Once again Latitude Festival has proved itself to be one of the highlights of the summers events calendar. We’ve selected our fifteen favourite acts of the weekend.
15. Treefight For Sunlight
The first of three Danish acts to grace the Sunrise Stage on Sunday, Treefight For Sunlight bewildered onlookers with their shrilly delivered baroque-pop. Alongside their own gleeful material, a phenomenal, almost undifferentiated cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ went down a treat.
14. James Blake
For the younger contingent, James Blake was Sunday’s headliner; whilst Suede rounded off their almighty headline set on the Obelisk and Eels seduced the Word Arena with their smooth alt-country, hoards of teenagers began arriving at the relatively tiny Lake Stage even an hour early to achieve prime bobbing position for said post-dubstep pioneer. A set that straddled an already diverse back catalogue, the throttling ‘CMYK’ and the downbeat ‘Lindisfarne’, gloriously juxtaposed, were standouts. It must be said that the atmosphere was made a wee bit shit as warbling troupes of lads and ladettes turned up having read the word ‘dubstep’ in the programme probably expecting Nero to man the decks and Tempa T to make a guest appearance. The girl next to me even inquired “Who even is James Blake? Is he black?”
13. The Walkmen
‘The Rat’, unsurprisingly, is Saturday’s anthem. As soon as its frenzied drumming kicked in, its piercing organ seared and its shattering riffs obliterated, I delved into a semi-conscious state. I sang the words like many others around me. Never have such sober longings as “When I used to go out, I would know everyone I saw / Now I go out alone if I go out at all” sounded so triumphant.
These guys were right dudes – in fact, I conducted a quick rock ‘n’ roll check. Snapped a guitar string? Yup. A second time? Yup. Did one guitarist do nothing but look befuddled for three songs because his guitar was broken? Yup. On top, was the music, like, really fucking raucous? Yup. Nice one. As for sonics, think Yuck but if they sounded a bit happier to be alive.
11. Ben Howard
I had no prior knowledge of this man’s work, but it seems many others did; having crossed the bridge over into the woods, the superbly nestled Sunrise was heaving for the surfer-turned-singer/songwriter who’s currently making waves (I’m sorry) in the folk circuit. Clad in a stereotypical surfer’s Quiksilver tee, he mounted the stage and sang wonderfully. With a two-man band backing him, his short set encapsulated the sound Marcus Mumford really should have tried to purvey: honest, raw and unpretentious.
10. Lykke Li
Lykke Li’s third Latitude performance was her most extravagant yet. Like beasts shrouded in mystique, her band arose bedecked entirely in black. Herself cloaked, the depressing pop music she bore was at once complex and accessible. As two percussionists pummelled their kits, mass sing-alongs ensued for the likes of ‘Little Bit’, ‘Get Some’ and ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’.
9. When Saints Go Machine
As if I couldn’t have already justified Scandinavia Sunday’s new title, Danes When Saints Go Machine really did enthrall the Sunrise crowd in the early afternoon. As the rain came down in buckets tout autour, cuts from Konkylie, possibly the best album of the year so far, sounded splendid. The bassy ‘Church & Law’ and the string-laden ‘Add Ends’ were particular highlights.
8. British Sea Power
My fourth time seeing BSP, and their eccentricities still never cease to amaze. Wisely neglecting the plodding Open Season record, instead opting to play material from their debut The Decline Of… (‘Carrion’, ‘Remember Me’), Do You Like Rock Music? (‘All In It’, ‘Waving Flags’, ‘No Lucifer’) and of course Valhalla Dancehall (‘Mongk II’, ‘Georgie Ray’, ‘Who’s In Control’, ‘We Are Sound’), their short set time evidently got on their nerves as well as ours. Noble did jump in the crowd as usual, however.
7. Y Niwl
Despite filling almost exactly the same time slot on exactly the same stage as the previous year, Y Niwl’s surf-pop garnered a lot more attention this time around. Their instrumental mish-mash of rolling bass-lines, fiddly keyboard solos and transcendant riffage was an exceedingly welcome summery boost to the initially inclement Saturday afternoon. When the lead guitarist announced that they had CDs for sale, many enraptured spectators flocked to the side of the stage.
6. The Heartbreaks
It’s no surprise that a band who have recorded with Edwyn Collins and toured with Morrissey have a certain air of the 80s about them. In fact, The Heartbreaks sounded JUST like Orange Juice but with an added lyrical zeal. For me, they were the discovery of the festival. I adored the ludicrously funky bass of B-side ‘Remorseful’ and the pop splendour of ‘Jealous, Don’t You Know’.
5. Bright Eyes
My miseries because this was the only and final time I shall ever see Bright Eyes are ineffable; led by Conor Oberst, the criminally underrated huge-in-America-but-occultists-over-here played an electrifying set on Friday. Recent single ‘Jejune Stars’ was glorious, and so too was ‘Shell Games’. The real pinnacle came towards the end though, as they welcomed on buddies Jenny & Johnny (Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice) to perform a harmonious cover of Gillian Welch’s ‘Wrecking Ball’. If you’re wondering why exactly I’ll never be able to see this spectacle again, it’s because Oberst has hinted that the group will disband towards the end of the year. Sad times.
4. Oh Land
Although Oh Land (another Dane, by the way) was ten minutes late to the stage, the four or five songs we did hear in the packed Sunrise were pure pop splendour. ‘We Turn It Up’ was a succulent little bullion of catchy hooks whilst ‘Wolf & I’ was a beautiful, dubstep-tinged ode to a beast. With an arena tour alongside Katy Perry lined up, and having already racked up 11 million views of ‘Sun Of A Gun’, it seems Nanna Øland Fabricius’ speedy ascent to fame is going to continue.
3. My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket certainly win the prize for looking the least cool; ridiculous hirsuteness, a hideous red bow tie and shit loads of heavy metal-esque head-banging were all spotted on the main stage between 8 and 9 on Saturday. But that of course shouldn’t have mattered, and it didn’t. Having only really been a fan of ‘One Big Holiday’ previously (and what a finale they pull off with said tune), I am converted, enthralled throughout, particularly by the incredible ‘Holding on to Black Metal’ – about as far away from metal and as a close to funk My Morning Jacket could ever get.
2. Fool’s Gold
…. and Fool’s Gold win the prize for looking the coolest. Sleek sax solos, murky sunglasses, great shirts and dance moves confirm this.. Most amazing though are the intricacies and complexities in the music – heaven knows how ringleader Luke Top manages to sing and play his funky dance-inducing basslines simultaneously, and the same goes for lead guitarist Lewis Pesacov but for simply managing to play his fiddly riffs in the first place. Fool’s Gold’s dazzling gig also sparks the first mosh pit of the weekend, which is a laugh.
1. The National
Whether it’s the fact they welcome St. Vincent onto the stage to perform ‘Afraid Of Everyone’, or that they play tracks from all five records (my personal highlights were ‘Available’ off Sad Songs…, ‘Secret Meeting’ off Alligator and ‘Squalor Victoria’ off Boxer), or that Matt Berninger stays among the crowd for fifteen minutes, or that the final tune of the encore, ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’, is performed acoustically with all members of the band either at the front of stage or beneath it, it’s pretty hard to single out an individual highlight: there’s just such a profusion. ‘Isn’t it a bit boring nominating the only really appealing headliner as the best act of the weekend?’ I hear you ask, ‘especially since they played last year too’. Well, yes, so for that I’m sorry. But tonight’s career-spanning set trumps last year’s fantastic performance in the Word Arena by quite along way, and trumps everything else this weekend too.
From Huw Oliver.