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Latitude 2010 review

Diverse and quite unique it's the enchanting and bewitching wow factor that so typifies Latitude. Laid back, eclectic, thought provoking and delightful, Latitude is at the head of a new breed of festivals

For those that truly want a festival experience that little bit unique, discerning and different from all the others on offer you need look no further than Latitude. Now successfully having completed its fifth year this astonishing little festival is packed with hidden gems in and around each and every corner of the site, a site which is set out in the most mystical and magical fashion. Once darkness falls the site becomes spectacular with visual delights just waiting to capture you and draw you in even more, this festival feeds just about every cultural need and even the needs you didn't know you had.

It is the welcome you get that you notice first when you arrive, not for Latitude the surly disingenuous snarling from the usual security that waits so often at other festivals. Latitude greets you with a smile, a cheery word and a bit of banter so you immediately feel relaxed and in holiday mode. You've arrived and it feels good from the start, you're a valued customer and it shows. As you walk onto the site stewards from Oxfam - the  'Pixie Stewards' in this case, are on hand to direct, advise and help - this is a festival that wants you to revel in the festival experience and goes that extra mile to make sure you do - full marks all round and a few extra sprinkled on top with fairy dust.

the Waterfront stage complete with water lilies that are beautifully lit at night is a place you just want to sit and chill while drinking in the atmosphere

As you walk onto the site through the atmospheric woodland walkways passing art installations on the way plus a hidden piano just waiting to be played, it really feels as though you've left the hustle and bustle of the real world way behind. If you go one way you'll find yourself at the Sunrise Arena where there's non stop activity lined up all weekend long, if you go the other way you get to the Waterfront stage which is the first hint that Latitude really does have something very different on offer at every twist and turn. Set on the lake with a gondola splashing relaxed punters around and, at times, various enthusiastic festival goers taking a swim. The Waterfront stage, complete with water lilies that are beautifully lit at night, is a place you just want to sit and chill while drinking in the atmosphere and just simply relaxing as you check out the eclectic mixture of entertainment making full use of the area. Many a happy hour can be spent here before you ever get into the main part of the site but as time goes by you just have to head off over the bridge to see what else is about but there can't be anything more spectacular than the Waterfront can there?

you just don't know what's going to happen here next but it's guaranteed to be something you'll want to be part of.

Well, actually as you enter the main site the sensory overload really starts to kick in. There's comedy, poetry, literature and music all within easy walking distance so you can dip in and out of the most diverse range of cultural activities. Children mingle with adults, teenagers, couples, older folk, ex-hippies and the trendy all flooding the site and rubbing along like they've known each other forever. If you go to the corner you'll find a little sign saying 'Faraway Forest' - follow the path as it winds and twists and before you can blink you're into a little wonderland with various art installations lining the route. As you emerge into a little clearing there's a stage - a stage that's all set to bring a even more magic to this delightful woodland clearing. There's a theatre all set up just over another bridge and a raft of entertainers including the wonderful RSC are busily with a range of theatrical events for your entertainment. This area of the festival is just so hard to leave behind, you just don't know what's going to happen here next but it's guaranteed to be something you'll want to be part of.

Latitude bills itself as "more than just a music festival", and you may have thought 'yeah right' before arriving but within a few minutes of getting to Lattitude you realise that it's true, this really is so much "more than just a music festival" - this is a whole new experience and one that you'll want to return to again and again.

Latitiude has an astonishingly eclectic line-up that's as diverse and challenging as it is contrary in nature, it brings you a quantity and quality of entertainment you'd expect at a much larger festival but it's condensed and compact giving it the appeal of a boutique festival.

Arriving on site late on Friday evening we missed the best part of the first day due to inadvertently finding that the rumours surrounding the fact that the M25 is a car park from which you may never emerge were absolutely true, but we were not daunted and we tricked it into letting us go - eventually. The mood we were in when we arrived on site exhausted and jaded from our previous weeks experience at T in the Park  coupled with the shock of the M25 did not bode well for a weekend of festival revelry so it was an astonished couple of Safeconcerts reviewers who found themselves laughing and joking with FRIENDLY security - instant mood lift and now we were curious to see if the warm welcome we had received would follow us into the main site.

