My Latitude No 6. No 12 for the festival. An annual fixture now, for me and my friend Jon G and various members of our families and their friends. Not our wives though! The thought of four nights and days roughing it doesn’t appeal. This year we were twelve, including Jon’s friends Rick and Adrienne and their daughter. Pitched tents in same place, next to the same people as last year – a couple in their late sixties, still loving their music. Setting the benchmark!
The great thing about Latitude – and any festival really – as that you know some of the best moments will come from bands and people you’ve never heard of beforehand. And so it was this year, if not more so than usual. That was because, for me, the headliners, especially on the main, Obelisk, stage, were a bit underwhelming: The 1975, Mumford and Sons and Fleet Foxes. Don’t dislike any of them, but, y’know. I also thought, glancing through the line up, that it was a bit lacking in rock’n’roll. Wrong again!
So here is my Latitude – very different to anyone else’s Latitude. Not better, just different. That’s the beauty of it – there are so many different Latitudes.
Thursday 13 July
We were up there by mid-afternoon. Time to chill and catch up with people. There’s a fairly limited bill on Thursday evening, but I caught a few interesting things in the new Speakeasy tent – a merger of the literary and poetry tents. Economic reasons? A shame, as it cuts the numbers of artists and events. The poetry tent was replaced by a Carlsberg “Danish Bar”. Carlsberg has ousted Tuborg as the monopoly provider of lager. It’s not the greatest, but it does the trick.
The poet John Osborne was telling wistful tales from his show Circled in the Radio Times, based on a collection of old copies of the Radio Times belonging to his late grandad. For those not of a certain age, the Radio Times was a TV and radio listings magazine published weekly by the BBC. John’s grandad used to circle the programmes he wanted to watch. That, and reflections on days gone by were the source material for an engaging show. John was selling his new book of poems too – No-one Cares About Your New Thing, more engaging and sometimes bizarre takes on ordinary life. I loved his last book, People Aren’t That Happy, Anyway, which I bought after seeing him perform in the poetry tent in 2015. Gave me a few ideas of my own… watch this space.
Next was a high energy poetry collective called Bang Said the Gun. They announced themselves to the sounds of 60s soul, balloons and plastic bottles with stones inside them for the audience to shake and rattle. The purists would blanche, but it was all good fun – and the poetry wasn’t bad either. My favourite was a tall, bearded, drole Yorkshireman called Rob Orton. Musing on how you get meat in heaven if nothing is killed. Very amusing.
Finally, the most listened-to podcast in the UK, apparently, My Dad Wrote a Porno. Basically one guy reads from an excruciatingly bad chapter of the imagined book ( I hope it’s imagined!), while two others constantly comment. It was very funny, including when two women came up from the audience to help recreate a scene. Nothing too outre, but a hoot.
Later there was a Prince tribute, Marcus Brigstocke presents Princefest – just people getting on stage to mime to Prince songs. But it was a reminder of the greatness of those songs.
Friday 14 July
First dilemma of the day: bacon bap or foot long hot dog for breakfast; second dilemma: Julia Jacklin on the BBC Music Stage or Pumarosa on the Obelisk. Had to be Julia, even though I’ve seen her three times since Glastonbury, or four if you count watching her Glastonbury show on the iPlayer.
She played the same set as at Field Day and Glasto, but I felt it was the best yet. Being under the roof gave atmosphere, Julia was in great voice and there was a real power to the set. Helped, no doubt, by the excellent sound in the BBC Music tent. Hay Plain was a strong start and new song Cold Caller had a great guitar splurge at the end. Of course Motherland and Don’t let the Kids Win were things of great beauty. The closing duo of Coming of Age and Pool Party rocked, with a searing solo from lead guitarist Eddie. Julia has been doing the festival rounds and it showed. This set was honed to perfection. Buy her album, Don’t let the Kids Win!
Stayed on in the BBC Music Stage for Formation, recommended by Jon’s son Louis. With the band all in black, I was reminded of the Horrors, with more of a dance beat. I was getting The Rapture too. Good references. A band whose music I’ll be checking out.
