Friday, 20 July 2012

Latitude Festival epic.

Last year the lovely lady and I had a fantastic weekend at the Latitude festival so decided straight away to get tickets for 2012.  The festival took place last weekend and I think I have just about recovered from another fantastic weekend.

For us the festival started on Thursday which happened to be the lovely lady’s birthday, that and other good news meant we set off in good spirits, stopping en route for a quick bite to eat.  We expected traffic to be slow and heavy on the A12, it was.  However in the middle of the afternoon we pulled into the car park with cloudy skies above, thankfully they weren’t threatening rain, yet.  It was in the car park that we met the first character of the weekend.  One of the car park attendants was clearly taking his job far too seriously and was very loud and sarcastic when giving directions. This got him absolutely nowhere as every driver completely ignored him which added to his frustration as well as my amusement.  To his defence he was very busy as the car parks were filling up quickly.

We’d had a good look at the map and found a decent place to camp, away from the madness but close enough to amenities and not too far from the arena.  Last year we’d been in family camping but the kids were doing their own thing this time so we were expecting things to be a little less comfortable this weekend.  Anyway, we began our long walk, checked out the price of buggy hire and thought “bugger that” to the £50 deposit charge.  I know it’s a deposit but fifty quid??  So we had a long trudge with heavy kit, we just had to get on with it.  We swapped our tickets for wristbands and the staff were friendly and helpful.  The walk seemed to go on forever but there wasn’t much mud considering how much rain we’ve had lately.  We finally made our destination and pretty much pitched the tent exactly where we’d planned.

Last year we’d spent four nights cramped in a little tent which was OK but I’d decided it was worth a little investment to get a tent I could actually stand up in. This year’s model was great and kept us warm, dry and comfortable throughout the weekend. We said hello to some of our neighbours and had a sneaky look around and luckily we didn’t appear to be camped too close to any nutters nor were there any large groups of teeny boppers. I have nothing against teenagers having a mad time at a festival but I wouldn’t want to be camped next to anyone who was like me when I was a teenager. After all of that toil I absolutely needed a beer so I donned my wellies (Muck boots are great) and we wandered off to check out the arena and become familiar with the place again. Firstly we found beer, Cider for the lovely lady and the absolute best local brew for me, Adnams Southwold bitter, fantastic! After that the memory starts to deteriorate but we found the layout to be pretty much how we remembered it from last year. I’m sure we found some music and I’m positive it rained at some point. We found ourselves in the literary arena where we were entertained by Carl Donnelly who was standing in as compere and his ad lib stuff was funny. We turned in fairly early and had a decent night sleep thinking rest now, play later.

We were up fairly early on the Friday but even so, by the time we poked our heads into daylight a couple of tents had disappeared and more had been put up in their place.  I’d packed a stove, kettle and some tea making stuff so every morning began with a brew.  The campsite toilets were already covered in shit coloured mud (I hope) and were beginning to stink.  Those in family camping last year were in a different league.  We were soon wandering down to the arenas and wellies were absolute must as it had rained overnight and there were showers through the day.  The Regatta packaway jackets we’d brought were great.  They’re light, totally waterproof and breathable so no sweating.  They got a thorough testing throughout the weekend and get a big thumbs up.  We got a big breakfast roll from a place in the village which was pretty good, get some fuel in the tank early on.  Then it was through the checkpoint and into the arena again.

Now the festival proper was starting and we began seeking out entertainment along with refreshment of mind, body and soul.  I thought we began in the comedy arena but checking back it seems it was the Obelisk arena where we saw The Givers who were great.  Described in the program as ‘Ravin Cajun’, I’m not that sure about that but whatever they were doing I enjoyed it.  The band was energetic, talented and versatile, the girl singing had a good voice and we found ourselves jigging for the first time that weekend.  I think I’ll have a little look out for the Givers on Youtube sometime soon.  Next we found ourselves in the Word arena for Lloyd Cole.  I recognised a tune but it was a little too …dull for me and didn’t cause a commotion.

Our next stop was the comedy arena where we spend most of the afternoon.  We saw Shappi Khorsandi last year and she hadn’t impressed so we weren’t expecting much but this year she had a new routine and was a lot funnier.  Next up was Holly Walsh who didn’t seem very confident and didn’t make me laugh much.  “Frisky and Manish” were a big surprise doing musical send ups, much better.  Then it was Russell Kane who has never impressed me much on TV but live was both funny and clever, another nice surprise.  Kathrine Ryan was small and Canadian if I remember rightly and there were a few moments where she could have died a death on that stage.  She didn’t but only just.  Josh Widdecombe followed, I can’t remember much about him but I do remember him being pretty good.  Then it was the comedian we’d been waiting for, Mark Watson.  Last year he’d been a surprise star for of us, absolutely hilarious, topped only by Steven Hughes.  I didn’t expect him to outdo last year but he was very funny and came pretty close.  He and Russell Kane were the best comedians of the day for me.

