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Latitude 2012 Review Posted on Mon 30th July 2012

Latitude Festival returned to Henham Park for the seventh year, with probably its strongest line up of music, literature, comedy, poetry, film, theatre, cabaret, art, dance, opera to date.  If that wasn’t each night you are treated to a light show along the riverbank.

Photo by Pooneh Ghana

For those expecting a greatest hits set from Dexys, will have been disappointed, as the sartorially elegant Kevin Roland primarily played tracks from the semi autobiographical album ‘One Day I'm Going To Soar’.  The performance was theatrical with duets reminiscent of Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out of Hell’  and kept the whole audience engaged throughout.  The only concession made to the back catalogue was an extended version of ‘Come On Eileen’.

Kurt Vile delivered a great set on the iArena, most of the set was from the 'Smoke Ring For My Halo' album.  For the majority of the set he was joined by his backing band The Violators, with a sound reminiscent of Crazy Horse, for the last two tracks he performed two acoustic numbers without the band.

Metronomy drew a large crowd to the Obilisk stage, and instantly had the crowd dancing on mass, their indie electronica style is ideal for the Latitude faithful.  There is light hearted banter between the band and the crowd throughout their set.

Bon Iver strolls on stage about 15 minutes late with his ten band members, apologises and bursts into ‘Perth’ followed by ‘Minnesota’.  The stage design is beautiful and gives the impression of great depth, but alas the set is not enough to keep the crowd captivated as many wander off to enjoy the other entertainment on offer.  With such a rich back catalogue he is able to instruct the crowd to sing a long and they do with great gusto, the set is closed with a great rendition of ‘For Emma’.

The evenings entertainment was cut short due to a cloud burst, which meant it was nigh on impossible to get inside any of the covered areas so, it was time to retire for the evening.

Photo by Marc Sethi

The morning came with more black clouds but it at least it wasn’t raining, much of the site was a quagmire, but the organisers were good to their word and had teams of people putting wood chippings down on many of the walkways.

With eighteen stages planning the day was always going to be a challenge, so I didn’t, and it was probably the best decision I have ever made at a festival, as it allowed me to experience all Latitude has to offer without the constraints of rushing from one stage to another. 

Starting at the Faraway Forest with its various art installations, theatre and ‘quirky’ stalls, the ‘Occupy Latitude’ group performed a play based upon the ‘Diggers’ who were persecuted by the land owners in the 17th century, the play included references to the current financial crisis and was concluded with a rendition of ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ where they pulled people from the audience to join the challenge.

Over in the Literary Arena there was a huge crowd growing to hear about the Higgs Boson!  OK one of the presenters was Professor Brian Cox (the face of science), together with Professor John Butterworth.  Fortunately the discussion was kept at a reasonably high level which at least meant yours truly could understand it.  The questions from the audience were well put and moved the discussion into the realms of general science and how it impacts on day to day life. 

At the end of the presentation there was a mass exodus, plus a degree of hysteria as people fought for photos with Prof BC or to get books signed.  As quickly as people left others arrived to listen to a discussion on how football obsesses our culture.  I decided to stay for the debate, as its timing couldn’t have been better just one day after the John Terry not guilty verdict and New Glasgow Rangers being placed at the lowest level of Scottish football, this in conjunction with Pat Nevin one of football’s most articulate players and now pundit chairing the discussion.  Although the debate was interesting it only scratched the surface, and failed to address the issue that people in this country are becoming disenfranchised.

Finally it was time for some music, so off to the Word Arena for Daryl Hall, the audience was made up predominantly by middle aged women revisiting a childhood heartthrob and he did not disappoint them.  Whereas Dexys concentrated on their new material Daryl Hall’s set up was made up primarily by the Hall & Oates hits, the set opened with ‘Man Eater’ followed by ‘Save Me’, he was joined on stage by Rumer for a version of ‘Sarah Smile’.

Django Django were performing in the iArena, this was probably the only mistake the organisers made all weekend, as there were 4 or 5 times as many people outside the tent than inside!  They sounded great but it would have been better if they were in the Word Arena.

My must see band of the day were The Horrors, but while enjoying a pint, I heard one of the greatest sounds in music, a Hammond organ emanating from The Film and Music Arena where Big Boss Man, a four piece, were playing some funky sixties tinged boogaloo.  The watching throng were completely entranced, especially during an exhausting percussive dual between Nasser Bouzida a.k.a. “The Bongolian” and his beast of a drummer, Des Rogers.

Mark Lamar’s God’s Jukebox was the glue between Big Boss Man and The Delegators a great ska band who appeared to be a bunch of Europe’s finest youth musicians fronted by a hard assed dance hall diva…whatever, it worked, as the crowd were finding it nigh on impossible not to slip into a full scale skank.

The sun gods were finally smiling on Sunday as the grey rain laden clouds made way for some bright sunshine and you could almost hear the sound of several thousand campers breath a collective sigh of relief as they unzipped their tents.  After the obligatory full English and cup of tea to blow off the cobwebs, it was time to wander into the main arena. 

First up was a bit of knob-twiddling 80’s electronic nostalgia with Thomas Dolby in the Word Arena.  On this kind of form it’s difficult to understand why he didn’t reach the dizzying chart success of his contemporaries – old hits were mixed in seamlessly with new album tracks to produce one of the most engaging and enjoyable sets of the weekend.

Blinking back into the sun (!) it was over to the Comedy arena to catch the unique comedy rap stylings of Abandoman and the always likeable Reginald D. Hunter.

Time to rest those aching bones by taking a time out sitting in one of the 4 band stands whilst listening to the laid back soulful sounds of Alabama Shakes on the Obelisk Arena.

More 80’s nostalgia in the shape of Simple Minds next and I suspect a quick straw poll of the women in the audience would have revealed a murky past of pedal pushers, leg warmers and “Frankie Says” T shirts!  The stage setup was just about as stark as you could get, with a jet black backdrop and a few white spot lights.  However , the performance was anything but, with Jim Kerr visibly enjoying himself almost to the point where he appeared to say thank you to every individual in the crowd.

Latitude 2012 proved itself, if proof was required that it is the most diverse festival in the UK calendar, and yes that does include Glastonbury.   Unlike other festivals you are never short of things to do during your waking hours, whether you are 7 or 70, probably the best festival of 2012. 

Mick Game

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Last modified on: Tue 6th May 2014

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