Latitude Festival 2011 – Friday Highlights

The National @ Latitude Festival 2011
The National @ Latitude Festival 2011

This was my third Latitude Festival and once again it was an amazing weekend full of friendly people, interesting art, hilarious comedy, poetry and literature, film and theatre, but most of all some great performances from music artists both old and new.

Latitude is somewhere between a big and small festival, depending what you are comparing it too.  But unlike other festivals it is more than just a music festival with comedy, poetry, literature, film and theatre tents and art scattered throughout the site.  It is also a very family friendly festival and the food is great.

Friday began with a trip to the Word Arena to listen to a wonderful set by Avi Buffalo who sing great American falsetto easy listening pop songs, perfect for a sunny festival afternoon.  The songs leave plenty of room for lead vocalist & guitarist Sheridan Riley to shine as Avi Buffalo delivered a well-received folk-rooted set from their 2010 self-titled debut album on the Sub-Pop label.

Another good thing with Latitude is how compact the whole site is, allowing for time to get from the Word Arena to the main Obelisk Stage to see the legendary Edwyn Collins in fine form as he began singing ‘Losing Control’ the title track from his 2010 critically-acclaimed album; the first written and recorded since his illness.  Edwyn played songs from his solo albums including ‘Shilly Shally’, ‘Losing Control’ and his biggest commercial hit ‘A Girl Like You’ but also found time for crowd pleasing Orange Juice songs ‘Rip It Up’, ‘What Presence’ and the first song he ever wrote, ‘Falling & Laughing’.

Edwyn showed his emotion as he introduced and sang a song with his son, William who along with his wife Grace, has helped him return to recording and performing over the past few years.

To complete a wonderful afternoon of music it was straight back to the Word Arena to see a promising new group from London called Chapel Club.  I was as surprised as the band to see such a large enthusiastic crowd waiting, full of anticipation. Fortunately for all concerned, they delivered a powerful set that will help to cement the critical acclaim they have began to receive.

With their dark and moody Joy Division-esque intensity they merge wailing guitars reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, and at times The Horrors. Chapel Club grew into their surroundings as they sprinkled a few new songs amongst crowd favourites from their 2011 debut album, Palace. A real highlight of the whole weekend was ‘being there’ watching Chapel Club as they performed a great rendition of ‘All The Eastern Girls’.

As with all good festivals, however well I plan my timetable I end up missing performances along the way. Not enough time and difficult decisions not to watch Linton Kwesi Johnson, Glasser, Deerhunter and Grouplove were unavoidable and made all the worse when a colleague told me how awesome Deerhunter had been.

But fortunately I did see Dan Snaith aka Caribou, and what a great performance it was.  Live, Caribou consists of Dan Snaith on keyboards, samples and various percussion instruments, with guitar, bass and drums giving his electronica knob-twiddling a more substantial live sound full of energy, beats and squelches.  Again I was surprised at the age and size of the crowd, most of whom were very familiar with his repertoire.

The Word Arena sound was amazing throughout the weekend and the throbbing bass certainly added to the excitement throughout the marquee, especially as Caribou’s set ended with an acid squelchy long version of ‘Sun’.  That was a moment I will never forget as my son & I pogoed with our hands in the air, dancing with big Cheshire cat grins.

There’s something magical about Latitude.  Where else would I walk across a bridge past brightly coloured sheep into the woods to watch a band play psychedelic pop?

Australia’s hotly tipped Cloud Control played a tight set of quirky psychedelic-fused pop songs with lush harmonies from their 2011 UK debut album ‘Bliss release’ at the Sunrise Arena deep in the woods to round off a perfect sunny summer festival afternoon.

Into the evening as Paloma Faith overlapped with The Vaccines.  No prizes as to where the kids were hanging!

The Vaccines rise has been phenomenal.  Only 12 months ago they formed a band and this summer they are playing to packed audiences who know every word to every song at festivals across Europe.  As they took to the stage the cheers were deafening.  Bright spotlights and a feedbacking guitar emanated from the stage. One look at each other and off we go…just like The Ramones!

The Vaccines blend 1950’s rock n roll, 1960’s garage and surf rock and 1970’s punk rock with C86 indie pop music to create something that is full of life and energy, if not at all original or unique.  Perfect three minute pop songs that strike a chord or three, The Vaccines drew a very large crowd and gave an energetic performance that was appreciated by people of all ages.

Last year, The National, who in my opinion are one of the best groups on the planet, headlined The Word Arena. Tonight, playing Latitude for a third time, they headlined the Obelisk Stage with a 90 minute set with songs taken from their previous five albums and EP’s.

In all honesty I was surprised when they were announced as headliners and wondered if the intensity and power of their music and live performance would be lost somewhat on the open-aired main stage. But alas my fears were unfounded as The National played a mesmerising, awesome set starting with a somewhat subdued ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ and ending with great version of a very early track, ‘Son’ with an intro that, ,after an earlier mention of Joy Division, had me thinking they were going to burst into a cover version of ‘Ceremony’.


The groups may have ended at 11pm but the music wasn’t about to stop.  Music blasted out across the site from various locations.  Among them were two renowned London club DJ collectives from Pump Up The Volume and Horsemeat Disco who shared the honours until 3am in the Comedy Arena while Annie Nightingale played a set from the past 10 years in the woods.

I’m assuming I had caught too much sun, as I can’t remember what time I eventually found my tent and drifted off to sleep for what seemed at least 10 minutes!



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