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Latitude 2014 – Live Review + Photos

| On 24, Jul 2014

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Thursday 17th – Sunday 20th July, Suffolk

Latitude is much more than simply a music festival; it’s a feast of the arts in which you can indulge yourself whatever your age. There is a seemingly endless supply of magnificent entertainment on show, no matter what you’re hoping to fill your senses with. For me, it was a combination of music and comedy, along with a smattering of general festival cheer, that made this a long weekend that will linger in the memory for years to come. So, without any further ado, here’s my Latitude diary for Friday…

Friday

The summer sun was shining as I, along with my trusty companion Oliver Williams, pitched up on the festival’s hallowed turf and there were already echoes of Slow Club floating out around the grounds – their soulful melodies, and in particular Rebecca Taylor’s stunning voice, were a welcome soundtrack to our arrival. After a general perusal of the festival’s delights, and the first of many cups of tea from the press tent, it was the Obelisk arena that would play host to some of the most unexpected delights that the weekend had to offer.

I had approached the festival with the idea of seeing as many young, up and coming bands as possible. However, the early half of Friday afternoon was spent in admiration of greats from years gone by who still have so much to offer. Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott were both on top form, once Heaton’s voice had warmed up, and some of their finest tracks took me back to happy memories from childhood. Ending the set with a beautiful a cappella rendition of the classic Housemartins track ‘Caravan Of Love’, it was truly an ideal way to kick off proceedings. The sounds of the past continued as the legendary Billy Bragg took to the stage with his more Americana-influenced take on a selection of his back catalogue. The set was well received by the crowd but nothing got them quite going like the misleading entry into ‘A New England’, or as a fellow camper called it, “his one song”. An electronic introduction and some spiel about Kraftwerk wrong-footed punters, before the memorable guitar strums powered across the crowd and Bragg fulfilled the wishes of those in attendance – the brief ‘Autobahn’ lyric was indeed a delightful touch.

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Following this fantasy start from the old guard, I turned to the comedy tent to catch a pair of comedians who are surely amongst this generation’s finest. Romesh Ranganathan has a deadpan attitude which easily rivals Jack Dee and his cheeky grins show that he is proud of his work, as he should indeed be. I was then pleasantly surprised by the marvellous Joel Dommett, whom I had previously been unimpressed by on the British interpretation of Impractical Jokers (yes, this is a music site but I thoroughly urge you to watch the American version of the show). Dommett was full of the self-deprecating humour that makes British comedy so great and his willingness to open up and play a track he had recorded as a teenager, proving that comedy is much more his game than rap.

Back to the music then and following a nice little tip-off, we headed over to the BBC 6Music Stage to watch Goat, a band unlike any other. With every member wrapped head to toe in, shall we say, interesting garments, Goat combined infectious psychedelic guitar parts with a pair of front-women that would be unmatched for energy and enthusiasm throughout the weekend. Not one for those who fancy chilling out in the sun, but Goat are undeniably a truly original, full-throttle outfit that are certainly worth paying attention to.

From this point onwards it felt like a day of simply getting tastes of many of the festival’s delights. Some of the highlights included the worryingly young Childhood – having that much talent at such a young age seems unnatural but there is certainly plenty to be excited about. There was also time to catch the truly awe-inspiring Anna Calvi, her voice blowing away everyone in the arena whilst her trademark form of delivery was full of just as much power as you’d expect. Over at the Obelisk, Editors gave a performance that was impressive despite technical hitches before the last minute replacement Lily Allen made the crowd forget all about the ailing Two Door Cinema Club. Well, almost – Allen’s cover of ‘Something Good Can Work’ seemed to lift the disappointed TDCC fans and her attitude was as cheeky and tongue-in-cheek as ever. Nevertheless, my feet carried me away for another tour of the grounds, including a brief stop to catch Arthur Smith providing a wonderful tribute to Leonard Cohen. In the end it was Keith Allen, or as the youth might know him ‘Lily’s dad’, that provided the end to a truly inspiring first day at the festival, his variety evening featured a particular highlight of a woman pole-dancing on a rather unstable pole.

So as Friday drew to a close, and my slumber through the thunderstorm was significantly aided by a barrage of cider and other such beverages, I fell asleep in my woefully undersized tent, eagerly anticipating the delights that were sure to greet me as I awoke…

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Saturday

After a heavily interrupted sleep thanks to stormy weather and late night ravers, I woke up early on Saturday morning still full of giddy enthusiasm. Once I had filled up on a suitably fatty breakfast it was time to once again head off into the arena and explore the delights on offer.