At some point in the day I nervously braved the arena toilets for a much needed dump.  My fears were unfounded, the toilets were very clean and remained that way throughout the festival, the staff deserve medals.  There was one mishap however in the gents urinals, when a bloke slipped on the floor and hit his head against the piss filled plastic trough.  I checked and he was OK but it couldn’t have been nice. 

Time for more music.  We went to the Word arena to catch the end of Dexy’s and thoroughly enjoyed it.  A few tunes from our youth played by good musicians with the singers playing the parts of the characters in their songs.  I thought they milked “Come on Eileen” a bit and by Christ Kevin Rowland looks old but all in all a really good show.  NB.  “I came on Eileen” was one of the best Tee shirt slogans of the weekend.  Lana Del Ray came to Latitude on the back of a few hits and a pretty good album which is sitting on my shelf.  She’s a fine looking lady with a very good voice and writes good songs.  Unfortunately her performance was unprofessional, her band lacked oomph and she has very little stage presence.  I’d expected a lot from LDR but this was possibly the most disappointing performance of the weekend.

Energy was sagging so we had delicious curried goat and magic beans then went wandering in search of music that suited our mood.  Bon Iver on the Obelisk didn’t, sounded dangerously close to country music to me.  At some point in the evening the Word tent emptied while the lovely lady and I were in the toilets.  We lost each other for a time amongst a sea of people but normal service was soon resumed.  This was probably after White Lies in the Word who were much better than Bon Iver but still didn’t hit the spot.  Shortly after they finished Moshi Moshi DJ’s started up, playing some great tunes that got us dancing amongst a crowd that was mostly half our age…at least.  After a while we went in search of doughnuts and shortly afterwards it started pissing it down.  There was lively music in the Lavish Lounge but the Wolf was cancelled due to the weather.  We wound up in the I arena where DJ’s Heatwave ?were playing Dancehall music and we danced…and danced…and danced.  The killer tune was ‘Out of Space’.  A wild night finished with us crashing out, thoroughly knackered at about 0330, still buzzing too much for sleep.  Brilliant.

Saturday is a blur as we were struck down by the ailment known as “Festival head”.  We got up around 1000 after no more than four hours sleep.  I think it was dry at the time but there was evidence of heavy rain having fallen at some point in the recent past.  After the brew it was down to the village for breakfast and then into the arena.  Mud management is very good at Latitude but at this point they were still fighting a battle, one that they eventually won in most places.  Phil Jupitas was on but the Comedy tent was packed out so we gave it a miss.  We ended up at the Obelisk watching Sissy & the Blisters who weren’t at all bad, lively rock & roll.  Mick Flannery followed and he succeeded in driving us from the arena.

We couldn’t find anything that really floated our boat so chilled out around the benches, energy was flagging so it was a perfect time for the sport of people watching.  Latitude is perceived as the “middle class festival” by the comedians at least.  Watching the audience it’s hard to argue with that though.  There are lots of families who are well catered for at this festival and maybe at times the music reflects this.  The biggest give away are the voices and accents, there are lots of “Ya Ya’s” in the crowd, a big percentage is made up from the privileged few.  For teenagers in Norfolk & Suffolk, Latitude has become a rite of passage and there are thousands of kids celebrating the end of exams.  There is fancy dress all around, every conceivable type of outfit from dinosaurs to Elvis’s.  Watching the ebb and flow of humanity and ear wigging snatches of passing conversation is an entertaining way to while away a little time.  Whatever the makeup of the crowd may be the vibe is always peaceful and the atmosphere rarely hostile.  Latitude really is a lovely chilled out festival.

The showers came and went through the day but luckily the heaviest rain fell in the afternoon while we were back in the tent crashed out.  We regained consciousness in the early evening and ventured out again feeling refreshed.  Before our sleep we’d left our phones at the Vodafone stand for a free charge up, so we picked them up again on the way out.  Dinner was from “Hot wok”, noodles but not very nice.  Adnams Southwold Bitter revived my taste buds once again.  Around this time we caught a little bit of David Doherty in the comedy tent but didn’t hear enough to form an opinion.

