I went to the Latitude festival thinking that it might be my last, as the line up was a little light on guitar bands for me, but I had such a good time there it’s almost a certainty that I’ll be back again next year. The fact that the numbers are kept below 30,000 means it’s a cinch to get around, and there was so much space in the campsite I could have put up a 2-bed semi if I’d had the time, inclination, or building skills. There’s just enough good music on offer to keep me interested, and the late night entertainment is second to none – Guilty Pleasures deserves a particular mention at this point, as after a hard days drinking there’s nothing more entertaining than some classic eighties tracks (although I have to admit to be troubled by just how much Wham I seem to know).
Here, in no particular order, are my top five acts at Latitude:
Black Joe Lewis
Black Joe Lewis was the first band I saw at the festival, and they set the bar high for everyone that followed. Coming on like a cross between James Brown, Howlin’ Wolf, and Booker T, they’re an old style soul band with a dash of blues and a healthy side order of electric guitar, and they got proceedings off to a lively start, getting a great reaction from the large crowd they’d drawn at the Sunrise Arena – in fact I challenge anyone to watch them without tapping their foot. Given the dearth of quality soul music at the mainstream festivals these days, these guys were a real treat, and I’d recommend them to anyone interested in the genre or open something a little bit different, as Black Joe Lewis make a righteous sound!
I chose to see Spiritualized over Grace Jones on the main stage (bit of a no brainer really), and it’s fair to say that I’d forgotten how good they are. They put together one of the best conceived sets I’ve ever witnessed, opening with a cover of Amazing Grace, the hymn given the full orchestral treatment, which was typical of the next few songs, and as the set progressed the guitars gradually came more and more to the fore and the sound got heavier and heavier, building to a crescendo of almost two minutes of virtual white noise as a finale. Magnificent stuff, heart warming, stirring, uplifting – and best of all it rocked.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Despite the fact that Nick Cave has been critically and commercially acclaimed for years, I’d somehow managed to avoid ever hearing any of his stuff, so my decision to close the festival in his company was based more on my friends’ recommendations than any great love on my part. Well I may not have been a fan at the start of his set, but I sure as hell was by the end – old-style rock ‘n’ roll with a sleazy grandeur, Cave and the Bad Seeds were hugely impressive, and I shall be working my way through their back catalogue over the coming months.
My wife had first told me about White Lies after their debut appearance at Latitude in ’08 (I was otherwise engaged at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival), and since then they’ve become a firm favourite in our household. They’re from the raft of modern bands that have been influenced by Manchester gloom merchants Joy Division, but their driving use of guitar helps elevate them from the throng. Their performance at this year’s Latitude was the best I’ve seen them give, as they seemed a little more self-assured than before, while the vocals were noticeably stronger.
The Gaslight Anthem
In the space of a year, The Gaslight Anthem have fast become one of my all time favourite bands. They’re blue-collar American rockers in the truest sense, taking their lead from Springsteen but rocking that little bit harder. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and make music that is real, emotional, and uplifting, and the sight of everyone around me singing along to every word confirmed my belief that this band are going to be massive. It was also the first time I’ve ever seen a crowd start spontaneously clapping along to a drum beat (at the end of ‘Great Expectations’). Hands down my highlight of the weekend, and I can’t wait until I catch them again at this years Reading Festival.
What’s Steve been listening go this week?
Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is – by Black Joe Lewis
Blood Mountain – by Mastodon
The ’59 Sound – by The Gaslight Anthem