Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Latitude attitude

Somewhere amongst those lights... Franz Ferdinand at Latitude 2008
I've just got back from the Latitude Festival in Suffolk, and you know what? It was bloody amazing! Unlike so many other festivals, Latitude isn't just about music, but all the arts, so there are book readings, poetry, theatre, cinema, art installations, comedy and so much more. I couldn't fit everything I wanted to in, literally because there was so much going on, and often the things I wanted to see clashed. The comedy tent was particularly popular, so I couldn't get to see Bill Bailey or Ross Noble, as I'd hoped. Oh well, there's always next year. Until then, here's a summary of what I did manage to see - my Latitude diary, if you will...

Thursday:
  • The Now Show : Radio 4 Arena. Watched through the window of an over-full tent, but still funny.
  • Arcola Theatre - The Miniaturists : Theatre Arena. Short but utterly engaging plays.
  • Music In Spheres : On The Lake. A flautist in a giant plastic bubble, floating on a lake. Really.
  • Tim Clare : Poetry Arena. His "Favourite Things" is a work of genius...
  • Ross Sutherland : Poetry Arena. Erstwhile poetry with which to close the "warm-up" night.
Friday:
  • Vox'n'roll - A. L. Kennedy : Literary Arena. Deceptively funny.
  • Vox'n'roll - Nikita Lalwani : Literary Arena. No easy task, following Alice. Her book is probably better than she read it.
  • Daniel Rigby : Comedy Arena. Would have been funnier, I'm sure, if I hadn't had to crane my neck in from outside the comedy tent because I'd gone to get some drinks from the bar at an inopportune moment and then couldn't squeeze back in when he started.
  • Ben Moor - Not Everything Is Significant : Theatre Arena. Went to see him on the basis that he was in the year above me at school. Insanely intelligent then, nothing has changed - his one-man show was funny, clever and thought-provoking. And he gave out free badges afterwards, which was nice.
  • British Sea Power : Obelisk Arena. They tried hard, and "Waving Flags" hit the spot. Nice string section.
  • Lee Mack : Comedy Arena. Razor-sharp comic.
  • Lucy Porter: Comedy Arena. Why is she always described as "one of the funniest female comedians on the circuit", as if it's amazing that she's both female and funny. She's just brilliant. And TMC too.
  • Phill Jupitus reads Dickens : Literary Arena. A bit grumpy, which was a shame.
  • Durang Durang : Theatre Arena. Seven short, and odd, plays.
  • Franz Ferdinand : Obelisk Arena. Main-stage highlight of the whole festival, probably. Better than expected, and new material had a satisfying harder edge.
  • Tangled Feet : On The Lake. Captivating dialogue-free theatre using festival-style tents as prompts. Beautiful, moving.
Saturday:
  • The Factory - Hamlet : On The Lake/In The Woods. Theatre at its most involving, as the cast used props from the audience and interacted with their environment. Best Hamlet I've seen.
  • Team Waterpolo : Obelisk Arena. Caught by accident, whilst waiting for Ida Maria, who cancelled. Made a nice noise.
  • Wordtheatre - Hearts Aflame : Literary Arena. Letter of love and hate were read aloud by an impressive cast, including David Soul which, for someone like me who grew up on Starsky and Hutch, was very exciting!
  • Guillemots: Uncut Arena. Promising enough to make me want to get their album, though we had to leave early to catch...
  • Elbow: Obelisk Arena. Musically excellent but, I think, better suited to an earlier time slot or a smaller stage. The crowd were a bit muted.
  • Tick Tock Lullaby + Q&A : Music & Film Arena. A moving film about a lesbian couple who want to have a child. Interesting Q&A with Lucy Gornick, the film's producer/director/writer/star afterwards.
  • Mark Lamarr with God's Jukebox: Music & Film Arena. Like a festival within a festival, the Fifties throwback introduced:
    • Pete Molinari. Not a genre I would often listen to but brilliant live. Johnny Cash covers got the crowd jumping.
    • The Heavy. Hard-rocking and with a charismatic frontman. Another new album to buy!
    • James Hunter. R&B? Soul? Blues? Rockabilly? All of the above? Excellent, good-time live music.