We tried to watch Laura Marling, of whom I’ve heard good things but that wailing vocal is not my thing and the more I heard, the less I liked.  The lovely lady wasn’t getting it either so we moved on.  At some point during the evening we saw a band in the Word arena, I don’t remember when so I can’t find out who it was but they were dancey trancey kind of stuff and were pretty good.  We did see quite a bit of Elbow who had a big show, made a big sound and seemed a bloody good band if you like that kind of thing, but I don’t.  I recognised a few tunes and could appreciate the show, they are good at what they do slick and professional. I almost wished I liked them so I could share the experience with those that were loving it.  It’s just not my kind of music.

We wandered around some more and watching the laser show by the bridge then found ourselves back at the Lavish lounge.  Before the Wolf (more about him in a bit) was a folk singer called Sam something or other.  We gave it a chance but hurried off before the end of the first song.  Horrible!  We killed time wandering around in the woods checking out the big art.  Modern art, I get it sometimes but mostly it’s just self-indulgent, pretentious shit as far as I’m concerned.  The Emperor’s new clothes.  Before long we were back at the lounge and unfortunately the folkies were still at it.  I found it all painful to my delicate ears, all that wailing and misery but there were many people enjoying it.  The last tune they played was a bit more lively and the folkies were in raptures.  One guy with curly hair, a big beard and wearing a green Corduroy jacket (I kid you not!) was jigging around in a state of absolute bliss. I considered gouging my eyes out and stuffing them in my ears to block out the misery.  But fair play to the folkies if that’s their thing, one man’s meat is another man’s poison but I would gladly have eaten that poison if it would stop me listening to that bilge.  Our late night surprise last year had been the Big Bad Wolf telling his dark and nasty bedtime stories so we’d looked forward to renewing our acquaintance.  This year his act was a little different and there wasn’t as much crowd interaction but still he made us laugh though not as much as before.  It was worth enduring the folkies though and I’m sure we’ll pay him a visit next year. 

We decided against a late night so we could be well rested for the final day.  We made the muddy trudge back up the hill and by this stage the elements were winning again. As we made our way back for probably the only time all weekend, we became aware of loads of pissed teenagers reeling around.  They were no bother just having fun and at that age I’d have probably been worse so I did not envy their inevitable hangovers.  The campsite toilets had plumbed new depths of wretchedness and stench but were unavoidable.  I would have needed a seriously turbulent stomach to make me even think about taking a dump in there.  Over the weekend almost all the staff we met were great but the poor guy on nightshift at those toilets could be excused for being miserable. The last few steps back to the tent seemed like miles.  Brush teeth, crash, knackered, sleep.

Sunday began dry and bright, we had no idea what the weather forecasters had foretold but things looked promising.  We were well rested after a good kip so after the morning brew we skipped the village and wandered down to the arena.  Breakfast would have to wait because the morning movement was imminent.  The arena toilets had been very good all weekend but there was always the sense of “Flushin’ Roulette” on opening the porta-loo door, what kind of animal had been in before?  Actually I should pity those that followed me.  Anyway with jobs done we had a big, tasty breakfast burger to put fuel in the tank, oiled with another cup of tea.  Now comedy time.

We edged into the tent and caught the end of the “Early morning edition” with Marcus Brigstock & friends, not a bad start to the day.  After that there was a short pause which allowed us to wander around and find a good position towards the back of the tent.  At first I didn’t know what to make of the silly rock star send up by Nick Helm & the Helmets, Spinal tap 3?  But he’ a great, self-effacing character and by the end I was laughing along.  I’d seen Abandoman last year so knew what to expect, very funny improvised rap music/comedy performed by Irishmen.  It was basically the same act as last year so didn’t have quite the same effect.  Next up was one of our ‘must see’ acts of the weekend, Reginald D. Hunter.  He battled against a big sound coming from the obelisk, said he wasn’t used to the daylight and seemed a little out of sorts at times.  However he pulled it off and was damn funny, worth waiting for.

A quick toilet break followed.  The day was still dry and bright and the arenas had dried out beyond all expectations, the boots were hardly needed by this stage.  Back in the comedy arena for Nathan Caton who was a new face to us.  He started slowly but soon got into his stride and was good for more than a few laughs.  Should we hang around for Rich Hall?  In the end we did and it was an excellent decision because he was brilliant.  The dry, dead pan familiar from TV panel shows works just as well in stand up and he has a way of making ordinary words sound extra funny.  That is if ‘shit’ and ‘prick’ can be considered ordinary.  Great show and the comedy highlight of the weekend for me.

