Latitude Festival Music Stages
There were four main music stages at this year’s festival: Obelisk (main stage) Arena and The Lake Stage were open air, while the Uncut and Sunrise Arenas were in tents.
Latitude Festival Highlights – Saturday 25th July
Band Of Skulls – Sunrise Arena
After surviving a thunder & lightning worthy of building an ark, let alone sleeping rough in a tent, I returned to the woods on day two of the Latitude Festival to watch Band Of Skulls play their heavy, post-grunge indie rock to an enthusiastic gathering on the Sunrise Arena.
This was an early afternoon set with the bright sun beaming through the trees. But the Band Of Skulls sound was bass-throbbing heavy, and quite literally shook me up. Playing tracks from their wonderfully titled current debut album, Baby Darling Doll Faced Honey, including the anthemic sing-a-long chorus of I Know What I Am and the slower, brooding, lighter-fuelled Fires.
At times Band Of Skulls lighten the mood, drop the distorted guitars and with Honest sound more folk than rock. They may have a rubbish name but when they want to, they really rock!
Mika – Uncut Arena
Begrudgingly, I accompanied my 12 year old son to watch Mika play the Uncut Stage. We missed the first three or four songs & entered the stage with Mika sitting at the piano playing, as it was billed, an acoustic set. I lasted just two songs before asking my son if he was bored. He said to give it one more song.
Just then two cannons fired a continuous stream of confetti over an audience full of young children and mothers. Then, unexpectedly Mika climbed on a platform, possible his piano, and a full band stood up. The show came alive with a lively version of Big Girls from his award winning debut album Life In Cartoon Motion.
Though not my style of music, I certainly appreciated the effort Mika was putting into the performance, as he leaped all over the stage, orchestrating the audience in clapping along in time with the up tempo beat.
To end the set, Mika made himself visible to all once again, this time sporting an American Indian headdress and playing a trashcan which was tied to his chest like a big bass drum. Whoops and screams, mainly from the mothers rather than the kids made for a great atmosphere and reminded me that, after all we were all here to enjoy ourselves. And for his part, Mika put on a great show.
Doves – Obelisk (main stage) Arena
Of all the artists playing Latitude this year, it was Doves I was looking forward to seeing most. When at their best they make perfect alternative pop songs that make me smile and want to swing my arms around in a state of happiness; and that’s exactly what I did.
Like Pet Shop Boys the night before, Doves remarked on what a beautiful festival it was and how it was great to see families in the audience. The rain stayed away as Doves played songs from their current album, Kingdom Of Rust as well as old favourites like The Cedar Room, Pounding as well as the Motown beat sounding Black & White Town; and before making way for Grace Jones, finished a wonderful set with a perfect rendition of There Goes The Fear, complete with a familiar live Latin-style percussion finale.
Before thanking the audience and wishing them a good weekend, bass player and main vocalist Jimi Goodwin prematurely introduced the headline act on the Main Stage, by saying “…and heeeeeeeeeere’s Grace!”
Spiritualized – Uncut Arena
I confess that I am not that familiar with Jason ‘Spaceman’ Pierce and in all honesty hadn’t given Spiritualized the time due to not liking Pierce’s previous band, Spaceman 3. So it was with no expectations that I agreed to watch Spiritualized in preference over the Grace Jones show, which I knew was going to be exciting, flamboyant, and full of costume changes and a great live spectacle.
The Uncut Arena filled to capacity and looking around the audience it seemed that a large majority were big fans eagerly awaiting something special. Maybe they knew what to expect. But I had no idea. Dub reggae played until the lights dimmed to the delight of the audience. I could feel the anticipation grow as a few pushed further forward towards the stage as if to get closer to the main man – Jason Pierce. After all, I think I’m right in saying; Spiritualized is simply a vehicle for his musical ideas.
The band started with a slow, grinding, buzz guitar noise. Constant, heavy but in no way rocking as Pierce nonchalantly murmured the lyrics of Amazing Grace. It was enough to grab my attention and make others whoop and cheer as the sound was left to drop a decibel or two before the second track burst in, all guns blazing. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING had instantly been turned up to 11 and the strobes were having their own epileptic fit, let alone causing one!
Still the song was slow, grinding with a buzz guitar that filled the air like we were all crammed into a telephone box. The sound was deafening but strangely not too loud. I can only explain the music as being like a very slow version of My Bloody Valentine at their best. This was great. This was something very special. So special that I wondered if all Spiritualized gigs were like this, or I was witnessing one of those shows, like the Jesus & Mary Chain North London Poly “Riot Gig” I will be able to say “I was there!”
The songs weren’t familiar to me. But they were to those around me. The music was mostly a slow burning psychedelic alternative rock. At times twisted, archaic prog rock elements; always self-indulgent and trippy. But then there were clear moments of Gram Parsons / The Byrds alt. Country and even a soft thrash that reminded me of Ace Of Spades by Motorhead (Come Together) rather than Pink Floyd’s Us & Them.
With my unfamiliarity I made a few of my own reference points to reminiscent sounds I could hear drift in and out. Mazzy Starr, The Stooges, My Bloody Valentine, Pink Floyd, Gram Parsons & The Byrds and also black gospel music. I don’t wish to offend anyone who holds Spiritualized in high places.
If you are reading this and you are now thinking of going to a Spiritualized gig then I have probably spoilt it for you because you are now going to expect a live show to blow your mind. But I can honestly say in the past 25 years there haven’t been many performances that have left me feeling quite so speechless.