There’s a reason why they call Latitude the mother of all arts festivals. Firstly, there’s that line-up to contend with – if you’re not rubbing shoulders with self-styled queen of punk Vivienne Westwood in the Literary Arena, you’re channeling some third wave feminism in the Theatre tent with the Royal Shakespeare Company. It’s enough to leave even the biggest kids all tuckered out.
Sadly, we arrive onto the well-trodden fields of Henham Park just before Lily Allen steps out to the (potentially dubious) crowds that have gathered before the Obelisk Arena – no doubt, somewhat frustrated by the lack of glass-eyed indie disco from Northern Irish trio Two Door Cinema Club, who dropped out due to an illness just days before the event. Turns out, if you’re looking for indie shuffle, Allen has bags of it and swagger, to boot. With Friday dissolving against the backdrop of lyrical sensibility and socially savvy put downs (critic bashing ‘URL Badman’, a particular highlight) we look ahead to the weekend and report back, with ears a-fresh on the top picks from Saturday and Sunday of this year’s festival.
Horse Party, The Lake Stage
Another thing old mothership Latitude does well is plucking out some of the finest local fare. For the nostalgic amongst us (and the shrewd local music fan to the area) Horse Party bring together something of a regional Top Trumps in Ellie Langely (former Diastole) Seymour Quigley (Miss Black America) and Shannon Hope (Glory Glory) with a penchant for sprawling Lynchian soundscapes. Not surprising really considering much like Lynch himself, the trio grew up in the small-town setting, although admittedly, theirs of self-dubbed “rock city” Bury St Edmunds. Former single ‘Back To Mono’ builds and quivers, much like Agent Cooper’s anguish over the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, whilst slow-burner ‘What I’d Do’ dishes out brazen hooks a plenty with the hope of “feeling new”. “We’ve always wanted to play near Beccles”, admits a droll Quigley from beneath a Frischmann flop and as the set comes to a crashing close, it’s job well done for this jennet jamboree.
It happened last year. You know, that extreme and unvetted assumption that this is a band you are going to love. Like really love. And then, in last year’s instance, huge and unwavering disappointment at a semi-present band and a ropy rendition of much of the online ‘hits’. Nestled across the lake beneath a canopy of trees, Brooklyn lo-fi quartet TEEN, thankfully, do not disappoint, plunging into the prog odyssey of recent single ‘Rose 4 U’. Astounding choral vocals swell from the outfit boasting a serious knack when it comes to innovative songwriting . As the bassline of synth led ‘Tied Up and Tied Down’ slinks through the forest, Kristina “Teeny” Lieberson and co’s vocals dance around the trees like whispering spirits so much so that sometimes, you’re hard pushed to actually place their maker, lost in the layer of choices. And so in a rousing turn of affairs, we can rest safe in the knowledge that this foursome were ones to watch and in fact, we don’t particularly want to stop. Languid and loose ‘All The Same’ flirts with a spot of voice modulation and as the track, and set, saunters to a close, TEEN are awash of multi-coloured psychedelia.
Elliphant, The Alcove
Swedish pop freshman Ellinor Olovsdotter – performing under the most excellent moniker of Elliphant (geddit?) – has stirred quite the crowd in amongst the greenery at this year’s Alcove Stage but it’s obvious from pretty early on, those hoping for a sit-down beneath the mottled shade best move on. Olovsdotter was clearly schooled in the same abrasive lyrical spats as provocative pop heavyweight M.I.A and possesses the same poignant culture nods in troop rallying ‘Revolusion’. Slow builder ‘Could It Be’ sits alongside Katy Perry’s trappy ‘Dark Horse’ with its Prism-esque drop and grind. While most artists of the recent Nordic fold have carefully spun glacial electronica, Elliphant has skittered past this electric feel and dived into far dirtier territories. Recent single ‘Down With Life’ is a ride alongside the same neo-noir art house infused vibes of Kavinsky’s Drive title sequence ‘Nightcall’, and much like the smooth vocals from CSS’s Lovefoxx, these slow jams are x-rated.
