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July 28, 2010

Right, onto proper blogging.

Last weekend I attended Latitude festival, which is held in Southwold, Suffolk.  I have been going to music festivals since I was 14, I really enjoy the atmosphere and the chance to see a range of acts both known and unknown. I do not enjoy the camping aspect, but unfortunately do not yet have the funds to hire a yurt or whatever, so endure bog standard camping as a necessary evil. My previous experiences have mostly been at Reading Festival which generally has an impressive line up of acts but I had begun to tire of the constant fear of  having my tent, or myself, set on fire, so this year thought I would try something new.  I had previously been wary of Latitude. It is the festival of the middle class, Islington with trees . Admittedly I am middle class, but  as both my parents came from working class families I’m aware that I’m very lucky, so possibly because of that I am uncomfortable with the middle class stereotype. The thought of middle-aged people  eating hummus whilst waiting for the next poetry reading, before heading back to their yurt, repelled me somewhat. As did the fact that it has the reputation for being a ‘family-friendly’ festival. This means that there are children. I tend to refer to anyone younger than me as a child(which, to be fair, they are) but these are actual children, the under eights.  I’m not a fan of children, I find their stares unnerving. I also get really angry when I see TV coverage of festivals and there are loads of kids with those noise cancelling headphones on. You are at a music festival, they are loud by nature, if you are worried about your child’s hearing WHY HAVE YOU BROUGHT IT?  However, despite these prejudices I thought I’d give it a go, it would be a lesson in tolerance if nothing else.

I went with my usual festival companion, my very good friend Jemma. Her boyfriend and his brother were also going so there was the added bonus that I got to meet the boy and give him the bestfriend appraisal (He passed).  Our journey there did not go as planned, but retelling it brings back the trauma, so the short version is that I left my house at 10.30 aiming to arrive at 15.30. We did not arrive until 19.45, cursing various travel companies. Having set up camp, had a drink and calmed down slightly, we headed to the arena for the evening’s entertainment. Latitude has the usual festival set up of a really big field with tents dotted around it, but also has some more interesting features such as a lake and woods, which the organisers use to their full potential. Performing on the ‘In The Woods’ stage at midnight on Thursday was none other than Tom Jones, which we were perhaps over excited about.  He was solely performing his latest album ‘Praise and Blame’, which is rather good if you like that sort of thing, that sort of thing being Johnny Cash/John Lee Hooker/early Elvis. He is an amazing performer and still has an amazing voice, especially considering he is 70, but it still would have been nice to hear a few classics too. Camping that night was slightly terrifying as it rained rather alot and was very very windy, to the point that if I hadn’t been in the tent I’m sure it would have blown away.  Not a lot of sleep was had. I was beginning to get a bit disheartened by this point, as tends to happen with lack of sleep, but from Friday morning onwards things picked up and a lovely weekend was had. The weather was unfathomably good for a festival yet I managed to avoid sunburn and am actually slightly tanned, which is highly unusual. The tent managed to just about survive the weekend but has now been sent to a better place. I saw a good range of music, comedy and even some dreaded poetry, although it was comedic poetry from Phill Jupitus, which makes it better. I just about tolerated the children and avoided consuming any hummus.

My highlight was The National, a band I have only recently discovered so was especially looking forward to seeing and they did not disappoint. I chose to watch them over Florence and the Machine as although I enjoy her music I couldn’t see what a live performance would add. Watching The National however you can really appreciate the depth to their music and see that they aren’t just another guitar band.  Other highlights were Vampire Weekend, who were a perfect way to end the weekend, Laura Marling, who can do no wrong in my eyes, and Richard Herring. His set was signed for the deaf and as a result I now know the sign language for ‘smegma coated nubbin’.

My lowlight was Crystal Castles. I already knew that I wasn’t a fan of their music but was willing to watch them in the absence of anything else I wanted to see. What I learnt was that actually the male half of the duo makes pretty decent electronica. The bit I do not enjoy is the girl screeching over the top of it. She crowd surfed for the majority of the set, then felt that she had been touched inappropriately, punched a crowd member and stormed off twenty minutes early. Not impressed.  I also thought it was a strange scheduling decision to have them precede Belle and Sebastian as they have a totally different sound and target audience. I think they would have been better suited to the second stage, warming up for The XX with who they have a lot more in common.

Overall I had a really good time and would recommend Latitude as a good alternative to the more mainstream festivals. Its not as heavily branded and the ‘family-friendly’ ethic results in a more laid back atmosphere.  There are times during the night when it is actually quiet in the campsites, so sleep is more attainable than at an event like Reading. I think music is still the focus of Latitude but the tents dedicated to comedy, poetry and literature don’t seem like an afterthought, and there are lots of little details such as art installations in the woods that show the dedication of the organisers. Would happily go again.


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