Low water pressure means the showers are still not back up and working. So the crowd, unwashed yesterday, now approached fetid as they streamed into the arena when the doors open at 11am.
The Sunrise tent opened with the quietly mesmerizing folksters Paris Motel. Amy Mae singer and violinist and her band of musicians entertained a rapt crowd with their haunting splendour, creaky piano and soaring strings. After Wanda and 071, sounded even more beautiful as picnic blankets were spread and breakfasts enjoyed al fresco in the early morning sunlight. The band’s hotly tipped album In The Salapetrie is out in the next few weeks.
Bilingual Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon, provided cheery mellow pop on the lake stage to soothe aching heads. At the other end of the spectrum was The Strange Death of Liberal England, with a raucous set which end with them bashing the crap out of every bit of kit on the Uncut stage. This band don’t speak on stage, instead they hold up flash cards to announce their songs, useful if you are feeling groggy from the night before. The shaggy haired front man cranks himself to a screaming falsetto on We Are Bandini, and shouts through Broke and Broken Heart while the bass player whips himself around the stage like a whirling dervish. Hard on the ears but you really won’t see anything like it anywhere else.
Kooky all girl Brooklyn trio Au Revoir Simone, opened the Obelisk arena today who, with their love of synthesizers and vintage drum machines, leave multi layered, ethereal, three way keyboard action accompanied by heart-rending vocals and dreamy melodies to waft out over the sun bathing crowd.
Also on the main Obelisk Stage was Chicago violinist and virtuoso whistler Andrew Bird, His Armchair Apocrypha album has been quietly making waves, a songwriter whose melodies are firmly in a 70s tradition, yet with an instrumentally innovative element that stood out from the herd of indie acts he was performing amidst.
Equally intriguing were Wild Beasts, who played in the Sunrise Arena. The young Leeds four piece were hampered by a sound system that was simply too loud, overriding the fact that they are doing something genuinely original – charmingly obvious on their two single releases. Singer Hayden Thorpe’s voice lies somewhere between Kiri Te Kanawa and the death throes of Scooby Doo, but it was often a struggle to properly hear with a scuzzy PA on this stage.
Of course, the sun didn’t shine for long, so when the heavens opened the lucky few crammed into to the Theatre tent to watch Shuffle, an hour’s worth of new writing from The Royal Court Theatre, where playwrights where asked to invent a drama around their favourite tracks. From a satire on pop politics in Joe Penhall’s Common People to the all too realistic relationship breakdown in Bola Agbaje’s Letting Go followed by the farcical riot that was 20-year-old Polly Stenham’s Hotel California, each of these tiny plays was a big winner. Actor Javone Prince who features in all six plays is proving himself to be a rising talent, last seen in Soho Theatre’s The Christ of Coldharbour Lane, the man is talent.
After so much serious drama, the cover version singing Mr Hopkinson’s Computer, proved to be a particular draw on the Lake Stage come mid afternoon. The first tracks from this Apple Mac DJ were the Pixies Where is My Mind? and The Stone Roses‘ Fools Gold; the perfect dose of mid afternoon tomfoolery before the epic, euphoric onslaught of the multi-pieced Arcade Fire and the tango inspired frenzy of The Gotan Project.
If you couldn’t leave the house till next July, the culture, entertainment and good-times you can soak up at Latitude would probably keep you going the whole year long. It’s a beautiful venue which hosts this genre splicing cultural cornucopia, but bigger is not always better and the only quibble is that organizers will need to think hard about how to up the site’s capacity while maintaining the intimate, boutique feel of the festival.