With Saturday forecast as a washout, it was with immense relief that the gates of Longitude opened to rays of Sunshine for Day Two. As is customary, this was the only single day to sell out, and it is noticeably busier than Friday, however, it must be said that Longitude, as a festival, is extremely well laid out: even at peak hours the queues for food and drink are few and far between. The only serious line is the one at security where the wheelie bins are full to the brim with contraband seized by the security guards.
“We are Le Galaxie and we have so much love to give,” Michael tells the large and enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Main Stage in the afternoon sunshine. You wouldn’t doubt it for a second. It was going to be a challenging slot for Le Galaxie – 4pm on the Main Stage – but they made it look easy. Their infectious energy officially got the party started, with Put The Chain On and Love System feature strongly, before MayKay from Fight Like Apes joins them on stage for a brilliant rendition of Carmen. A hard act to follow.
Daphni, aka Dan Snaith, is preparing for his imminent main stage performance with Caribou to test some of his solo material on the Heineken Stage faithful. He manages to draw a surprisingly large crowd into its dark embrace considering the weather outside. There is something endearingly dad-like about Dan Snaith: maybe it’s the dad-dancing or his general demeanour, but you find yourself willing him on. He’s not afraid to tease the crowd with some extra long build-ups either or to play new material, which comprises the majority of his set.
Despite their significant rise in the past 12 months, the London band’s jump to the Main Stage felt a little bit rushed. An energetic performance was not enough to really get a large, but semi-present, crowd going. Like many of their colleagues at Longitude, they might have benefitted from a smaller stage where the audience and the musicians would be more likely to find common ground. The group falsetto that is their signature may also be the crutch that they lean on, lending a sameness to the songs. Hits Drops and Busy Earnin’ are notable standouts however, and those close enough to the stage to feel the vibes were suitably satisfied.
The spirit of punk is alive and well on the Whelan’s Stage, where Slaves nearly cause a full-on riot. Twice guitarist Laurie Vincent addresses an over-exuberent mosh pit participant who has apparently punched three people, calling him “a bully” and “an embarrassment”. The crowd are on his side, extolling the security guards to kick him out. That aside, Slaves are a revelation. Full of raw passion and yet singing about the mundanity of ordinary life on songs like Cheer Up London and Do Something before mixing it with the surreal on Feed The Mantaray, which features a man dressed as a Manta ray crowd-surfing. Drummer and vocalist Isaac Holman steals the show with his gutteral screams and Parklife-style spoken word intervals. An unforgettable performance.
Dan Snaith’s Caribou warbled out onto the mainstage somewhat unnoticed, until the otherworldly synth sounds crept into the opening bars of Our Love; the title track from his much-lauded 2014 album. Clad in all white, forming a small square in the centre of the stage, Snaith and his live band made light work of taking an intricately produced record live. While totally lacking in visual stimulation, the performance impressed by breathing new life into music that could easily be performed as a glamorized dj set at a significantly lower cost. Watching the different textures of the music come together is a treat, and their performance of Can’t Do Without You is something to behold. But 7.30pm at the Main Stage is an unsuitable environment, and the different textures are lost in the mire of people and open space. Bassy sounds that should be reverberating within an enclosed arena are allowed to roam free throughout the park and disappear into the evening air.
Probably the Irish hype band of the moment, Girl Band have a lot to live up to, and boy do they deliver. Imagine Nirvana and Joy Division in a head on collision at 100 mp/h and you’ve got some idea of what Girl Band sound like live. Rather than play their instruments they smack, stab and bludgeon them creating overwhelming walls of sound. Over this Dara Kiely, who channels both Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis, sing-speaks plaintively and screams violently in equal measure. The bass groove of Lawman elicits huge cheers from the crowd, while the trance-like techno-metal of Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage has air-punching hands aloft. At one point Daniel Fox plays an entire song on his bass with a beer bottle. If they were a book they’d be unputdownable. A band totally deserving of the hype.
Alt-J seem like a nice bunch of lads and they write excellent songs. But there’s just something missing from the live shows. Much like their performance at 3Arena last year, the songs are all performed perfectly, the harmonies are spot on and the light show is appropriately moody. But there’s really nothing else to it. At 3Arena they made it quite clear that they were surprised to be playing a venue that size and their surprise seems to continue unabated on the Longitude Main Stage as Saturday headliners. Some slightly disingenuous-sounding comments such as “We’re having an awesome time with you tonight”, delivered in a monotone, don’t help matters. With only two albums worth of material there are few surprises. In fact, the setlist is almost identical to the one played almost a year ago on the other side of the Liffey, which seems incredible. They’ve even persisted with their weird cover of Bill Wither’s Lovely Day in the encore. How they haven’t gone mad playing not only the same songs, but the same set for the last year is a mystery. Having said all that, the crowd happily sing the words of all their biggest songs back to them as the rain finally begins to fall, as does the curtain on the second day of Longitude.