Arriving at the Green Man festival site around mid day on Thursday and avoiding the wristband exchange queues later in the afternoon also meant plenty of lush green grass to pitch the tent on. The weather held for the entire weekend. Very cold Thursday night and very overcast on Saturday but, whoever was controlling the water tap above the mountains this year, kept it in the off position, with just the occasional drip of warm Welsh rain, all weekend. Tans and smiling faces guaranteed!
I don’t think I have even seen so many children at a festival but there was plenty to keep
them occupied including the rather wonderful Einstein’s garden (for big kids too).
Thursday night had the brilliant (twin) guitarist, Rodney Branigan delivering an acoustic
blues set, followed by the hilarious Tim Minchin with a guest spot on the Far Out stage.
The end of his set included a crowd 'sing along' to Leonard Cohen’s hallelujah.
Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party began almost by mistake in 1997 like an impromptu band practice crashing into a backyard bar-b-que spilling into the neighboring streets. Back then, it was a one-day event on a single stage in the epicenter of Capitol Hill.
Capitol Hill is arguably the most eclectic and entrepreneurially driven neighborhood in the emerald city. 14 years later this three-day festival happens on multiple stages with line-ups that have included MGMT, The Dead Weather, Sonic Youth, Vampire Weekend, The Dodos, Visqueen, Silversun Pickups, Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes, The Gossip, The Thermals, The Melvins, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Mudhoney and Built to Spill.
Three consecutive days of perfect sunny summer weather in Seattle is a rarity but luckily this year for the 20,000 plus in attendance to catch headliners like TV on the Radio, Ghostland Observatory, Explosions in the Sky and The Head and the Heart sunscreen and cold beer beat out coffee and wellies.
A dry day in London until a short sharp shower as the Coral came on (later in the evening) and a midday start for Faust, the timing of which was surprising for a ‘name’ band. They put in a great effort though, dry ice and all … not bad for a midday start.
Willy Mason next on the (fairly medium sized) main stage and a nice set, which the still sparse audience soaked up whilst laying on the grass searching for a view rays. The day was generally overcast but thankfully dry.
A stroll around the seven stage site leads us to The Greenwich Tea Party. A group of young musicians with nice song witting sensibilities. Goth wannabee band Toy next. A band ideally suited for their support slot on the upcoming Horrors UK tour.
Mark Kozalek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon) was solo with a guitar and as atmospheric as ever. He was not at all happy with the sound leakage from the other stages. At one point. When trying to start a song; he described his predicament as, “like trying to have sex with someone, whilst they were on the phone”. A large and reverential crowd carried him though. The Union Chapel will be in for a treat later this week.
Main stage next for the crazy zany abstract free form jazz of the Sun Ra Arkestra before heading back to The Millage Mentality stage for an equally zany (this time, with a west coast feel) Aerial Pink’s Haunted Graffiti who, certainly got the crowd in party mood.
A mighty Electrelane stormed the main stage next with some subtly channelled power. Back at Field Day after its first year appearance and subsequent five years hiatus, it is great to have this band back!
John Cale was in fine fettle and with a powerful band delivered straight to the point songs, quite refreshing.
My ‘coolest band on the planet’ is currently Warpaint and the ladies again lived up to that title. As always they are all about the music (and with a jam element) they bind effortlessly together into a groove that bleeds coolness, in my eyes anyway.
A big crowd for their early evening show and with Wild Beasts looking on from the sidelines of the stage (I noticed some Warpaint people watching Electrelane earlier) they put on a great and by now well practised show.
The rest of the evening was spent wandering as by now the site was full to capacity. The Coral brought the rain and well, a Coral performance. Ana Calvi was much the same in an Ana Calvi performance sort of way. Ana has been on the road close to a year now and from a support slot with Interpol at Brixton last year to headlining the Shepherds Bush Empire, this autumn. Quite an achievement.