We arrived to find Florence and the Machine entertaining the crowds on the Obelisk stage, the exuberant and somewhat ethereal Florence (I have to say it again - sorry Flo but your dress designer does not like you and is having a laugh!) strutting her stuff and really getting into the spirit of her first headline performance. So with a backing choir, a concert harpist, and a small orchestra as support you Flo belted out a set that had the Latitude crowd in the palm of her hand - so what's a few missed notes Flo? The night undoubtedly belonged to her and the crowd were delighted when she dragged a somewhat bemused and embarrassed brother Jay Jay and sister Grace to the stage, sister Grace had a birthday and so the crowd all sang Happy Birthday at Flo's behest.

Wandering off for a quick cuppa we bumped into Steve Forest who had opened the Comedy Tent that very morning and a very pleasant hour was spent chatting about life, the universe and everything.

The Wedding Disco on the Lake stage was in full flow as the 80's hits were belted out full volume, we left them to it as the party was in full swing and looked set to continue through the night.

we had found ourselves in festival heaven - no doubt about it...

We ended our Friday with a bit of a bedtime story told by Daniel Kitson, on the floating lake stage surrounded by the beautifully lit lilies, the magical atmosphere enhanced by the storytelling held an enthralled crowd, we were in festival heaven - no doubt about it.

Saturday dawned and a thunderous downpour hit, oh-oh, but was Latitude about to give it up to the weather? Not a bit of it. One short storm later the sun overpowered it and the wind blew it away in true Latitude style so the weary yet slowly waking festival crowd were able to come out to play. Noah and the Whale hit the word tent drawing a suitably impressed crowd that left people feeling uplifted and brightened by their experience with these assured musicians.

School of Seven Bells provided their particular blend of ethereal, dream inspired music including 'Windstorm' and 'My Cabal', but they didn't really capture me, technically as you'd expect the band were up there - but it just didn't inspire me this time round. Frightened Rabbit have been quietly getting on with things over the past few years - and it shows, the guys were in charge, owning the Word Arena for the duration of their set, attracting a vocal and appreciative crowd. It's always a joy to watch a band who are going places and have earned their place - keep an eye out.

John Grant was my big surprise of the day. Didn't know him or his music and just wandered off to the Obelisk to catch whatever was going on when onto the stage sauntered this ordinary looking guy with a rich and expansive baritone voice with a bit of a potty mouth. Kicking off his set by telling the crowd that his first song was for 'everybody that had been fucked over by love' he set the tone for a tremendous set that included "Sigourney Weaver' and 'I Wanna Go To Marz' the latter being the first single to be taken from the album 'Queen Of Denmark' - a rich sound heavy on the piano and totally delightful. Strikes me this is one underplayed and under rated artist and I'll certainly be listening to more of his music - I'd recommend him to you too!

I caught a bit of the wonderful Paul Heaton's set in the Word Arena. "I'm Paul Heaton and I used to be famous" he announced. The lead guitar sound went a tad tits up for the first song, stopping the show and Mr Heaton encouraged the crowd to boo his guitarist - and boo they did - well for a few seconds but who can stay booing Paul Heaton and crew? The set continued unabated and a typically top set was delivered.

Pandora's Playground has provided a whole range of alternative events and when we could get anywhere near it the Comedy Stage provided the laughs - and a lot of them. Rich Hall's set was irreverent, hysterically funny and just a tad edgy as the heckling and banter twixt himself and a 10 year old lad provided quite a few 'moments' but the fact that we were told chocolate as we know it is no more following the Cadbury debacle upset a few chocoholics who hadn't thought of the implications - will what's happened to cheese in America happen to our well loved chocolate bars? Hall thinks so! The prize for the best James Bulger inspired joke has to go to Hall, forcing us all to laugh whilst taking a sharp intake of breath.

