Devotion’. Here, she sounds content to go through the motions.

Ware is working at less than capacity, but ‘Imagine It Was Us’ and a rare performance of ‘Valentine’ are welcome amid the complacency. Closing with singles ‘Wildest Moments’ and ‘Running’, the crowd is found in full voice. Only then does Ware decide to unleash herself upon them – in voice and in person, as she decimates the climax of ‘Running’ and bounds to the front row where she is consumed whole. A remarkable voice and a remarkable personality, but it’s the latter that shines through today. (GM)

Kodaline – Main Stage, Saturday

Kodaline have skyrocketed this year, proudly taking to the stage in front of a blow-up image of their much-billboarded album cover. One of only four Irish bands on the Main Stage this year, they’re firmly in the thoughtful indie category with singalong audience favourite ‘In a Perfect World’ not a million miles from Keane. It all gets a bit epic with ‘Pray’, Stephen Garrigan channeling a Matt Bellamy falsetto while U2 guitars and a Pink Floyd-esque bassline battle it out for the audience’s hearts but it’s not to be, the most animated reaction being prompted by possibly the weakest songs. ’Love Like This’ gets a touch Mumford & Sons with a harmonica and the crowd laps it up, hoedowning and loving it. ‘All Comes Down’ is the highlight, a military drum tattoo of a song that will echo in your head for a long time after, any similarity to ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ by The Killers making it all the better. (EM)

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