Since Tom is the member of the SGTMT team who most resembles a ten-year-old, and because he enjoyed it so much in 2013 and 2014, we packed him off with some tinned mackerel to Latitude Festival’s 10th birthday edition. Here’s his diary, which appears to be pretty comprehensive considering he didn’t make notes all weekend:
After a speedy nine and a half hour coach ride and middle-of-the-night tent pitch I drag myself to the Obelisk Arena at the crack of noon to find summer has set up camp, and SUMMER CAMP (‘Two Chords‘) have come along too. (Haha, this diary is off to a great start, am I right?) Bright and breezy, they have perfect sunny tunes and one of my gang falls in love with singer Elizabeth Sankey. Sadly, she’s already married to that other dude on stage, so we rush off to see TIMBER TIMBRE (‘Too Old To Die Young‘) at the iArena which is a great decision. Here is the most expressive saxophonist in Suffolk, and frontman Taylor Kirk’s nonplussed brand of effortless cool is right up SGTMT’s alley, so we’re fully on board and make a mental note to research further. Sticking around for CURTIS HARDING sees the nonplussed cool continue. He also has a seriously talented guitarist. I just wish he had more songs like the wonderful ‘Heaven’s On The Other Side‘. I give Curtis a little wave goodbye and head off to The Alcove where last year I saw a wet-behind-the-ears group of scamps play some little pop gems in a fairly adequate fashion to a group of screaming teenage girls who somehow turned into quite a big deal called Years & Years. It’s a funny old world. In their place this year I find NAO (‘In The Morning‘) surprised at how well she is smashing up a tent full of excited young fans, but there should be no surprise. She is seriously good. Somehow I manage to miss half of SANTIGOLD’s (‘Disparate Youth‘) set which is a shame because she’s striding across the stage like she owns the place with a bow in her hair as big as, um, roughly I would say, I guess about as big as a skateboard, and doing a great job. Things were already going pretty well even before she started giving out donuts to the crowd. Is that cheating? The stewards enquiry was inconclusive, so we let her off and give her an extra 2 points for initiative. TORO Y MOI (‘Say That‘) seems to be having a lovely time when we swing by the BBC 6 Music Tent on the way to see GENGAHR (‘She’s A Witch‘) who is super. Back on the Obelisk stage WILD BEASTS have returned to Latitude for the sixth time (no band has played here more) and they are a class apart. ‘Wonderlust‘ is smashing and they are all very polite. I just wish they’d been playing in a dark stuffy tent rather than the open air. Anyway, I spend half of CARIBOU’s (‘Odessa‘) set wondering if that’s Bonobo on bass and the other half in the 6 Music tent being amazed at how many young fans THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART (‘Simple and Sure‘) have. An eye opener. But now back to the Obelisk where ALT-J have been promoted from last year’s incendiary 6 Music tent highlight slot to their debut festival headline slot proper. They step up and play a blistering half hour of big hits that I worry they can’t keep up for another hour, and they can’t, but still, a solid show, well done chaps.
On Friday night my airbed popped.
Saturday’s first outing is a trip to the iArena to see HAELOS (‘Dust‘) who have a very good drummer, an even better sound engineer and not enough memorable songs. Still, they’re pretty good all things considered. Over at the 6 Music tent DRENGE (‘Backwaters‘) are making a sludgy mess and by the end of their set I’m well and truly on board. They’ve won my affection. On the Obelisk stage BADLY DRAWN BOY (‘Once Around The Block‘) comes pre-loaded with our affection, playing his 15-year-old ‘Hour Of The Bewilderbeast’ LP in full, but does his best to wear it out by berating his soundman and barking orders for drinks, but later on when we’re drunk we don’t remember that bit so it’s fine. Meanwhile MARIKA HACKMAN (‘Cannibal‘) is delightfully beguiling in the iArena and she isn’t rude to anyone. Lovely. Now then, over at the 6 Music tent WOLF ALICE (‘Bros‘) are bursting onto the stage, deciding they’re going to rule the place, and go ahead and do just that. The full to capacity tent is enraptured, they tear through their already impressive repertoire and disappear with their chances of a slot much higher up the bill next year done no harm at all. After a break to eat the best pie and mash I’ve had since I was a little boy I bowl up to see THE CHARLATANS (‘The Only One I Know‘) play wall-to-wall hits. We’d all forgotten how many they had. At one point it seemed they were responsible for every pop song we danced to in the 90s. Tim Burgess oozes charisma and still has magnificent hair. I have to leave him to go and meet my friends or we’ll never ever see each other again, but I rush back later and the hits are still coming. Incredible. Well done, Tim. There’s a brief dip in standard with LAURA MARLING’s excruciating onstage ‘banter’ before JAMES BLAKE’s (‘Overgrown‘) unassuming frame and boyish good looks take the stage and begin to massage our innards in bass. I love his odd time signatures, multi-layered sound and interesting chord progressions and put him on my list of people I need to see again, but in a room rather than outside. Very polite boy, too. That’s important. But, now then, enough messing around, PORTISHEAD are closing the Obelisk Arena with their sombre and oppressive howling and it’s tremendous. Battering the night air with drums as artillery and cinematic orchestral flourishes they win the day, in fact, for me they win the festival. But there’s no time to hang around and gush, I have to beat anyone who hasn’t tied their running shoes tight enough to THOM YORKE’s (‘Hearing Damage‘) secret set on the other side of the festival. It’s remarkable seeing this wiry, unconventional and eccentric megastar in a space that felt as small as my living room once the lucky sprinters had crammed in. He and producer Nigel Godrich play a selection of techno-tinged solo material which is fun, for a time. Don’t tell anyone, but I got a little bit bored.
