Longitude day three: Hot Chip, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kraftwerk
The big guns came out to play on the last day of the festival, but there were a few gems to be discovered away from the headline slots
German electronic band Kraftwerk unleash their 3D show. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters
It’s a mark of The Minutes’ growing standing that the Woodland stage is packed out for their 4pm set, so much so that marshals are on hand to filter people in in waves. Maybe it has something to do with the huge sounding ripping off the stage that attracts idle passers-by - the Dublin three-piece must deliver the best power-to-player ratio of the weekend, in an enormously energetic set that shakes, rattles and rolls this corner of the Longitude forest.
The band have a reputation for a cracking live show, and a heavy touring schedule in recent years has made them one of the tightest outfits around. It’s furious, unapologetic, swaggery rock - and if you like your music straight up hard, with no mixer, then accept no substitutions. This is an outstanding shift of work. LM
Mark Lanegan is not exactly what you would call perfect festival fodder: he’s bleak and foreboding; he anchors himself behind his microphone and rarely moves from it; his band are dressed entirely in black as if they are affronted by the fine weather; and his songs are about as sunny as his disposition.
But what songs. Lanegan and his band carry this set with what feels like sheer force of will and sound, creating a cacophonous, bluesy belter of a set that drenches the main stage crowd in sonic shock and awe. Hit The City’s unloaded early and causes the unwary in the crowd to stop and stare. Lanegan’s voice, like gravel being emptied down a galvanised gutter, could reduce children to tears at 200 paces. And the set highlight is an almost terrifying Methamphetamine Blues, which sounds like an army on the move. Terrific stuff. LM
Longitude has some great Irish debuts from touring bands, and there’s a sizeable buzz about London Grammar, a young UK three-piece who signed to Warner/Chappell last month, and are no doubt already angling for a top spot at next year’s BBC Sound of 2014 list.
Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dot Major very much encapsulate a sound that a lot of young British bands are striving for, that ambient live electronic space occasionally visited by dubstep, drama and urban minimalism. Luckily, all of those aims are met. Once again, thanks to the excellent sound on this stage, the music coming from the beer-endorsed speakers sounds crisp, full, bassy and loaded with atmosphere. London Grammar need all of these things to get their tunes across, and not once during their afternoon set do they slip up.
Reid’s voice immediately calls to mind Florence Welch, but fuller and more emo, punching each note with forlorn melodrama that covers those inside the tent and also those lounging on the grass outside with brooding force. Their Metal & Dust EP gets a run out, as does Wasting My Young Years, a calling card that sounds fully formed and mature beyond the band’s even collective age. A hugely promising act who nail their gig in Marlay. UM
HALF MOON RUN
Half Moon Run arrive at Longitude as something of an unknown quantity, with just two singles having done the rounds for the Montreal rockers. So when they put in a stunning set of joyful music, and make themselves the find of the festival, you have to wonder where they’ve been hiding all this time.
The band match four-part folky vocal harmonies with some squally, full-blooded guitar riffs, and complex rhythms- at one point all four are playing some form of percussion, and drummer Dylan Phillips has permanently ditched toms in favour of playing half a kit while lashing out melodic keyboard lines. It might sound gimmicky, but it’s deeply effective, and the band play with a tightness and groove that’s usually only fair to expect from a group who have been many more years on the road.
Call Me in the Afternoon is their calling card, and here it’s delivered with cracking energy from a band who look delighted to be on stage. The Woodlands tent might not be packed, but everyone leaves a Half Moon fan. The band return to Dublin in November for a gig in the Workmans Club- expect it to sell out on foot of this pearl of a performance. LM
While almost the entire festival seems to pack into the main stage arena for Hot Chip’s set, a few detractors have decamped to the Heineken Live Project tent to catch London vocalist/producer Sohn. They’re rewarded with a warm, melodic set of gorgeously realised electronic music. Sohn attracts comparisons with James Blake but here the pace is higher and the arrangements less spare. There’s a similar craft in the songwriting, with more than a hint of dark drama at play; Sohn is definitely one worth checking out for the future. LM
“Longitude! You’re all so individually and collectively cool!” Oh Hot Chip! You flatter us so. The feel good Londoners know how to share the love, and are a festival sure thing. Their sweet’n’lite electronic music is expertly progressed live, and it’s one of those sets than can be enjoyed in a frantic party mood up the front, or in swaying appreciation on the fringes.
Joe Goddard’s distinctive voice can sometimes come across as a little anaemic, but rollicking through Boy From School, Over And Over and Don’t Deny Your Heart it holds up well, with the surrounding members gleefully noodling with guitars, keyboards, synths, percussion and vocals throughout.
Sarah Jones, Hot Chip’s live drummer who also plays with New Young Pony Club, holds the set down perfectly, and a great, loose arrangement of Ready For The Floor’skedaddles brilliantly all over the place before still getting its point across. One Life Stand is a surprising highlight, as feet jaded from two days of festival action tap back to life. Perfect, sunny, fun stuff. UM
Until Kraftwerk unveil their 3D extravaganza, Flume has the neat visual onstage award in the bag. A mirrored box at the front of his riser makes an infinity loop of LEDs, complemented by a scifi swirl of cityscapes and bursts of colour on the large digital backdrop - not for nothing was his recent home tour called the Infinity Prism tour.
