Tuesday, 28 July 2015

"Where were you while we were getting high?" Latitude 2015

But first a bit of cricket...

I was out of reach of both TV and Radio last weekend so thankfully managed to avoid the second test in which Australia totally thrashed England.  I think it’s fair to say the Aussies were all on top form and we crumbled with only Cook, Stokes and Broad coming out with much to shout about.  In fact the match was a complete reversal of the first test.  The next match begins next Wednesday and is being played at Edgbaston where there will be partisan home support.  Will this lift England to another good display or is this the beginning of another Aussie steamroller?  The smart money would probably be on the latter but we hope…  The selectors have wielded the axe and Gary Ballance has been sent back to his county, replaced by the inform Bairstow.  This may seem a shrewd move but the out of form Bell has been shoved up to three and Root to four.  I think for England to have a chance in this series they must win this match.

So for the third year in a row I missed the Lords test match which would be a big disappointment but I was actually doing something I enjoy even more than cricket.  The annual Latitude Festival had rolled around for another year and this is an event the Purple Princess and I will not miss.  Four days of relaxation, refreshment, laughter, music and dancing in a beautiful setting.  At the risk of sounding smug we know what to expect and how to last the distance of a four day festival (well almost).  This we have learnt through experience both good and bad.

By mid-afternoon on Thursday we had pitched our large tent in a rapidly filling field and were sat chilling in the sun with a brew.  I have to confess to a little pre festival trepidation.  There was a slight fear that this year might not live up to the high expectations we have for what has become our favourite weekend of the year.  2014 had been a blinding festival where we had been spoilt with great music; the bill looked a bit leaner this year.  That evening we entered the arena and reacquainted ourselves with the site, taking in DJ’s at the Disco shed and the woods.  We briefly also saw some tap dancing/flamenco and a water borne ballet thing called “Un mondo pieno sogni” which apparently means ‘a world full of dreams’.  Mad stuff, women on stilts waving, a giant seahorse (I wanted it to be a prawn so I could eat it), women poking their upper halves through a giant illuminated tit which looked like one of those knitted things posh people hid their bog roll in in the seventies…  I’m always intrigued by these Thursday evening performances but I don’t get them, I haven’t a clue what I should be impressed by.

We saw a bit of comedy on the Friday.  First Elis James was OK and he was followed by a favourite of ours; Alan Davies who was pretty good with his interpretations of everyday life.  A lot of this set was about the calamities and catastrophes of parenthood told how only AD can.  After that we gave the Comedy tent a miss for the rest of the festival, It’s OK if you want to invest half a day there in the hope of seeing a couple of good acts but it just isn’t big enough to cope with the crowds of people who just want to dip in and out.  Our main motivation for going to latitude is the music.
I can’t be arsed to run through the whole festival blow by blow so here’s an attempt to go through what we saw in brief.  I am a music fan not a music critic, my assessment of any gig is based purely on how it makes me feel, there is no kind of technical criteria involved, just emotion.

At some point on Friday we saw a bit of Soak in the big tent & Beach baby on the lake stage.  Both were pretty good. 

On the main stage Nitin Sawhney and Femi Kuti & Positive Force, again both were OK. 

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (I may have my izards in the wrong order) performed in the I arena.  Great psychedelic guitars, great foot tapping rhythm and loads of energy. This was the first band of the weekend that really got my feet moving but PP wasn’t so sure. The big crowd appeared to be agreeing with me.  We managed to meet Mr & Mrs Green + kids here too and happily our paths crossed many times over the weekend.

Back to the main stage for Santigold who had come recommended.  Nice voice, nice sound, bright performance but not enough to hold us there. The kids in the front were really enjoying it but the truth was we were knackered and needed to take the weight off our feet for a bit.

Public Service Broadcasting had also been recommended and their early evening set in the big tent went down very well.  This lot are hard to describe, they dress like lecturers and make a mostly electronic dancy trancy sound but throw in some raw guitar too.  A horn section popped up a couple of times too!  However you describe it PSB make music that moves your feet and sound better even live than they do on CD.  Unfortunately the PP was still crashed out so missed the show and I missed my dance partner which gives us an excuse to go see them again sometime.  I’d like that and I’m sure she would too.