It was then down to the venue for new bands, the Alcove, for a folk/country singer called Catherine McGrath. I liked what they said about her in the blurb, including the Kacey Musgraves influence. She’s from Northern Ireland, has been to Nashville, and plays and sings beautifully. Songs mostly of lost love, but with a realism and an edge. Really liked her show. An absolute shoo-in for the follow up.
Back to the BBC Music stage for Japanese House, a London band fronted by Amber Bain. Not sure what the Japan connection is – probably just liked the name. The material is singer-song writer style, embellished by electric guitars and a good beat. Amber played a Fender Mustang left-handed. I was reminded a bit of Shura and even Daughter. The kids thought the XX. And that is a massive recommendation from them. One to watch.
The place that rocked the most over the three days was the Lake Stage, the one that opens onto the main area for eating and drinking, lying down, etc. The first taste of punk and rock’n’roll energy was Superglu (sic). They are from Manningtree in Essex, apparently the smallest town in England (how do you decide?). Nothing new, but loads of Clash and a touch of Green Day. They got a good reaction. And some Jeremy Corbyn chants! Saw them again in the early hours of Sunday morning. Read on…
I then popped over for my first visit to my favourite stage, the Sunrise Arena, to see Sigrid, a Norwegian singer that the Guardian had given a good write up a while back. To my surprise the place was completely packed, mostly with youngsters. I was expecting a bit of Scandi-folk; instead it was a classic concoction of eurodisco pop with those rising choruses. It was greeted ecstatically. Not really my thing though, so after a few tunes I headed back to BBC Music for another Scandinavian band, The Radio Dept.
But I didn’t get there, because as I walked past the Lake Stage I caught Dead Pretties. More punk thrash with a hint of blues. Think White Stripes or Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. A London/Manchester band. Guitarist and singer Jacob Slater, worked himself into a real frenzy. Pure energy. Loved it! He even referenced Tom Waits in a Romeo is Bleeding monologue which introduced one song. Quite a bit going on in this music.
Back to the Sunrise for Marika Hackman. I like her music. She’s rocked up a bit since she was on the same stage in 2015 (check). Essentially Americana, and nothing wrong with a good bit of that.
Back at the BBC Music stage, Beth Orton drifted by. She made an iconic album in 1996, called Trailer Park, which got associated with triphop and Britpop. The song I remember best is She Calls Your Name. I still have that one on my chillout playlist. She didn’t play it – as far as I can remember. Strangely I can’t remember much about the set, and didn’t scribbled many notes. I can only conclude I was tired (early evening lull) or bored, or both.
But blimey, I woke up for the next show! Shame, on the Lake Stage. I knew a bit about them having almost reviewed them once, for an indie website I briefly wrote for. I knew they followed a bit in the footsteps of Fat White Family – wild, lary, noisy. Well they did! They were awesome. Singer Charlie Steen, who came on in a suit (sort of), most of which was eventually discarded, had a real presence. London wide boy, a bit sinister, possibly a football hooligan. He egged the crowd on and spent a fair bit of time in it. In the meantime, the rest of band, who looked quite ordinary, went pretty crazy on the guitars as they thrashed out some punk and rock’n’roll noise. Put a smile on my face!
Back to BBC Music again, for The Head and the Heart. My son Kieran recommended this one. Likeable Americana. Wrote in my notebook at one point, basically, the Eagles. Updated of course, but in a fine and mellow tradition. I hated the Eagles in the 70s, when I was into metal and then punk, but grew to appreciate their tunes later on. And so I liked The Head and the Heart too.
I went into bitty mode for a while after this. First a few songs from Lizabett Russo on the BBC Introducing stage, which is in the same place as the Lavish Lounge, a good place In the Woods to chill. She’s a Scottish/Romanian jazzy folkie. I thought that sounded interesting, and decided to skip the raucous show of HMLTD, whom I saw at Field Day. Jon had to go to see them again – they are undoubtedly entertainers. Anyway, Lizabett wasn’t quite right for me, so I wondered down to the Sunrise, having heard some hugely reverberating basslines coming from there. Always like a reverberating bassline! It was Forest Swords, the vehicle of a Merseyside producer, Matthew Barnes. He was playing an electronic wash of music, while a bassist pumped out ribcage-rattling rhythms. A screen portrayed forest images. It was an intriguing mix. I watched for about 15 muntes, but then had to dash off to the Alcove to see Norwegian pop punks, Slotface. Except I needn’t have, as they were only just setting up when I got there. This was another Guardian recommendation from a while back. I liked their style when I checked their videos. They were good, and I wish I’d had time to see the whole set. But I had to get back to the Lake Stage in time for the start of Cabbage, headlining that stage on Friday, in case they started with my favourite track “Dissonance”. (They didn’t).