    • Eli 'Paperboy' Reed & The True Loves. He wants to be James Brown, though clearly isn't. Good try though, even if he did put me in mind of a dodgy TV evangelist...
    • Buzzcocks. 32 years to the day since they formed, the punk veterans performed a blistering (and ear-drum popping) greatest hits set. Whilst Steve Diggle still looked a bit angry, Pete Shelley looked like someone's dad (or granddad), but that didn't matter... as the moshpit chaos testified, this was awesome.
Sunday:
  • Hold Fire : Sunrise Arena. Immediately a favourite new band. So polished for ones so young, and easy to imagine them playing (and wowing) much, much bigger stages than this.
  • Vox'n'roll - Esther Freud & Julia Blackburn : Literary Arena. Missed Esther's half of this double-header, but Julia reading about her mother was both comic and moving.
  • Paul Torday : Literary Arena. Nervous reading to such a big group, Paul was just getting going when he decided to stop and take questions instead. At least he gave some good answers.
  • Wordtheatre - The Affairs Of Others : Literary Arena. Readings from Sally Hawkins, Juliet Stephenson, Maureen Lipman and David Soul - all stunning! Met Maureen afterwards and, as you would expect, she was lovely.
  • Vauxhallville's Bargain Bin-Go : Cabaret Arena. Utterly surreal. Playing bingo. For crap prizes. In a tent. With a drag queen host(ess). Somehow, fun.
  • FrYars : Sunrise Arena. Described as a new Jarvis Cocker but put me more in mind of early Talking Heads - no bad thing!
  • Disco Shed : Pandora's Playground. If I should ever get married, I'd like this disco at the reception.
  • The Shortwave Set : Sunrise Arena. I like a band that makes an effort; even if their music didn't fire me, at least their matching outfits made an impression.
  • Tangled Feet : In The Woods. Because we only caught the second half on Friday, we watched the whole thing again, this time in the woods. Wonderful.
  • Robin Ince's Book Club & School For Gifted Children : Literary Arena. In which a fight nearly broke out between enraged parents. The word "sanctimonious" was thrown as hard as any punch.
  • ??? : Literary Arena. Quite hard to sell a song about light's wave-particle duality called "Luminiferous Ether" but someone (didn't catch his name, and not listed in the programme) tried.
  • Gavin Osborn : Literary Arena. A couple of songs, including a lovely cover of Billy Bragg's "Tank Park Salute".
  • Joanna Neary : Literary Arena. With only 2.5 minutes of stage time, Joanna made her mark with an impression of Bj√∂rk...
  • Vox'n'roll - Joe Dunthorne : Literary Arena. I want to buy his book, "Submarine" on the strength of this reading.
  • Vox'n'roll - Doug Johnstone : Literary Arena. Read from his book about a fictional band called The Ossians, then played some tracks that he'd written for them. Both aspects great!
  • Vox'n'roll - Toby Litt : Literary Arena. The lights went out on Toby, so he read by the light of a torch proffered from the crowd. Then he was heckled by rain-evading gig-goers who hadn't set foot in the Literary Arena all weekend until then. Handled it well. And god, his new book sounds good.
  • Dave Gorman : Literary Arena. Also heckled by the rain-evaders, but handled it even better. Funnier than most of the Comedy Arena, no doubt, he read from his new book, answered all manner of questions, took our photo and did a break-dance move as he left the stage. A highlight.
  • Vox'n'roll - Dan Kieran : Literary Arena. Had the unenviable task of trying to follow Dave. He gave it a go though, and you have to admire that.
So, Latitude... all in all, brilliant - it's hard to think of a better way to spend a few days, to be honest, even with the sporadic and unpredictable weather, a broken tent pole and, ahem, "interesting" toilet facilities. I'm wary of over-egging it, if truth be told, because it's going to get even more popular when people like you read things like this, and then it will lose some of it's charm. So, err, you know, it was crap, save your money and don't bother with it next year, right? Thanks. But if you do go... well, you'll see me there.

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