Positivus Festival, Salacgriva, Latvia
Tuesday 26 July 2011
"To sit down in a muddy, wet field is quite something," says James' Tim Booth, grinning at his dutiful audience. All sat down. "We haven't had anyone sit down in 12 years." Latvia loves James. Who knew? The indie veterans played at the first Positivus five years ago to 4,000 revellers. The largest festival in the Baltics now attracts 20,000 people to this remote forest in Salacgriva (pop. 3,467), nestled next to the beach. It feels like Latitude by the sea, and the line-up is strong.
Tunng, the eccentric folktronica six-piece, deliver a joyous set, including the giddy "Hustle",and ending with the diminutive singer Becky Jacobs encouraging a "cockney singalong" to "Bullets"; the intimate gathering try their best. On the main stage, the dapper synth duo Hurts belt out their overwrought, self-pitying Eurovision-friendly anthems, including "Stay" and "Sunday". Their distinctive sound fills the space well. As does the Editors', a rock outfit who must wake up baffled every day that they haven't got Muse's career. Their set is muscular, building to a rousing finale with "Papillon" but they still lack a killer tune. An accusation you couldn't level at Mark Ronson. The DJ/pop Svengali is a revelation here, conducting his slick Business Intl band through a raft of sumptuous pop treats – the psychedelic "The Bike Song", "Oh My God" and "Valerie". For a former agnostic, this was something of a Ronson conversion.
On the smaller stage, there are two unexpected treats. The Danish indie outfit Alcoholic Faith Mission prove a heady blend of Arcade Fire and The Kissaway Trail, providing the second most memorable lyric of the weekend: "I get love from everyone but you" on "Got Love? Got Shellfish?". The most memorable comes courtesy of the refreshingly bonkers Estonian singer Iiris, who screeches "I'm married to a merman," before concluding "Merman don't exist really". Quite. The dreamy pop duo Beach House then serve up a gorgeous set centred around their exquisite third album, Teen Dream.
Festival stalwarts James, followed by Royksopp, bring this unpretentious festival to a close. Royksopp's ethereal, electronic shtick is a tad soulless, whereas James are all soul. Booth throws shapes like it's 1992 to such gems as "Getting Away with It", "Tomorrow" and "Laid". When it comes to killer anthems, James, one of Britain's most unsung bands, trounce their rivals here.
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