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.

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