The Purple Princess re-joined me for Caribou who were pretty good and got us moving a little.

We saw the start of Alt J headlining the Obelisk and they sounded good but they just aren’t my cup of tea.  From the four or five songs we saw I really liked “Left hand free” Alt J sound great when they play hard but that arty chanty stuff doesn’t move me in any direction.

Last gig of the night was Jon Hopkins in the Radio6 (Big) tent.  More trancy than PSB but not quite as dancy.  Started slowly & built… & built.  It was really loud too!  The Purple Princess announced her dancing feet had arrived at the festival at last, this show got me moving too but not into top gear.

We tried to go dancing but the donuts were crap some of the DJ’s were not able to grab us and a couple of stages were off limits due to crowd congestion caused by the secret acts we knew nothing about.  In hindsight it’s great having these secret, surprise stars (in this case, Thom Yorke, Ed Sheeran and someone I’ve forgotten) but in future they need to be in bigger arenas.  Keep the big tent open please Latitude people!!  We ended up saving our legs and headed back to the tent but on the way we took a look in the Alcove and came face to face with Stone Foundation playing first class Northern Soul and tearing the place up.  They were excellent, as good as anything I saw all day.  Keith Allen got on the stage and swore a bit as you’d expect then we wandered off and ended up crashing out about 0100.

First band of Saturday was at the main stage, Badly drawn boy (who Mr Green immediately christened Badly born boy), playing his “Hour of bewilderbeast” album.  I do remember quite liking this the first time around (fifteen years ago apparently) and I think the fella is a good song writer.  As a live performance it didn’t grab me and barely moved me.  Mr Gough didn’t appear to be enjoying himself, time for a new hat too.

Next up was Jose Gonzalez playing Latin style acoustic guitar and singing quite nicely which was all very pleasant and agreeable but nothing exceptional then he did a version of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrops’ and it was absolutely blinding!  A great moment for me bur Mr Green didn’t notice!  He finished off with another slow dreamy tune which I recognised and enjoyed.

We then moved to the big tent for one of my favourite live bands, The Charlatans.  I love them, they are great live and this could be the potential highlight of the weekend.  They started with “Then” and moved through a load of hits including “North Country boy” and “Weirdo”.  Tim Burgess commanded the crowd as always and the Hammond organ hooked me.  They played three tracks from the latest album and finished with a belter “Only one”.  Then the time was up and they were gone.  Surely they’d come back for “Sproston Green”?  They didn’t, I was left wanting more.  A very, very good performance from the Charlatans but the sound wasn’t quite right and for me they weren’t at their very best but I’m being picky.

The Purple Princess and I had decided tonight was party night so imbibed in extra refreshment throughout the Saturday evening which began on the main stage for Portishead.  I have the 90’s album which I think is called Dummy and I quite liked it at the time but would they hold me for the whole show?  They sounded great and the visuals were very good.  I really enjoyed the tunes I knew but they weren’t moving the dancing feet.  I liked what I was seeing and hearing but it just wasn’t enough.

We’d seen The Vaccines in 2011 and enjoyed them enough to check out the CD’s.  The first was really good, the next OK but not so good.  PP had the latest for her birthday and it seemed like they were back on form.  The big tent was packed which was fitting because the Vaccines were superb!  They make short, punchy singalong punky tunes and you find yourself dancing and shouting every word.  They played for an hour and packed absolutely loads in picked from all three albums.  Highlights included “Wet suit” and others I can’t remember and can’t be arsed to check because the disc is in the car.  They went down a storm and appreciated the audience and the reception they received.  They deserved an encore but we weren’t allowed.

After that we had more refreshment followed by tea and slightly better donuts then head off to dance.  Tom Ravenscroft was DJing on the lake stage and he hooked us up and kept us dancing for a long, long time.  We wandered off for a bit and bopped in the woods for a while but our attempt to get into the I arena for DJ EZ was thwarted by crowds once again.  So it was back to the lake stage until the close when we had no option but to wander slowly back to the tent.
Sunday late morning came around and we headed, foggy headed back down to the Obelisk where we parked for most of the day.

