Dot writes: perhaps it’s a good thing I’m writing up these two events after such an interval (I saw Ta-Ku at the Button Factory on Thursday 14th July and Ken and I attended the third day of the Longitude festival in Marley Park on 17th July). It’s easy to drown in detail, especially where the festival is concerned. After two weeks, what stands out in the memory?
Ta-Ku and Wafia
I bought tickets for Ta-Ku’s gig because of Wafia and yes, it’s her voice and her performance that I most retain, and not solely because I was more familiar with the songs she sang than with the rest of the set. It was quite a gentle gig, despite amplification, with kaleidoscopic patterns and unfurling flowers softly mesmerising us on the screen behind the musicians, and in the parts using pre-recorded vocals it felt especially unassertive. I know Ta-Ku was busy at his laptop and his faders, but we weren’t privy to what exactly he was doing. There were a live drummer and keyboard player too, but the passages of live singing were the parts where one had more of a sense of drama and communication between audience and performers. Ta-Ku himself has a pleasant, soulful voice; Wafia, at the centre of the stage for five numbers, has a soft, unforced, and yet wonderfully expressive and technically controlled sound. She didn’t speak and was dressed in a long coat and a hat as though she’d prefer us not to see her at all, but without histrionics she gave her performance an element of passion – turning sideways from the mic when not singing, looking imperiously down her fine nose. I don’t want to sound lukewarm about this gig. The textures and melodies were lovely, and the style in any case isn’t a pumped-up hit-you-over-the-head rock thrash but something much more mellow; it invites you to slide in and get lost in it. The crowd was more dressy than the band and danced by bending their knees and swinging their arms.
I was quite excited about getting to see Christine and the Queens at Longitude, but I didn’t see Christine and the Queens at Longitude. She was performing in a large tent and the crowd was so enormous I couldn’t see a hair of her charismatic French head. There were no repeater screens on this particular stage, just the backdrop, and since the act consists not just of singing but of dancing this was quite a loss. So we gave up and went early to see Shura on the small Whelan’s stage (Shura’s set partially overlapped), and we had an excellent view and enjoyed the performance very much. Shura is what you’d get if you crossed Madonna and Courtney Barnett – strong echoes of early Madonna production, but Courtney’s down-to-earth quality and practical musicianship. Courtney was also playing and we caught part of her set on the main stage, but Shura was the part of the festival I enjoyed the most – pure energy and love of the music meeting a small crowd who were delighted to see her. At one point the audience cheered especially hard and Shura said “When you do that it makes me feel shy.” She’s lovely and I hope her life involves many warm hugs. (Her debut album Nothing’s Real was released earlier this month.)
Another highlight of the day was the band who were playing on the main stage as we arrived, HamsandwicH. I’ve heard of them before – they’re a local Irish act, from Meath – but not investigated them particularly. They have a faintly trad-influenced guitar band sound with some use of a horn section. What really caught me was their stage presence: the lead singer, Niamh Farrell, and the male frontman/guitarist/singer Podge McNamee were brilliant communicators, projecting a sense of enjoyment, energy and humour even to that picnicking summer-afternoon crowd. Their tunes have a sunny, light, sweet quality a little like Belle and Sebastian. Ken and I have been checking them out since on YouTube. We’ve also been investigating an Irish band we saw more briefly, All Tvvins. All Tvvins are more obviously my thing than HamsandwicH as they play texturally saturated, emotional pop-rock with big resounding guitar chords and a hairy drummer. Well, HamsandwicH also have a hairy drummer as all the men in the band have beards and look like dads. But All Tvvins have the type of hairy drummer who, at least from a distance, seems to be channelling Animal from the Muppets. Perhaps I’ll decide after a bit they lack depth, but in the meantime they’re promising candidates for playing very loudly and singing along in the car, and I need more of that in my life. (Why the vv thing? Tribute to Chvrches, whom they don’t resemble at all? And for that matter why HamsandwicH not Ham Sandwich or indeed hAM sANDWICH or hAmSaNdWiCh or… bandnames are odd. Please can we go back to The + noun.)
It was a tiring day in the sun. I cautiously packed raincoats and spare clothes because I’d seen a forecast for a thunderstorm, but it was gloriously sunny and warm and we used the raincoats for sitting on. There were many young girls at the festival wearing backless lace tops and no bras, but Ken didn’t notice until I pointed it out. We saw someone wearing a pretend Native American headdress, even though everyone knows you’re not supposed to do that these days. I ate a very delicious curry. Ken looked at the huge tent selling Heineken and remarked that no craft brewery could possibly supply enough beer for a festival like this.
The headliners on the main stage were The National. We were with friends who were keen fans at this point in the day so we were very near the front. We left a little early to get home to bed, but stayed long enough to be impressed and swept up with their sombre tunefulness.