A festival in the woods is always an alluring idea. A festival in the woods by the beach looking onto the Baltic Sea is twice as good. The fact that the water is black and smells pretty awful is completely irrelevant - Latvia isn't warm enough to warrant wading into the ocean anyway.
Positivus, made up of two main open-air stages and the occasional tent scattered amongst some shrubbery is also the ideal size. Big enough to allow for some careless wandering but small enough for the stage switch to require no journey time management. The 55,000 capacity is a good number, too, never empty but certainly no cattle herding or getting jammed up in a stage you don't want to be at. Except in the case of Charli XCX, who draws a huge mob to her set on the second stage, as she spews out trashy europop, shouting MSN buzzwords into a microphone while thrashing an inflatable guitar around. It's all pretty tasteless, but maybe that's the point.
The second stage also houses East India Youth, who couldn't have asked for better sound quality, or weather, as the relentless barrage of thunderstorms earlier on Friday eventually give way to constant sunshine. The smartly dressed one man wizard band named William Doyle finds the perfect balance between this year's XL debut 'Culture of Volume' and 2014's glitter-filled experimental and abstractly crafted 'Total Strife Forever'.
While the lineup is hard to find fault with, the stage times sometimes make peculiar reading. Ghostpoet and Basement Jaxx both occupy afternoon slots, which feels like an opportunity missed for two hugely contrasting after dark atmospheres. But the latter make the most of it. The dance outfit, led by Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton, roll out a ten plus strong troupe dressed like they'd only just arrived back from Woodstock in rainbow decorated floral past the knee dresses. It's all a bit ridiculous but it's a set catered to the sunshine and they easily draw one of the largest crowds of the weekend. The live renditions of 'Red Alert' and 'Where's Your Head At?' are just as irresistible and feet-moving as you'd hope.
As night draws in, Kasabian continue their run of headlining major festivals. The Leicester four piece are infectious. It's easy to make jokes about them because, hey, they're Kasabian, but they spent the best part of a decade being the second act on the bill. There's no snarling cynicism from Serge or Tom, just unadulterated appreciation and 90 minutes of singles we pretend not to know every word to. Reeling off 'Club Foot', 'Eez-eh', 'Underdog' and 'Shoot The Runner' in the first 20 minutes alone, it's all extremely laddy (Ladvia?) but also good fun.
The highlight comes at the end of the set, where Serge refuses to leave, literally. The endlessly leggy guitar player hangs off the stage like a spider refusing to be washed down the plughole and eats up all the applause. He then runs around the stage before wailing Jackie Wilson's 'Reet Petite' into a lone microphone which is inexplicably mesmerising and truly stupid. It's a comical end to an undeniably enjoyable evening.
The previous night Placebo have the task of bringing Friday to a close. While they might be described as almost the polar opposites of Kasabian, they have one thing in common: a hell of a lot of songs stretching across a large period of time. The industrial electronic clatter of their set is continuous but the newer material from 2013's 'Loud Like Love' lacks the clout to reach the levels of career-defining staples like 'Every You And Every Me' and 'The Bitter End' which are still as powerful today as they have ever been.
Warpaint have a natural talent to be dark and haunting but also utterly magical at the same time. The gathering around the main stage isn't as big as the four-piece maybe deserve, but their dizzying set fluctuates effortlessly between both their albums, quickly ascending into spiralling hypnotic bliss just as darkness descends on Salacgriva.
Jungle have no issues drawing an interest as people in droves flock towards their funk/soul/future crossover. Their 45 minutes playing pitch perfect cuts from their debut somehow already sounds like a Best Of. While the duo might have labelled one of 2014's buzzbands, hearing them live we're reminded that it certainly wasn't without warrant. Make no mistake, if they continue to head in the direction they're going, they'll be topping bills in no time at all.
Revellers who venture abroad for the festival season to witness the fairy tale surroundings and unbelievable beer prices must sometimes wonder if it's worth shelling out for UK events ever again. Maybe we're ready to admit that Europe just does it better than us.
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Words: Matthew Cooper
Photography: as credited