Latitude ’09 round-up: The good, the bad and the bizarre.

Ah, Latitude. Where to begin? Well, my previous post if you haven’t read it already, as that’s where the really good stuff is. But there was plenty more stuff to be seen, so here’s a day-by day runthrough of the things I witnessed.

Thursday

Actually, I’m not gonna lie: Thursday was a bit of a wash-out, both literally and metaphorically. The only musical thing I saw was pretentious but dull mini-orchestra The Irrepressibles, before wandering around the site for a bit and eventually ending up in the woods listening to some DJs. Then we decided to head back to the tent. And then it decided to piss it down. So, in lieu of actual content, here’s some choice quotes that I overheard that night:

“It wasn’t what we planned.” – An older gentleman on his recent purchase of pizza.

“Where’s that fucking drum and bass tent?” – Random teenage boy, forgetting what festival he’s at.

“Can you point me in the direction of the fit guys?” – Random teenage girl with a one track mind.

“There’s nothing worse than someone else’s acid.” – Forget talking to Frank, this guy’s got all the drugs advice you could ever need.

Friday

Friday started out with a slice of comedy – Rob Deering provided music-based witticisms, Shappi Khorsandi charmed us with humourous tales of political correctness and life as an Iranian in the UK, and Lee Mack entertained with his biting northern wit.

The first band I saw on Friday, however, were Chairlift, who did a reasonable job of proving that there’s more to them than ‘that iPod advert song’ – swathes of noise and cowbell solos, to be precise, as evidenced on ‘Territory’. Amazing Baby also managed to rise above any comparisons to MGMT by, well, being consistently less boring than said band. Later on I stopped off at the Obelisk Arena again to catch Of Montreal – I’d heard good things about them beforehand, but their quirky indie pop didn’t really do a whole lot for me. Far lovelier was Lykke Li, who effortlessly won the crowd over with a mix of breathy pop anthems and more electro-influenced tracks. Regina Spektor was also quite lovely, although not quite as interesting – although at one point she left her customary piano to pick up an electric guitar, bumbling through about one and a half songs before finally admitting “I don’t know how to play the guitar!” Best stick to what you know then love? I also managed to catch Pet Shop Boys’ final song (‘West End Girls’, of course) after Bat For Lashes finished. There were dancers with boxes on their head, which was quite impressive when you think about it – I mean, I can’t really dance normally, never mind with my head stuck in a box. And as if that wasn’t quite enough music for one day, I headed to the Film & Music Arena afterwards, first catching Jeremy Walmsley play an interesting set of Tom Waits and Daniel Johnston covers, and then wrapping up the night with an acoustic set by Turin Brakes.

However, by far the oddest thing I saw all day was some sort of bizarre fashion show on the Waterfront Stage. Compered by a large, camp man with flowing black hair and dressed in nothing but a corset and some hotpants, models wearing all kinds of weird and wonderful costumes walked across a catwalk that had been set slightly below the lake’s surface, giving the impression that they were walking on water. Definitely one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments.

Saturday

Doing my best to tick the ‘culture’ boxes, I went to the Waterfront Stage and watched a bit of ballet on Saturday morning – the duet from Swan Lake, to be precise. This was then followed up by a breakdancing crew called Psycho Stylez, who wowed the crowd with their ker-azy moves.

After Wildbirds & Peacedrums provide a spectacular start to the day, White Belt Yellow Tag aren’t quite as entertaining a proposition. Their best track was ‘You’re Not Invincible’ – and even that didn’t quite have the same impact as it did on record. Marnie Stern, on the other hand, is pretty good fun, combining shouty punk with blistering guitar work and an interlude about her vagina – true story. I then make my way to the Sunrise Arena to catch Wakefield native Skint & Demoralised – because a) It wouldn’t be quite right if I didn’t have my dose of Yorkshire artists at a festival, and b) because he’s pretty damn good in an Arctic Monkeys meet The Streets sort of way. Back at the Obelisk Arena, Broken Records do a good job of fitting the huge stage, both physically (with their seven members) and musically (with their epic multi-instrumental rock), but afterwards The Airborne Toxic Event don’t quite do enough to impress me. Sure, they’ve got a couple of good tracks (most notably ‘Sometime Around Midnight’), but everything seems to blend into one after a while.

If there’s one thing you can’t accuse Patrick Wolf of, it’s being dull. Bursting onto the stage to ‘Vulture’s intro garbed in his ‘vulture cape’, he struts, preens, writhes and swaggers across the stage, playing up to both the cameras and the assembled throng of fans. Wolf and his band then proceed to race through a ‘greatest hits’ set of sorts, heavily weighted towards his more recent singles and those from his last album The Magic Position. He attempts to get around any unfamiliarity with his earlier material by playing a rockier, sped-up version of ‘The Libertine’, and bringing on largely superfluous MC Rowdy Superstar to work the crowd up during ‘Bloodbeat’ – the most entertaining thing about him is his costume, which basically looks like someone smashed a large sheet of foil over his head. And the one slow song Patrick plays isn’t any less intense – ‘Damaris’ feels like it was made for stages this size, with its sweeping strings and heartfelt, yearning lyrics. He may only have time to play seven songs, but nonetheless this was a convincing performance that surely left both the uninitiated and the avid fans wanting more. In fact, the only bad thing about Patrick Wolf’s set is that I had to miss Pulled Apart By Horses to watch it – I make a break for The Lake Stage as soon as Patrick finishes, but am only in time to catch the shouts of “ULTIMATE POWER! MAXIMUM LIFE!” that lead to the close of ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’. Sad times.

