Latitude Music Festival – Pet Shop Boys, Little Boots, The Pretenders, Ladyhawke, Mew, The Mummers, Of Montreal

Pet Shop Boys @ Latitude Festival: photo by Paul Wesley Griggs
Pet Shop Boys @ Latitude Festival: photo by Paul Wesley Griggs

For hundreds of people attending this year’s Latitude Festival, the weekend started on Thursday; from midday onwards as festival-goers from all over the UK and Europe began descending on the fourth Latitude Festival in the beautiful surroundings of Southwold in Suffolk.

Each year has seen Latitude grow in stature and capacity, and it is now considered one of the best festivals in the UK.  Furthermore, it is by far the friendliest, the most relaxed, the most diverse and the one UK music festival that really does attract art, comedy, theatre, literary, film, dance and poetry lovers, as much as it does music lovers.

I can honestly say everyone (well, except one person in the press tent) was really friendly, happy to help, and did so with a genuine smile. That makes a difference.  As does the wide ranging age groups and percentage of families with young children.  I heard The Pet Shop Boys on Friday, Doves on Saturday and Gaslight Anthem on Sunday all comment on how great it was to see so many families and young kids in the audience.

All three also said what a beautiful festival it was, which is true. Something Thom Yorke re-iterated while performing a specially arranged early performance on the  Obelisk Stage at midday on Sunday.  I’m sure many others echoed similar sentiments but unfortunately there are so many stages, with so many great shows that you can’t avoid choosing one thing over another.

Latitude Festival Music Stages
There were four main music stages at this year’s festival: Obelisk (main) Arena and The Lake Stage were open air, while the Uncut and Sunrise Arenas were in tents.

Latitude Festival Highlights – Friday 24th July

Of Montreal Obelisk (Main Stage) Arena
I was unfamiliar with a band from Athens, Georgia (home of R.E.M.) called Of Montreal.  They played on Friday afternoon at 4.20pm.  There was a fairly large audience around the main stage at this point but like me, many appeared to be drinking and socialising rather than awaiting the next performance.  The sun was shining and the time was right for a theatrical performance rather than a bunch of post-graduate shoegazers; and Of Montreal certainly delivered a performance to remember.  The music was genre bending but erred towards electro pop and the flamboyant costume changes, on stage liveliness and weird video screen accompaniment was met with intrigue and rapturous applause.

LadyhawkeObelisk (Main Stage) Arena
Ladyhawke followed with a stunning set comprising of their self-titled debut album including a long version of the wonderful Paris Is Burning which gave lead singer/guitarist Phillipa ‘Pip’ Brown a chance to show off her Edwin Collins/Orange Juice jangly impression with her Fender Jaguar guitar.

The Pretenders Obelisk (Main Stage) Arena
The Pretenders were the first of the ‘old-timers’ to perform, and the crowd was full of an older generation of mums and dads ready to rock out to classic hits including Talk Of The Town, Kid, Stop Your Sobbing and Brass In Pocket.  If you could just close your eyes and forget only Chrissie Hynde & drummer Martin Chambers are the only surviving members from 1978.

The MummersUncut Arena
The first group I got to see was The Mummers on the Uncut Stage.  Comparisons with Bjork are unavoidable.  Not just Raissa Khan-Panni’s vocals but also the music.  Especially when Bjork was finding her way into electronic music with LFO’s Mark Bell at the same time continuing to explore a more intriguing, experimental orchestral-rich pop sound. The Mummers played a wonderful set to a packed Uncut tent with a mix of drums, bass, guitar, trumpet, cellos and violins, a glockenspiel and a kazoo.  As well as playing tracks from their debut album, Tale To Tell, they performed a brilliant reworking of a Passion Pit track, Sleepyhead.  I liked them before seeing them.  Now I am completely converted.

MewUncut Arena
Danish band, Mew are one of those bands that are still unknown to many but yet have a fairly large cult following.  The music is hard to define but straddles indie rock, indie pop and at times an indie progressive rock.  Vocally it reminds me in parts of the light, angelic Jon Anderson (Yes) & on songs like Why Are You Looking Grave, J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr).

Mew played songs from their forthcoming fifth album along with live favourites from previous albums such as the prog rock Circuitry Of The Wolf and Chinaberry Tree from And Glass Handed Kites (2005). The lights and the crowd responded and Mew gave a wonderful performance.  More UK festival performers may see Mew receive the commercial success and status their music deserves.

The band’s fifth album No More Stories will be released in August.

Little Boots – Sunrise Arena
Of all the stages the Sunrise Arena was special.  Set in the woods, a small tent holding no more than few hundred people, it was the smallest of the four music stages. Victoria Hesketh aka Little Boots headlined the Sunrise stage on the Friday night just as day turned to night – perfect.  Little Boots was voted BBC Sound of 2009 at the beginning of the year and has continued to grow in popularity ever since, with great performances at Glastonbury and T In The Park among others, the crowd could have filled the tent three times over.

Little Boots commercial success and space electro/euro pop songs appeal to a wide audience and it was great to see primary school and teenage kids mixing it with parents and grandparents; all smiles, all good, nothing bad.  Little Boots has a great live voice and the commands the stage as if she was a veteran.  Each time I see her I become fonder of both her and her quirky ways and sing-a-long pop music.

