Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Musings on Latitude Festival 2008

I originally came up with the idea of going to Latitude Festival this year as a 30th birthday present for my friend Harriet - it was going to be a girlie weekend with just the two of us. And for me, my main summer holiday. Then we found out that loads of our other mates were also going, including Harry's boyfriend, so it quickly became a gang outing. I'd only ever been to festivals with a partner before, so it was a whole new experience for me being part of a mob of ten for the duration. Not that we spent all our time together - inevitably we wanted to see different things and ended up drifting off into smaller groups or going solo at various points, but we managed to meet up regularly, even without the help of mobile phones.

Daytimes were filled with gig-going and walking between stages (it's quite a big site to get round, though the scenery makes it more bearable), with the headline acts coming on at about 9.30pm. There was still plenty to do after the bands had finished, and each night held its own unique magic.
On Friday, Harry and I had our girlie bonding time, running around the woods, dancing, chatting to random people and sampling the interactive exhibits such as the Digital Funfair and the Bad Ideas Press (where you wrote down confessions and they published them). We were surprised to be the last back to the tents, as the sun was just on the brink of rising. I stayed out late (early) again on Saturday on my own (and had a ball) and on Sunday we managed to keep the whole gang together for a boogiefest in the cabaret and comedy tents that saw us dancing to Blur, INXS, The Gypsy Kings, Gloria Jones and Motorhead among other madcap tunes.

The whole weekend was a real adventure, and I couldn't possibly capture it all in a single blog, but here is a little taster...

--- Cultural Highlights ---

Martha Wainwright Seasick Steve
Sigur Rós, Martha Wainwright and Seasick Steve - © Rowan Stanfield

My second gig of the festival, on the 'BBC Introducing' Lake Stage, was Kyte, a youthful bunch of pretty boys with pretty tunes to match. Somewhere between Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Rós, and right up my street.

Undoubtedly the buzziest gig of the weekend (everyone was talking about it afterwards) was former hobo Seasick Steve, who brought us all together with his mischievous banter and infectious blues riffs.

We already have most of Sigur Rós's albums at home, but I had mixed feelings until seeing them live on Saturday night. I'd anticipated pretentious downbeat dirge, but was pleasantly surprised to discover magical euphoric symphonies. The whole Steam Punk garb was rather amusing too.

On Sunday night, I'd intended to go and see Tindersticks as my final gig while the others were at Interpol (why?), but accidentally went to the wrong stage (it had been a long weekend, OK?). All was not lost though, as I ended up stumbling across a fantastic little jazz funk band playing in a gazebo outside the cabaret tent, and stayed watching them instead - a much more fitting end to the festival for me. I was unreliably informed (by an overexcited drunken dad) that the name of the band was Sweet Pea, although I haven't been able to verify this.

I also really enjoyed Ken Campbell doing improv in the Theatre tent; Nic Dawson Kelly, Slow Club and Soko (all new discoveries) at the Sunrise arena; Beth Orton, The Breeders, Grinderman and Foals on the main (Obelisk) stage; and Howling Bells, Martha Wainwright and Noah & the Whale in the Uncut tent.

--- Encounters ---

The Cardiff crew

Not always wanting to see the same stuff as the others in my gang, I spent quite a bit of time doing my own thing, especially on Saturday, and ended up chatting to lots of strangers as a result. Everyone was very friendly and affable, and a jolly, conspiratorial atmosphere prevailed...

Some of the people I particularly enjoyed meeting: the dapper chap in the queue at the 24 hour supermarket, a fellow air-guitar hero at the woodland stage during my GNR mosh moment, a second well-coiffed young man outside the toilets and a couple of the more chatty fellow-photographers in the pit.

Most fondly remembered though are the entertaining Cardiff gang who invited me into their fold for the latter part of Saturday night, when all my friends were either MIA or asleep. What a lovely bunch.

--- Memorable Moments ---

Legs on Tree Piano Jam in Gazebo Nick in My Vest
Woodland artwork, piano jam and Nick in vest - © Rowan Stanfield

Being called "pretentious and gay" by a total stranger whilst taking photos of artwork in the woods on the first night.

Joining a spontaneous chorus of Bohemian Rhapsody with about 40 other people, all packed into a small gazebo with a piano.

Giving Nick my star-spangled vest to wear for the Julian Cope gig.

Moshing and air-guitaring to Guns n Roses at the woodland stage during Friday night's DJ set.

Coming up with the notion of a Jean Michel Jarre vs George Michael tribute band called George Micheal Jarre.

Having a good cry to the ephiphanic sounds of Sigur Rós.

Being surprised to find myself dancing to one of the more upbeat Sigur Rós tunes.

Writing a story in the woods with my new friend and fellow note-keeper, John.

Playing table tennis (badly) outside the Digital Funfair with Sheldon.

--- Overheard ---

Cat Lady Harry with Headphones Son on Shoulders
Cat lady, Harriet in headphones and father-son moment - © Rowan Stanfield

Festivals are always a great place for people-watching and eavesdropping. Latitude was no exception, with its eclectic mix of punters providing plenty of material for my notebook. Here is a selection of snippets heard and said during the course of the weekend. Interpret them as you will.

"You could ride a badger with a worm on a stick"

"I'm scarred and hard on my mental insides"

"Watch my guy ropes, bitch."

"Rowan is a mentally insulting frisbee"

"She's like a sassy combination of PJ Harvey and Rolf Harris"

"Why don't you be Kirsty?"

"Don't get me started on poached eggs"

"I thought I was at Latitude but I'm on the fucking Death Star"

--- Missed It, Missed Out ---

There's no way you could possibly do everything at Latitude, but I was particularly disappointed to miss:

Buzzcocks playing during Mark Lamarr's DJ set on Saturday night. The tent was full when we got there, so we went to the woods instead.

Photographing Nick Cave - my camera battery died just as Grinderman came on, and we only had one song in the pit.

Tindersticks. I went to the wrong stage, dur! There was so much else going on that I also annoyingly missed Anya Marina, Ida Maria, I Am Kloot, Mark Thomas, Emmy the Great, Sebastien Tellier (who I heard was amazing), Phill Jupitus, Marcus Brigstocke and Midnight Juggernauts all of whom I had planned to catch, but somehow didn't.

But Latitude was only festival two of five this summer, so there are plenty more musical delights to come over the next few weeks. Next stop, Kendal Calling...

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