It’s Thursday – coming up on the weekend: friend’s housewarming party on Friday, trying to sort out my flat ready for a move on Saturday, depping (singing for money) at Ealing Abbey on Sunday morning, followed by goodbye family BBQ to say adios to my brother and family about to return to their now native Sydney in the antipodes. Then a message from a producer friend: “would you like a couple of guest tickets to Latitude this weekend?” Cancel everything. Phone a friend (with car). Latitude here we come.
It’s sort of a woody, sheepy, rivery affair in the Land of A. Partridge, hipsters, hippies and the downright middle class wondering around, smoking joints and having too much camping equipment, families with bejeweled children, teachers on school holidays resurrecting their candy necklace-like festival beads and dusting off the bong, plus Lucy Jennings and I (not helping the middle class image here, LJ) with a tent each and me without sleeping back or mat. Hardcore.
As ever, festival protocol dictates that you’re fleeced at every opportunity, and the lack of a simple programme testified to this – you had no choice but to buy a novelic brick for £10, which gave you all the information you didn’t need and only a tiny bit you did. Or you can be wily like us, and take pictures of the info board….
We were only there for Friday night to Sunday morning, but with 3 days, over 20 stages and a billion acts, you can’t see everything. Which is a shame! By the time we arrived on Friday night Bloc Party were in full swing. I heard they were amazing live. They were good, for sure, but your front man doesn’t have a great deal of charisma. Playing to that many people (there were a lot) may well be a tricky thing to do and relate to on a human level. But for me, it was a bloc party CD played on massive speakers. The audience made it more than the act. Although the lazer show was pretty stunning:
After Bloc Party I got a call from the very producer who had got me the tickets to say come over to the Radio 3 stage – an intimate set made to look like a living room, complete with flocked wallpaper and sofas – fantastic atmos. After the predictable and uninspiring Bloc Party I was blown away by Melt Yourself Down. Proper energy, a COMPLETELY MENTAL front man and with one of my old colleagues on the New Generation Artists scheme, Shabaka Hutchings. Front man Kushal Gaya was great – a real performer, pulling people in from the crowd (much to the disgruntlement of the security staff!), climbing a pole and generally behaving like an animal. This was a proper band, and a proper performance. But would they have been good replacing Bloc Party on the main stage? No. You can relate to 150 people, but not 15000!
Lucy and I were wondering around and stumbled upon the comedy troupe Pappy’s performing in the Literature tent. A common theme of the tents was that they didn’t do what they said they did do… necessarily. So you got comedy in the lit tent, music in the comedy tent, comedy in the poetry tent. No boundaries – this was confusing, but I liked it. And I also liked Pappy’s and was pleased to accidentally find them – especially the song about gloves.
Waking up in a tent without a sleeping bag or mat is never easy, but it’s a damn sight easier than going to sleep, although I was helped by my two friends Mr. Whiskey and Lady Earplugs CBE.
Gaz Coombes was on strangely early in the 6Music tent -12.40pm. I thought this an odd placing for such a big name, but it turned out that he was off again to another festival that evening. A great mix of new tunes and slightly less new, and he gave a Supergrass nod to the audience with an acoustic performance of Moving (still not sure why the other bandmates didn’t play too – maybe to do with copyright?). He is a great performer and an even better vocalist live than on record – a really bright tenor and very clean up high. There’s no shitting around with falsetto that a lot of band singers these days think they can get away with (Everything Everything, for example). Not with Gaz. Shockingly, the sound guy tried to fade him out during his last track to which Gaz said “what the fuck?” and “let us finish this last chorus”. They keep strict timings at Latitude. But indeed – “what the fuck?” – what’s one minute? Big boos from the audience!
Lucy wanted to go and see Jessie Ware on the main stage. This kind of bland 1990s R&B is totally lost on me, and it’s telling how boring the music is that she has to speak to the crowd between vocal lines “I love you latitude”, [ooo baby yeah] “come on make some noise!” [ooo yeah baby], “you guys are great” [some other bullshit]. Each to their own, but I’d rather eat a Pot Noodle in a Turkish prison than listen to this stuff.
I’d heard a lot about Daughter, who were playing in the 6Music tent, and in the same way that Jessie W was quite generic R&B, I hate to say it, but “generindi” would be the word I would coin to describe Daughter. Live, they didn’t really have anything to them. Perhaps they’ve made it in the download world, but 20 minutes in I was bored and waves of the crowd seemed to agree as we departed…. See for yourself…
After two performances that didn’t float my boat, I agreed to get stuck into The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and get right down the front with LJ. I hadn’t ever got into the YYYs before, but live they were brilliant – this is almost entirely down to frontlady Karen, who dresses ridiculous in contrast to the rest of the band (in all black), and she generally cavorts around the stage with wild vocals. Also there’s nothing like a good old mic smashing session at the end!
I was ready for Kraftwerk, 3D-ready, in fact, as to enhance their show all the display was in 3D. Quite nice to stand there having Matrix numbers, words in Soviet-esque cold-war Russian writing and the odd commodore computer rushing towards my face. These guys are pretty old these days, so good job they stood inert behind desks while it all went down. Electrotastic. Half an hour in, though, Alt-J were about to play in the 6Music tent. A good chunk of the Kraftwerk audience had the same idea as me….
The 6Music tent was rammed for Alt-J, so when I turned up I used the old ambulance tactics of tailgating a bunch of people pushing through the crowd to get a good spot. Unfortunately I flanked too much and ended up at the front side, where I could not see the band but was getting ripped to pieces by the massive speakers with the massive bass. I realised I would have shell shock if I stayed and had to withdraw. They’ve developed quite a following, and their meteoric rise provides hope for all. Alt-J ride that wave nicely between “just another indi band” and being experimental and original enough to avoid being entirely tarnished with this brush.
It was a good set, and front man Joe Newman has a great deal of charisma and presence by not doing much. His expression doesn’t change, he doesn’t talk to the crowd (that’s left to keyboard player Gus) but still he manages to hold the audience, perhaps just by his weird vocal sound (like someone pretending to be a goblin). There was a nice dedication to Sean Keaveny, because of this video.
I wonder how long Alt-J will last… they will need to evolve, that’s for sure, because I think their sounds succeeds in capturing a moment, but this moment won’t last….
Leider, (as Kraftwerk would say), that was about it, because I had to get back to London for Sunday afternoon, so didn’t see anything on Sunday. I was sorry to have missed my old uni friends (and now successful comics) Naz Osmanoglu, Ed Gamble and Nish Kumar, also Shaun Keaveny, Everything Everything, Steve Mason (who I didn’t know was playing and thought it was a CD I was hearing in a distant field!!!!!) and the Foals, who are riding the wave like Alt-J for the moment.
To see some Latitude highlights, 6Music will provide!