Live Music + Gig Reviews

Latitude @ Henham Park, Suffolk: Day 1

17 July 2008

Pink sheep. Interpol. Pink sheep. Interpol. Pink sheep. Interpol. Pink sheep. Interpol. Nope. Can’tmake that sentence work. It just doesn’t seem right.

Maybe it isn’t supposed to. Because while this, the third incarnation of the Latitude festival, mayhave thrown together some strange bedfellows it felt that this was the year it truly made a mark.

Comfortably sold out, no quagmires in sight, what seemed a pretty sensible policy of paying theirheadlining bands thus giving them ample reason to turn up, yep, Latitude got a lot right.
The opening afternoon on the main stage helped to set the unpredictable and zigzagging tone of thewhole festival. Following the falsetto melodrama of Grammatics, Murder by Death servedup a considerably grizzlier helping of deep-fried Southern gothic rock’n’roll, full of tales ofheavy drinking, zombies, trips to hell, and one-eyed barkeeps.

Beta Band offshoot The Aliens attempted a recreation of 60s psychedelia with no lessenergy but far less panache. After ten or so minutes, watching a madman wailing monotonously whilerolling around on the floor in a native American headdress wore very thin.

But not as thin as the willowy Beth Orton. Boom. Tish. The self-declared ‘ginger goddess’ has beenaway for what seems like an age with terrible illnesses and less terrible child bearing, and it wasa nervously triumphant return. A spindly, beautiful version of Katy Cruel was an early highlight.

Stepping through the conga line of people that Ross Noble had Bohemian Rhapsodied out of the comedytent led us to see Black Kids. And we weren’t alone. Seems like every man and his child in awheelbarrow was clambering to catch a glimpse of the Florida hype-gathers.

They faired reasonably, with Partie Traumatic’s choice cuts stirring life amongst the masses.Problem is, it’s a very patchy album and this was a very patchy set. You can’t really hold itagainst a young band who are going to tour (and learn) relentlessly for the rest of this year, butthere isn’t anything remotely as special about this troupe as others would have you believe.

After a brief flush of lust, the music scene seems to have stopped calling young Emmy theGreat. With a debut record pushed back till 2009, a full three years after her debut EP SecretCircus, she could be forgiven for giving up and going home, but with a relentless touring scheduleand a growing maturity, she’s beginning to turn heads again. The tiny woodland stage of the SunriseArena is the perfect setting for her songs – pretty, lustrous and invitingly dark and on this formEmmy should soon live up to her moniker. Not great, not yet, but almost.

Not so long ago Howling Bells were the darlings of the indie and critical world. Now, theyseem at a crossroads: getting the chop from Bella Union is not the most encouraging sign to a bandpreparing their second album, nor is playing the same side stage sets at festivals as they were ayear ago.

So they won’t shift a gazillion units, or pack out lifeless air hangers (though their sound easilycould). There’s certainly is a place for them in our hearts, as Broken Bones and Low Happening swaggeringly remind us. There’s plenty of new material aired too, and it bodes well, adding acertain synthy splash to their woozily dark rock. Although they do need to work on their lyricalallegories: “This is a song about wanting to be a kid again”, Juanita Stein tells us. “It’s called,Let’s Be Kids Again…”


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