Pet Shop BoysObelisk (Main Stage) Arena
The Pet Shop Boys were a perfect headline for the main stage for the first day of this year’s Latitude Festival. Neil Tennant & Chris Lowe walked onto the main stage to rapturous applause.  A full arena was anticipating not only a 90 minute set from a band that have had worldwide success for the past three decades but hoping for a great live stage show too; and they were not disappointed!

Using stage props, costume changes, four very well choreographed dancers and making full use of a stage wide video back-drop and the large video screens either side of the stage, interspersing live cameras with pre-recorded video footage, the Pet Shop Boys raised the bar, on what had already been a day of great performances.

They played a few new songs but it was the pop classics that everyone wanted to dance to. Hands in the air for Go West, Always On My Mind, Left To My Own Devices, It’s A Sin, Being Bored and the grand finale, West End Girls.

The Pet Shop Boys put on a great live stage show and probably converted some younger members of the audience, along with leaving some older fans and clubbers with big beaming smiles on their faces.

Tips for 2009: Don’t Believe the Hype

The yearly tips for Your New Favourite Band 2009 have begun…

I recently professed my love of end of year lists. Well, at the beginning of a new year, a new type of list comes out, fuelled by the NME and Radio 1 style quest for ‘your new favourite band’: The Tips for 2009. This year La Roux, White Lies, Lady GaGa and Florence and the Machine are hotly tipped by the Guardian among others.

Adele was rightly tipped for success in 2008
Adele was rightly tipped for success in 2008

Well, I hate these lists. Predictions inevitably tend to come from industry insiders, so what do we get except a bunch of hopefuls for one-album money makers pathetically compared to last year’s big names – big precisely because they weren’t really comparable to anything else. In fact, it’s hard to see La Roux’s name mentioned without Adele and Duffy appearing alongside it.

Did anyone predict the enormous success of Arctic Monkeys in 2007? Did anyone see Bon Iver sneaking onto everyone’s lips in 2008 (I don’t think even those who bought his album when it was self-released in 2007 really saw it coming)?

These lists are ways to fill space and wind up the publicity for the music industry’s next money-spinner. And we are all too willing to fall into their trap at this time of year.

Perhaps it’s a human desire to predict and manage the future, but it all seems so futile when very few predictions come to fruition. Let’s look at what was tipped for 2008: Rightly, Duffy and Adele were causing a bit of a stir, but so were One Night Only, of whom the only thing I saw was an appearance at a summer ball I went to – not exactly headlining Glastonbury.

Sam Sparro also was tipped, though he only actually managed one hit which now plagues me every time I play Pro Evolution Soccer. Black Kids failed to really excite anyone on a great scale, not to mention Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong and Does It Offend You, Yeah?, who were both the pick of the editor of the NME. His best prediction was Late of the Pier, of whom he said “I don’t actually like the music that much”.

Where predictions came good, it was generally stuff that was already fairly big on the internet, or already gaining some hype in the previous year. Take MGMT and Vampire Weekend, for example, or even Foals who had been tipped for quite some time before not quite wowing anyone last year. It all seems a fairly contrived way to state the obvious and crank up the hype machine.

My only advice is to beware: don’t believe the hype, it’ll probably never happen. And judging on last year’s picks, let’s hope it doesn’t.

Radio 1 fail to censor Fairytale of New York

The Pogues - Fairytale of New YorkAfter receiving complaints about playing a censorsed version, the BBC retracted from their stance and began again playing the uncensored version of Fairytale of New York, by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl yesterday.

Political correctness has already gone mad and this really was a pathetic move by Radio 1.

Even some Radio 1 dj’s were against the decision. The Telegraph writes that the decision was criticised as “ridiculous” by Chris Moyles.

Possibly the greatest Christmas pop song of all-time, this classic tune has been re-released and with this extra publicity will with any luck be this year’s UK Christmas number.

The so-called offensive language that was censored a full 20 years after it was first released and played on Radio 1 is

“You scumbag, you maggot you cheap lousy faggot, Happy Christmas your arse I pray God It’s our last.”

Apparently the word faggot is offensive to gay men like gay activist Peter Tatchell!

I believe music is art and therefore shouldn’t be censored at all. Jean MacColl, mother of Kirsty MacColl said she was pleased the BBC wasn’t around to censor Shakespeare and Chaucer.

Jean MacColl continues to run the Justice For Kirsty Campaign for her daughter who was killed in 2000 by a power boat at the age of 41. No one has ever been made accountable for her death.

Four lines enough for Posh

The Spice Girls have added pages to the gossip columns since reforming and announcing their world tour. Having recently read that heart throb film star, John Travolta has offered to fly the Spice’s around the world himself. P Diddy has apparently offered a fleet of diamond encrusted limousines to ferry the girls from airport, to hotel, to show and back. The list goes on.

And for what reason? The other four bitches will only let Posh sing four lines on the latest Spice Girls  single. One of the others has to help her out on one of those lines.

Ian Brown right or wrong.

Was Ian Brown right to slag off Kylie?

I agree with much of what Ian Brown said about Kylie, she is not a great singer and her songs are aimed at the younger generation. I also don’t see her as a sex symbol or great looking.

On the other hand she has a fantastic following and many people that i know would disagree with every point. We are all entitled to an opinion.

The problem really is how Brown chose to attack Kylie, in a public place with no possibility of retaliation. Why he chose to slag the miniscule antipodean is also a mystery.

At least he saved the rudest bits for the media only.