A rapid ascent for Cabbage this year – a reward for their barnstorming shows. I reviewed one at the Lexington earlier this year, in which I predicted great things, because I thought they had that swagger. I’ve listened to the album since then, and two or three tracks aside, it didn’t really grab me. But they still had the swagger on the Lake Stage. A rocking show, with much moshing at the front. Shame, HMLTD, Cabbage in succession. The moshers had a field day at the Lake Stage on Friday.
It was time for The 1975, headlining the Obelisk. They are a good band, though I’ve never really given them a good listen. I went along with Jon and a few of the others, who wanted to go deep into a packed crowd to find a few of the other others. I held back after a while, as I wanted to make an escape at 10pm or so, to go down to the Sunrise. 1975 were good, and massively popular. The lead singer, Matty Healey, has real style and the tunes often have a Prince-like sheen to them, to my ears. The lighting and backdrop was striking.
So I wouldn’t have minded staying, but I fancied seeing BEAK>. We missed them at End of the Road last year. They are a trio which includes Geoff Barrow of Portishead. The Sunrise was atmospheric in the dark, with all the focus on these three players – one on guitar and synth, bassist seated and drummer. No great stage presence, but the music made up for that. A strident bass – more reverberation – tight rhythms and some early seventies psychedelic guitar and synths. I was thinking Hawkwind and pre- “Dark Side of the Moon” Pink Floyd, for some reason. It was captivating. Jazz, electro, dub – it was all in there somewhere. Glad I came.
And that was the end of the normal concert schedule. But not the end of the evening by any means. I wanted to get back to the main site, but both bridges were jammed with people either coming over to In the Woods or leaving, so I tried the Lavish Lounge, where reggae DJ Don Letts was due on at 11.30. The BBC Introducing stage was still going – a band called Solomons Garden. R&B, urban, two female rappers. Liked them and watched a bit, before going for a wander around Latitude in the early hours. Past the main dance arena, now sponsored by Smirnoff, with the usual big crowd getting on down. Descending to Sunrise, where there was some banging techno. Not tonight. Back over the bridge to stop by the dancing by the Lake Stage. Supposedly DJ Huw Stephens, though two women were DJ’ing as I went by. I went uphill then to see what was happening in the Music and Film, and Comedy arenas. In the first, I came across the Electric Swing Circus, a six piece band playing swanky swing and a bit of the music that became rock’n’roll. A classy step back in time, with loads of people jiving to the rhythms. Great fun. In the Comedy arena, the Guilty Pleasures disco was in full swing. Always a popular event, it was heaving. It’s moved beyond just the uncoolest hits which everyone loves really, to a celebration of mostly 70s and 80s classic. And if nothing else grabs your fancy, this cannot fail! Even our young posse – ages ranging from 17 to 23 – spent quite a lot of time there later on. It’s irresistible.
Further along, towards the Faraway Forest, there was a mini-techno dance happening, and just down the hill, Bar 3AM, in full flow, with its own dancetrack. Music everywhere! I didn’t bother with the Faraway Forest, home of cabaret and hippies, as I wanted to catch a bit of Don Letts. Many a good time has been had at past Latitudes, skanking to the reggae rhythms of Don Letts, and last year, David Rodigan. The set was very familiar – lots of great reggae covers of pop and rock songs, even Nirvana, to the fore while I was there. I didn’t spend too much time there this year – time was passing and it was only the first night proper. Gotta pace myself a bit at my age! Before I left, I thought I’d take one last look at what was happening at Sunrise. Got there and the beat seemed exactly the same as the one I heard an hour and a half earlier! Was the rest all a dream?
Of course not, and the music does vary a lot late at night at Sunrise. Just a coincidence – or am I turning into it-all-sounds-the-same grumpy old man? No, no, no. Never! Time for bed.
