Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Latitude 2010

I took a break this weekend to go to Latitude, the first time I've watched live music for fun in about a year. Latitude is held at Henham Park in Southwald, Suffolk making it my local festival. I went a couple of years back but it was bigger this year, bigger acts and more people. The toilets were also noticeably better as was the wrist banding procedure. It was generally better organized although there were a few unfortunate clashes that could have been avoided.
Latitude refers to itself with the tag line "more than just a music festival" in sufferance to its arty nature. There are stages for theatre, literature, poetry, cabaret, dance and comedy and you could easily spend the whole weekend not seeing any music; you'd be an idiot though because the music was superb. I won't go into any real depth of the other stages but I'll say that I did watch some theatre, listen to some book readings and watch some stand up. There are people that spend the whole weekend in the comedy tent; the line-up really was great this year. Robin Ince's book club was pretty entertaining as well this year, a departure from the last time I saw him. The book club mainly focused on a series of books by Guy N. Smith that all focus on giant killer crabs invading the English coast, a topic he explores in more detain in his new book which I'll have to pick up some time.
I'll give a quick rundown of some of the acts that blew my socks off. Firstly Wild Beasts were just amazing. The few technical issues aside they were one of the best sounding bands at the festival and a band that brings a lot of energy to their show, more so than their record which I love. Laura Marling was similar, her voice is breath taking, something you don't fully realize from listening to her recordings. Spoon brought a kind of energy that you rarely hear and were much more raw than I was expecting. I can’t in all good conscience say that Empire Of The Sun were good, but I enjoyed them. It was the most visually striking show I saw, but it was mostly backing track. There were four dancers and very elaborate costumes to the point of silliness, many times there were only dancers on stage dancing to a backing track at which point I saw a lot of people leave and a lot of people either pissed off or laughing at the pompousness of it all. It was entertaining though and I'm still a big fan. I had no interest in watching Florence and the Machine as I saw her last year and frankly she was terrible. I don't know if she was having a bad day, or was saving herself for some of the bigger shows but she killed the atmosphere at last years Camp Bestival. Instead I opted to watch The National, a band I know very little about other than that I loved their new album. As it happens they were brilliant, and got one of the best crowd reactions I saw at the festival.
On Saturday I spent most of my time watching stuff that wasn't music. The only bands I saw were Frightened Rabbit and Belle and Sebastian. Frightened Rabbit are one of my favourite acts at the moment and they didn't disappoint. They sounded great mix wise and the crowd loved them. Belle and Sebastian are a band that I really don't know very much of at all except their bigger hits. They played a set that showed how much they have changed throughout their career and made it feel like a coherent set. They have the luxury of having such a vast library of music that every song they played was brilliantly written and arranged. They were the only main stage headliner I watched all weekend so I can't really compare it, but the crowd adored them and hung on their every word in a way you very rarely see.
Sunday had the strongest line up of any day. As a result in fact I got sunburned to hell from standing outside too long. The night before Tom Jones announced he was playing a second set, this time main stage at midday. I was pleased because I was eager to see him for some reason and I couldn't get to the stage he was playing at in the woods due to all the crowds. He played his new album of blues and gospel covers, which was actually pretty good. His band was great and is voice is just as powerful as you would expect. People kept shouting for him to play his hits, most notably sex-bomb and I'm glad he didn't because what we got was a heartfelt performance of music that Tom clearly loves, free of the kind of trashy cheese he has become famous for. It was genuinely moving. Shortly after I saw Mumford and Sons, a band I don't care for, but they did a great performance and they sounded much better than their recordings. They were followed by Dirty Projectors who cleared a lot of Jones' fans out but treated the remaining fans to a great set. I then ran over to see Yeasayer, who I adore. They sounded great and it was good to hear mostly electronic music played well after the disappointing lack of live playing from Empire of the Sun earlier that weekend. It surprised me how big of a crowd they had drawn but they deserved it. Annoyingly I had to miss Vampire Weekend in order to see two of my favourite bands from the last few years. I really would have liked to have seen them and hopefully I will soon, they looked amazing on the Glastonbury highlights and I only heard good things about them at Latitude. Instead I went to watch Jonsi, who brought new life into an album that I have become sick of. It's interesting seeing Jonsi play solo after watching him with Sigur Ros a couple of years back. Its the mark of a great performer that he is equally as comfortable playing main stage with a band with numbers into double figures, playing epic post rock as he is playing in a tent in a four piece band playing more typical pop songs. The final band I saw was Grizzly Bear, one of my favourite bands, but also a band that looked pretty poor on the Glastonbury highlights. I wasn't sure how wise it was to watch a band that I love on record that might not live up to it and potentially kill my interest in a band that is one of the most interesting around. Thankfully they were mindblowingly good, they sounded amazing, they performed as good and as tight as they do in their recordings, and the crowd adored them just as much as I did.
I've got to say that all in all the Word arena (the second stage) was a far more pleasant place to be than the Obelisk arena (main stage). It sounded more consistently good and it had a far better atmosphere. I remember thinking something similar last time I came, but there were less issues getting in to the tent this year for whatever reason.
On a less pleasant note, you might have heard that there were two rapes over the weekend, a sad issue that could have been avoided with more of a police presence. I only saw one officer all weekend, even after the first rape. I also heard reports of violent behaviour and fires in the yellow camp site (Helen and I slept in the quiet site and had no such problems), which is pretty unacceptable seeing as events like Latitude, pay the police for their services. The people in charge of police numbers and key areas should really be ashamed, I don't know what they could have done but then I'm not paid to know either. I would also say that after two rapes, I had still only heard about them from Twitter and texts from family and friends. I've gotta say that I find it very irresponsible of Latitude and the police to not tell people to adjust their behaviour, both of the women raped were on their own, if the second had have known maybe she wouldn't have been alone and maybe her neighbours would have been more observant.
If you want to listen to any of the music from latitude Absolute radio is hosting some of it to listen to here. I've made a Spotify playlist of all the bands I loved and you can listen to it here

All pictures courtesy of Helen Wright

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