On Sunday, we head off for more Early Edition to see if Debbie showed up. She did not; she had to teach aerobics classes, so I set off for the Obelisk stage for Thom Yorke. Despite releasing The Eraser three years ago now, Yorke has played a surprisingly small amount of solo shows, and he has never toured. The stage is packed with people vying for a glimpse of one of the biggest rockstars on the planet, and he strides out to massive applause.
Thom Yorke
Yorke is amazing at dealing with hecklers – there was the predictable scream of ‘I LOVE YOU!’, which was met with the response ‘Yes Dear. I’ll be home later’, and heckles were met with scathing putdowns. After playing in what is arguably the biggest rock band in the world for so long, Yorke is so confident that he doesn’t seem to care that the electronic pieces he plays are simplistic at best and are overall uninteresting compared to a great deal of electronic. His acoustic and piano performances are better, though, playing ‘old songs that have been left on the shelf’, as well as Radiohead covers. I leave after half an hour, after he has played a brilliant rendition of Everything In Its Right Place with just a piano and drum machine and pick my way through the crowd as he demos a new song that could end up as new solo material or a new Radiohead song, who knows?
Thom Yorke
Although a good set, it is far from the best thing on offer. Over in Music and Film, Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard is about to play, so I set off to meet Sarah and Ed, and arrive in the middle of a weird short film about people who eat roadkill and live on Bodmin Moor (best line: ‘You ate my puppy!’).
Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard
I only catch one song of the Junkyard’s heavier and noisier set that features Jeffrey’s brother Jack on bass and various toys before I head off to Sunrise with Sarah. When we arrive, Sugar Crisis are playing. At first I enjoy their sugar coated synth pop, but as their set wears on and eventually overruns, I find the songs irritatingly simplistic and repetetive. Perhaps I am just craving some Fight Like Apes a bit too much, because when they finally do come on stage, we go nuts.
Fight Like Apes
The Apes’ screamy, aggressive synthy dance action is one of the most fun things you will hear all year, and we dance, crushing children and adults alike as we scream along with every word (the cause of my still sore throat days later). We are determined to match their enthusiasm, which isn’t easy. Keyboard player Pockets (not his real name) jumps about on and off stage, using a log from the nearby woods to batter the barrier and his keyboards to make noise, and singer MayKay approaches the crowd so we can grab the mic and join in.
Fight Like Apes
Back at the campsite, we get another pleasant surprise: two girls, Anne and Kim, are leaving, and can’t be bothered to carry their booze back to the car. They offer us full crates of Strongbow and Fosters, which we readily accept and set about drinking until the heaviest rain of the entire weekend spontaneously breaks out and starts to leak in to our tents (I eventually have to bail mine out with a saucepan). Determined not to miss Manchester Orchestra, however, I run off with Ian through rain and mud to Uncut, and force my way to the front to see one of my favourite musicians, Andy Hull, up close and personal.
Manchester Orchestra
Hull, with his big beard, is purely huggable, and keyboards/tambourine/second drum kit player, Chris Freeman is brilliant to watch as he thrashes around on his podium. Opening with Shake It Out, they play a selection of tracks from their newest album, unfortunately neglecting their debut. Although the noisier, thrashier material is great in a live setting, a few more of the older, slower, more melodic songs would have been nice. If they had, for example, closed on Colly Strings, it would have been perfect.
Manchester Orchestra
Afterwards, we head for the main stage and arrive at the end of the Rumble Strips, who I have not seen or heard for years, since I saw them opening for The Sunshine Underground when they bored the crap out of me. Here, though, with a hugely extravagant lineup, they were playing a lively indie rock epic that was getting the crowd moving better than a lot of bands I had seen so far.
Rumble Strips
My skills at getting to the front are so developed at this point that Ian and I make it to the barrier for The Gaslight Anthem with a minimum of fuss. The crowd swells out in an odd mix of people thanks to Gaslight being not only staples of the punk rock scene, but also upcoming indie darlings: there are beards, plaid shirts and flat caps standing alongside plastic sunglasses and hoodies, all singing along to the opening song.
The Gaslight Anthem
A couple of songs in, Brian Fallon puts down his guitar for Old White Lincoln, and we all realise he’s completely smashed as he staggers around and attempts cartwheels and tricks with the mic stand that fail brilliantly, but keep us all entertained. Luckily, it doesn’t affect his performance: he’s spot on in every respect, including his ramblings about why he doesn’t use curse words in his songs (because his mum would hit him), and his responses to the crowd, which cause him to yell ‘I don’t know what I’m saying!’ off mic. Brilliant.
The Gaslight Anthem
They clearly know what the crowd wants, playing nothing from their debut Sink Or Swim. Instead, they stuck purely to songs from their breakthrough The ’59 Sound and, although it’s probably the better record, it would have been nice to hear some older material. As it stands, it seems like a vaguely sellout move. Despite this, though, Gaslight are unstoppable, inspiring attempts at circle pits and adoration from the crowd. They would, however, have been better suited to a more intimate stage: it is insane to see them on one so big considering where they were just a couple of years ago. Back at camp, it is noodle time:
Then it is time for 65daysofstatic. I have not seen them for a couple of years and although they have, on occasion, put on an incredible show, the last time I saw them, on the tour promoting The Destruction Of Small Ideas, they were sorely lacking in energy, and the new material lacked the spark of their first two albums. I’m glad, then, when they pull out what may well be the best set of the festival.
Joe does his usual guitar tricks – tapping the body to make static and balancing it in his mouth, whilst Rob clambers all over his drum kit and the rest of the stage, and a small pit erupts in the crowd after I see a couple of kids pushing each other about and jump over to join them. From that moment, the crowd and the band are pushing against each other with equal forces, each of us trying to outdo the other. 65 have become increasingly glitch and electronic since I saw them last, with less focus on guitar work, so there is as much jerky dancing as straight up moshing, though at one point a great circle pit breaks out (it actually goes round in a circle! I manage to go round at least four times before it descends in to hipsters flailing around).
Obvious highlights come in the form of Retreat! Retreat!, with the voice sample giving us the only thing to sing along to, and it’s pure raw power ripping through the crowd, and a slightly different version of Radio Protector, which morphs in to a massive electronic freakout that never seems to end and pushes all of us to the limit. It would have been perfect if they had brought in the Protector riff to close, but you can’t have everything. We stick around to watch !!!, who blast us with funky, bouncy tunes that are ultimately a little limp-sounding after the crushing onslaught of 65daysofstatic and compared to a lot of modern dance pop.
The singer’s antics fail to entice us either, so we leave the stage and head back to the camp. As we pass through the woods, we stumble across this oddity:
Sonic Manipulator
The Sonic Manipulator is a spaceman made of sound, bristling with homemade instruments that convert his movement and speech in to alien pop music. People stand around with their jaws dropped and we dance to his movements until we realise that it is all too creepy, so we dance away down the hill and back in to the main part of the arena in the hope of catching Editors. We are distracted, though, and eventually end up hearing the end of their set from the wine bar, where we load up on wine and head to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Backed by a massive band, Nick Cave strides commandingly around the stage, holding court and leering out over the crowd – he has an amazing presence and is a far superior headliner to the Pet Shop Boys. Despite what was an incredible performance, I must admit to not being a huge fan of Nick Cave and only stayed around for a few songs, but I was definitely impressed. We end the festival, in various ways: drinking, dancing, getting yelled at by fire marshals, sleeping, etc. In the morning, we either pack up or ditch our tents, and go home.
And with that, Latitude is over for another year.
Again, more pictures from the whole festival can be found on my Flickr page. See you there next year!