The clouds threaten rain. If there was one thing that has proved itself exceedingly successful over the years at sapping the energy away from Irish festivals, it would be poor weather conditions. You can hope. The first day of Longitude, and much like the first day of any popular music festival, there’s a distinct sense of excitement and camaraderie in the air. Approaching Marley Park, the eyes are assaulted by a sea of floral patterned clothing, cheap sunglasses, colourful body art and a disturbing number of shirtless men – all of whom seem to be desperately trying to consume the fleeting amounts of their remaining liquor before it’s confiscated. This is the metaphorical ‘predrinks’ to what will prove itself to be a very interesting, music-filled weekend.
There is something slightly eerie about seeing an Irish hip hop group, such as Hare Squead, on a stage as large as the Heineken. Partially the peculiar vibe stems from the fact that, presumably, to the majority of those in attendance Irish hip hop is comparable to a popular folk tale, in that you hear about it from time to time but you don’t necessarily believe it exists. Hare Squead effectively turn that fantasy into reality. To see this young trio captivate their audience to such an extent, in a way that many a seasoned musician fails to do, guarantee them a spot as one of the best performances of the day. Their trap-infused pop sound mixed with their hyperactive presentational style make for music that’s great to listen to but even better to experience. The Section Boyz follow the Irish trio, and what they lack in ‘banging’ beats they more than make up for in name recognition. There is indeed something awe-inspiring about hearing a crowd of Irish teens so passionately regurgitate and channel the unyielding words of true Grime. I suppose trapping ain’t dead.
Longitude is not easy to navigate. Traversing between stages you’re bound to be faced with a couple of drunken encounters, bindi-garbed teeny boppers and the all too familiar blank disposition of eager ravers. Boots& Kats masterfully manage a crowd of offbeat new ravers and mould them into a mass of bopping heads at the Redbull stage. The big man, Action Bronson, lounges on the stage in a relaxed manner spitting raffish rhymes about his hip hop prowess and culinary inspired lyrics as the tent turns into an overly packed red hue of sweaty underground heads. There’s a calm before the storm that is Tyler the Creator, and taking this opportunity to check out the much anticipated Lumineers, a mostly distracted crowd sways from left to right and only offer to sing along the lyrics if they happen to know them. This, however, in no way slows down the folksy passion of their songs.
The Heineken tent hosts the long-awaited return of hip hop’s quintessential bad boy Tyler, The Creator. Witnessing Tyler live is a somewhat hard ordeal to describe, it signifies buckets of sweat, aggressive, brashly performed lyrics, an overly eager crowd and yet despite all this will still be one of, if not the best rap performances you are bound to see in your lifetime. His set can perhaps be described in one word: iconic. Next up comes the moment everyone has been waiting for, the reason that many had purchased their tickets in the first place. Arguably the king of modern day hip hop, Kendrick Lamar takes to the stage and he is breathtaking. He offers a more stationary fare than his usual concerts but nevertheless manages to ignite a frenzy in the crowd. The soulful conscious barb of the Compton MC spreads like wildfire throughout Marlay Park. Much like the conductor of an orchestra as he raps, his consistent hand movements direct and usher in a sense of jazz-infused euphoria. And just like that, it’s over. We have peered into the eyes of hip hop royalty and managed to share in that collective adventure, all for it to be taken away just as quick. And of course, it starts to rain.
Kendrick Lamar photographed by Leah Carroll