The first thing we saw was Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens which was quite nice but a bit of a surprise to see the vocalist wheeled out in a chair.
Next up was a band the Purple Princess really looked forward to seeing, (as did Mr Green).  A band that come from way back to our school days when we first met.  I liked the Boomtown Rats first time around but was sceptical about the ability to bridge the years.  It was a good fun show with all the hits and plenty of swearing from Geldof who told us we looked like cunts in our “crap tee shirts and weekend shorts” while at least he had made an effort.  They appeared to be sending themselves up at times but like I said it was fun.  My favourite was “Rat trap” and for me they just about carried it off 30+ years on.  PP and Mr Green were much more enthusiastic and both gave a big Thumbs up.

You have to love Seasick Steve and it’s hard not to love his boogie bluesy musical stories.  We missed him on this stage four years ago but there was no way we were going to miss him again.  The set meandered along at Steve’s pace and he demonstrated his array of guitars, some unique and homemade.  Steve is a simple, no bullshit man who makes simple no bullshit music and he connects with the audience on every level, he gets our feet moving too!  Highlights were ‘Dog House Boogie’ and ‘Walkin’ man’ when he made a young girls day by leading her on stage and singing to her.  Seasick Steve shows genuine joy that he is up there performing and that joy washes over the audience, he deservedly went down a storm on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

We missed the start of the Manic Street Preachers but soon got into it.  They got a good reception from the crowd as they played a ‘greatest hits’ type set.  I’ve seen them before (coincidently supporting Oasis in 1996) and they’ve made some good music over the years but have never been a great favourite of mine.  For me this gig kind of reflected that, they were good but not great, maybe just going through the motions?  The closing song “Design for Life” was a belter and the show ended on a high.

Opinions were divided ahead of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, there was a fear he might not fill the headlining slot adequately.  I had no doubts.  The new album is pretty good, full of the first class pop/rock songs Gallagher has been producing for twenty years.  A few songs in and all the doubters were converted, the band sounded great and the new tunes were moving people’s feet.  We danced the whole way through.  It was hard to hear Noel’s banter with the crowd but he did seem to be slagging off Guardian readers amongst many others.  His solo stuff went down well but the Oasis songs were given the best reception in particular ‘Champagne Supernova’, we couldn’t help singing along “Where were you while we were getting high?”  He finished with ‘Don’t look back in anger’ and for some reason that was it, no encore.  It was like watching Oasis but without the dickhead little brother and a great way to finish the festival.

The live music was over for the weekend but PP and I were determined to keep on dancing.  We tried but ultimately failed.  The DJ’s couldn’t keep us hooked for one but our legs and feet were totally knackered on this final night of the festival.  We chilled out on a bench for a while, chatting to young party people before finally giving in and staggering back to our tent.

Other festival thoughts…

The late night crowds around the ‘I arena’ & ‘In the Woods’ were a nightmare.  Whatever the organisers had planned didn’t work, a re think is needed here.

The Late night DJ’s weren’t great this year, either that or we didn’t manage to be in the right place at the right time.  The crowds mentioned above may not have helped.  A lot of what we heard played was, well, cheese…

The Food available was slightly better than 2014 and we did have a couple of good meals, (a Chinese and an Indian).  The Donuts we had this year were crap and for the second time in three years we had a Fish & Chips that was virtually inedible.  The stall virtually bang smack in the middle of the arenas, (opposite the Poetry tent) was the culprit.

Encores. Are they going out of fashion?  I didn’t see one all weekend, not on any stage.  They are a charade and we all know it so why bother?

The weather was almost perfect for a festival, four long, clear sunny days.  It was hot but not too hot during the days but a little stuffy in the tent first thing in the morning.  With no rain to dampen down the soil we had to contend with breathing in loads of dust at the busiest parts of the arena.  Glastonbury has its mud, Latitude has dust.