And I loved that walk around. So many different things going on. All those different Latitudes…
Saturday 14 July
The lunchtime slot began at Sunrise with Beans on Toast. Yes, Beans on Toast, the nom de plume of folk and protest singer Jay McAllister. He provided a funny start to the day. Simple ditties, with a bit of a skiffle feel to them, about love, drinking too much, the environment and today’s bizarre politics. His banter in between songs was engaging and, when it needed to be, serious. Like when he talked about fracking starting in Sherwood Forest. Sherwood Forest? How can that happen? The cue for a song about an old oak tree, 800 years old. Think of what it has witnessed. Is it now in danger? A good, amusing, but thought-provoking start to the day.
We stuck with the Sunrise – in my case because the big one was coming up, third on bill. American folk/country singer Gill Landry, from Louisiana was on next. He sang some affecting songs and played a fine electric acoustic guitar. I liked his set a lot.
But it was the prelude to…
Honeyblood! Yeah, my favourite new band, and rapidly becoming one of my favourites of all time. Really. And they were just fantastic today. Only got 35 minutes, so they stripped it down to their rock’n’roll set. Fair enough. Maximum impact in the time available. And it rocked! I have to write down the playlist, if only so I can remember in the future. Justine, Misery Queen – Choker – Love is a Disease – All Dragged Up – Sea Hearts – Super Rat – Killer Bangs – Ready for the Magic – Babes Never Die. A big crowd responded ecstatically. All Dragged Up was the moment that they really upped the pace. On record that song is lively, with its why don’t you grow up chant, but live the riffs are much harder and even faster. Wow! That, and Sea Hearts this time really sent a tingle down the spine. Cat on drums was amazing, thrashing the living daylights out of them, while Steena knocked out the riffs and sang with real passion. It’s a weird thing, but having bigged them up to all the gang, most of whom came along, I felt really proud of the band, even though I don’t know them and probably never will. And everyone liked them a lot. This gig must have been another step to a big future.
Like I wrote in my notebook, even though it was only 2.15pm on the Saturday, THE HIGHLIGHT OF LATITUDE!
After that, having got everyone to Honeyblood, we went along to another recommendation of Louis’. Declan McKenna, on the BBC Music stage. I’d never heard of him. A young lad, who plays a mean guitar and, with his band, really rocked. While remembering the need for melodies! Yeah, another big future, surely.
And then another Louis choice. One of his favourite bands, a pretty hardcore lot called Idles. They were pretty awesome on the Lake Stage. A bit frightening even! The moshing was the biggest I saw this year at Latitude. To call it punk would be an understatement. It was brutal. The guitarists and bassist went wild while the singer punched out lyrics like he was Jason Williamson from Sleaford Mods, except with more shouting. A great live experience, but I suspect they’d do my head in on record, if it was anything like the live sound.
Another rare foray to the Obelisk next, to see Glass Animals. I’ve heard a bit of them, but don’t know them too well. Their songs are intricate and, I guess, bring to mind the likes of Talking Heads, Vampire Weekend and Hot Chip, even Prince. Their sound was a bit lost on the vastness of the Obelisk stage – I’d have loved to see them on the BBC Music stage. Jon moved on after a few songs. I stuck it out and enjoyed it. This is a band I want to get to know better.
I had a little time to spare before the next music, so I had a choice of eating or catching a bit of Colm Toibin in the Speakeasy, being interviewed about his latest book, “Book of Names”. It’s a re-imagining of some of the Greek myths – Agamemnon and Clytemnestra and various family members, all trying to murder each other! Colm spoke with extreme erudition, and I enjoyed just wallowing in that intellect, a contrast to the general experience at Latitude, which is much more about feeling. And I felt quite sleepy sprawled on the grass too. Mellow. I love these interludes, but I couldn’t do it much, not at Latitude, with all the music on offer.
