Latitude Festival - Henham Park, Southwold
If you were wondering why there was a lack of white middle class people in your area this weekend then no need to worry, they were all at Latitude Festival in the Sussex countryside. It’s a festival where the white middle class comedy acts repeatedly take the mick out of its white middle class audience. It’s a festival with a clear identity that gives its target audience everything they’d want and expect: a good selection of food outlets (including a couple of vegetarian places), huge bars (with nary a queue all weekend), a massive kids area, literature, poetry, cabaret and theatre tents, a piano bar, a posh restaurant you have to book for - and tons of music. And that’s what we’re here for anyway.
With the thankless task of opening the BBC 6 Music Stage American popsters San Fermin are a good way to wake up the first day, their lively sax/trumpet-led pop doesn’t quite get people dancing but it certainly removes some of the cobwebs. The first “name” band of the day are Slow Club who are opening the Obelisk Arena - Latitude speak for the Main Stage. The last time I saw them at a festival they were a slightly pedestrian folk-rock two piece. Recent album, Complete Surrender, is a funky groove fest and the focus is now most definitely on the new version of the band. Lead singer Rebecca Taylor is in great voice, shown off on the 'The Queen’ss Nose', and the surprisingly large set of hardcore fans at the front lap up their new northern soul-tinged direction.
Following up are the relative old hands Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott. The former Beautiful South man has been accused of being a bit twee in his time but you can only admire his clever lyrics and biting social commentary, especially on tracks from their new album. Played out in the sunshine among an appreciative audience, their classics - including ‘Old Red Eyes Is Back’ and ‘Rotterdam’ - sit perfectly alongside new fare ‘DIY’ and ‘Moulding Of A Fool’. Add to that Heaton’s natural way with a crowd, like a more edgy Guy Garvey, and it's a perfectly pitched festival set and great sunny afternoon listening. The injured party in all that fun was the first half of Hozier on the BBC 6 Music Stage. I have to say I’m excited for the Irishman; his blues influenced indie rock is dramatic and soulful live. The crowd, as most are at Latitude, are quietly appreciative.
Next up on the same stage is Asgeir, another act I’ve seen before. This time though he’s at a festival and got label backing, so there’s no more sitting on a chair on his own with an acoustic guitar - he’s backed by a full band, with all the production depth that brings. It's good, but he was better smaller, and despite some really good tunes (‘King And Cross’ is excellent) the crowd are underwhelmed. Back over on the Obelisk Arena Kelis is bringing the amped-up soul of recently released Food to her mid-afternoon slot. It’s a mini triumph as her lateness doesn’t stop any of the dancing as she cleverly updates her hits like ‘Millionaire’ and ‘Trick Me’ to be funky and slow, fitting in with the new material.
A quick stop for a bit of Temples confirms that they’re a band that have got it right: the look matches the style of music and they've improved and tightened their live sound in the year since I last saw them. Introduced by Steve Lamaq as "your favourite new band", they will have left with some new admirers. As I'll be seeing them again at End of The Road Festival, I left to catch Broken Twin in The Alcove, which is set up to be a secluded stage but once you enter it it's actually a bit grubby and atmosphere-less, maybe it’s better in the dark. Anyhow, rather than the girl and piano combo I'd been expecting, Broken Twin (aka Majke Voss Romme) consists of four people, rather more than her music really needs. It's all a bit too downbeat for this heat though, and as lovely as her music and voice are I’m not long in that world.
Happily a quick trip to an absolutely packed comedy tent brings headliner Dara O’Briain’s surprisingly sweary brand of humour. He covers BBC comedians, Comic Relief, getting taught about Vikings at school. He goes down well although some are visibly shocked that the nice man from Mock The Week can use such bad language.
The Lake Stage, a wonder of placement at the festival, just out of earshot of the two biggest stages but about a one minute walk from either, is my next stop. First up some bluesy rock-light from Norma Jean Martine, she of the sultry, old time voice. With some great tunes and a proper good voice the crowd grows throughout her set, which is always a good sign. The only issue is that Rudimental and their noisy, bass-driven dance music ruins the quieter moments at the end of her set. Next is Cate Le Bon, resplendent in a shapeless silver dress. Her songs are as unique and pleasingly cute as ever, her performance as nuanced as you might expect. Song-wise, ‘Are You With Me Now’ is pleasingly repetitive and 'Wild' is somehow shouty and tuneful all at once. With The Lake Stage being in a direct pathway through the site Le Bon picks up a decent crowd throughout her set.
Getting near the end of the day it's time for Editors, who I can't say much more about. They're a fearsome proposition live, and it’s one of the first times the crowd has moved much all day. In an epic scheduling clash Slowdive were the losers and sounded great in passing, but as it turned out they were well missed as Son Lux put together one of the day's best half hours. Ryan Lott and his band are rocking, looping and electronicing to great effect, moving the feet of the iArena - basically a big tipi in the woods – and serving as an appetiser for his forthcoming third album.
Now I’m not a fan of Lily Allen, and I doubt she’d care I’m not target audience for her, but credit to her for drawing such a huge audience and she clearly appealed to a majority of the festival goers. And as an alternative booking, you can’t argue with Mogwai who were filling the BBC 6 Music Stage with their cinematic rock. But the highlight of late night is in the Literature Tent and a great example of why Latitude is different to other festivals. The comedy trio Pappy’s were the funniest, most shambolic hour I've seen - genius dressed up as anarchy.