People watching is always an interesting diversion while soothing aching limbs or waiting between acts.  On the first couple of nights it’s amusing to watch the groups of teenage festival virgins getting smashed and suffering the consequences, we’ve all done it…  Note for young lads that are too cool to wear a hat.  That bandana across the forehead doesn’t work.  You are not in ‘Nam, you look like a prick.  As usual for Latitude there were loads of well to do yah yah’s of all ages strutting around like they owned the world.  You know the type, pressed clothes and a cricket jumper draped over the shoulders, strutting around with an air of ignorant entitlement.  Also there are people from all kinds of backgrounds that haven’t learnt any consideration for others, thankfully there didn’t seem to be any camped near us this year.  I also worry about the growing group of people that seems to live their lives through their mobile phones.  These people go round the festival looking at stuff through their viewfinders and screens stopping only to post a cool photo on social media.  This doesn’t strike me as being the best way to enjoy a festival or anything else for that matter.  Of course my friends and I get everything right all the time, or not.

Beards hide a multitude of sins but are trendy nowadays which is enough to put any thoughts of growing one out of my mind.  There were thousands of beards at Latitude, mostly on males and all styles were on display.  People who grow a big shaggy beard then go to the trouble to wax & twist the ‘tache should make up their minds; Are you scruffy or not?  Either way you are a twat.  Equally amusing are those desperately trying to grow a trendy beard but lack either the years or bristles to actually make it work.  A modern equivalent of the bum fluff nose liners sported by young males in the eighties and just as ridiculous but often very funny.

It struck me as ironic that there is a list of things that are not allowed in the festival which quite rightly includes “any item which may reasonably be considered for use as a weapon”.  However once inside the arena vendors attempt to sell things to children that could quite easily be used as a weapon.  I didn’t see any diablo damage this year but at least a couple of near misses.

It occurred to me that having seen Keith Allen, Bob Geldof and Noel Gallagher I had witnessed three of the great swearers of our time express themselves with typically inspirational profanity.

Best acts of the Festival.  Noel Gallagher, Charlatans & best of all The Vaccines.

Also well worth a mention, Seasick Steve, Public Service Broadcasting, Jon Hopkins, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Stone Foundation.

Musically not as good as 2014 but still a very good weekend with loads of special memories and yes we’ll be back!

PS  My daughter Maddie loves music too, here is a link to her blog;

Monday, 13 July 2015



Wow!  Nobody saw that coming!  England’s entire team contributed to a comfortable England within four days.  Australia out played in all departments.  Wow!  England edged the first two days then dominated the last two for an emphatic win.  Australia have a rude awakening, Just like England did in November 2013…

Or on the other hand, England won the first test well in 1997 but were battered thereafter.  Could this Australian team do they same?  Well I think they will certainly get better and be a challenge but at the moment Australia don’t have anyone to match the skill of Warne or McGrath, nor the batting depth of that era.

I spent Saturday in Norfolk catching fish from my boat with TMS on the radio.  Even with Warner going well I was sure the game was ours.  That spell of wickets around lunch was a magic, punching the air and giving the signal as they fell.  Brought back memories of 2005, Zander fishing in the fens when Steve Harmison bowled Clarke with the slow one, magic!

Lords next.  Australia can’t be that bad again, can they?  If England win and go 2-0 up this series might not even be close.  If.  

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

De Hashes...

Despite the big build up the Ashes opening day has been and gone.  (Or ‘de hashes’ as my West Indian friends refer to it).  Over the years England have almost always had poor first days of Ashes series, from that viewpoint this must rank as one of our better starts.  At 43-3 we were on the brink of disaster but Joe Root demonstrated that he is a great player in the making and salvaged something for England.  At 343-7 at the close we still don’t know how good or bad day one will prove to have been.

I’m a bit late for a series prediction but bollocks I’ll do it anyway.  In 2009 I thought Australia were much better than us and would win comfortably.  A few months ago I saw this series in the same way.  I was wrong in 2009, England managed to nick it and this time around I think the sides are more closely matched.  This first match is crucial and if England can come out of it undefeated I think England have a chance in this series and if we play well we can beat Australia.

Ashes series really are special; all the thrills, nerves and expectations of test cricket are ramped up a little bit more.  The full range of emotions will be shown over the rest of this summer and we could end up that a heaven or hell situation known as a tense, close series.  Fantastic if we win but terrible if we lose.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.