Back to the music, it was a choice between Two Door Cinema Club at the Obelisk, or Blaze of Feather, a mysterious group involving Ben Howard, who seems to be moving away from the limelight as much as possible. I like Two Door Cinema Club, but don’t really like spending too much time at the Obelisk and fancied the mystery option. So BBC Music stage it was. Blaze of Feather played an ambient guitar symphony. It was great, if you let it wash over you. Which I did. Late on a few of the boys joined me. They said Ben Howard was the one lurking in the shadows. I was trying to decide if he was the singer or other guitarist up front! I’ve seen him at Latitude before and like his music. But that didn’t help me identify him. Oh well. A good show – I’d like to hear the record; it could be quite atmospheric.
And then over to the Sunrise for one of the discoveries of the weekend. An American band called Twin Peaks. From Chicago, I think they said. A wonderful, good time punk/rock’roll band. With a debt to the Ramones no doubt. And all the great rock’n’rollers. Foo Fighters with better and shorter tunes. So upbeat. All swigging cans of beer, establishing a rapport with the crowd. Loved it. Must, must see them next time they come to London. Basically they rocked out, but the programme blurb talked about country and old and new rock, with a punk attitude. As I write I’ve been listening to their two albums. The latest, Down in Heaven from 2016, is not predominantly a rocker at all. I kept on being reminded of the Stones’ Exile on Main Street. But their first album, Wild Onion from 2014, rocked more. I guess, like a lot of bands, when they play live, the volume and distortion is ramped up, and the riffs hit harder. But yeah, that performance on Saturday was rock’n’roll as it should be – infectious riffs AND tunes. 3 minute tunes.
And then I went along with the masses. I watched the whole of Mumford and Sons. Jon and I failed to find each other, although we were probably within twenty metres apart at times. The whole arena was completely packed, allowing for the daytrippers taking up a lot of room for their picnic mats and seats. That’s the Obelisk for you – everyone has a different Latitude. Day trip, bring a picnic, your children. A nice day out. Latitude accommodates that as well as the music obsessives like me. And Mumford appeal to everyone. I’m amazed at how well they have done. Kieran and I were debating this at home later. He really likes them, like most of his generation. He said, if you’d seen them at the Sunrise Arena a few years ago you’d have raved about them. Nailed! It’s true. What I can’t figure is how they went from that scenario to the monsters they are today. But they have, and you have to respect the reaction they got from a massive crowd at Latitude. They had a spot for the great African singer Babaa Maal, which was admirable, but led to a rush for the bar and the loos. And they did something at the end which really lost me. They sang the Beatles’ With a Little help From my Friends, with all sorts of guests. Maggie Rodgers had a lovely voice – she was someone I’d missed earlier. But the collective was all too Live Aid. I’m not criticising Live Aid, but when bands get to this point, I want to say, don’t forget what got you here. I was in a minority of one in expressing any reservations about Mumford in my group, so I accept I just haven’t got it. I’ll stop digging the hole at this point!
Unusually, there wasn’t a competing act in the BBC Music tent at the same time as Mumford and Sons. Jack Garratt was held back until 11. That was good – meant we could see him too. And he was superb. I reviewed him at the Hammersmith Apollo last year. The set was similar. He has developed a real sense of drama that translates to a big crowd. He is a virtuoso and does show off a bit. But you say, fair play, he is brilliant. Comparisons with James Blake are no longer relevant. Highlights were The Love You’re Given, early on, and the awesome Worry at the end, where he rocked out on the guitar like he was Hendrix at one point. A great end to the concert day.
But as ever there was more. Just one thing I’ll mention this time. I wondered along to the Comedy tent again, and there was a gig called Hot Dub Time Machine. Basically a journey through some of the big dance and rap hits of the 90s and 2000s. the place was packed again and people were singing along to all the words. A lot of fun. I was there on my own, but got a tap on the shoulder. It was Kieran. He was with all the youth in our party. What a turn up. Dad gets there before the cool kids! We greeted each other, but I then kept my distance. Just didn’t want to be the embarrassing Dad. Too self-conscious? Maybe. But you need to give your and other kids the space. It was great just to hook up with them briefly. Have a few photos together. When Hot Dub was over I left them to the next session and spent a little time In the Woods before heading back to the campsite, feeling really good.
On the way I remembered Superglu, who’d played the Lake Stage on Friday, were on again at the Alcove at 1.15. It was about 1.30. I popped in, and enjoyed a bit more raucous punk. Just what you need in the early hours! Wow, it’s these moments you remember.