After that we had seen enough of the comedy tent so wandered off into the still sunny open air.  We met up with some of the lovely ladies family for a catch up and a laugh then bumped into some friends of the kids which was nice.  We were eager for music so made our way to the Obelisk arena for Simple Minds who I’d liked for about five minutes in the eighties.  The performance was dull and the music hadn’t aged well, after a handful of songs we’d seen enough.  More fuel provided by doughnuts and magic beans.  We sat on the benches for a while and agreed what the weekend lacked thus far was a really great concert performance that we could get caught up in.  Last year The Eels assaulted the Word arena with a brilliant set featuring a huge guitar sound from top musicians.  It was a truly great gig and something along those lines would do us nicely thanks very much.  More people watching, another good Tee shirt slogan read “I’m not a gynaecologist but I’ll have a look”.  Time for more music, we saw a bit of Bats for Lashes which started off pretty good but got a bit samey a few songs in and by this stage of the festival I’d heard enough wailing vocals ta very much.

One of the bands we had pencilled in this weekend was The Levellers who were performing an acoustic set at the outdoor arena.  We got there early and found a nice spot looking down on the stage.  The lovely lady started to feel a bit iffy so sat down on a log for a bit.  The crowd began to swell and a friendly dread came and shared the log.  We got chatting about festivals and stuff but he ranted on about the “Nazi’s” that make big profits from organising festivals.  I countered that I was having a great time and it was all a means to an end.  Privately I could get where he was coming from but if that’s how he felt, why was he here?.  By the time the Lev’s came on stage the woods were packed out, the lovely lady was still feeling rough and I could hardly see the stage.  The band sounded awesome however, starting with ‘Beautiful day’ and playing some crackers like ‘Boatman’, ‘Carry me’ and ‘One way’.  As good as they sounded I still couldn’t see, the lovely lady was feeling better but needed some space so we reluctantly left the woods and headed over to the Obelisk arena for the main event of the day.

The light was fading fast as we weaved our way through the crowds to a good vantage point, right of stage close to both bar and bogs.  We didn’t have long to wait before Paul Weller hit the stage and began ninety minutes of great tunes played by great musicians.  I’ve always liked ‘The Jam’, bits of ‘Style Council’ and a lot of the solo stuff but until this gig I didn’t realise what a bloody good musician and songwriter Weller is.  We loved every minute, dancing slow and close together (‘you do something to me’) or jigging about solo (most of the rest).  Highlights included ‘Wild wood’, ‘Changing man’, ‘Town called Malice’ and the encore of ‘Eton Rifles’.  It made a nice change to actually get emotionally involved in a gig on the main stage and Paul Weller really is a fucking rock leg-end.  A really good show and without doubt the musical highlight of the weekend, exactly what we’d wanted.  We left the Obelisk arena on a high, buzzing and in search of more music to dance the weekend away.

We found DJ’s on the lake stage (Vinyl vendettas I think) and danced along to rock and indie music old and new for as long as our legs would hold us up.  Midnight came and went, as time went by we grew more and more tired so eventually gave in to the temptation of doughnuts.  We sat on a bench once more, enjoying the music, watching the world go by and trying to hang on to the festival vibe for as long as we could.  With a clear sky the temperature began to drop and it became colder.  It was this as much as tiredness that made us reluctantly leave the arena and take the slow walk back to the campsite.  It was a melancholy walk as we really didn’t want the festival to end but we had no choice but return along paths that had become homely.  The campsite toilets didn’t smell too bad at all by this stage and another brilliant day ended with us collapsing into bed around 0200.

All too soon it was Monday morning and we reluctantly crawled out of bed for a morning brew and slowly began tidying up and packing away.  When it came to folding the tent away there were spots of rain, typical!  We didn’t want to return to the real world but had enjoyed a great weekend so the post festival blues weren’t too bad.

We decided against hauling all our gear back to the car and took the lazy option of a Festitaxi, we felt we’d earned it after a big weekend.  There was a bit of a queue and so an hour wait but we just couldn’t be arsed to yomp back.  We were kept entertained by the antics of the departing festival crowd.  Bedraggled groups of hungover teens trudged by along with equally dishevelled Ya yas.  Near us in the queue were a middle aged and very middle classed couple with a young daughter.  They had been obliged to buy the ‘right on’ festival outfits.  She wore a leopard print jacket, heavy makeup topped with bottle blonde hair dying under a head scarf.  He loudly talked business into a mobile phone whilst dressed in a trench coat and full Native American head-dress.  Also nearby were three old biddies, easily in their sixties so fair play for staying the course for the weekend.  Two of the old gals seemed fine but the third was loud, miserable and moaning about everything.  She did not stop whinging from the moment she appeared to the time we left and I considered throttling her.  I was almost willing her to try and jump the queue just so I could…
Our Festitaxi arrived and we were happy to be away with a jolly young lady driving.  Just a short walk to the car and it was load up and drive away.  It took a while to get out of the car park then we were out into heavy traffic on the A12, back in the real world which is a far more insane place than the fields of the last few days.

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