And the tunes aren’t bad either. Australian Harley Streten got a strong critical reception for his debut album, which was released late last year. He might be just 21 but he’s already showing that he’s got the electronic chops to cut it with acts more experienced than he is.
This is rich, uplifting music with a steady dynamic that rarely feels like it’s straying above 100bpm, and is comfortable in its Chromatics-like territory. It’s pristine, full of ideas and eminently listenable - check out Sleepless featuring Jezzabell Doran for a fine example of where he’s at. If there’s a criticism here, it’s that on day three of a festival, Streten doesn’t look as busy behind the decks as he could be - perhaps there’s a little bit of an overreliance on samples and backing tracks, and nothing is being left to chance. (It’s also worth noting for your final farewell that Ireland is not in the UK.)
It’s a quality set all the same, and a surprise treat for the huge crowd that floods over in the wake of Hot Chip on the main stage. LM
YEAH YEAH YEAHS
Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been around long enough, with a frequent enough output - the punk of Fever To Tell, the nuanced indie of Show Your Bones, the disco rawk of It’s Blitz! and the latest rather lo-fi Mosquito - that in a festival environment, they can fill a full set without delving into some of their best tunes. Date With The Night and Y Control are notably absent at Marlay Park, but there’s a more precious quality to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ live performances in recent years, and Karen O and co opt for several quiet moments with Soft Shock, Cheated Hearts, Turn Into and Despair. An early doors Phenomena also sounds surprisingly good.
Decked out in a sparkling suit with a motif that points to what would have happened if Keith Haring drew Basquiat’s crown, Karen O really gets things going with Zero, dispensing with the suit jacket and donning her infamous studded leather jacket. A beachball eye is booted out into the crowd, bobbing along until it disappears. It’s difficult to capture the small-room energy of Pin in a field, and as ever live it falls flatter than it should. This is a song that requires proximity and sweat, not open air and sunlight.
Brian Chase on drums and Nick Zinner on guitar provide the musical oomph to sustain Karen O’s relentless energy, all monitor-baiting, water-spitting, microphone-helicoptering, grinning, screaming brilliance. It’s hard to think of another front-person in contemporary rock who is as engaging. Heads Will Roll, with the refrain “Off with your head / Dance ‘til you’re dead”, sees the park descend into an indie disco, the perfect juxtaposition for Maps, a track of such emotional depth, yearning and despair that it’s difficult to listen to it ever without shedding a tear.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the most anticipated acts all weekend, and probably draw the largest crowd. And while songs from Mosquito don’t shine as brightly - the title track is slightly throwaway, the opener Sacrilege works - the New Yorkers deliver with aplomb. UM
One act you couldn’t accuse of not working hard enough is SBTRKT. Here, Aaron Jerome is running solo, whipping up a frenetic DJ set without the live help of collaborator Sampha. This is blistering dubstep that seems like the distilled essence of all that’s currently good in British electronic music.
Anyone feeling short-changed by not having the full live show isn’t disgruntled for long. Jerome draws on what feels like his full back catalogue and brings something new to each track with a terrific display of DJing craft. When he drops Wildfire, the tent roars its approval, and when he rolls that into a Kendrick Lamar track, he’s got the crowd right where he wants them. This is a terrific act to close out the festival’s dance/electro venue. LM
Kraftwerk are an interesting headliner choice because on one hand, why would they not headline? They are pioneers with instantly recognisable tunes. On the other hand, for those who aren’t fans or just don’t know, their cerebral electronic minimalism isn’t exactly a populist way to end a festival.
There was extra pizzazz though. 3D visuals are on the menu and when their set time rolls around, thousands wait facing the stage wearing cardboard specs.
The Kraftwerk stance is iconic, and as Ralf Hütter, Fritz Hilpert, Henning Schmitz, Falk Grieffenhagen spend the next hour and a half or so standing behind their consoles and amid the retro-futuristic visuals, the gig takes over.
Opening with The Robots, the classic tracks keep coming, songs and sounds that changed pop music and pop culture forever: Computerwelt; The Man-Machine, with its Mondrian-esque visuals; and The Model.
The visuals vary in quality. The 3D effects are fun, but quite sparse. It is really the knowing minimalism of their aesthetic, showcased perfectly with the hypnotic visual accompaniment to 1975’s Autobahn - following Volkswagens down a motorway in something that looks like a kid’s computer game - which is achingly simple, yet captivating.
The phenomenally stylish euphoria of Tour de France is perfect. And as the crowd thins out, it benefits the gig, cutting down on the chatter on the fringes as the levels of appreciation, concentration and enjoyment increase.
Radioactivity is another excellent moment, and then Trans-Europe Express, with black and white train visuals and disconcerting synths, is showcased sublimely.
With a lighter touch on record, there are certainly some beats beefed up, some rhythms unfurling in a slightly more frantic manner, but in a world where the dastardly cynicism of EDM is churning out some of the worst electronic music of our lifetime, it is almost a relief to hear the pure and perfect minimalism of Kraftwerk cut through the night sky with such clarity and freshness. Tracks composed 40 years ago still sound urgent and immediate.
Ending as they generally do with Musique Non-Stop, Kraftwerk simply own the weekend, capping a great three days with the perfect track. UM