I’ll be honest, I thought that White Lies’ album was pretty good, but having never seen them play live, I was reserving full judgement until I got the chance at Latitude. Unfortunately, from what I saw of their set they’re just not quite as good as on record – lead singer Harry McVeigh seemed to be struggling to hit some of his notes, in particular during the chorus of ‘To Lose My Life’. At the recommendation of my friend Emily, I leave to catch Camera Obscura, who by contrast are a wonderful surprise, blasting out song after song of joyous, feelgood indie-pop. Colour me impressed.

The only reason Doves didn’t make it into my last article is because I missed a chunk of their set while engaged in that ever fun festival pastime, ‘waiting around for other people’. Even so, the closing two songs are a highlight of the festival regardless – the epic swells of ‘The Cedar Room’ just sound perfect in the open air, while closer ‘There Goes The Fear’ ends the set with all three members performing a drum breakdown of breathtaking precision. A timely reminder of their brilliance, even after so long away from the limelight.

For me at least, tonight’s headline choice was nowhere near as obvious as Friday’s or Sunday’s, but I decide to go down the ‘muso’ route and watch Spiritualized in the Uncut Arena. It soon transpires to be a poor choice. Not particularly because of the band, who have some suitably epic sounding songs – although admittedly, nothing that really grabs me, perhaps because of my unfamiliarity with their material. But far more frustrating is the collection of idiots that I’m stood near, smoking inside the tent and just generally being irritating. After about 40 minutes I give up and decide to leave to catch the end of Grace Jones, mainly so I could at least say I’ve seen her. Little did I know that she’d be so damn entertaining – see my last post for more details, if you haven’t already.

We end the night hanging around in the woods again, under some very lovely neon based artwork, caught humourosly between two competing sets of DJs – one spinning pure cheesy classics, the other pumping out reggae and dubstep. During this time we were asked twice for drugs (did we look that shady?) and had someone try to sell us sambuca. As someone who a) doesn’t drink and b) has seen more than enough sambuca for one lifetime while working at The Duchess in York, it wasn’t too hard to decline. Though it was amusing when one of the guys we were with pretended to be a policeman.

Sunday

There was only ever going to be one way to start Sunday off – Thom Yorke’s fantastic solo set at Midday. After that, I took one look at the huge crowd that Sean Locke had already attracted I decided to decamp to the Sunrise Arena, as there wasn’t much of interest elsewhere. As the stage appeared to be running late, however, I did catch the end of Sugar Crisis – a duo so twee that their final song’s chorus went “We’re stuck in traffic/We’re stuck in traffic/Why’re we not there yet?/Why’re we not there yet?” – I kid you not.

Far more full-blooded stuff thankfully came in the form of Fight Like Apes, whose synth-led emo-pop stylings and hilarious lyrics got the crowd fired up – the perfect example coming in set-opener ‘Something Global’, where singer MayKay deadpans “Hooks are for wimps/And choruses for gays” before the band break out into a chorus of (you guessed it) “Give me my hook!” Next up are Asaf Avidan And The Mojos, all the way from Israel – and they want us to make them feel at home by clapping along to their ‘big Israeli radio hit’. However, it all sounds a bit like Axl Rose fronting Wolfmother to me. With the weather being erratic to say the least, I take advantage of a break in the rain to grab some pizza and also inadvertently miss most of Villagers – not that it sounded like I missed much, from their deathly dull last song. It then proceeds to absolutely tip it down – but Sky Larkin manage to bring the sun back out with their bright and upbeat indie-pop brilliance – smiles all round then!

With the weather having mostly cleared up, I venture out to catch The Rumble Strips, who’ve obviously flummoxed new producer Mark Ronson by already having trumpets – so much so that he’s panicked and added some strings instead. They seem fairly superfluous though – and tellingly, its still their old stuff that stands out most for me, with ‘Motorcycle’ in particular proving a highlight. Later on, The Vaselines entertain with their bizarre and often filthy banter as much as they do with their music – with singer Frances McKee telling us how she finds American accents to be a turn-on, before subsequently admitting “it’s not just that – you’ve got to have a big dick as well!” After they finish, I’ve got little better to do than catch the end of The Gaslight Anthem’s set – and they’re pretty much as I’d expect them, peddling earnest Springsteen-punk about how life’s hard and stuff. Yawn. Much better are Phoenix – even if they do get a little samey at times, the French band still have enough nuggets of pure pop brilliance to provide a great warmup for Editors and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. And thus, the festival ended on a massive high note – same time next year then?

If you weren’t there and I’ve whetted your appetite, or if you were and want to re-live some of the weekend’s great moments, then check out this handy little compilation of stuff I saw that I think is worth hearing, in the form of a Spotify playlist. Tracklisting below:

Fight Like Apes – ‘Something Global’
Wildbirds & Peacedrums – ‘There Is No Light’
Sky Larkin – ‘Fossil, I’
Skint & Demoralised – ‘Red Lipstick’
Phoenix – ‘Long Distance Call’
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’
The Rumble Strips – ‘Motorcycle’
Grace Jones – ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’
The Temper Trap – ‘Science Of Fear’
Thom Yorke – ‘The Eraser’
Fever Ray – ‘When I Grow Up’
Lykke Li – ‘Little Bit’
Chairlift – ‘Territory’
Broken Records – ‘If The News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It’
Camera Obscura – ‘French Navy’
Patrick Wolf – ‘Hard Times’
Doves – ‘The Cedar Room’
Editors – ‘You Are Fading’
Fever Ray – ‘If I Had A Heart’
Bat For Lashes – ‘Two Planets’
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘Stagger Lee’

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