Live Music + Gig Reviews

Latitude Festival 2006, Day 3 @ Henham Park, Suffolk : review

16 July 2006

Sunday. With a breakfast of veggie sausage and fairly traded coffee I headed over to the Literary Tent first thing to hear right-on folk chew the fat over the Sunday Papers.

And from the tidbits they cherry-picked from the broadsheets and tabloids, you would never have known we are bordering the brink of another war in the Middle East, as all the weighty issues of the day were eschewed in exchange for celebrity focused drivel. I wanted snappy debate and consciousness raising, what I got was an ill prepared, hung over panel, with their editing faculties set to trivia hunt. It was disappointing and shameful.

So tanked up on tofu and caffeine I made it my mission to dip into everything today. First up in the Comedy tent, I saw lethargic but hilarious Alun Cochrane. And made it back to the poetry tent just in time to find myself a space amongst the masses to see Patti Smith. After ranting the night before about everything from Lebanon to dry ice, she now radiated a beatific cool. She read her surreal homage to Dylan’s Dog, stuck to her anti-establishment guns and regaled us all with anecdotes.

Other top performers plying their words today in the poetry tent included cheeky and super smart Tom Sutton, a letter writing firebrand whose correspondence with mega corporations and art galleries causes stitches. The day’s last poet was the gifted and intense Ross Sutherland. He is both unmistakably talented and devastatingly funny – check out his uni-vowel poem based on ‘o’ if you demand proof.

Performers hanging from trees drew me to enter the whacky kitsch world of the Cabaret Tent, to cast my eyes over the Puppini Sisters. They are not sisters, but their glam heeled, red lippy, 1940s performance of tongue-in-cheek versions of classics like Kate Bush‘s Wuthering Heights and Blondie‘s Heart of Glass are just hilarious. I also ducked into the Theatre Tent to see Jack Thorne’s dark and intriguing PaperHouse, about a man who buys the house his neighbour was killed in. My faith in the world was reaffirmed however as soon as I emerged to see a group of treasure hunting kids taking part in Black Huck’s Tricky Trail, an adventure that wound them around the grounds of Henham House.

The stirring. soulful, voice of Paulo Nutini, not to mention his delicious Scottish accent, geed up me during my post-lunch slump with his haunting new single Last Request coming near the end of an excellent set that included other equally affecting tracks like Love in Ya, Jenny and New Shoes. Recently a visitor to the UK singles chart’s top five, he’s having lots of money spent on him by his major label, and his declaration that Latitude was much better than London’s Wireless Festival made the already swooning crowd fall for him utterly.

But the lady who stole the show for me today was the fascinating Regina Spektor in the Uncut Arena. This kooky Moscow-born singer, songwriter and pianist springs from leftfield and her melodic tales and quirky ballads blend folk, classical and Russian music. She changes register, puts on voices, grunts, yelps, whistles and generally just plays with the incredible voice she was born with. She is unforgettable.

Headlining in the Obelisk Tent was man of few words, Jose Gonzalez, and even if he did round off with a stunning cover of Massive Attack‘s Teardrops his performance wasn’t particularly dynamic. But his lack of projected personality was more than made up for by Eel Pie Island’s Mystery Jets in the Uncut Arena. They belted out Zoo Time and Alas Agnes with fearless abandon, inducing truly whacko dancing in a teenager wearing jeans so tight they could have been leggings.

I passed up on Mogwai (shameful maybe, but one can’t be everywhere at festivals) to perform in the first ever Latitude Festival Poetry Slam. For the uninitiated. that is Pop Idol for poets, with knock out rounds, audience votes and such like. The auspicious title went to the phenomenal Nick Holloway, a resident at the Fiction poetry night held at FACT in Liverpool.

Reckless after hours partying went on in the Comedy Tent thanks to London’s Guilty Pleasures, who headed out of London and under canvas for the weekend to provide festival goers with all the tack-tastic inhibition-shedding disco they could handle.

I think I may have dislocated something dancing to Kung Fu Fighting and YMCA. And stumbling through fields back to my tent in the wee small hours, elated and entertained, I loved the fact that because Latitude was Latitude that my tent would still be there at whatever time I fell home.

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