Live Review

Latitude, Saturday 16th July 2011

The sound of raindrops falling on the tent awakens us early…

So, seems like Friday at Latitude, with it’s heady sunshine, was really spoiling us. The sound of raindrops falling on the tent awakens us early, and so we bury our heads in our sleeping bags in the hope that it’s not doing too much damage. Even the lure of a live Never Mind The Buzzcocks isn’t going to budge me in this weather, but since no one appears to be bringing anyone to perform acoustically in the porch of my tent, the only option is the brave what is surely destined to be a Glastonbury style washout. Turns out, it’s a bit muddy, but nothing in comparison to the Pilton mudslide, much to our relief.

Now, if we learned anything in the eighties, it is that ra-ra skirts don’t really suit anyone, and ‘ridicule is nothing to be scared of’. And were there the means for me to paint a white line over my nose during Adam Ant’s set, there may have been opportunity to test the later theory out. Resplendent in what is surely a wig (since those police mug shots showed he is properly bald these days) and one of his own band t-shirts from ‘back in the day’, Mr Goddard is busy proving why he was 1982’s heartthrob of choice. The tent is packed, whether that be for nostalgia, or morbid curiosity’s sake it’s hard to say, after all, his is a tale of celebrity meltdowns that’s asking for it’s own special on VH1. Thing is though, it’s proper fun, he trots out all the hits (and some new numbers, we’ll gloss over that though), ‘Prince Charming’, ‘Ant Music’, and ‘Stand And Deliver’, pulls some shapes, before leaving to unexpectedly thunderous applause.

Slightly confused by today’s turn of events, and in desperate need of getting rained on (one of these statements is a lie), the decision is made to face the drizzle for They Might Be Giants at the Obelisk. Playing ‘Birdhouse In Your Soul’ so early in the set that it might be considered a mistake in this weather (and honestly, the temptation to go find somewhere altogether drier is fairly hard to resist), they’re good fun and all, but there’s an underlying feeling that we might, in fact, be watching an episode of Sesame Street. And it’s a feeling that perhaps isn’t helped by sock puppet theatre half way through the set, but the camera man at the front of the stage appears to be finding it funny, along with those pesky toddlers in the audience, so who are we to argue?

Next up, the Walkmen, who have applied the ‘festival fancy dress’ rule and turned up dressed as malcontent 9-5ers, bless them. Truthfully, we’re all waiting on the one song, and it’s a good song, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not until they play ‘The Rat’ that the audience gets massively involved.

With their love of real ale, bird watching and shrubbery, it’d be a safe assumption that British Sea Power would find favour with the Latitude crowd. So it’s a bit surprising that the Word Arena is only two thirds full for their mid afternoon slot. Despite this, they play an exhilarating set, shorn of any excess fat, opening with the fairly blistering trio of ‘Who’s in Control?’, ‘We are Sound’ and ‘Remember Me’, with set closer ‘Carrion’ seeing guitarist Martin Noble surfing over the crowd on his back, microphone stand still in hand.

Unsure of how to follow that, we head off for Y Niwl on the Lake Stage. With their summer surf rock managing to get us busting out our best sixties dance moves in the mud, by the end of their set the not insubstantial audience (which includes Mrs Norman Cook) are baying for an encore, before they turn on the band, literally booing them for not being allowed to come back and play some more. The guitarist does try and flog us a cd though.

Fight Like Apes at the Sunrise are a bit of a revelation, having for no particular reason written them off as being ‘a bit pointlessly noisy’ in the past. Words duly eaten (although could be worse, a bloke stood nearby described them to his mate as ‘a bit bluesy’), and despite those scary gimp suits (boys, I never need to know which side you dress, thanks), with tracks like ‘Jenny Kelly’ and ‘Jake Summers’, they prove that, in actuality, they’re really rather good, all electro energy and tassled tops getting stuck in microphone wires.

In the disappointment of the weekend (numero uno), Echo and the Bunnymen have decided to play ‘Crocodiles’ and ‘Heaven Up Here’, unannounced, and in their entirety. Thing is, if I wanted to see Ian McCulloch and his boys play one of their long players in it’s full technicolour glory, I’d have to say, the album I’d pick would be ‘Best of Echo & The Bunnymen’. Although they apparently finish the set with ‘The Cutter’ and ‘Killing Moon’, by this point my cockles are instead being warmed by the glorious Cocknbullkid, who’s drawn the crowds in at the tiny Lake Stage. She’s genuinely heart warming fun, although there is a somewhat worrying pause in her set for a fly choking incident (at least, she hoped it was a fly).

With seconds to spare, we run up to the Sunrise (and despite the mud, you can still run) just in time to catch Steve Mason belting out ‘Lost and Found’. In a set punctuated with a plea for the position of Prime Minister - where do I vote? - and even throwing in some King Biscuit Time (‘Walk The Earth’), he’s genuinely fantastic, enforcing a mass dance-a-thon and inciting one of the most rubbish heckles of the weekend (‘take your top off, Steve!’ - cue groans, he’s great and all, but who wants our new future leader topless?).

Possibly helped out by the fact that the main headliner tonight is Paulo Nutini, Foals have literally packed out the Word tent to it’s rafters, and the kids are doing their best to ensure it’s as close to a live action episode of Skins as you’ll find around anywhere in Suffolk on a Saturday night. It’s so mental that the band have to stop half way through the opening number and can only restart once the crowd have calmed down. The madness ensues pretty much throughout the set, and those at the front are probably risking their lives for this, but when Foals play ‘Spanish Sahara’, they prove themselves to be more than just a passing teen fad – indeed, if they never write another track as good as that, they’ll still have achieved more than most bands could dare to hope for. Special props should go to the only ‘thing on a stick’ spotted over the weekend, a Kermit the Frog toy, that spent the majority of the set going as mental as the rest of the crowd.

Wet, tired and satiated, we avoid Guilty Pleasures (either something is good, or it’s not, okay?), and make our way back to our tents, safe in the knowledge that the ever trustworthy Met Office are forecasting a dry day tomorrow…

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