Live Review

Latitude 2012 (Day One)

It’s rare that the first day of a festival feels like the morning after…

It’s rare that the first day of a festival feels like the morning after. The Thursday night of Latitude’s seventh edition welcomed a surprising amount of people with a disco in a shed and a DJ set from Dermot O’Leary. Yeah, it did feel a bit like a bad dream. Despite such a star studded opening, the festival still lacked in the genuine talent and a stupid amount of clashes department. Luckily though, as the rain took a brief break to allow further revelers to fill in the remaining gaps in the campsite, the festival blossomed into full ‘more than just a music festival’ life.

A haunting siren from an unnamed act, or the world’s most talented roadie, soothes the stroll through the woods into the main arena. Young and old are catered for as Tom Deacon opens the Comedy Arena, Haircut Before The Party get the debate flowing in the Literary Arena, and children re-enacted their favourite films at Videotopia in the Film & Music Arena.

Perhaps most impressive is each Arena’s ability to hold its own in the line-up, evolving from the role of entertaining-until-the-headline-act-appears, which was evident in previous years. From the bulging Literary Arena to the now small council estate sized Comedy Arena, the increased impetuous away from music has given the festival urgency, turning sawndering round the site to fill up the day into a purposeful march towards yet another must see act.

With the weekend’s more cultured options proving a more than adequate alternative, the afternoon’s musical acts have to work hard. Kindess lead a belated surge by transforming the expanse of skinny jeans in the i Arena into to a slap bass fueled 70s disco through a contemporary brand of funk and questionable dance moves that had security raising an eyebrow. The tent then experiences its first sardine cramming session as Twin Shadow delivers a humble set that lacks in energy at times but still serves as a good chance to catch ‘3 mins to your heart’ before his debut album makes him too illusive.

As the new music bug spreads around the site, The Lake stage, curated by Radio 1’s Huw Stephens, offers a suitable breeding ground as Polica give a strong set and Seye brings an electronic twist on traditional soul.

With GIVERS’ best sunshine pop efforts failing to captivate a sustainable crowd with their tough opening slot, it had been fairly easy to ignore the Obelisk Arena. Until Janelle Monae. A polished yet tastefully uncouth breeze through soul and R&B steals enough limelight from Tim Minchin’s packed Comedy Arena to act as a reminder of the festival’s most exciting musical line-up to date.

Just as the sharply attired brass section fades out, Lana Del Rey provokes the first mud splattered power walk between stages with a hugely anticipated set in, or just outside if you weren’t there early, the Word Arena. A finely tuned vocal eases through ‘Video Games’ and ‘Blue Jeans’ and holds the crowd during less recognisable tracks. The set sees her dispelling a few rumours about her live show, but still manages to split the crowd between disappointment and pleasant surprise as many songs could have been the one before on loop.

The remainder of the festival commandeers the hill overlooking the Lake Stage as Alt J offer a more syncopated but just as familiar affair. Their debut album ‘An Awesome Wave’ proves its critical acclaim in a live setting with frontman Joe Newman’s unorthodox vocal intertwining with infectious choruses to produce a reaction that makes their debut appearance seem more like a return.

With the masses split elsewhere, Metronomy are left with an underwhelming crowd at the Obelisk Arena. That said, there’s still enough to lap up Mercury Prize nominated material and as tUnE-yArDs brings her suitably bizarre, ukelele loop pedal pop to a close with what seems like a well rehearsed i Arena invasion, a more appropriate number arrive to appreciate ‘The Look’.

An air of anticipation spreads with the festival’s diverse cross section of music fans amassing as The Obelisk Arena takes on an elegantly understated makeover for the evening’s headliner. Bedraggled drapes and a lighting set that resembles solar garden lamps welcomes the untamed figure of Justin Vernon as he leads Bon Iver into a UK festival exclusive. Hushed silences spread around the arena as the nine-strong band breath raw, passionate life into a string of effortless swoons that ooze across the Suffolk landscape like they’re tailor made for the environment.

The band’s excessive touring means they work together with devastating affect, swapping trombone for percussion as Vernon’s unharnessed vocal weaves around their two album back catalogue, flicking from hauntingly delicate to rampant at will. Although the band gives tracks from their self-titled second album a new dynamic, it’s the songs from their debut ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ that cause the most reaction. ‘Skinny Love’ followed by an emphatic ‘Blood Bank’ and ‘Flume’ give the masses the best opportunity for a sing-along as the rest of the set sees Vernon’s lilting growl leaving it nearly impossible for the crowd to keep up.

The set continues with flutters from strings and improvised percussion acting as interludes between tracks, but the Phil Colins like solo during ‘Beth/Rest’ towards the end of the set is the only sign of Vernon and Co. losing people as mumbles start to secrete around the arena, a few people creeping out to White Lies in the Word Arena.

“Apparently we’re veterans at this… I don’t know how,” announces the frontman through a knowing smirk as the the outfit return to rekindle the bond with a heartfelt call and response laden ‘Wolves’ that echoes into the night sky long after the band leave the stage. Anticipation had been transformed into appreciation for an evident lack of pretense throughout that indicates collaborations with Kanye West and a Grammy win haven’t affected Bon Iver’s outlook as they continue to find a liminal space in contemporary music.

With an opening headliner of this standard, the rest of the evening’s entertainment seemed a little out of place. Alright, maybe that’s a bit far but as Sancho Panzas turned the comedy tent into a strange foreign restaurant experience and Heatwave’s grimey school disco descended on i Arena, there was a collective feeling that Latitude may have peaked too soon.

Lana Del Yay Or NayIn our preview for Latitude we said Lana Del Rey’s set was a chance to redeem herself. The Word Arena was packed and we don’t know if you’ve noticed, but journalists are getting into trouble at the moment for making things up. With that in mind, we thought it best to ask eye witnesses, including her new husband (ahem), if the ‘Video Games’ singer succeeded.

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