joeldurston

Latitude 2012

In Culture on July 19, 2012 at 4:56 PM

Latitude, stomping ground of middle class families, 6th form girls with laurel wreaths in their hair and blokes named Hugo, was this year in its seventh year, better (and muddier) than ever.

So jam-packed was the bill, even the midday slots, often the chronological wasteland of festivals, were awash with talent. First up on the main stage on Friday were Givers, an exuberant five-piece hailing from Louisana. Their joyous, chaotic brand of indie-funk-afrobeat, probably the result of putting White Denim and Vampire Weekend in a blender, brought some much needed sunshine to a very drab day (and no doubt won vocalist and percussionist Tiffany Lamson many more admirers than just this one).

Cold Specks, on just after on the sponsored i Arena in the woods, was undoubtedly more sombre but no less impressive. It’s the stage name of Canadian singer-songwriter Al Spx, whose May debut by all rights should have a greater following given the enormity of Adele and all her imitators. Anyone who decries the Croydon singer as soulless and manufactured, would do well advised to check this woman out – as her voice, on great display here, genuinely has echoes of a racially-divided Deep South of the 60s.

Just as good if not better than the music bill was the comedy one. Shappi Khorsandi, with her filthy single mother act, and Holly Walsh, doing a straight-down-the-line act, both fared reasonably well. Newcomers Frisky & Mannish, however, thrilled the crowds with their unique, cabaret pop culture act. They are Laura Corcoran and Matthew Floyd Jones, a pair who met at Oxford and bonded over a shared love of literature, classics and chart pop. Their set, a mix of stand-up and music, is a superbly knowing, inventive melange of pop music melding Rihanna to the Bee Gees, The Carpenters to Grime music, and much more; laced in irony but undoubtedly affectionate – a wonderful ode to pop.

 

There was more musical parody from Doc Brown in the Comedy Tent soon after, this focusing primarily on his dying love for rap. He does a great job poking fun at it by juxtaposing his former love with his current unangry, moderate middle-class life, resulting in raps on how to create a hip-hop hit  from a legal template and how to make a cup of tea.

Polica took an early evening slot on the Lake Stage on Friday. They were very tight and energetic, but, though through no fault of their own, their brand of noir indie-soul – a bit like an autotuned XX – would have worked better at night. Janelle Monae, on the other hand, on just after on the main stage, deserved more sunshine than the grey – but thankfully dry – weather. She performed her soul and funk hits with the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the Duracell Bunny, and the crowd – full of everyone from long-haired hippies to middle-aged couples – duly responded. Makes one question why she’s not bigger here.

Lana Del Rey was far less energetic and enthusiastic, but then to be anything but jaded would be to defeat her very purpose. At least she was singing live. Anyway, predictably, Videogames received some of the biggest cheers of the festival.

Bon Iver, headlining on Friday, has, as here, managed the transition to stadium-filler brilliantly, helped by his more ‘surround sound’ second album, self-titled as if to suggest his mopey (but impressive) first was not truly him – merely a hollow, broken-hearted shell. Still, along with the more widescreen, multi-instrumental newer epics, the man-and-his-guitar sing-alongs of For Emma, Forever Ago worked surprisingly well to the vast crowd. Literally and metaphorically, he seems to be surfacing from his isolated log cabin, and crowds are gladly receiving him.

Saturday in the Comedy Arena started very early (11 am) and cerebrally for the many – yours truly included – feeling a little worse for wear from the night before. The Infinite Monkey Cage is a Radio 4 show debating with equal intellect and wit the big questions, and this debate, recorded for a later broadcast, featured Al Murray (as himself, unusually), Twenty-Twelve actress Sarah Passcoe and comedian Robin Ince arguing for the importance of the arts; against popstar-turned-physics-pin-up Brian Cox, cosmologist Andrew Potzen and Professor Jon Butterworth presenting the case for science. The scientists discussed the implications of the Higgs Boson discovery and argued that the reasoned quest for the origins of existence and humanity are, contrary to what many think, beautiful pursuits; while the artists asserted that this would all be meaningless without the arts, humanities and philosophy to make personal sense of it. But all spoke with such knowledgeable belief yet accessible humour that it was hard not to come away thinking that both disciplines, while undeniably distinct, could not survive independently. If only political discourse were this amiable and witty…

Phil Jupitus followed, and was brilliant in describing boys’ randiness, especially in the story of a friend’s six-year-old’s first dirty internet foray (he’d searched, in order, ‘tits’, ‘bums’, ‘boobs’, ‘legs’… and then ‘sexy Chinese ladies’). Yet given the strange empathy with which he spoke of this, his sketch about wanting to kill his 16-year-old daughter’s horny boyfriend, while amusing enough, felt overlong.

