Longitude day two: Local Natives, Villagers, Vampire Weekend
Local Natives delivered a superb set, after an instrumental dig out from Villagers who also gave them a run for their money in the show stakes, while Vampire Weekend had the double-edged sword of the headline spot
“This isn’t the Ireland I know, I’m kind of confused.” Us too, Local Natives. The shock caused by Dublin in the sunshine from some of the visiting bands leads to a kind of delightfully smug reaction from the crowd. Topman have probably sold out of vests at this point. Everyone might as well cancel their holidays and scoff at people travelling to sunnier nations for their festival fix minus the rain. Grab a beer, find some shade, and soak up the tunes on day two of Longitude, as those with less foresight queue outside holding cardboard signs looking for tickets, a trope you’re more used to observing in Croke Park than Marlay.
Warning Sign is what Fleet Foxes would have come up with if they were locked in a Talking Heads chamber, and Local Natives nail it in all its frantic glory. While en route from Berlin on Saturday morning, the band had their guitars and keyboards “mislaid” by their airline. The set is dedicated to Villagers, who gave them a dig out and leant instruments to the LA four-piece.
Camera Talking skips along like a pebble on a pond, full of vitality and fun. A tune is dedicated to anyone who has ever conspired in making fools of themselves with the band in Whelan’s, their favourite post-gig drinking hole. And Heavy Feet, with its The National-esque drumming, pushes a great set along.
Ending with a plug for their upcoming gig at the Olympia, they finish with Sun Hands, a raucous song and a lesson in control from a band that has come on in leaps and bounds since their early Irish shows in the basement of the Academy. As a thrown drumstick is snatched out of the air by a punter whose reactions should be applauded, the gig ends with whoops and whistles. A perfect afternoon concert. Well played, Local Natives - you are now local heroes. UM
Electro pop duo Youg Wonder come from Cork, but you’d be forgiven for thinking they hail from Iceland or Scandinavia, given the chilly sheen to their aesthetic and the polished, synth-driven sound to their music. Rachel Pixie pitches her vocals at the high end of the spectrum, with loops and samples, from beneath the hood of what likes a wolf/bear avatar suit, while Ian Ring builds up the beats and tracks, with occasional help from a guest guitarist. The band have invested heavily in their video backdrops, looping music videos and glitzy scenes largely featuring Pixie, but the music and instrumental set-up doesn’t match the scale of their ambition, and the music feels thin and underdeveloped.
Currently, this electro genre seems to be the most competitive in music – think Grimes, Purity Ring and Soil Collectors, and that’s before you go near the prime movers such as Bjork and The Knife – so it needs to be richly refined to stand out. By comparison, Young Wonder feel like music in progress. LM
All hail the tent’s sound engineers. Throughout the past two days the sound at the Heineken Live Project Stage has been almost perfect, a bit of a challenge where electronic music is concerned at festivals.
Gold Panda always draws an enthusiastic crowd and today is no different, as the joys of not having to wear wellies at festivals means more light-footedness for dancing.
The set really only comes alive though at the end when You is born. It’s a stunning track and one that fills the tent as the staccato hook flows through an extended version. As it slows down to a slur, the crowd is set up for an evening of smart electronic music later on. UM
Mø (pronunced Muh, which sounds slightly derogatory to our ears, though it’s actually old Norse for virgin) means business. The combustible Karen Marie Ørsted leads her band from the front, as they rip into a set of slabby, Scandi, synth-dance rock with agression and intent. The triggered drums and kit drive the tracks with punch, filled out by samples and loops, while Ørsted’s vocals, humming with ethereal power, form an intriguing contrast with the guitarist’s skittering, crisp lines. All this is backed up by a bizarre combination of looped videos featuring graffiti in progress, underwater sea wrecks, abandoned factories and was that Buddy Rich given it socks mid-solo?