What a day, what a day.
Sunday 15 July
Sunday. Chillout needed at the start, although I felt a lot less tired than last year, after the Rodigan reggae session, which finished at 3am. This year, Jon and I headed to the Sunrise for a piano performance by Lubomyr Melynik. Something of a pioneer, according to the blurb. On the way, we passed the massed crowd for Katherine Jenkins on the Waterfront stage, by the Main Bridge, which was jammed. She is a superstar.
Lubomyr was a bit of a star too. His pieces were hypnotic, as he built layer upon layer of sound. Not unlike Nils Frahm in that respect. In between pieces he talked about how little of his music was available. His website had “collapsed”, but he had a few CDs to sell afterwards. He needs a good manager! This was seriously good music; but also perfect for lying on the grass, just outside the tent, on a languid Sunday afternoon.
He was a bit of a philospher too. I noted one phrase down. Everything is real, but not real. Yeah, you know what he means. It’s kind of the same as Hume and Berkeley were saying many years ago. My Latitude is not anyone else’s. Real but not real. Yeah man…
OK, after that, Jon and I checked out Rad Pitt on the Lake Stage. Another band in the Idles mould. Ranting at lunchtime on Sunday was a bit too much for us, I’m afraid. Weird, or maybe brilliant, programming. We headed for the BBC Music tent to see Tom Grennan. He’s a young singer who is a friend of a school friend of Kieran’s. So this one was a Kieran pick. And he was really good. Ostensibly not the stuff I listen to, but I can appreciate a good singer and good songs. And Tom Grennan nailed both of those. He had charisma, a great rapport with the crowd, and most important, a great voice. I was really impressed. An early crowd grew and grew as people heard it. He got a terrific reaction. In my usual, what-does-this-sound-like way, I thought, this guy could be the Robbie Williams for the new generation. Well, who knows, but there was a sense that the only way for Tom Grennan is up.
Afterwards I caught a bit of Ward Thomas on the Obelisk. Twins from Hampshire, with a Nashville sheen, they sang perfect country pop and will no doubt go far. For me it was a bit too slick. I like a rougher edge, rawer feelings. Lindi Ortega my perfect example. But the country sheen is what makes the bucks. Good luck to them.
I then couldn’t quite decide between Lisa Hannigan at BBC Music and Jessca Hoop at Sunrise. Jon went for the latter. I initially went for Lisa, for her ethereal vocals. But overall all it wasn’t really moving me, so I rushed down to the Sunrise. Again we chilled out at the back as Jessca played spartan beats (plucked bass strings on the guitar) and quirky folk pieces.
But next up at Sunrise, two really good bands.
First Girl Ray. Mark Radcliffe has been supporting them on 6 Music. Loved the choppy guitars and the wistful, almost French ambience of their tunes. Singer, Poppy Hankin, seemed quite nervous, or maybe just emotional at having this gig. They have some similarities to Blue House, a band I wrote about last year. Definitely one to follow.
Then the awesome Goat Girl. Loved their sound when they supported Moonlandingz at the Village Underground in Shoreditch. (Liked them way better than Moonlandingz). They came on all dressed up, with singer and guitarist Lottie (aka Clottie Cream?) wearing a striking silk jacket, but with loads of attitude. I thought their sound had really come together since the first time I saw them. They were good then, but now they were absolutely rocking. It’s not exactly rock’n’roll, though the punk riffs kick in from time to time. I hear Patti Smith, PJ Harvey and Sonic Youth in their sound. Which is an amazing combination. I’m really looking forward to their first album. One of the best things at this Latitude.
Then a bit of poetry. Like a bit of variety! I enjoyed Simon Armitage as I read his poetry, amongst others, with pupils with reading difficulties at the school where I’m a governor. He’s on the GSCE syllabus, which explores relationships of all sorts. His poems about father/son relationships are very touching. So I went to see his reading of poems for a new collection. They were more abstract, but he delivered them with style. An enjoyable interlude. Before The Jesus and Mary Chain!
