Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Latitude Day Three

The morning is sunny. On past evidence, this means nothing. The shorts remained balled into the bottom of the rucksack. We perambulate over to the Obelisk Arena, for a very special guest is to play. Who is the special guest? Joanna Newsom, that's who.

If one word could describe the set, it would be enchanting. Within a few minutes she has the whole of the field charmed by her naïve sweetness. Mixing hits from her past 2 albums with new songs, she seems nervous from the off, further ingratiating her with an audience who long for her sweetly plucked melodies. 'Bridges and Balloons' opens the set, her first solo for a fair while. Half of the set we are treated to new tracks, which seem to be piano based, Joanna on the joanna. The support she wins is shown when Newsom suffers complete mental shutdown during the labyrinthine lines of 'Sawdust and Diamonds'. She looks distraught at her feelings of letting the audience down, but she is cheered, massively by the largely seated crowd before finishing with the joys of 'Peach, Plum, Pear'.

After such a magnificent performance, Fields can only hope to do their best, which the manage admirably, although, like a few other unlucky bands, are let down by their poor sound. They also seem to catch Joanna Newsom's disease, and forget the words to one song. Jeremy Warmsley brings the sweet pop melodies to the Sunrise Arena, drama filled and promising for his new album.

These New Puritans provide one of the disappointments of the weekend, their existential art rock losing much of the crowd in pretentiousness. The tunes underneath the shrapnel do not emerge. They are out of context in a field, an elephant in a board meeting. The quality is raised again by frYars's display of electropop in the woods. Talking of a “poo on toilet seat” drama just before he comes on stage, his selection of songs from his EPs includes “crowd pleaser” 'The Ides' and finishes on the aptly titled 'Happy'.

Like Fields, alliteratively, Foals also suffer, the spiky interlocking guitar lines mute underneath heavy bass and drums in the mix. They admit their tiredness, partially from Yannis's involvement in Lydongate, and dedicate a sing to “Johnny Rotten and his meathead friends”. George Pringle's poetry creates thoughts and beauty, although the artiste seems surly and disinterested. Grinderman scares the children before a bad choice is made.

Latitude. Oh, Latitude. Why, oh why, do you put Blondie, one of the greatest pop bands ever, on the second stage, with Tindersticks playing above them. Not everyone, including us, can get into what we are reliably informed was one of the best sets of the weekend. Useless organisation from the festival, poor planning by us. Oh well, it meant that we got to see the charms of the Wave Pictures, whose self deprecation (“people have often said I'm a male Debbie Harry”) and antifolk whimsy win the small audience on side.

Up the hill, and it's time for the final band of the weekend, Interpol. A gloom pervades, the drizzle appears, the ambiance is right. The doom guitar line of 'Pioneer To The Falls' starts up. Mixing in 'Evil', 'Slow Hands' and 'NYC' mean the band effectively play a best of set, and one of the surprises of the weekend. Hands up who thought that Interpol might not make the best festival headliners. Only me? Well, anyway, that their moody epics make such a great choice is a welcome surprise, although they don't quite match the celestial heights of Sigur Ros the night before.

Another night in Cabaret, and Lenny Beige and his band entertain. Who is Lenny Beige? You'll know him as the bald one in the Orange Wednesdays advert. After a quick game of 'Jew Who' it is off to sleep, for the legs have collapsed and the back aches and the eardrums are wrecked. Old age has extended its crippled claw already.

So, Monday morning and home. To reflect on... How did we not see the Arctic Monkeys wandering around? Or miss every one of the many, many sets of Robin Ince's book club? What do you dye a sheep with?

Whatever the answers may be, Latitude remains the most fun you can have with £130, legally. The balance between music, theatre, comedy and performance is pitch perfect, the only addition needed being some bigger tents. The highlights- Sigur Ros and Joanna Newsom. The lowlights- missing Blondie and a lacklustre Franz. We'll leave the general gripes to people who like discussing the weather and fiscal policy, as traffic moaners can go off and cry into their latte macchiatos.

Ross Noble provides one final moment on Monday morning by crashing his motorbike in front of us whilst we wait for the shuttle bus. Here you could make some kind of apposite comparison between a bike crash and the festival, but it just does not work, with Latitude seeming to have provided almost the perfect festival weekend. Don't change, me lovely.

No comments: