Latitude Festival: Saturday - Henham Park, Southwold
After a terrible night’s sleep for most revellers due to huge claps of thunder and a torrential downpour, Saturday’s start to Latitude Festival was a weary one. The day started with LA soft rockers Dawes, a nearly empty 6 Music Stage, and a sleepy vibe. Led by frontman Taylor Goldsmith, the band move through the gears from languid Californian rock to more energetic rock, most notably on an extended version of 'Most People' and a storming 'When My Time Comes' which succeeds in waking up the crowd. Increasing the sound levels some more were threesome Horse Party, who are all guitars and drum. Hidden beneath that blast of noise are some good melodies and riffs, and Ellie Langley is in fine voice.
Backed by a string section, Agnes Obel's affecting, fairytale music worked surprisingly well in the cavernous tent that is the BBC 6 Music Stage. It's a genuinely beautiful set and she drew a substantial crowd. Over on the Lake Stage though The People The Poet are a different proposition. A bit like a Welsh version of The Hold Steady, their unique selling point is that their songs are all based on life stories submitted by their fans. They're actually better than a band with a “thing” should be and pull out plenty of solid rock tunes that manage to get some hands in the air, despite the entire crowd relaxing on the lawn.
On the Obelisk Arena Tiniwaren seemed a little lost, even though their music seemed suited to a sunny afternoon. Maybe immersing yourself in their set rather than catching a glimpse of them at a festival is the way to go. Back on the BBC 6 Music Stage the public haven't found Damien Jurando’s plaintive soul searching quite as affecting as critics have, judging by the sparse and disinterested turnout. More successful are two artists representing the blues: Rag 'n' Bone Man on the Lake Stage is the most softly spoken, pleasantly mannered Brit you'll hear, until he signs, channelling a world weary, soulful American blues voice as if born in New Orleans in the sixties. And at the other end of the career scale is legendary bluesman Booker T. Jones, whose stories of Jimi Hendrix and Al Green remind you of the company he kept in his heyday. Immediately recognisable songs like ‘Green Onion’ – recorded when he was just 17 – keep the crowd dancing in the afternoon sunshine.
It’s a short stroll back to a busy BBC 6 Music tent to see Conor Oberst - and it’s rammed. Despite his recent good news, his content still isn't the cheeriest but with Dawes returning as his backing band it's energetically played. And then he's gone, cutting two songs as he's overrun apparently. One of the biggest crowds of the weekend congregates for Hall & Oates who are so popular you can't get near the BBC 6 Music Stage. Despite half the audience being stuck outside the tent you can still hear the unmistakable sounds of ‘Family Man’ and ‘She's Gone’ drifting out. Great summer music from the American duo, even if ‘I Can’t Go For That (No)’ has an indulgent sax section. In a strange bit of scheduling Afghan Whigs were outside in the bright sunshine playing their intense rock to a tiny crowd. They really should have swapped places.
After an almost interminable wait for First Aid Kit - James have to postpone due to flight problems - they appear looking lovely in gold dresses, a nod to Stay Gold you'd guess. It was debatable whether they'd work that high up the schedule but a decent sized crowd quickly get quietly transfixed by their increasingly Americana influenced sound. And it works better on this larger scale than their more personal earlier material. Rather more adventurous were Catfish and the Bottlemen, who already summon quite a hardcore following, judging by the mosh pit that forms from the first note. Their indie rock falls on the harder side and brilliantly named frontman Van McCann has enough confidence for the whole band, issuing banter and batting away audience shouts at every turn.
If the crowd seemed surprisingly sparse for Damon Albarn he certainly didn’t notice, turning in an amazing set, showcasing why he remains one of the best artists of his generation. Moving through his catalogue of hits and bits from solo debut Everyday Robots; his stint as part of The Good, The Bad, and The Queen; and Gorillaz with ‘Kids With Guns’, it’s the encore that really makes it a special performance. Bringing out Graham Coxon for a rousing singalong of ‘Tender’ and Kano for a playful ‘Clint Eastwood’, they’re only surpassed by the majesty of his ode to an elephant ‘Mr Tembo’ and the gospel choir-assisted ‘Heavy Seas Of Love’. All in all a triumph that not even an amazing lightning storm can usurp.