Yes, JMC, the wild brothers of the 1990s. The classic discordant album “Psychocandy”. Laced with feedback over Beach Boy melodies and a couple of atmospheric tunes in Just Like Honey and Some Candy talking, which were perfect for films. The first was in one of my favourite films, Lost in Translation. They came on 15 minutes late, and were told during the set that they’d lost that time. Quite right. Every delay hits the artists on later. So we may have missed a couple of the old favourites, but we did get the two I mentioned just now. And a whole load of rocking tunes with awesome guitar by William Reid. He remained swathed by dry ice for most of the set, and the videos never showed his face, only his guitar, so something was going on here. Tension and stress. Really impressive set, even though I wasn’t familiar with most of it. Catch them again at End of the Road in September.
I met up with my friend Steve during JMC. He has a house near to Henham Park and he and the family come in each day for the music. So they sleep in comfort and have good showers. I say they miss the atmosphere! After JMC we went over to Solas – another chill out area, to see a new Sony artist, Leo Stannard. He was good. Excellent voice, good guitarist, a master of the loops, electronic and on guitar. Felt to me that he was being pitched somewhere between Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard. He’ll have the support; question is, will he have the artistic freedom? Look out for the name though.
I hooked up again with Jon for The Magic Gang, headlining the Lake Stage. They were new to me, but had a bit of a following. I really liked them. They looked geeky, but had some great riffs and melodies. Tunes! About half way through the set, I thought, yes, The Strokes. Not slavishly so, but the same feel is there. Another band I need to find out more about.
And then we piled into the BBC Music tent for Fatboy Slim. I was quite excited at the prospect. Some great beats, celebrations and a few of his classics. Surely? The place was rammed and pretty hot. It kicked off well. The beats and sounds building up to those moments they call the drop. The crowd were really into it. Videos, lasers. An overwhelming sensory experience. But after about half an hour I started to feel, is this going to change, are we going to hear any old favourites? We got teasing hints, but no more. It ploughed relentlessly on. I think Jon and I were on the verging of quitting at various stages in the hour and a half. But we stuck it out – and there were a lot of good moments. We met up with the kids, expecting them to rave about it. Us the grumpy old men. But no. They were pretty excoriating about it. Too samey. Where were the hits, the fun? The same feelings as us. Kieran was brutal about it. I almost felt like defending it. For what Fatboy Slim served up, 45 minutes would have been enough. A missed opportunity really. But still an event.
And that was it. All the gang had a drink together, and then everyone headed back to the campsite. Except I wanted to have a last look round the site. That’s become part of my ritual over the years. A feeling of just wanting that last experience, to say goodbye. With In the Woods the spiritual home, the place where so many of the best experiences have taken place.
And so I wandered over the bridge and down to Sunrise. Trevor Nelson, a top DJ was doing a set. When I got there he was delivering some 80s classics. Luther Vandross’s “Never Too Much”; Shalamar and “Night to Remember”. Two of the best tunes! I had my white socks, but where were my grey loafers? And then “Play That Funky music” by Wild Cherry, everyone chanting the chorus. Young people – they knew these songs. What a great vibe! I stuck around for a bit, but left when the techno kicked in again. Not because I don’t like it, but it didn’t give me a special moment, late on Sunday – or early Monday.
Back at the campsite everyone was still sitting around chatting. I joined the circle. Another twenty minutes or so. A Jack Daniels from Jon’s flask. A realisation that as our children and their friends grow older we start to have more in common. We talk on the same level. Don’t want to exaggerate that – we know when we aren’t needed. But it says that Latitude is going to be to the place, for years to come, when we really come together. Think of all the bands I saw this time because of recommendations from the youth.
May that continue!
The Top Ten
Alright, this has been a long blog. I’ve liked a lot of things. So this is my top ten bands of Latitude 2017. I have had to be brutal to get it down to ten. So many others I really liked and will follow up. And others I missed altogether because of clashes.
No 1 – Honeyblood – who else?
No 2 – Julia Jacklin
No 3 – Goat Girl
No 4 – Twin Peaks
No 5 – Catherine McGrath
No 6 – Jack Garratt
No 7 – Shame
No 8 – The Magic Gang
No 9 – Girl Ray
No 10 – BEAK>
Near misses to Dead Pretties, Declan McKenna, Tom Grennan, Jesus and Mary Chain, Cabbage and, of course, the philosopher pianist, Lubomyr Melynik!