Latitude Festival 2010: Rated!
United Kingdom | 20 July 2010
When Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn conceived the idea for his 'dream festival' could he imagine five years on Latitude will sell out with over 30,000 punters walking through the front door?
More importantly has the festival stayed true to its roots and those innocent fledgling aims, or has the temptation to enlarge and stop the festival losing money turned the dreams of Mr Benn in to nightmares? Christopher Swindells finds out.
Overall - 9/10
Under the somewhat unexpected, yet thoroughly welcomed Suffolk sun, the 4,000-acre estate that houses Latitude Festival 2010 looks nothing other than spectacular. The fifth outing for the festival is the biggest yet and alongside six Mercury nominated acts and some of the long standing crown jewels in the folk and popular rock scene is a feast of cultural delicacies hidden amongst lakeside stages and secluded woodland theatres. From a BAFTA screening of Four Lions with a rare Chris Morris Q&A to US heavy-weight stand ups Emo Philips and Rich Hall the festival is unlike Reading and its other contemporaries in that it puts the arts at the heart of its ethos. Where else could you witness for example the genius of Bret Easton Ellis alongside the shooting comedy star of ‘My Hero’, Ardal O’Hanlan? Rhetorical questions aside the most tranquil, middle class of festivals seems to grow from strength to strength and with the sun shining this year punters ditched the Hunter wellies for Ray Bans and their best Jack Wills threads for a ‘rah’ good time.
The Site - 9/10
Idyllic is a word often misused and abused in the literary sense but Latitude is one of the rarest breeds of festival that rejoices in a natural beauty and organic quality worthy of that title. A mix of sheltered woods, open fields and a fresh water lake that runs through the spine of the site, complete with floating flower arrangements and dragonflies hovering. Whether holding the gaze of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the Faraway Woods, or sunbathing at the side of the lake to the toe-twirling gusto of Swan Lake the site really does feel like a private piece of paradise.
Travel - 6/10
If you look on the map you’ll find ‘the middle of nowhere’ sign-posted somewhere between Lands End and Middle Earth. Which is all well and good until you try tapping that into a Sat Nav and get stuck somewhere between Norwich and Ipswich behind a tractor and weekend convention of caravanning enthusiasts. Road use is at peak hours unbearably slow but once out of Southwold country access to London, and the M1 north is comparatively easy.
A PR campaign to ‘travel green’ this year may have been a little optimistic when you look at what the festival’s really in need of: a reliant bus service between site and nearby train stations. Services to Ipswich take over an hour and are infrequent at worst, while the schedule to Halesworth station is laughable when you consider the extra trains put on for the weekend can hold a meagre 100 passengers each.
Atmosphere - 8/10
If your Maclaren Buggy hasn’t seen much off-road action of late then Latitude will provide the family conscious festival solution. A mix of age groups it can feel at times like a reunion of the world’s largest middle-class family, as mothers breastfeed newborns in sight of the main stage, teenagers tear up woodland trails and elderly couples enjoy book readings and the escapism of riverside ballet. This mood of contented cheer is however soured this weekend by the news of two reported, unrelated sexual assaults which soon travels around the Latitude site and hangs over proceedings, tainting the fairytale purity of the family-friendly festival.
Music - 8/10
It should be said the weekend is more a cultural experience than musical one, featuring comedy, poetry, literature, film, and performance arts across a spectrum of genres. Nevertheless some of the musical highlights include London folk scenester Laura Marling (8/10) with powerful renditions from her latest album. Hockey (5/10) remain far too trendy for this VF reviewer – so ‘rad’ was lead singer Benjamin Grubin’s backwards baseball cap, it defines comment. Angus and Julia Stone (8/10) put in a mesmerisingly chilled folk-rock performance that borrows heavily from ‘A Book Like This’ then from hit musical Grease as Damien Rice makes surprise appearance to cover ‘You’re The One That I Want’. Grizzly Bear (9/10) prove to be a closing act deserving of the hype whilst Vampire Weekend (8/10) produce a typically upbeat set to finish their summer commitments.
Brooklyn’s Yeasayer (9/10) embody the strain of artistic vitality that runs through Latitude. The three piece can do no wrong with their electro-pop boogie, their latest effort ‘Odd Blood’ has all the infectious melody to move a tent full of people with hits like ‘Ambling Alp’ and set closer ‘O.N.E.’
Mumford & Sons (10/10) defy all expectations in their early slot by pulling the biggest crowd of Sunday at only half past three in the afternoon and overcome sound problems to produce the performance of the weekend. Indulging in the indie-folk magic that has propelled them to superstar status with just the will of one platinum-selling debut album.
Belle and Sebastian (9/10) are certainly the musical coup of the weekend, as headliners they play their first UK show in four years to the most expectant of crowds. Dripping new life onto old fan favourites ‘Step into my Office Baby’ and ‘If you’re Feeling Sinister’ they revel in the warm Suffolk glow with a new song and even get a cluster of lucky fans dragged on stage for a farewell dance off.
Halfway through the appearance of Spoon (4/10) a hurried Adam Buxton can be seen striding towards the small huddle of people sheltering by the stage. Arguably spotting Adam Buxton is the most interesting thing that happens during the set as the Texan rockers fail to do their 16 years of musical majesty any sense of justice.
Another linchpin of the nineties indie scene James (5/10) should be well suited with their theatrical eccentricities but fail to connect and seem almost antiquated to the proceedings. Rolling out the same old hits can’t save a performance that’s lacklustre from the start.
Seeing seventy-year-old Welshman Tom Jones (7/10) play his new gospel album in the woods Thursday evening can only be described as the stuff dreams are made of. Yet as the vocalist whipped the throng of thrown thongs from his face he couldn’t quash the calls for some classic oldies. Worse still if the late announcement of a midday Sunday slot was meant to appease wanting fans then repeating the exact set with no airing for ‘Delilah’ or ‘Sexbomb’ only leaves the early-risers disappointed.
An award must go to Alice Glass for her whisky induced outbursts at one female fan who ‘groped’ her while crowd surfing through Crystal Castles (4/10) ill-fitting evening set. Punching the teenage fan in the face must have taken some effort considering how hard she seemed to find just standing.
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