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   Sunday, July 29, 2007  
To the pastoral idyll of Henham Park near the Suffolk coast for the Latitude Festival. Favourable reviews abound for the first renewal of this Mean Fiddler-organized event and this will broadly (8 pounds for a programme notwithstanding) be another. Depends what you want, of course. This is a pretty civilized affair where you had a far better chance of falling into conversation about plot developments in The Archers than, say, the possibilities of scoring some Charlie. Indeed, lolling on the grass in front of the literature tent, late morning latte in hand, listening to the witty wittering of Marcus Brigstocke & co. felt a bit like a 3-D Radio4 experience.
Though Latitude particularly sells itself on the array of non-music cultural diversions, reallyrather missed nearly all of these. And also, in fact, many of the big name music attractions, the bill being rather top heavy with - to be frank - dullness. The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Damien Rice, Wilco, Midlake.. that kind of thing. The National, they're supposed to be good, yes? Well, no amount of their busy busy hi-hat action could stop this blog dozing off in the sunshine. Similarly, The Hold Steady's 'Randy Newman & the E Street Band' conflation makes no connection round here. Festival affiliate Uncut magazine's influence was further evident in the prominent billing for the world-rockisms of the likes of Tinariwen, Rodrigo y Gabriela and The Gotan Project. Thanks but..., ta. So who the hell did tick this blog's box? Well, Blood Red Shoes for one. Laura-Mary and Steven comprise this rising British boy-girl duo, instrumentally White Stripes in reverse but crucially, mercifully entirely blues-rock free. Their half-hour set on the smaller Lake Stage Sunday night packed more clout than most of the headliners on the bigger stages and, tho' they've yet to finish their debut album and were playing for free at the Notting Hill Arts Club but a few months back, they could have easily made an impact at that level.

Back at the start of the final day's proceedings, a bullseye shot from Silversun Pickups. By the end of this pretty unheralded LA quartet's set on the second (Uncut) stage the crowd had swelled to about three times it original size and well into the last number folks were still waking up to prescence of some tasty alterna-rock action. The band seemed genuinely amazed by the enthusiasm with which they were received, possibly as much a comment on the relative lack of this kind of sound across the rest of the bill as on the exellence of the Pickups themselves, efficient and enjoyable as they certainly were.

Late Saturday night in the stifling confines of the Film tent, DJ/MC Mark Lamaar introduced the sharp retro-isms of Edgar Jones and the Jones. The wiry Liverpudlian wasted no time ripping through originals which touched all the bases from honking '50s r'n'b to Northern Soul via healthy doses of ska. Energetically derivative stuff, it sounded at times like no-one so much as a certain other Mr Jones in sharp drainpipes. Exhibit A, m'lud...

But it was a two-hour spell that Saturday afternoon which defined this blog's weekend, an only-at-a-festival run of three favourite acts, each on a different stage but dovetailing miraculously schedule-wise. First there was Annuals, second up on the main Arena stage. Unknown to most of the crowd, like the Silversun Pickups they rode the wave and galvanized the swelling audience with their triple-drummer-powered intricate alt-pop. Amazingly, such was their confidence, they felt able to omit their trump card and surefire arena-pleaser, the dormant beast that is Brother...

Wandering over to the Uncut stage some twenty minutes later rr stood back and enjoyed watching another act of mass conversion. Tho' Camera Obscura had been the twee-pop word-of-mouth must-sees - and they were nice enough on the Sunday - rr knew that if the altogether less heralded Loney,dear were anything like on form they'd take some beating. And so it proved. Even with Emil's voice sounding a little tired he was still able to drive the Swedish five-piece from one euphoric folk-pop high to another, winning a spontaneous ovation and stackloads of new friends by the close...

And so to the woods for the unlikliest treat of all. In a cool clearing on the Sunrise Stage, slightly incongruously amidst a bill of acoustic types, Wheat. That they sounded so good was actually no surprise as this blog had caught their London show at the Luminaire two days before and discovered they still had it goin' on, oh yes. It's so great when expectations are just totally exceeded; it happened for rr last year with Unwed Sailor and it happened again this night in Kilburn where Scott, Brendan and their two new cohorts rewarded the faithful with an ample and gorgeous set covering the breadth of their stop-start career.
They didn't shortchange us nor live down to their recent reputation as careless indie also-rans, offering six of the best from excellent new album Everyday I said a prayer.. [see below], a similar number from Hope & Adams and more. (Sadly, only Breathe from troubled third album Per second, per second.. featured.) Being arrayed 'campfire' style focussed the band's sound particularly in the newly-prominent four-part harmonies. This was richly textured and affecting pop-rock, Scott's voice still standing up well against all those crashing mid-tempo chords so mystically imbued with emotional heft. reallyrather was surely not alone in having to bite that bottom lip hard during the wonderfully wounded passion of things like Who's the one and Don't I hold you. Heading to Latitude, this blog had thought that having to boil things down to a six-song festival setlist would be tricky before realising that actually Wheat didn't have a problem at all: it doesn't really matter what you play when you don't have any bad songs...

just press play

   posted by SMc at 10:20 AM |