Who would have thought that we'd be at a festival with one half of Starsky and Hutch reading poetry?

Ross Sutherland's excellent performance was followed by none other than Hutch himself - David Soul reading from the works of Pablo Neruda (Chilean writer and politician who's given name was Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto) accompanied by classical guitarist Hugh Burns. Who would have thought that we'd be at a festival with one half of Starsky and Hutch reading the works of a renowned poet so well and that it would so engage the audience?

James were over on the Obelisk Stage providing a perfectly appropriate afternoon set with frontman Tim Booth's hypnotic gyrations in the sun showing that the guys have no intention of slowing things down - James will clearly be providing the entertainment and drawing the crowd in for many a year yet, the crowd were, of course, waiting for 'Sit Down' and once they got it life seemed much as it should, the sun shone and all felt well. The Maccabees delivered their set as expected and David Ford drew a small but enthusiastic crowd to the Word Arena as the afternoon continued apace.

Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles

The high spot of the day had to come from Crystal Castles as Alice Glass took to the crowd (not one for spending too much time on stage is Alice). This had to be seen to be believed as an enthusiastic and knowing crowd got into the true spirit of the anarchic Crystal Castles, the curious and uninitiated kept to the back and the edges. Ms Glass took umbridge at one hapless crowd member (we were told said crowd member touched her boob but we still don't know if this was the case!) punches were thrown and her own security joined in the fray. The crowd surfers kept the pit team working for the whole set as mayhem and madness ensued and much chaos was brought to the Obelisk stage, Latitude showed once again that the Latitude crowd really can expect the unexpected and the crowd lapped it up despite Ms Glass's violent streak!

an enthusiastic and knowing crowd got into the true spirit of the anarchic Crystal Castles, the curious and uninitiated kept to the back and the edges, clutching their cappuccinos.

A little opera from the Royal Opera House was on offer over at the faraway Forest and being a huge Opera fan I had no option but to go, taking the decision to miss The Horrors who had been high on my list of 'must sees'. I headed off to the enchanted forest catching a bit of Midnight Beasts ripping it up on Cabaret Stage complete with cheerleaders and pom poms - energetic or what! There was already a queue of likeminded folk set for a bit of high brow offerings as I made it to the forest, after a few sound problems the whole shebang swung into action and sex, debauchery and madness claimed the forest, there was a happy little ditty entitled "you've got the clap" and the story moved on to prostitution and a bit of petty theft before winding up with Prison and death. All human emotion was covered in style, Opera set in a forest? truly unbeatable! Fellow festival goers told me that they had been entranced by a tremendous Sadlers Wells performance earlier on the day on the Waterfront, the event had been so popular that many couldn't get to see it though.

Meanwhile Belle and Sebastian had drawn a crowd full of devotees to their set as they headlined the Obelisk stage, many festival folk had come specifically for this act and true to form they didn't disappoint. Playing for the first time in four years and performing a cover of "Jumpin Jack Flash' among an impressive back catalogue - job done, fans satisfied showing that Belle and Sebastian are back on the map.

The XX meanwhile went down well in the Word Arena as they brought things to a close there. Hugely popular and riding high at the moment The XX effortlessly draw the crowds in as word spreads that this is a 'must see' band, atmospheric, brooding and darkly emotional, yeah, they certainly have what it takes.

It was time to hit the tea and have a break, taking in the diverse, eclectic and fascinating range of our fellow festival goers all milling around the festival site intent on drinking in the latitude spirit…a few costumes appeared..what's going on? only a Masked Ball! so off we went in search of the fun and games…

On the way we took in the spectacle of the ever changing orb which had been providing some fascinating visual performances over by the entrance to the Faraway forest. People were now in full party spirit and a whole wealth of hitherto unseen exotic creatures had come out to play. Kate Tempest had drawn a huge crowd to the Poetry arena and her performance had earned a standing ovation. China Mieville attracted her share of devotees to the Literary arena, it was late by now but there was still the most diverse array of entertainment to be found around each and every corner of the site, from the magical and enchanting to the full on disco dancing, everybody was catered for, and catered for well.

the weird, the wonderful the bemused and the confused all joined in with the party spirit and the forest was once again transformed.