At least he got the right venue. Josie Long, apparently a comedian, seemed to have got lost on her way to the Faraway Forest (literally and figuratively) where all the Occupy wasters were, such was the ranting, socialist nonsense she was preaching. And it was preaching: “the Tories are evil; anyone who disagrees…well, they’re wrong”. Yet there nowhere was any reasoned debate on the economic  background to policy, only an offhand, unevidenced dismissal of recession as “not that bad”. And her more ‘comedic’ material merely seemed like an awkward, annoyingly chatty, excitable girl half her 30 years. If ever there was proof comedy should not be the province of the sincere, this was it.

After this, James Acaster was a breath of fresh air; an awkward, but brilliantly delivered, set on all of life’s most important problems – playing with wax candles in pubs, the best way to roll Blu Tack and a gloriously over-egged dissection of a friend of a friend’s analogy: you wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard (substitute girlfriend and nightclub).

Lee Nelson– a comic creation of a happy-go-lucky council estate idiot – was anything but awkward, but delivered his filthy and superbly knowing one-liners, often involving the audience, with just as much panache. Irishman David O’Doherty gave a blistering good set on life and all its dark and mundane forms, at once sincere yet ironic enough to be hilarious.

SBTRKT (or Aaron Jerome) is a reclusive fellow; a London musician who wears tribal masks to conceal his identity and says: “the name SBTRKT is me taking myself away from that whole process. I’m not a social person, so having to talk to DJs to make them play a record is not something I want to do.” So it was interesting to see how his brand of minimalist, soulful electronica would transfer to a sub-headline spot in the large Word Arena. Fortunately, he smashed it. The songs were completely transformed from their on-record counterparts, bolstered with some huge synths and drumbeats, bringing a real carnival atmosphere to what is often decried as a very mono-cultural, dry festival. It was weird seeing the big screens focus on just a 16-button electronic sampler – but that’s the point of SBTRKT, I suppose. No ego; just tunes. Huge tunes.

Indie veterans Elbow are as sure a bet as any as festival headliners, and they duly delivered; at times both personal and anthemic, especially on One Day Like This, which brought the set to a lighters-in-the-air finale accompanied by fireworks.

Robin Ince again started the day again at the Comedy Tent, today with The Early Edition with Marcus Brigstocke & Andre Vincent – a gently amusing wander through the day’s papers and events with selected festival-goers who’d wafted through a paper each.

Nick Helm & the Helmettes followed. The character, which mixes stand-up and song, is a wonderful comic creation – a kind of David Brent of the shallow world of 80’s power pop, driven by shallow desperation for his dreams and genitals. Abandoman is a similarly superb pop-comedy cross-over – Ireland’s self-proclaimed 7th best rap outfit (which, they say, officially puts them four behind Jedward and makes them shit). Rob Broderick gets the crowd to get involved in his magnificently innovative freestyle raps – such as What’s In Your Pocket, in which the crowd stick up the weirdest thing in their pocket and he raps them all together, and a rap battle around one of those pub-sized Connect 4s (“we came…we saw…and we connected 4!”).

Reginald D Hunter was his usual caustic self, though perhaps overly intellectualised his usual sex-and-race schtick for it to truly hit home comedically, however clever. Rich Hall had the crowd in stitches with his dark, wry observations.

Alike Bon Iver, Bat For Lashes was another who many perhaps doubted could fill a big stage. But her setlist wisely included her more energetic songs, performed here with suitable vigour, as opposed to her (undeniably beautiful) ballads. She also gave a peak at some songs from her forthcoming album, A Haunted Man, such as Oh Yeah, which hint at a bigger, brassier direction.

Wild Beasts, top billing on the Word Arena, were a suitably esoteric, art-student-emo, but thrilling end to a great festival.

Joel Durston

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