Tuesday, 19 July 2011

REVIEW: Latitude Festival 2011

It was my first time at Latitude Festival this year and my expectations were high for the critically-acclaimed, 'mini Glasto', nestled deep in the heart of the Suffolk countryside at Henham Park. The festival boasted a very eclectic line-up - not only musically - but also within the literature, comedy, poetry, dance, theatre and other artistic strands which comprise the annual event. Music, however, is the focus here.

This year's line-up was all about the smaller, lesser-known bands. While the headline slots gloated with the return of 90's glam-rock inspired Suede, it was unlikely that Saturday's headliner, Paolo Nutini, was going to be the highlight of the festival for me personally, and unfortunately, The National, are more boring than they are talented. BUT, the smaller acts? Simply wonderful. Special mentions must go to the double-trouble of Indie boys, Dog Is Dead, and Math-rockers, Trophy Wife, in the Sunrise Arena with their uplifting, feel-good performances. The intimacy of the venue, shaded by tree canopies and encompassed by fellow festival-goers perched on white bark tree logs, was aesthetically and audiologically my favourite venue (also, incidentally, because I saw the best performances here). Braids too delivered a pitch-perfect, harmonious slice of delicious minimalist/shoe-gaze/pyschadelia in the cosy tent and joined Spanish Disco-Pop/Rock experimentalists Crystal Fighters among my favourite performances of the weekend. Foals gave very strong performance in the Word Arena on the Saturday night, but sadly, Bombay Bicycle Club and other acts such as  The Naked and Famous sounded too distorted and/or messy, which was a huge surprise after being overwhelmed by both acts at previous gigs.

What made the experience extra-special was the unbelievable intimacy and attention to detail that Festival Rebublic paid to the site: multi-coloured sheep, floating water stages, giant glow-in-the-dark flower decorations, contemporary art works hidden in the woods, punting on the river, light/water projections, painted trees, giant bookshelves, fairgrounds, outdoor beds, snugs and tree lanterns! Latitude has pretty much everything on its big brothers, Reading and Leeds, except for reeling in larger international bands.

Here are some awards to sum it all up:

Best Act:  Crystal Fighters (astounding enthusiasm and musical tightness).

Worst Act:  James Blake (as dull as dishwater).

Biggest Surprise:  Villagers (absolutely flawless live, even if the singer's clipped vocals grate).

Biggest Disappointment:  Deerhunter (I was really looking forward to seeing them live, but they gave a poor performance).

Favourite New Act:  Braids (admittedly discovered them a few months back, but now the love is gigantic).

...and a healthy 8/10 for overall festival experience.

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