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I’ve not updated my site for a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy! This was a review of Latitude Festival that I did for the Clash website…

Latitude Festival 2012Image

Now in its seventh year, there’s a sense that Latitude is coming of age. Wonderfully compact, yet with masses of variety, the Suffolk-based festival crams a lot into its many nooks and crannies.

Bon Iver somehow manages to transport the main stage crowd to an intimate woodland clearing-cum-cathedral through the use of some cunning stage materials and projections during a near-flawless headline set. His distinctive falsetto drifts on the air, over the strains of his full band. Much of the set is goosebump-inducing, especially the triumvirate of ‘Skinny Love’, ‘Blood Bank’ and ‘Flume’ towards the end.

Seemingly beamed in from another planet, The Horrors spend their entire performance backlit to emphasise their silhouettes’ physical likeness to that of aliens. They come out fighting, playing ‘Mirror’s Image’, ‘Who Can Say’ and ‘I Can See Through You’ from the off. The quintet appear to have mastered a lot of the sound problems that have blighted performances in the past, although Tom Cowan’s synths are too quiet, sadly removing the killer element from ‘Sea Within a Sea’.

Over in the I Arena – set in the woods – Django Django take everyone present on a sonic space journey through their debut, complete with bossa nova interludes. Their performance grows in intensity until the siren-heavy ‘WOR’ brings everything to a clattering finish.

Josh T Pearson walks a fine line between stand-up act and troubadour. “My name’s Josh T Pearson, and I’m here to poop your party,” he begins, before launching into a four-song performance peppered with jokes about blowjobs in between. Set closer ‘Country Dumb’ gets the biggest cheer, and while his songs certainly don’t get the party started, his keening voice and superlative country/flamenco guitar flourishes grab all and sundry’s attention.

The family- and hangover-friendly early Sunday afternoon slot is filled with blues rockers Alabama Shakes. Brittany Howard charms the crowd with her fantastic drawl, while they have a woman signing for the deaf onstage.
Kooky Californian collective Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros follow straight after, with Alex Ebert’s cult leader character jumping into the crowd to enjoy the adulation of those at the front.

But enough about the music. As the screens around the site keep on reminding everyone, Latitude is “more than just a music festival”. This year, organisers have set out their stall as placing the arts offering at Latitude on an even footing with the music, and with a fantastically diverse bill of comedy, film, literature, cabaret and performance, all the tents are packed across the weekend.

From playing musical statues onstage with housewife cabaret act Barbara Nice, through to enjoying the surreal experience of raving to the Chemical Brothers’ film ‘Don’t Think’ in a tent, there’s something for everyone here.

It’s not often you’ll get to see three headline comedy acts in a row, but Latitude offers that privilege, and so Clash sits and laughs through Lee Nelson’s hilarious rudeboy shtick, Phil Nichol’s shouty guitar performance that’s unfortunately peppered with patronising and immature homosexual references, and the brilliant David O’Doherty and his tiny keyboard, whose angsty existentialist comedy is a particular highlight of the weekend.

Adam Buxton takes us on a tour round various music videos, comedy clips and general YouTube weirdness in his show BUG, resurrecting his Moby/Michael Stipe video to much hilarity.

Say what you will about Latitude – it may be a middle class falafel-filled weekend, but it’s also the best-organised festival that Clash has ever been to. It’s cemented its reputation as a much more compact alternative to Glastonbury, with a programme bursting with cultural gems at every turn. Overall, it’s a fulfilling, exhausting weekend of fun, frolics and adventure.

To view this story on Clash’s website, click here.