On the way home I bought one of those bed roll things to try and get some sleep.
Sleep didn’t go well, nowhere near as well as the tuna and baked bean sandwich I made for breakfast, above, so Sunday needed to start gently. Thankfully my decision to go and see A WINGED VICTORY FOR THE SULLEN (‘Atmos VI‘) because of their fantastic name was rewarded with delicate strings and piano; the perfect way to start the day. So lovely, even if they did struggle to be heard above the din from the Obelisk arena. I stayed for KINDNESS (‘This Is Not About Us‘) who were great fun. Then I swing by CHARLIE CUNNINGHAM (‘Outside Things‘) whose impressive plucking skills and great voice draw a crowd he looks at with schoolboy glee before telling himself not to look because he’ll get carried away. A genuinely lovely chap I’d go and see again. At this point, having had one beer, I managed to lose an hour and realised I was late to see SUZANNE SUNFØR (‘White Foxes‘) on the other side of the festival. Her icy synth pop is worth the trek. I stick around for SGTMT favourite SHURA (‘2Shy‘) who I’ve been following since her first tune dropped and it’s great to see her progress at each show she plays; she is almost, alllmost, a fully fledged pop star. She overcomes technical glitches with aplomb and I’m so entertained I even allow myself to miss a song from WARPAINT’s (‘Keep It Healthy‘) set on the Obelisk Arena. High praise indeed. Last time I saw Warpaint I made a mental note of what an incredible live act they are. It seems I’d forgotten and had to remember all over again in the late afternoon sun. They have everything, strong tunes, hooks a plenty, odd time signatures and a heavyweight sound. I enjoy it so much two teenagers point at me and I couldn’t care less. They come verrrry close to taking top spot on my festival highlights from Portishead. THAT’S RIGHT. So good. I pull myself together and head to the 6 Music tent to see LA ROUX (‘In For The Kill‘) be exactly the same as she was years ago. Same outfit, same hair, same perfect pop songs. I wave farewell to La Roux’s quiff and head to the Obelisk Arena to see the MANIC STREET PREACHERS who are near the top of my list of bands who have had a big impact on me whom I’ve never seen. I know I’ve missed the boat – it’s far too late now – but they do play ‘Motorcycle Emptiness‘ and all is well. Now then, there’s a selection of headliners to choose from; NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS, SBTRKT and THE 2 BEARS but I opt for drum n bass pioneer RONI SIZE REPRAZENT in the Film & Music Arena and this choice is good. Roni brought with him the most technically skilled drummer I’ve seen in a long time (sorry about staring open mouthed at your kick drum foot, bro…), a stack of classic tunes and Dynamite MC’s irrepressible, excitable energy. It all goes so much better than anyone in the room was expecting, including those on the stage. An unexpected festival highlight. The normally quiet and unassuming Roni Size even made an out of character appearance on the microphone, giddy with excitement, to declare the crowd the best they’d seen on their concluding European tour. Later he repeats the trick and seems to be attempting to thank by name every single member of the drum n bass scene, before he slowly exits the stage, like a drunk uncle at a wedding who’s gotten overemotional who needs putting to bed for his own good. This indeed is a rare thing.
I stumble back to the tent, consider spending another night on the pile of hessian that I stole from the festival grounds, deflated airbed rubber and ineffective bed roll and take down the tent, shove it in the car and head back to London through the night instead.