Image credit: Jen O’Neill
First Aid Kit, Obelisk Arena
As the afternoon sun casts its golden hue over Henham Park, Swedish sisters First Aid Kit are quite literally Staying Gold with the huge swathes of fabric that sit behind the band for their Obelisk slot. As the dust picks up across the trodden fields under foot, the band treat us to a selection of folk at its finest, both old and new. Johanna and Klara Söderberg are no stranger to the rural setting, their woodsy harmonies conjuring up the vast tracks of their motherland. Giddy over their fortune of catching Conor Oberst’s set on the 6 Music stage , the pair explain their most recent record was pulled together alongside producer and multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis back in Oberst’s hometown of Nebraska. The pair skipping into the soul searching sounds of ‘Waitress Song’ and eyes blazing into the bittersweet brilliance of ‘In The Hearts of Men’. “We love Simon and Garfunkel”, Johanna tells the crowd and their influences are certainly apparent in Graceland steeped ‘Master Pretender’, with its tumbling toms and hand plucked strings. Stepping into the seminal sounds of ‘America’, which seems to impress, it’s cover galore as the pair boldly take on the folk majesty of Bob Dylan’s ‘One More Cup of Coffee’, boasting some wry pedal steel. It seems only fitting then to sidle up full circle into the dusty desert sounds of ‘Wolf’ and similarly beastly and breathtaking, ‘The Lion’s Roar’ before curtain call.
Robyn and Röykspp, BBC Radio 6 Music Stage
Joining the steadfast crowd who have flown the Britpop coop of Damon Albarn’s main stage set, we enter the bionic glitter ball odyssey between idiosyncratic Swedish pop heroine Robyn and the two headed Norwegian juggernaut Röyksopp. Giving France’s androids Daft Punk a run for their money, the beatmakers are cloaked in something between chain mail and iridescent lustre. This, of course, isn’t a new pairing: the coupling have graced one another’s records in the past but what’s both startling and memsermising to see is the sheer performance art behind such a creative collaboration. The epic dance wig out of ‘Monument’ leads us back to the urban causeway of Stockholm’s Trädgården, mere forms shifting beneath the Skanstull Bridge – the concrete greys, the strobes and flickering lighting rigs. The battle between Girl and Robot is almost like some odd, and futuristic, take on The Phantom of The Opera with the mechanical form of Berge (could it be Brundtland?) lurching over the singer. As the visuals kick in for undisputed club anthem ‘Do It Again’, Robyn is in her element stuttering between the pop glitch and surging synths. Metallic and magnificent: Robyn and Röyksopp are The Girl and The Robot in an intergalactic love affair.
Valerine June, BBC Radio 6 Music Stage
What better way to rise and shine on the so-called day of rest than with the self-coined moonshine roots music of Tennessee native, Valerie June. Keeping her shades well and truly on, June addresses the crowd in her Southern drawl: “I’ve changed this next one up a bit”. “It’s always about killing women”, she adds. A mainstay in country and folk, June’s take on the traditional poetry of a murder ballad falls out of her fingers as they trace the wounded chords up and down the fretboard. Paying her respects to the American US blues singer Robert Johnson, June soothes: “If I can’t have you, then nobody can”. Treating the afternoon crowd to the electric groove of her latest record Pushin’ Against A Stone that could easily soundtrack the black comedy cult classic True Romance: all sprawling desert stretches and steely stares at sundown. Teasing the slide guitar shuffle of ‘You Can’t Be Told’ from her Gibson double cutaway, the live rendition drums up a rousing crowd led a capella response to the church chants of June’s mantra, as our divine preacher exits stage left with a tambourine skip. A bona-fide blues legend in the making.
