Longitude day one – Review
Set in the gorgeous surroundings of Marlay Park, the opening day of Dublin’s premiere festival saw an impressive turnout across all ages. As with most music festivals, the weather can truly make or break the fan experience, and despite some ominous looking clouds which converge over the site in the late afternoon, the rain thankfully stays away. Irish band Wyvern Lingo get the festival off to a suitably chilled out start as punters drift into the sprawling parkland. With a selection of stages scattered throughout the grounds, this year’s lineup is as diverse as you will find at a major festival with a selection of dance, electronic, rock and indie music to choose from over the next 3 days.
Welsh indie rockers Catfish and The Bottlemen attract a predominantly teenage audience to the main stage in anticipation of their early evening appearance. Kicking off with ‘Kathleen’ from debut album The Balcony, the band start as they mean to go on with an intense energy that never really lets up otver the course of their short set. Having been accused of being somewhat dated in sonic terms given their taste for indie rock which had its heyday from 2002 – 2007, Catfish and the Bottlemen are steadfast in their refusal to conform to modern tastes. They combine the best parts of their obvious influences, The Libertines, Razorlight and The Kooks (with frontman Vann McCann’s vocals uncannily similar to Luke Pritchard). Despite only having one album under their belt, the band already sound tailor-made for festivals, with their energetic brand of indie rock ‘n’roll going down a storm with those in attendance. ‘Pacifier’ and ‘Homesick’ keep the energy up as their set flies by. Closing with an epic rendition of album closer ‘Tyrant’, a Kings Of Leon-style number which features some highly impressive guitar work by Johnny Bond, the band depart knowing they did exactly what they came to do. Lift spirits and get the growing crowd on their feet. Job done, and then some.
Little Dragon struggle to live up to their main stage billing, as the audiences obvious unfamiliarity with their music becomes quickly apparent. Whilst their music is not without its charms, their set suffers from unfortunate slot, following one of the fastest rising bands in indie rock. Over at the Heineken Stage, French-Cuban duo Ibeyi draw an impressive crowd to their late afternoon slot. Sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz’s experimental electro r’n’b is an unexpected treat as the tents numbers steadily grow throughout their set.
Back on the main stage, sub-headliners The Vaccines turn in the performance of the day so far. Bringing an impressive strobe strewn light show (despite their daylight slot), the band launch into ‘Handsome’ from their third LP English Graffiti before showing off their now-impressive back catalogue. Festivals are made for such uptempo indie numbers such as ‘Wrecking Bar’, ‘Do You Wanna’, ‘Norgaard’, ‘Teenage Icon’ and ‘I Always Knew’. The Arctic Monkeys style scuzz rock of Dream Lover brings the pace down a notch and the contemplative ballad ‘Wetsuit’ from their 2011 debut evokes a mass singalong. Since the initial hype wore off, The Vaccines have gone about their business in a typically efficient manner, writing catchy indie pop numbers by the bucketload, and just like Feeder and Kaiser Chiefs before them, have now become a classic ‘festival band’. With performances like this, it’s not hard to imagine them as future headliners.
The stage is set for our home-grown Irish superstar Hozier, whose ‘man of the moment’ tag seems to have carried on for well over a year by now. There isn’t much to say which hasn’t already been said about the shy Bray native’s whirlwind two years, from appearing on the David Letterman show, duetting with Annie Lennox at the Grammys, to conquering the charts and selling out shows the world over. Drawing the largest crowd of the day by a considerable distance, this is Hozier’s first time to headline a festival and it’s apt that he reaches this milestone in Dublin, where it all began. From the opening strums of ‘Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene’, the crowd’s devoted love for the man onstage is obvious. Hozier’s band have become notably tighter over the course of the last few years hectic touring schedule and there not one note is out of place tonight. In a frontloaded setlist, Hozier dispatches rockier numbers ‘From Eden’, ‘Jackie and Wilson’, ‘Someone New’ and the bluesy ‘To Be Alone’ in the first half, leaving the quieter moments for later. In the unusual position as headliner with only one record to his name, the diversity of his debut LP certainly helps. With elements of folk, rock, blues, gospel and pop music, his headline set never lacks variety. Early EP track ‘Arsonists Lullaby’ gets a live airing tonight. One of his most underrated moments, over a menacing atmospheric arrangement he warns ‘Don’t you ever tame your demons, but always keep them on a leash’. Appearing with Wyvern Lingo’s Karen Crowley, ‘In a Week’ sounds every bit as gorgeous as it does on record, and ‘Cherry Wine’ gets the crowd hushed as he croons its tale of domestic abuse alone with just his acoustic guitar for accompaniment. Last year’s uber-hit ‘Take Me to Church’ gets the sort of reaction you expect by now, before a beautiful version of ‘Like Real People Do’ gets the crowd singing along. Closing with ‘Work Song’, Hozier shows how far he has come with his debut release. With a non-stop touring schedule soon coming to a close, Hozier’s set will become even stronger once he completes his second LP and new songs are added. But for now he is basking in a triumphant headline set which sends everyone back into the city with a smile on their face. A terrific start to what should be a great weekend of music.
Review by Gary O’Donnell