The tent for the Horrors was rammed so it was down to Wild Beasts to round off the night. A band from Kendal and with a pretty unique sound mainly led from the falsetto vocals of Hayden Thomas. One thing noticed was that the Beasts just never seem to go past about the 5th fret up the guitar neck as they play everything in such a high register. They are excellent though. Deserved headliners, although they need to get a better bit of between song banter than 'cheers guys!' over and again A fine band to end a fine day in Tower Hamlets!
Following on from last year’s disappointments around the overcrowding on the site, stretched facilities, trouble in the camp site and general change in vibe of the entire festival, added to which a below par booking policy (Paulo Nutini as a Saturday headliner, Paloma Faith above Bright Eyes etc), I decided on just a Friday ticket this year. I have attended every Latitude since it started for the full weekend so it was not a decision taken lightly.
As it turned out it seemed I was not the only one making that decision, the site really was not anywhere near full on the Friday even though improvements had been made, toilets and an extra bridge across the river to name two.
The coverage of the festival on Sky Arts must have helped the coffers, in relation to the lower numbers attending and an interview with Melvin Benn on the TV where he said something along the lines of “”the music complements everything else”, I guess gives a clue to the booking policy. Still having said all that, Friday was a brilliant day of music and the sun shone all day long!
Starting off at 11.30 with ethereal Braids on the Sunrise stage (in the woods) was brilliant, as the sun poked between the trees. The Word Tent for a very confident AVI Buffalo followed by a perfect Duke & The King who are now at the top of their game, even adding pedal steel and an extra vocalist to some songs. Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’ was emotional and stunning.
Back to Sunrise for The Phantom Band who pretty much attacked the set “all guns blazing”. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan were great and with a fine band serenaded the main stage crowd during mid afternoon.
Deerhunter “Hi we are Deerhunter from America” A storming 45 minutes later, after being unplugged by the stage crew “Bye Britain”.. A truly great set.
Back over to the main (Obelisk) stage for Bright Eyes, who must have forgotten they have a new album out, and played a great selection of songs, even to the point of a Jonathon Rice & Jenny Lewis accompanied Gillian Welch cover. Another great set.
A bit of a breather for food and the Lake stage for a rather cool Still Corners and a dance about ‘Admiral Fallow’ followed by Dutch Uncles who would need a bit of work to get into with a very distinctive vocalist.
Finally it’s The National. reappearing at the same festival where they headlined the Word tent the year before (2010) putting on a stunning performance. This was the band’s third trip to Latitude overall and their first as festival headliners.
Main stage means a longer set, use of the now customary video backdrop plus, a higher expectation of the band and a bigger crowd to win over. All of that was achieved in fine style during a set approaching two hours.
The video backdrop showed the band back stage, them climbing the steps onto the stage. Matt had a head camera on which, when he ran out of cable, snapped him backwards. “That’s Show business” he said as the band launched into ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’,.followed by ‘Anyone’s Ghost’. Later on, a subtle ‘Slow Show’ followed by ‘Sorrow’ with added Annie Clark or St. Vincent as she is better known, bringing Brooklyn and Queens together. Annie appeared off and on during the rest of the set. The crowd were hooked start to finish of the main set which concluded with Fake Empire. Matt had stayed on the stage the whole time!
Encore, we get told this song is twelve years old and ‘Son’ is performed in such a mesmerising manner that it brings a lump to the throat. ‘Mr November’ sees Matt finally in the crowd and the unamplified ‘Vandelyle’ is sung, but where Matt was, I have no idea. Absolutely brilliant, that is two years running this band has wooed a Latitude crowd.
Sorrow (with St. Vincent)
Available (With St. Vincent)
Driver, Surprise Me
Think You Can Wait
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks (With St. Vincent)
No ‘Guilty Pleasures’ this Friday, so a wander around the site, Haggis and Whiskey and then it’s off home before the rain comes. Lightweight I know, but I was pleased I was there for that stunning day of music.
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