Chrissie Hynde, Obelisk Arena
From the very back of the fields leading up to the Obelisk Arena, the savvy of us will know who is waiting in the wings to take to the stage. Flanked by a triptych of Swedish flags (which she informs the crowd of, in case the er, “Americans didn’t know”) Chrissie Hynde greets us with a taste of her debut solo offering Stockholm with creeping cry of album track ‘In My House of Cards’. Dipping into The Pretenders back catalogue, Hynde is nostalgic and humble, dedicating 70s single ‘Kid’ to jazz luminary Jimmy Scott and asking him to “get the kettle on, it won’t be long”. Shuttling forward forty years into the newer sounds of rollicking blues number ‘Down The Wrong Way’ – which in studio form features none other than rock and roll royalty Neil Young on wailing strings – welcomes a velveteen clad dancer to the stage on the impromptu request of Hynde (if only the same could be said for the guitarist’s numerous barks of “More guitar” to the sheepish looking sound man). A nod to one of her favourite songwriters Morrissey, who she assures us “sends his love”, comes in the form of her take on ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’. Weighed heavy with hits, Hynde rattles through the indie swagger of ‘Talk Of The Town’, the guttural “oohs” and “aahs” of ‘Back On The Chain Gang’ and, to the crowd’s elation, power ballad juggernaut ‘Stand By You’: “You must’ve wanted to see something cheesy or you wouldn’t have come early to see us”. Hearing the first chords of seminal coming of age track, ‘Brass in Pocket’ ring out across the heads of the mac clad crowd, it’s impossible to deny Hynde her divine status. Now, for goodness sake, get that woman so more guitar in the monitors!
Haim, Obelisk Arena
LA sister trio Haim have pretty much been living out of their tour bus since a successful SXSW performance back in 2012. Latitude is the last date of their UK tour as eldest sister Este points out, in between stretching her chops around *that* bass face. So, having toured their debut ‘Days Are Gone’ for what must have been over a year and a half now, you’d be forgiven for thinking the band might be a little weary. In fact, they’re right at home so much so that we’re invited to “come into their living room” voyeurs to their afternoon jam. Opener ‘Falling’ is enough to placate the hit loving teens who have waited out for this set whilst mid-set wailing riff out (which we will later pin down as Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’) squashes any flyaway pop ditty snubbery. There’s more nods to Paul Simon’s Graceland in lilting world beat effort ‘Honey and I’ and, despite a few synth malfunctions, ‘My Song 5’ throws out some RnB grinds worthy of Este’s call out for us all to “shake those titties and asses”. Part way in, Danielle sidles up to the kit at the back of the stage (because, of course, she’s a multi-instrumental polymath with flowing Herbal Essence sheen) and kicks out the opening beats of cover number two. Answering our pop prayers, Alana’s staccato riffs saunter into a sultry rendition of Beyonce’s ‘XO’. The vitriolic crash of brooding ‘Let Me Go’ completes this slick sibling set: all three sisters doused in shadow pounding the beat of a different drum. It felt right, it felt ri-ght.
Lykke Li, BBC Radio 6 Music Stage
Sticking with the Nordic theme and another artist who has benefited from the Euro-dance production savvy of Björn Yttling of Peter Björn & John, Swedish songstress Lykke Li (first name Lykke Li, last name Zachrisson) wounded rhymes lures us inside the mouth of the 6 Music tent and away from the hum-drum drone of garage rock duo, The Black Keys. Remarkably upbeat for an artist who so often seems to relish in the morose and monochrome, Li’s stage show is electric – a brash strike of snare here, a sharp battle cry there. The sweepingly romantic ‘I Follow Rivers’ oozes into the babytalk chorus of former single ‘Little Bit’ which thankfully is suitably offset by the seedy ‘96 Tears’-derived organ of lovelorn ‘Rich Kid Blues’. Abashedly admitting to the first few rows, “I’ve been drinking a bit, sorry”, we’re all in it together for the final slog (and slug) of this year’s festival. Electro stomper ‘Youth Knows No Pain’ shuffles in with a party swank with the call to “come get down”; we come together and join the parade. Lykke Li then. Not as black and white as her primitive youth novels might have you believe. A sincere work of heart.
Words: Cheri Amour
Photography: Gem Hall
Follow Cheri on Twitter – @thedivinehammer