To kick things off, I headed over to the comedy tent, due almost entirely to the fact that it started earlier than other activities, and was delighted to spend an hour or so in the company of the hilarious Josie Long. With her off-beat humour, cavalcade of questionable impressions and a level of genius that is often belied by her tales, Long undoubtedly had the admiration of everyone that had piled into, and spilled out of, the tent.

Now, it is certainly not the easiest job to be the opening act on any stage at a festival – you’ll almost always be subjected to a significantly smaller crowd, portions of which will be dealing with the ramifications of the previous night’s exploits. Nevertheless, Ibibio Sound Machine were the perfect way to wash away any hangover regrets as their Nigerian-influenced sound filled the air and drew in more and more fans as the set progressed. It was a truly infectious atmosphere and people of all ages were joining in with the upbeat rhythms, dancing until their body was content.

A world away from this, Cass McCombs played a rather disjointed set over in the iArena – his brand of delightful Americana was enjoyable yet the level of disruption caused by the breaking of a string had an unfortunate impact on the fluency of the set. It then felt like the right time, mostly due to the heat, to return to the comedy tent and the tail-end of Miles Jupp’s set was the middle class humour that many in the Latitude crowd were able to easily identify with – there is indeed no point in stacking your dishwasher in the order ‘plate, bowl, plate, bowl…’. This was swiftly contrasted by the sweary, raging Tommy Tiernan who was in no way inferior to Jupp. His tales of Irish drunkenness, amongst other things of course, brought rapturous laughter to the crowd who in turn repaid him with a standing ovation.

The rest of my Saturday was spent back over at the Obelisk stage, chilling in the mid-afternoon sun as Booker T Jones blasted out ‘Green Onions’ and everyone’s favourite cricket theme song, as well as including splashes of Al Green. The old dog may not have many new tricks but he was still on top form. The next act, Afghan Whigs, have sparked a few criticisms of the schedulers due to their brand of hard, dark music being blasted out in the beautifully bright afternoon. However, I found that the band were one of the real highlights of the weekend as they performed as a well-oiled machine, leaving not even the slightest hint of any mistakes. Though it may have been a heavier sound than most would have liked, the band were exquisite and their experience shone out from behind their sunglasses.

Whilst grabbing a snack I managed to stumble across Slaves, a rage-fuelled duo that whipped their audience into an instant frenzy, though it was severely lacking in the wit and purpose that made punk such a highlight in musical history. Contrasting this, First Aid Kit were a surprising folky delight – although the headbanging wasn’t strictly necessary. Their sweet harmonies suited the summer sun perfectly and the sisters held a strong command over their audience.

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Probably the most excitable crowd of the weekend faced Bombay Bicycle Club as they took to the stage and there were plenty of teens who thoroughly enjoyed their bouncy, upbeat melodies. Each and every song gained a well-deserved cheer from the audience as they almost managed to steal the night – though I did find myself frustrated with those who would rather chat to their friends and try to make everything about themselves throughout the set, but maybe I’m just getting old and bitter.

For me, however, the true master of the art was the man taking to the stage as the leading figure for Saturday evening, despite fierce competition for fans from a much more electronic alternative. Damon Albarn may have lost certain, less tolerant members of the audience through his choice to perform material primarily from his new solo album yet personally I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of his set – even if I was slightly unnerved by the storms surrounding us. Throwing in the odd Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad & The Queen track to win over the more stubborn crowd members, Albarn was joined by a magnificent band in the form of The Heavy Seas and he comfortably floated above their brilliance. Once he returned for the customary encore (please stop it, all musicians, you have ruined the encore through over-use) there were highlights including a rendition of Blur’s ‘Tender’ with Graham Coxon joining Albarn along with a perfectly judged version of ‘Clint Eastwood’, probably THE best Gorillaz track, in which rapper Kano and a mischievous clown helped amuse the crowd.

For the second night running we were treated to thunderstorms as we shuddered in our tent, after a brief rave at the guest bar – entertained by a pair of exquisite DJs. Though Bombay Bicycle Club may have been the highlight for most of the young music fans in attendance, I can’t see past Damon Albarn for the absolute highlight of the day. But then again, it was all a bit of a blur.

