Live Review

Latitude, Friday 15th July 2011

Contrary to the rumours, it’s firm under foot and gloriously sunny in Suffolk today.

Contrary to all those rumours of the site being an absolute mudbath, it’s firm under foot and gloriously sunny in Suffolk today. So much so, that first job of the day (apart from nursing hangovers with the obligatory painkillers washed down with orange juice) is slopping on more Factor 30 than is strictly legal, before running off to catch a bit of Braids. Except, they’re late, very late indeed. After the realisation hits us that we are, in fact, at totally the wrong stage, the decision is quickly made to settle down in the shade, with bottles of water to keep us company (keep hydrated, kids), and hide from the sun until Avi Buffalo grace us with their presence. Constantly announcing themselves betwixt each song (“HI! WE’RE AVI BUFFALO!”), it’s like they think our attention spans are too short to remember who it is that we’ve come to see. Perhaps they’ve heard we were all at the wrong stage earlier and presume it’s because we weren’t paying proper notice.

Anyhow, they’re terrifyingly young. Remember when you used to watch bands on telly (remember when you could watch bands on the telly?) and work out how many years older than you they were? It’s the polar opposite of that. And for ones so young, they’re awfully proficient, constantly astounding us with their prog rock wig outs. Old favourite, ‘Jessica’ gets a good airing, along with a new track, “Good, I’m Wishing”, but all to a largely unresponsive crowd. Maybe we shouldn’t have all been dancing at the indie disco in the Woods til 3am, then.

Finally, Latitude decides to open up the Obelisk Arena, and just in time for the legend that is Edwyn Collins. As he regales us with a veritable arsenal of hits, ‘Rip It Up’ going down a storm, and ‘Girl Like You’ getting the hips wiggling of old and young alike, the crowd wakes up and commences the heady task of ‘dad dancing’. The hip wiggling theme is continued for Wanda Jackson, whose tales of touring with Elvis and working with ‘Jack’ (White) punctuate the breaks between each song. With her cover of Amy Winehouse’s ‘You Know I’m No Good’, the kids are finally up and at ‘em, and when she lets rip with ‘Shakin’ All Over’, the toddlers that seem to make up a good third of the audience (don’t worry, they’re almost certainly organic) appear to go mental. It’s a little bit terrifying, in the same way that Avi Buffalo scared us with their youth, we’re now feeling the opposite sensation. It’s like watching your nan headline the Pyramid Stage, but at least we no longer feel old.

And so we wander off to the Sunrise Area for a little bit of space rock, courtesy of The Phantom Band. They’re okay, but it’s probably not the greatest sign when the highlight of your set is the guitarist falling off stage and his nose exploding. At least the rest of the band laughed first. In a set that’s a bit less dramatic, Deerhunter are captivating the Word Arena with their expansive noise and scuzzy lo fi gems, and there’s nothing like a bit of loud loud feedback to blow out any remaining cobwebs.

Now, if you go down to the Woods today, you’re sure for a big surprise. But when that surprise is Tesco advertising actress supreme, Jane Horrocks, strutting her stuff to San Diego’s finest exports, Crocodiles, you might be forgiven for thinking something has been slipped into your cider. Still, she appears to be enjoying it, as are we, once we get passed the whole ‘lead singer appears to be Ferris Bueller’s double’ thing. Whilst they couldn’t get much more Jesus and Mary Chain without unleashing ‘Just Like Honey’ on us, when they crack open ‘Sleep Tonight’ to wholehearted applause, it’s clear no one’s complaining.

In the unlikeliest order of billings since The Stereophonics headlined over a newly reformed Pixies (Manchester’s Move Festival 2004, fact fans), the running order of the Obelisk arena today runs thus; 6pm, Bright Eyes, followed by Paloma Faith at eight. Debatable logic, especially when Conor is clearly in fine form indeed, with ‘Road To Joy’ bringing a tear to grown men’s eyes, before inciting a swoonfest by bringing out old mate Jenny Lewis (oh, and her boyfriend, Johnathan Rice) for a cover of Gillian Welch’s ‘Wrecking Ball’. It’s passionate, it’s genius, and we’re all left with no doubt that the organisers have made a rather terrible error.

Back off to the Woods we go, to leer some more at the beautiful Jenny Lewis, as she and the ‘clearly lucked out’ Johnny take us through a wholesome slice of their album, ‘I’m Having Fun Now’. ‘Big Wave’ has the audience singing along, and despite the fact that a good proportion of the crowd don’t know many of the songs, there’s a fair few smiling faces and dancing shoes in attendance.

And so, after the regulation falafel break, we get ourselves comfortable for the headline act, The National. They’re dark, brooding, and perfect for a moonlit night, ‘Afraid of Everyone’ and ‘Terrible Love’, both from ‘High Violet’, unite both old and new fans, and ‘Apartment Story’ from ‘Boxer’ goes down a treat, but unlike recent outings for the National, they’re not just sticking to the last three albums, instead exploring their entire back catalogue, even going so far as to play ‘Son’ from their eponymous debut. If we’re honest, there’s a definite lull mid set, and perhaps what The National are missing as a headlining act is a discernible anthem. The audience seem rather torn, die hard fans are closed eyed, swaying, and mouthing along to every word, whereas the merely curious appear a little… well, bored. And whilst Matt Berninger’s evident excitement at headlining a festival that is clearly quite special to them shines through, it’s not really until the encore, and in particular ‘Mr November’, with Berninger running around in the crowd like a man possessed, that they truly sparkle.

With nothing left for it but to dance in the woods to Feeling Gloomy’s finest offerings from the darkest recesses of pop, we wend our way to bed, sunburnt, “tired and emotional”, and trying to work out how we can get a white stripe painted across our noses in time for Adam Ant in the morning. Good night, Latitude, good night.

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