Around the enchanted (yes, I know it's the Faraway - but it really was enchanting) forest there was a real feel of fairyland it was so beautifully lit and presented with pockets of entertainment set up and impromptu performances to be found everywhere, so it took a while to get to our destination as we took our time drinking in the atmospheric wonders on offer. The band took to the stage and the party kicked off in style as the masked ball began in earnest, the weird, the wonderful the bemused and the confused all joined in with the party spirit and the forest was once again transformed.

The RSC were performing over at the Theatre tent and attracting much attention, more folk wanted to be there than there was space so we found one poor lonely security chap trying to explain that the tent was closed for this one while plenty of determined theatre goers equally intent on getting in were seen attempting to barter. All good natured - but a couple of ingenious women zipped round the side and snuck under the tent flaps!

Saturday night really was party night and the site was alive and buzzing, we left the forest reluctantly and made our way to the Waterfront where another story was entrancing a large crowd in this beautiful setting, the temptation to stop and just drink in the atmosphere was high but we felt it important to check out the Sunrise arena so joined the throng of youngsters making their way there. After a bit of a shuffle we found ourselves slap bang in the middle of a Christmas disco, Santa's, elves and Slade's 'Merry Christmas' had transformed the Sunrise and the area was heaving with disco divas - a bit of a bop later we wanted to go back to check out Mark Lamar but so did a lot of other folk  - so we reluctantly decided to give it a miss..but we were so glad that we'd gone down to the woods this day…

It's always a testament to a top quality festival when you reach the final day and feel a bit disappointed that this is where the party stops, it's also quite a task deciding what to see and do, this festival has such a range and wealth of entertainment that you can't really go wrong with whatever you decide to spend your time doing.

Sunday began for us with Tom Jones strutting his stuff on the Obelisk Stage. He was late in coming out but was in mighty fine voice when he did, performing songs from his critically acclaimed new album 'Praise & Blame'. It seems that Mr. Jones is going back to his roots and turning his back on all those favourites we wanted to here live. Whilst the man was in excellent voice it would have been nice to have had a balance and to have had the opportunity to hear the old well loved greats alongside the new work. To be honest I felt a bit short changed and even the chat about how “Elvis and me used to sing together back in the day,” and the introduction of his son who "Looks more like my brother but I was only 16 when I had him" (really - I thought it was your wife who gave birth Tom??) couldn't really make up for the missing numbers we had all waited patiently to hear.

Sadler’s Wells over on the Waterfront provided a delectable distraction for an hour as we marveled in sheer amazement at the talent in front of us. Dance is a beautiful medium and when you can see it in all its glory set on that delightful lake it really does inspire, but that's the great thing about Latitude, the opportunity to indulge the senses in artistic mediums you may not otherwise choose to see broadens the horizons. The performance was thrilling to watch, a beautiful act in a beautiful setting and I'm so glad we made the effort to catch this wonderful group of ballet dancers in action.

Next up on the Waterfront was an all too short but utterly fabulous excerpt from the musical 'Hair', the crew put everything into the performance and it showed. Having seen the original I never thought it convey the aura of what was a ground breaking musical in its time - but the performers from the London show totally wowed the audience with the sheer exuberance, with ‘Let The Sun Shine In’, ‘I Got Life’, ‘Hair’ and ‘Aquarius’ we got the hits we wanted. The only moan would be that it was such a short set and it left us all wanting more.

Dashing back we caught a bit of The Big Pink who were well on form as we headed to Mumford & Sons who provided a perfect set in the afternoon sun for the Latitude crowd.

Dirty Projectors in the Obelisk Arena brought their haunting harmonies and intricate, clashing guitar lines to Latitude, an arty little band but perfectly suited to the `latitude crowd. Experimental they certainly are but they are quite captivating and terribly arty!