Ørsted leaves nothing behind here, clambering across the speakers, rolling on the stage, pulling vocals up from the deep. Her vocals are occasionally unclear, thanks to the synthesized bass lines filling the lower frequencies, but it doesn’t inhibit a cracking set of cutting-edge music. Mø of this sort of thing please. Speaking of which ... LM
Anders Trentemøller hasn’t released a studio album in three years and I suppose it takes time to make electronic music as complex and surprising as this.
Live, Trentemøller is surrounded by gothic sounds; intense drumming, dark guitars, spooky synths, female vocals and a thundering mist of proggy vibes.
The set starts as slowly as the massive portaloo queue moves outside the tent, but over the course of the next hour it takes on a narrative and build as well-structured as anything you’re likely to witness over the weekend.
Whirling from punk-ish almost industrial breakdowns, weaving back into more traditional beats, occasionally descending into a ghost-train blitz of spooky synths and smoke machines, this isn’t for everyone; in fact it occasionally goes off on challenging meanders. But the set is loaded with intrigue, taking off at unexpected moments, and ultimately left everyone from the chin-strokers to those up for a bop satisfied. Well, everyone who stuck it out. UM
Temperatures set to simmering; a main stage filling out by the minute; Villagers back in Ireland for their first gig in a while; and above it all, Conor O’Brien’s voice ringing out clear as a bell. What more could you want?
Villagers seem to get better with each gig. What’s become apparent, even at shows as large as this, is the craft in O’Brien’s songwriting (his sunglasses lend him a Roy Orbison look that’s particularly apt). On record, particularly on his debut album Becoming a Jackal, the tracks come across as intense and intimate. Here, though, they simply soar. Nothing Arrived comes early in the set, and sets a high bar that gets pushed further and further; Becoming a Jackal still cuts and jabs just like it should, though perhaps surprisingly Home matches it in the crowd-singalong stakes.
O’Brien takes a chance and strips it back during the substantial set for some new music. At the end of the gig, he apologies for “the boring bit in the middle”, but that’s probably harsh – Memoir is particularly fine, especially the bluesy piano jam that gets the song out.
The show’s highlight is the slow burn brilliance of The Waves, which builds to an immense finish, O’Brien finally ripping off his sunglasses to rock out. It’s a sublime musical moment in a superb set that further burnishes Villagers’ world-class status. LM
As the evening drew in, and the temperatures finally faded, it was a straight-up choice for headlines between the polished rock pop of Vampire Weekend, and the club heavy beats of Paul Kalkbrenner. If you like your tracks more banging and Berghain than precise and pop, it was the latter on the cards.
Live, Kalkbrenner sounds like something of a purist, spare techno lines and melodies undercut by a thumping bass line that, at least at the front of the Heineken Live Project tent, was enough to rattle your lungs. As black and red rev counters flicked on screen, Kalkbrenner set about his business like a professional – not for him the big drops, stops and starts of EDM; instead, he constructs the music track by track to a very satisfying, and very loud, complementary whole.
This was a top-drawer set of classy club music that ran like a well-oiled machine – and he sourced a replica Tshirt of Ireland’s football jersey from the 1988 European Championships. Now how is that for respecting your audience? LM
The headliners on Saturday had a lot to live up to following Phoenix’s sublime set the previous night. Could Vampire Weekend fill those shoes?
Kinda. There’s nothing wrong with Vampire Weekend’s bright and jangly guitar tales of preppy life and love. Ezra Koenig’s thin voice cuts through the evening air with an enthusiasm and verve that is perfectly listenable.
Giving Up The Gun, A-Punk and Horchata are great, prompting plenty of dancing and cheery reactions from the audience. But unfortunately Vampire Weekend don’t have the beefiness to truly carry off a headline slot. There’s little intensity or anthemic resonance with their gleaming tracks, now three albums deep.
Oxford Comma prompts another happily nodding singalong and, as they finish with Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, the feeling of satisfaction after the set is also one of anticipation for Sunday’s line-up, which is arguably the best of the lot. UM