Saturday at Latitude 2010 brought a touch of early morning rain that disappeared shortly before the live music started. From thereon it was another day of sunshine rays and sunblock.
Pat Grossi aka Active Child may produce solemn frozen electronic hymns, but his engaging smile and greeting of “morning campers,” to those who had turned out early for his set at the leafy Sunrise Arena belied the idea that he was some sort of gloomy chill wave monster. Plucking at his harp whilst his laptop added beats and washes of weighty eighties influenced synth sounds, his eerie falsetto weaved its way through the trees during I’m In Your Church At Night, threatening to call out the forest ghosts. It was a devine sound and Grossi knew it - kissing his harp at the end in thanks. The music of Active Child may be coldly computerized, but his words are often warm, human and emotional, from “I’m so far away from the warmth of your body,” to “take shelter in my arms.” Finishing with When Your Love Is Safe, his icy sound managed to warm the soul.
Over at the Lake Stage 18 year old Rachel Furner was the latest young pop hopeful bashing out songs such as Human Nature - a ditty about how you can’t help who you fall in love with - on her keyboard. She was clearly enjoying herself, full of youthful positivity and big smiles. It’s hard not to like her enthusiasm, but easy to dislike her songs a blend of highly commercial X Factor meets Scouting For Girls blandness. She can sing, she’s sassy but she offered no delight other than mainstream hollowness.
Not everything mainstream need be hollow, as the next act - Clare Maguire (pictured above) - proved. One of our Ones To Watch 2010 Maguire positively boomed out her songs to the “crazy Latitude people,” as she described them, with a voice awash with soul and richness. Ain’t Nobody, Shield and the Sword and Last Dance were all incredibly potent, fully justifying the argument that real talent still counts in the music industry - Maguire having been signed to Polydor Records. She also helped continue the Fleetwood Mac revival following the emergence of Lissie and Florence and the Machine’s recent Glastonbury performance of The Chain, by delivering an immense version of Big Love. Forget X-Factor. Forget Britain’s Got Talent. The real deal is Clare Maguire.
“I believe in guitars, bass, drums, three minute songs, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen and rock ’n’ roll,” Frank Turner passionately announced from the Obelisk Stage before getting the crowd to yell back “I believe,” to his own musical religious mantra. Turner may not be a patch on Presley or Springsteen - but his set is workmanlike, honest and full of conviction. His acoustic strum-thrashes delight those at the front who sing along to every word, and its hard not to be moved by the touching Long Live The Queen- a positive song about a friend of his that died.
The reformed James get things exactly right for their late afternoon slot. Starting with the song Bubbles the best track from their inconsistent album Hey Ma, their now bald and goateed singer Tim Booth sang gloriously “I’m alive,” and it felt like a new birth for the band. “We were going to do lots of new ones, but......,” he joked before leading his group through a greatest hits set that included Ring The Bells, Sound, Sometimes, Laid and inevitably Sit Down, which he performed off the stage (see video clip below). It was perfect for the time of day and became a joyous crowd pleasing celebration of the bands career. Booth danced like a madman, contorting his arms and body in a trance like state and during Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) pulled a John Travolta Saturday Night Fever pose as he sang a line about the actor. Good to have them to have them back as Bruce Forsyth might say.
Back at the Lake Stage Nedry brought something of a very different nature, their heavy trembling basslines and edgy beats getting heads bobbing. Lead singer Ayu was resplendent dancing childlike in in a pink shiny dress as she wailed and chanted playfully, her two laptop whiz-kids Chris and Matt rowing in rafts of post-dubstep illustriousness. Ending with a new slightly more techno-laced track than what they have produced before they no doubt won a few new fans.
Riot-electro-art-punks Teeth continue to divide opinion. With simply a single laptop, live drums and the robot-effect vocals of Veronica So their raw intense bleepy shouty d.i.y sound left some audience members shaking their heads, whilst others, at the encouragement of the band formed a circle pit - the kind of thing you would expect at a metal gig rather than a rather more sedate festival - although this circle pit did feature children and placid forty year old men - this was Latitude after all.
Back to the Obelisk stage, the festival was about to witness its most controversial performance. Alice Glass from Crystal Castles looked like a crazed vampire in a Smiths tour t-shirt. She vacantly stared at the audience, swigged from a bottle of Jim Beam and shrieked over the digital hardcore and dirty rave blasts that emanated from Ethan Kath’s box of electronic tricks, backed up by a live drummer. News of the rape that occurred on Thursday night had slowly spread around the site and Alice angrily urged that all rapists should be castrated before launching herself into the full-on mosh pit. After crowd surfing for some time she pulled back and shouted “You touch my tits, I kick you in the f*cking head,” before lashing a series of blows down on one audience member. From thereon Glass barely sang at all, instead she prowled the stage, knocked over a drum riser and exited to a number of boos from the back of the crowd. Provocative and with a performance more akin to Reading Festival than Latitude, if nothing else Crystal Castles know how to grab headlines.
Musically opposite to Crystal Castles, Obelisk stage headliners Belle and Sebastian brought a lot of love and fun to Latitude 2010. Playing their first show in four years the Scottish twee indie-pop heroes charmed with humour and great songs. Stuart Murdoch joked that he was going to take his top off, but “That would be like walking in on your dad in the shower.” Later he explained that the band had been having bad dreams about playing live again - that their guitars turned to jellyfish or his tongue into a cactus. Another dream involved Latitude itself and Murdoch turning to guitarist Stevie Jackson and saying “play Jumping Jack Flash.” They then turned the dream into a warped reality and rock out to The Rolling Stones number - a moment of surreal crowd pleasing. Wheeling out many of the classics - Funny Little Frog, Judy And The Dream Of Horses, Fox In The Snow, Legal Man, I’m A Cuckoo they then got a crowd of young fans from the front row up on stage to dance during The Boy With The Arab Strab. Whoever said that only big rock bands, anthems and huge light shows could work as a headline set at a festival begone. A victory for the small people.
From the sublime to the ridiculous the last musical entertainment of the night finished with Gaggle on the Lake Stage. Bearing weird colourful headpieces, face paint and banners that declare “This Is Merely A Distraction From The Inevitable” the 17 piece all female alt. choir spat out “How can tell if my mans a liar,” with venom, bemusing the crowd that had gathered to see them. Rather like other multi-member costumed bands such as The Polyphonic Spree, Gaggle are an interesting diversion because of their uniqueness, but this uniqueness is not particularly addictive. A ‘must see’ once - but that is enough. For now they remain a one trick pony.
With that Saturdays musical entertainment at Latitude 2010 was over. Until the next day where amongst others Mumford and Sons, The Antlers and Grizzly Bear awaited.