Latitude Festival ’08

[Words & Pictures- Pete Hodgson]

Last weekend a well selected section of the Suffolk countryside was again home to Latitude festival. In its third year, Latitude has rapidly established itself as one of the best UK gatherings, pioneering the diverse, laidback feel which numerous festivals are now attempting to emulate. The secret of Latitude’s success is the integration of creative arts with the more traditional music festival hedonism, neatly encapsulated on a small site with a family friendly atmosphere.

Projections over the lake charmingly enhanced the late night ambiance and the site was embellished with all manner of elegant constructions. Packed with Film, Literature, Theatre, Dance, Poetry and Comedy stages alongside the 4 main music stages-  only the most hardened cynic could be bored at Latitude ’08. 

The Obelisk Arena welcomed the music headliners, led by Franz Ferdinand who went through the motions in an enthusiastic and precise but somewhat uninspiring, automated manner, perhaps they were robots all along. The main stage was well laid out for observation but at close quarters the design proportions gave it a detached feel, which for me, emphasised the poor audience interaction and unremarkable sets which characterised many of the headline acts.

The Go! Team as always produced an energetic performance but noticeably missed bassist Jamie Bell (so they do need all six members!) which appeared to limit a set list already stale from the festival circuit.

Hopefully band mastermind Ian Parton, will attempt to rekindle the insouciance which characterised earlier gigs and perhaps perform some jolly tracks with gang vocals like ‘Milk Crisis’.

Death Cab for Cutie drew a lot of people for a strong set culminating with an epic rendition of ‘Transatlanticism’, but as it clashed with Crystal Castles, the cool kids were preoccupied.

Sigur Ros took over the festival with their inimitable, powerful soundscapes, providing festival goers with the opportunity to experience them at the requisite (Richter scale) volume.

The enigmatic Icelandic fruitcakes appeared to attract the biggest crowd of the festival and opened a lot of eyes with an atmospheric epiphany of live percussion and transcendent ethereal vocals.

Oxford boys Foals educated a few folks in the merits of math rock, but were somewhat blunted from travelling having been in Spain the day before.

Frontman Yannis Philippakis took the time between songs to explain that in Spain they had got into a fight with John Lydon and dedicated the next song ‘’To Jonny Rotten and his meathead friends’’ before launching into the ever popular track ‘Cassius’.   

However, the main stage was not the heart of the festival, the spirit resided in the woods. Nestled in the trees sat the diminutive Sunrise Arena which saw some of the most inspired and exciting performances.  It was here that the festival defining sets were witnessed and the atmosphere unique to Latitude could be found.  

Joseph Mount’s Metronomy ignited the tiny tent (metaphorically) on Saturday night with his talented live band of Gabriel Stebbing and Oscar Cash who added live sax to the intoxicating electrosynth mix.  

Seemingly naive Soko (Stephanie Sokolinski) charmed a lot of people with her bittersweet acoustic set as the weather went from torrents of rain to bright sunshine. 

The 21 year old French actress turned singer was evidently unaccustomed to tuning her guitar and playing in front of a large audience but her emotive melodic style won the hearts of the audience.

West London based Jeremy Warmsley graced the Sunrise tent on Sunday afternoon (exactly the same slot he occupied at last year’s festival).

The gifted singer songwriter, who recently toured with The Shins, energised the crowd with his unique and accessible indiepop.    

The most eagerly awaited and thrilling performance of the festival was Crystal Castles,

the Toronto based postpunk 8-bit electronica duo made up for the Glastonbury set (which was cut short) with an incredible and visceral performance as those clamouring to touch unpredictable vocalist Alice Glass will testify.

 This year’s comedy line up was stellar with Bill Bailey, Stewart Lee and Frankie Boyle to name just a few. Unfortunately, the organisers did not learn from last year and the popularity of these performers far exceeded the capacity of the comedy tent creating an unnecessary bottle neck on site. Russell Howard’s stand up routine is particularly good and was eminently relatable for the festival crowd- who gave him a fine reception. Ross Noble’s pseudo-contemporaneous routine went down very well and ended with the audience singing bohemian rhapsody then leading the thousand strong crowd on a frenzied rampage around the site before being enveloped by the hoards.

‘’This must be how Jesus got started’’ a sweaty Noble commented.

In the cosy Literature tent, early risers could be treated to Marcus Brigstocke reading them the morning papers with the likes of Phil Jupitus– who also returned to his first passion in the poetry tent.

The literature tent also saw Mark Steel give an interesting lecture on the life of Karl Marx,

Mark Thomas also gave an engaging talk centred around his upcoming book about Coca-Cola, entitled ‘’Belching out the Devil’’. A personal highlight was an entertaining extract from “Submarine” by Joe Dunthorne, recited by the excellent Richard Ayoade.

Admittedly, these days there’s nothing groundbreaking about Latitude, the acts are pretty mainstream and this year saw a handful of festivals from a similar mould. So the real measure of the festival is the people it attracts and Latitude continues to entice a diverse collection of interesting and open minded individuals, maintaining its well earned reputation for another year.        

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