Yeasayer
Yeasayer

Yeahsayer's performance on the Word Arena was sublime; the charm of a Yeasayer performance lies in the multifaceted layers of sound they produce. Arty, yeah, a bit avant-garde, yeah, but the music is astonishingly good, drawing you in and holding your attention.

Midlake and The Temper Trap were keeping them entertained on the Obelisk while Charlotte Gainsborough, celebrating the last gig of her UK tour provided a delightful set on the Word Arena, an exotic creature singing in French she commanded attention, her music was surprisingly good.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela are a remarkable duo with a remarkable talent, their epic performance was as jaw dropping as it was mind blowing. Whatever it is this duo have they have it in bucket loads, they are superb musicians and how on earth two people can hold a large crowd enthralled for the duration of an acoustic, instrumental set beggars belief. But they do, and they do it with flair, the ferocity and intensity of their performance is stunning, their talent extraordinary.

Rodrigo y Gabriela
Rodrigo y Gabriela

Jonsi, over on the Word Arena was another stunning and unmissable performance. Unique, amazing and with a powerful voice Jonsi builds and builds the set until it reaches an almost unbearable climax. Emotive, original and inspiring Jonsi has an incredible and uncontainable talent, wearing a stunning headdress and falling to his knees for the ending to ‘Grow Till Tall’ this was quite probably the performance of the festival and it drew tears from many in that crowd. A top Latitude highlight and stand out performance that left you feeling exhausted yet strangely energized, a conundrum all wrapped up - Jonsi nailed it.

Vampire Weekend were triumphant over on the Obelisk Stage and they provided all the songs required of them with  'Holiday' 'California English,' 'Cousins' and 'Walcott' infectious pop belted out to a very appreciative audience. We've never seen them at night, they always seem to be on in the afternoon sun, but it lost none of the atmosphere.

Grizzly Bear topped off the weekends acts on the Word Arena, accomplished musicians who captivated their audience but somehow didn't quite capture us today.

So with that we bid a reluctant farewell to our magical 'Midsummer Night's Dream' and made our way to the exit, only to be stopped in our tracks by the most surprising and beautiful performances we've seen in a long while. The night was warm and the stage as ever was beautifully lit, four surreal figures were moving around the crowd and making their way to the stage, as they made their way across the water the magical aura that had been pervading the arena reached new heights, stopping festival goers in their tracks. The gentle relaxing performance transfixed and as they made their way back across the water to the strains of a piper it seemed to embody just what Latitude is all about. The performance ended with a stunning Japanese Drumming set and with that we said farewell, our festival fix well and truly locked in the memory.

Latitude's fifth outing showed a festival at ease with itself and way ahead of the competition in it's conceptual nature, a new breed of festival markedly different, totally inspirational. The festival site itself is well laid out and simply stunning, many festival venues claim to be 'stunning' but Hanham Park really is perfection. From the Sunrise Arena that is a beautiful fern lined clearing in the woods, to that fabulous Waterfront Stage where the magical lighting at night makes it like a fairyland. The Faraway Forest is another beautifully presented area with a beautiful stage set up that once again transforms as night falls. There are many things that make Latitude unique, friendly security staff are a blessing, the warm welcome you get as you arrive on site really does set the scene and makes you feel valued - well done to AP Security yet again for getting the balance just right.

You really do need to suspend belief at Latitude, it has the wow factor and Latitude actually values its customers, beyond that it brings such a diverse and eclectic range of entertainment that makes it a full on cultural experience. Music, poetry, literature, cabaret, comedy, theatre, film and other distractions provide a weekend that's as different and unique as it is magical - and magical is our watchword for Latitude - our 'Midsummer Night's Dream' left us reeling, this really is a festival with a difference.

You really do need to suspend belief at Latitude... it has the wow factor bringing such a diverse and eclectic range of entertainment making it a full on 'not to be missed' cultural experience
 
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24th July 2010
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Latitude 2010 review

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