Latitude's first night offers comedy, cabaret, and poetry

Latitude 2009 review

published: Tue 28th Jul 2009

around the festival site (2)

Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th July 2009
Henham Park Estate, Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 8AN, England MAP
weekend ticket £150 - SOLD OUT, day tickets are priced at £60
last updated: Mon 13th Jul 2009

Latitude started on Thursday evening so when I arrive Friday afternoon, I've unfortunately already missed Camille O'Sullivan, one of my favourite performers, as well as La Reve Human Music Box at the Waterfront, which sounds intriguing, and also Edwyn Collins and his partner Grace Maxwell talking about her book which chronicles Collins' serious illness and steps to recovery.

So my first Latitude festival starts with hurriedly pitching my tent, leaving a scribbled note for my friend at the box office as the mobile 'phone reception isn't brilliant and then dashing to see The Duckworth Lewis Method in the Uncut Arena. The Duckworth Lewis Method is essentially Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh from Pugwash. They apparently met at Graham Linehan's wedding (creator of Father Ted) and discovered a mutual love of cricket. They are accompanied by a full band and playing songs from the resultant cricket concept album, both are sporting facial hair, Hannon is wearing shades and seated at a keyboard, Walsh on guitar. We hear 'Gentlemen and Players' and 'The Sweet Spot' which is a cricketing term but the song is full of double entendre as you can imagine. 'Jiggery Pokery' is fun and sounds like a children's novelty song; it's about Shane Warne's famous first bowl in the 1993 Ashes. Walsh takes lead vocals for 'Mason on the Boundary'. There's a very jolly 'Meeting Mr Miandad' with great use of the word phantasmagorical. 'The Nightwatchman' is dedicated to James Anderson, Hannon bats a ball into the crowd at this point. With 'Test Match Special' and 'The End of the Over', I think they've played most of the album – all very jaunty songs and a lively, summery set.

around the festival site (2)
We headed over to the Comedy tent and caught a bit of Phil Nichol (on the screen outside – it was too crowded to get in). He played a very funny song called 'The Only Gay Eskimo' and sung lines in the style of Dylan, Nirvana, Morrissey and then grabbed a member of the crowd to help finish the song, who was loudly cheered for his efforts. Next up was Tim Vine who came out with half a football on his head – "I'm not sure why I keep getting my head kicked in." He excels in groanful one-liners – "What do you think of black holes? I don't know what people see in them."

After a quick break on the campsite and stopping on the bridge on the way back to admire the House of Blueeyes Rock N Roll Faerie Fashion Extravaganza, the bondage outfits and the participants walking across the water to the stage were eyecatching, it's back to the Comedy venue for Mark Thomas, comedian and highly effective political activist. Thomas manages to combine serious political issues and inspires people to action with comedy. His latest campaign is "It's the Stupid Economy - Manifesto" which he has been touring around the UK and collecting ideas for a people's manifesto. Some of these include: all members of the BNP to trace their family ancestry and make the results public, a grading system for politicians, ballot papers to include 'none of the above', MPs homes which have been funded by taxpayers' money to be open to the public.

Thomas tells us about the theft of MP Margaret Moran's bay tree from outside her house (she's been embroiled in the MPs' expenses scandal). There has been a kidnap video of the bay tree released on youtube and it is now being passed around the country with photos of its progress being sent to Ms Moran. Thomas has been gathering ideas from Latitude festival goers and the resultant manifesto includes: clothes to be made out of cheese (kid's policy), punters to be allowed to bring alcohol and water to the site, politicians to only have one job, 99 ice creams to be priced at 99 pence, lorry drivers to be forced to use the slow lane, a public referendum on decisions to go to war and public transport to be free. A couple of Thomas' own suggestions are: the national anthem to be changed to the Imperial March from Star Wars and a maximum wage to be set.

Regina Spektor, who played the first Latitude four years ago, is on at the Obelisk Arena as support to Pet Shop Boys. There are screens either side of the huge mainstage and some welcome tiered seating around the back of the open air arena. She starts the set with her current single 'Laughing With' and mostly plays piano but tries the guitar for one song, admitting that she plays it badly. She has a similar look and vocals to Tori Amos but is a fluffier version with her bright and breezy pop. The highlight of the set is 'Fidelity', the one with the chorus "... and it breaks my hea-ea-ea-ea-eart."

Squeeze
I'm trying to stay away from too much music and explore other areas and it's not at all difficult for me to forego Pet Shop Boys, although I do catch a bit of Squeeze on my way to the Poetry tent. The marquee is heaving and people dancing as the band plays through their hits, including 'Black Coffee in Bed', 'Up the Junction', 'Tempted', 'Is That Love', 'Cool for Cats' and 'Pulling Mussels'.

The Poetry tent is apparently getting bigger each year at Latitude and it seems to be full to overspilling most of the weekend. I listen to the end of Kate Tempest who is spitting out personal beat poems and finishes with a hard-hitting urban poem called 'Cannibal Kids' – "we've been disgraced, deafened and deflowered, our brains brutalised and our defiance devoured", powerful stuff. Spoken word poet Polarbear, hailing from Birmingham and wearing his trademark flat cap, is on next. He keeps the crowd enthralled with his stories – there's a long, complex one about a childhood friend, David, who he loses touch with and meets later on in life, and a bit of audience participation with us yelling back his line "I am not you, you are not me, shut up".

Over in the Cabaret Arena, Miss Behave is weaving a bizarre, convoluted story about the circus with props and a very burlesque atmosphere. On to the Film & Music Arena where Jeremy Warmsley performs the songs of Tom Waits and Daniel Johnston. I've only ever seen him play solo but he has a small band tonight with guitars, bass, keys and drums and they cover Daniel Johnston's songs including 'Hey Joe' and 'True Love Will Find You In the End' and some Tom Waits tracks like 'Downtown Train', 'Bone Machine' and 'Goin' Out West'. I'm a bit disappointed as I was expecting the performance to be quite intense; the vocals are melodic but a bit delicate and the vibe is chilled. They finish with Waits' 'Come On Up to the House' which can be emotionally stirring but this lacked any power.

Turin Brakes are on next after a short DJ set. Their atmospheric acoustic music is accompanied by video footage of desert-, sea- and sky-scapes. They play a few tracks from 'The Optimist' album - 'The Door' which was their first single back in 2001, 'Future Boy' and 'Underdog (Save Me)' which inspires a singalong. There are a couple of gentle new songs – 'The Sea Change' and 'Paper Heart' and another oldie 'Pain Killer' which is greeted by cheers and they segue with a bit of Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean' for good measure.

I head back to camp but there is plenty still going on after 1 and most notably Sean Rowley's Guilty Pleasures (cheesy disco hits) until 3 am.

around the festival site (1)
review by: Helen OSullivan

photos by: Chris Mathews

Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th July 2009
Henham Park Estate, Beccles, Suffolk, NR34 8AN, England MAP
weekend ticket £150 - SOLD OUT, day tickets are priced at £60
last updated: Mon 13th Jul 2009


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