Festival Review: Longitude | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Festival Review: Longitude

Ben Johns argues that the Sunday of Longitude, led by the likes of Solange, SZA and IAMDDB, deserves more credit than many gave it

Who would have thought that a line-up featuring Solange, SZA, Sampha and so many more would be deemed rubbish in comparison to J. Cole, Post Malone and Migos? Social media had thrown so much shade at the Sunday of Longitude Festival that, when I landed in Dublin, I was worried if my 3 am wake up call and 6:30 am flight would have been worth the effort to stand in a potential atmosphere vacuum. As I queued to be let in to Marlay Park, rubbing the remaining sleep from my eyes whilst others were reapplying their glitter, I did notice a slight lack of people. However, I refused to let that get in the way of enjoying one of the most well put together line ups of the festival season.

Whereas other festivals tend to flood the early hours of their programmes with unsigned acts, Longitude opts for a smaller site with fewer stages
Whereas other festivals tend to flood the early hours of their programmes with unsigned acts who fade back in to anonymity once September comes around, Longitude opts for a smaller site with fewer stages. This meant that, even if I wasn’t well versed with their complete musical history, I’d still heard some music from the vast majority of those playing in the early afternoon. I headed over to the Heineken Stage to catch the tail end of Mancunian rapper IAMDDB’s performance. I don’t really know IAMDDB from other letters of the alphabet but, as she went twos on a joint with someone on the front row, her stage presence made up for my lack of knowledge of her music. She concluded her set with braggadocios breakthrough single ‘Shade’, with the lines ‘have a little faith in me, it’s all I need’ hopefully prophesying a successful 2019.

Soul outfit The Internet made a valiant attempt at trying to engage with a crowd who, for the most part, couldn’t hear them. Lead singer Syd was drowned out by sound issues which was a huge shame as her short a cappella moments displayed a voice that needed to be heard. KAYTRANADA collaboration ‘Girls’, which should have been a highlight of a memorable set, ended up turning into a cacophony of smothered vocals and an over powerful bass. It was a huge shame as, after watching them for 45 minutes, I was left trying to decipher which songs I’d actually heard.

Sampha’s electrifying set was the perfect antidote for this disappointment. He weaved in and out of the high energy of ‘Under’ and brought it back down for an extremely poignant performance of ‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’. It was a real moment to see him indulge behind the instrument he’s so talented at playing.

It was a real moment to see Sampha indulge behind the instrument he’s so talented at playing

One of Longitude’s main draws for me was SZA. After her posts about an irrevocably damaged voice and a four-song-long set at Lovebox on the Friday prior, I was anxious as to whether or not she would make an appearance. The acoustic chords of ‘Supermodel’ quelled any fear, and SZA entered the main stage to the biggest crowds of the day who shouted back every single world. What followed was a whistle-stop tour of her album Ctrl, interjected with comedic musings.  This tour came to an abrupt end as the backstage dictators were signalling her to finish up, though. Set closer ‘20 Something’ may have been slightly rushed, but it was clear that SZA’s voice could still hold up, even if it had been deemed medically past it’s best.

The transition into Solange should have been fluid and smooth, but a delay of half an hour threw a major spanner in the works. During this time, the drizzle intensified and the crowd dissipated. Looking back at a practically empty arena bowl gave me a pang in the stomach about how the lack of people might have impacted what I had envisaged to be one of the best performances of 2018.

Solange gave props to the organisers of Longitude for curating a line up of special artists, an opinion that was shared by those lucky enough to revel in the day’s performances

Nevertheless, Solange, backing band and backing singers made their entrance to a committed crowd, with the ‘we want Beyoncé’ army on their buses back home. Solange began with 'Rise', the opening number from her Grammy award winning album A Seat at the Table, with a number of songs from the record following. Her set really took off with the ethereal 'Cranes in the Sky', with her floaty falsetto and intricate stage movements leaving me in awe. Despite walking down into the crowd to huge cheers, 'F.U.B.U', a song dedicated to 'all the n****s in the whole wide world', felt a bit stunted when then the majority of those in attendances were white. You could see the hint of desperation in Solange’s eyes as she aimed to find anybody with a bit of melanin in their skin, and the white members of the audience seemed at a loss of how to react and what to do. However, this was quickly recovered with ‘Losing You’, perhaps the most beloved song in her catalogue. It was a euphoric experience live with Solange clearly enjoying herself. A special appearance from Sampha for the encore of ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ rounded off a truly triumphant set.

At the end of her performance, Solange gave props to the organisers of Longitude for curating a line up of special artists, an opinion that was shared by those lucky enough to revel in the day’s performances. Sleeping on the floor of Dublin Airport was far from comfortable, but if a concrete mattress was the price to pay for such a one-of-a-kind line up, then I’d happily do it again and again.

 

(@ben_johns)



Published

12th August 2018 at 12:00 pm

Last Updated

11th August 2018 at 5:24 pm



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