I’m so sorry, no more puns. I promise.

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Sunday

With my Latitude experience nearly at an end (sniff sniff) there was still plenty to see, hear and fill all sorts of other senses with – I haven’t mentioned the food yet, a truly fantastic selection of delights (given the traditional festival price weighting, of course). As I once again awoke early to delightful sunshine, it didn’t take too long for me to get caught up in the barrage of Sunday treats.

Once again it was off to the comedy tent to get the day started, Marcus Brigstocke, Andrew Maxwell and Mark Steel rifled through the papers with a mixture of glee and misery, resulting in over an hour filled with genuine belly laughs and snippets of the finest wit. Then it was on to one of the acts I had most looked forward to seeing before the festival began and fortunately there was not an inkling of disappointment to be found. Atomic Bomb! Who Is William Onyeabor? was a delightful treat filled with African rhythms, wonderful interplay between instrument and, probably my favourite figure at the festival, Money Mark – never before have I seen a man so in love with music.

After snaffling a quick lunch, I sat in the sun and watch as the glorious Daisy Victoria belted her heart out on the Lake Stage to an unfortunately small crowd – a regular occurrence on the stage. With her Captain Beefheart-esque style topped with vocals that would float above the clouds, Daisy Victoria is well worth listening to no matter your musical preference. By sheer coincidence, or so my half-German companion told me, my final trip to the comedy stage was a chance to watch the masterful Henning Wehn in action. From anecdotes about being called a cockney to encouraging the audience to clap along to the anthem of the Hitler Youth (a personal life low-point), Wehn had the crowd constantly in stitches as merriment over-flowed the tent.

From this point onwards it was all about the music. A further surprise was in store as The Jayhawks provided us with yet another glimpse of Americana, something that flowed considerably more freely at the festival than one may have anticipated. With exquisite lead vocals and a band so in sync you’d think they were always performing, it became another one of the weekend’s unexpected delights. However, you’d be hard pushed to find a musical connection between The Jayhawks and Parquet Courts, the band next on my agenda. As if they were a cross between The Ramones and Pavement, these four Brooklynites seeped pure energy into the air as they raced through a non-stop, explosive set. With Dingus Khan flirting with disaster on stage as the band raged on, it was a truly memorable experience. Unfortunately it was at this stage that my camera battery decided to give up the ghost and any visual stimulation I could provide would have to come through the imagery within my words. Sorry…

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Returning to the main stage, I caught one of the bands of the moment at work in the form of Haim. After an excellent beginning to the set, Este Haim began to get a little too self-obsessed with a barrage of nonsense that surely meant the band didn’t have enough material to fill their allotted set – also, they need to be taught the meaning of the word ‘jam’ as an organised, choreographed sequence is probably better titled as a song. Their cover of a Beyonce track was also not pleasing to me. All of this said, the band did indeed put on a great show when performing and they are undoubtedly marvellous musicians.

Nevertheless, they were swiftly forgotten as The War On Drugs stepped in to become my absolute highlight of the weekend. The music was so infectious that I regularly felt as if I would have an out of body experience. From start to finish there wasn’t a single mistake to be heard and each and every song was oozing with a character and brilliance that was unrivalled across the festival.

And so it was a return to the Obelisk to end the weekend’s festivities as Tame Impala thrilled the crowd, those who hadn’t scarpered to see Clean Bandit made a wise decision. They’re not a band to which I have ever given much time yet a thoroughly enjoyable performance showed clearly why they made it to such giddying heights on the bill. Their successors, The Black Keys, took to the stage with confidence flowing yet they didn’t seem to quite manage to reel the audience in until the rendition of ‘Gold On The Ceiling’. The songs were there and, despite a few mistakes, brimming with energy yet I felt that they weren’t able to quite capture the crowd in a manner that other acts had managed to achieve. That said, it was unfortunate that I had to leave before the end due to the scheduling of the coach returning to London – something which I was indeed very grateful for as the rest was well needed.

As a weekend filled with musical mastery and comedic genius drew to a close, I left Latitude with a grin firmly planted across my face, safe in the knowledge that I’ll have to go back next year. There’s nothing quite like it, that’s exactly what makes it such a wonderful festival.

Words: Ciaran Steward

Photos: Nige Nudds + Ciaran Steward