“How was the first day of Longitude?”
“Hot and wet.”
“Cool. And what was the weather like?”
A text conversation there with another journalist as the first day of Longitude came to an end; both a joke and an all too accurate description of the day. Friday in Marlay Park was plagued/gifted with hot rain and a murky, muggy climate that perfectly reflected the day’s primary line-up. Leon Bridges in the Heineken tent got the crowd in the mood with his old school soul and funk set, mixing in his hit single ‘Coming Home’ – potentially one of the sexiest songs of the year – with lovely tunes about his mother or how his grandparents met. With his upcoming gig in Whelan’s later this year, he’s definitely one to seek out if you haven’t already.
Little Dragon then took to the main stage, continuing the vibe of scalpel-sharp sensuality with a run-through of most of their bigger hits, with the pounding ‘Shuffle A Dream’ and the hypnotic ‘Sunshine’ getting the best reactions from their audience. One or two sound snafus aside, the set was delivered with perfection, as frontwoman Yukimi Nagamo effortlessly flits from wide-eyed wonder to glad-eyed seduction although on their final song ‘Only One’, they dropped the track’s tight, dancefloor-ready final minute in favour of a more rambling, seemingly endless attack on all the instruments on the stage. Lesson to be learned: if and when you can end with a bang, please do so.
A perfect follow up came in the form of the blissed-out funk of Metronomy. While the obvious likes of ‘Love Letters’ got everyone up swaying and singing along, it was great to see that the dark and sullen ‘The Bay’, or the weird and wonderful ‘The Look’ getting an equally great reaction. While the performance was perfunctory, it did feel like the calm before the storm, allowing everyone to get their heart-rate back to normal before the rest of the night kicked off… Back at the Heineken tent, Todd Terje. The incredibly ‘80s ‘Delorean Dynamite’ and 8-bit wonder ‘Inspector Norse’ were obvious highlights, but due to slight but constant wind blowing in and the high percentage of marijuana being smoked in the vicinity, attempting not to get hot-boxed in the tent proved to be an exercise in futility and it was time to get some fresh air before…
SBTRKT. While the main stage enjoyed the vocal stylings of Hozier, the Heineken tent was greeted with over an hour of bass-heavy, moody electronica, bringing out Sampha for the heartbroken longing of ‘Hold On’ and ‘Trails Of The Past’, or flipping it for the relentlessly funky ‘NEW DORP. NEW YORK’. Bathing us in deep, dark blue lighting, it was the first time in Longitude that it felt like an act had put some thought into the accompanying visuals (in comparison, Todd Terje had a hand made sign on the front of his DJ desk, and very little else of note). While some may say that the music should be able to speak for itself, SBTRKT immersed his audience in a full-on sensory experience, one which helped elevate our perception of his performance.
Bringing Friday to a close was Hozier, who has been unable to keep himself out of the spotlight of late. Now, we’re as proud of Hozier as the rest of the country, but we’re all about music. We like new music and, save for one or two tracks, Hozier is giving us none yet. He has a voice his peers would kill for and his performance was fine, but the sooner we get more new material the better as – dare we say it – we’re nearing saturation point…
Day Two, and some things are beginning to come into focus. In between the acts, there are endless adverts running on the screens. Anyone who didn’t know that The Prodigy and Calvin Harris have gigs coming up soon, they did before the weekend was over. The repositioning of the main stage was a good idea, freeing up more room for the crowd, but not enough to warrant the jump from last year’s 15,000 attendees to this year’s 20,000. It felt like the median age of the crowd was there to celebrate their 18th birthday, and celebrated by getting knee-walkingly drunk before 5pm with endless sightings of security guards running after teenagers for god-knows-what-reason.
For the most part though, this year’s line-up can’t be the reason for the younger demographic. Aside from Years & Years, who performed before 3pm on the main-stage, most of Saturday’s line-up was distinctly aimed at an older crowd. Years & Years themselves performed admirably, but their time-slot felt like a mistake. They could have easily filled the second biggest stage at a prime-time, and as the crowd lovingly sang along to ‘King’, ‘Worship’, ‘Take Shelter’ and all the hits from their newly released debut album, there’s a very good chance that their upcoming gig in The Olympia will be a much better fit.
Up next on the main stage came Le Galaxie (pictured), and again, it felt like a wasted opportunity. Their debut album was filled with dirty little party bangers, ones that don’t lend themselves well to being performed in broad daylight in a massive field. ‘L.U.C.Y.’ and ‘Le Club’ feel like they should be enjoyed in a dingy, neon-tinged, subterranean secret nightclub, and despite the lads giving their all in the trademarked white suits and dark-eye make-up, it took a lot of effort to get the mid-day audience worked up in the raucousness that usually arrives quite effortlessly in a Le Galaxie gig (like when they headlined the Heineken tent last year, for example?), but you couldn’t help but feel that Day Two had reached its crescendo too early on.
Petite Noir’s mix of rock and reggae blew the doors off the Heinken Tent next (there are no doors, but for the sake of artistic licence…), as their latest single ‘Down’ had the crowd singing along by the end, despite most not knowing it as the song began. There were shades of both Trent Reznor and Kele Okereke to the incredibly sexy likes of ‘Come Inside’ and ‘Shadows’, and despite not having an album out yet, the spectacularly original group have definitely set themselves up as ones to watch after this performance.
Apparently unable to contain his excitement, Daphni (Caribou’s club-ready persona) arrived ten minutes early and kicked off his set with a female vocal sexily repeating the words “I’ll make it up to you”, before dropping the most ungodly of bass drops and sending the crowd into a mass frenzy. The terse, military drum opening of ‘Tiberius’ got everyone in the mood, before that weird Psycho-esque string arrives from nowhere, and the song bounces from one end of the musical genre list to the other. For the rest of the set he continues mixing in everything from deep house to samba, with no real throughline to Daphni’s work here, but for the most part it absolutely worked.
Strolling over to the main-stage for Jungle, we tried out the 3Plus tiered seating arrangement. Off to one side of the main crowd, we sat on a wooden, make-shift seating stage, which in theory was a good idea, but in practise, due to the open field and high winds, exposed everyone sitting there to the elements, so it was back into the warmth and protection of the crowd as the English, new-soul seven-piece band took to the stage. While that UPC ad has blunted the greatness of their best track ‘Busy Earnin’’, the crowd still responded well, even if by the end of the set it become abundantly clear that a lot of their tracks are incredibly samey when played live.
Next up came Caribou, for the second time (Daphni, remember); not that you’d know it from the sets that were played. Yes, everyone knows ‘Odessa’ and yes it’s still an amazing track to dance along to with thousands of people, but the rest of the set is far more focussed and specific than the work he performs as Daphni. With the likes of ‘Sun’ and ‘All I Ever Need’, it’s far less hands-in-the-air euphoria, and more minimalistic beats – lending itself to holding the one you love and swaying softly from side to side, which is what most of the crowd did during his performance.
Then it was time to vacate the mainstage as Alt-J take over, in lieu of Hudson Mohawke in the Heineken Tent. Again he’s one of those “I know that ONE song of his” guys, and while everyone is probably more aware of ‘Chimes’ – or his production work with Kanye on Yeezus – his newly released album Lantern contains some of his best work to date. He obviously knows his way around some impressively hard-edged hip-hop and electronica, but some of his better moments come in his lighter tracks like the Jhene Aiko duet ‘Resistance’. Following from Daphni and/or Caribou, Mohawke was a great companion piece, but you couldn’t help but feel like the line-up for the day had accidentally been delivered back-to-front.