The beauty of festivals lies in the unexpected – whether acts, emotions, or indeed, weather.
After 3 days of sun and good music, Sunday looked like a quiet relaxing day…but it held the best parts of the weekend…
The Staves were lovely; 3 sisters from Watford sounds like the start of a folk limerick, but their harmonies and understated simple playing made them probably the best discovery of the festival (maybe with the Moulettes – similar but with more strings!). And although they looked like butter wouldn’t melt, they had a nice line in raunchy inter-song banter – apologising to the families in the audience for the use of a word in a song about relationships, suggesting they swap it for ‘dang’ or ‘duck’! Then again, they have done backing vocals for Tom Jones.
They just avoided using another expletive when the heavens opened, thunder and lightning crashed overhead. Still, we were in a dry tent, so no problem…until we left. Where once there had been picnics and folding chairs, now all was mud and rather deep pools…and some very soggy chairs, and people.
At long last it’s starting. The build-up is over. Over a billion people are expected to watch tonight’s opening ceremony (a day after it started) at the duck pond. Soon now the Olympic ale flagon will be carried across Cambridge, via the Bacchanalia off licence staging point, to the grand ceremonial drinking of ‘the first pint of the day’.. .Yes, its Folk Festival mania!
In last nights ‘session before the opening session’ we started with lovely Megson, doing lots of children’s songs and one in the Olympic spirit about supporting rubbish football teams.
Then there was James Vincent McMorrow, sorry, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, who brought a delightful fan base of screaming young girls, which prompted my neighbour to put her ear plugs in. Many shouts of ‘We love you’ which he replied to with a downbeat ‘thanks’. Don’t think was that interested in teenage girls. At first his songs were good but all sounded the same, heartfelt and wordy, but he gradually won me over as his band started to kick in, and sealed the deal with a powerful solo song about his Aussie Gran dying. Hard not to like him after that.
Dry the River were one of those bands the purists here hate – ‘what’s that got to do with folk?’. Head banging, volume and searing guitars - Where are those ear plugs Mabel? – interspersed with sudden bursts of Fleet Foxes angelic singing. A bit schizophrenic but definitely strong and good songs.
No doubt about the nights highlight though, it’s Billy Bragg doing Woody Guthrie. In between many of the best songs off the Mermaid Avenue sessions, he detailed Woody’s life and work in that funny/serious way he speaks. I learnt a lot about 40s New York scene, and his raunchy sense of humour and double entendres –‘Ingrid Bergman’ is pretty smutty! Billy ended with a song of his own, a whole new version ‘Great Leap Forward’ with updated lyrics about the political scandals of today…lots on the Olympics!
Ended the night with the old busking stalwart Peter Buckley Hill, who also had lots of new songs. A great night now, looking forward to Friday!
The thought on everyone’s mind pre-festivals in the UK is ‘what will the weather be like?’ and in 2012 you can pretty much predict rain and mud. How much mud, and how much stamina is required to navigate it depends on the size and layout of the festival.
It seems the days of lying on the grass in the sun listening to a band are long gone. Standing in wellies in the mud seems the norm, and this has had a knock-on effect on ticket sales in the U.K festival market, with many not selling out.
Having said that, Saturday at Latitude with the ever popular Elbow must have been close to full. Friday and Sunday were less busy. By Sunday, the weekend campers seemed to be weary from the effort of the previous two days.
So on to the music. Not much happened on Thursday other then the entertaining Cafe & Theatre tent so it’s Friday when the music action kicks off. I should just say at this point that Latitude has a whole myriad of entertainment going on: arts, literature, poetry, cabaret, dance, opera etc but for this review, it’s music that we concentrate on.
There is nothing you can do about the weather. A festival will generally go ahead come rain or shine. From the punters point of view though, the festival takes on a different dynamic depending on the conditions.
Imagine turning up at the inaugural No Direction Home Festival in the grounds of Welbeck Abbey in Nottingham in glorious sunshine, leisurely putting up the tent whilst sipping on an ice cool lager. Back to the reality of a British festival summer; cold, wind, torrential rain, everything and everyone soaked by the time we head into the site. When the rain let’s up its teatime.
Luckily on a site roughly the size of the Park Area at Glastonbury, everything is close to hand and the place is not overcrowded.We are greeted by the sight of the Somerset Hot Cider Bus and truly fortified we head for the main (Lake) stage (pretty much the Garden Stage at End of the Road) for Newcastle’s majestic Lanterns on the Lake. The songs from the debut album still sound good and ring true, but the band are just at the point of needing new material.
Future of the Left ripped it up with a solid 45 minute set. A capacity crowd inside with eager hopefuls queued up outside for the 1 out 1 in rule to open up a chance of getting in but for most, it didn't happen so the die-hard loyalists joined the overflow in the street craning for a peak inside.
Click on the Youtube clips below to catch a glimpse of the fervour, in lieu of actually being in the room. Incendiary vocals shared between Jimmy and Julia with Andy switching between guitar and bass for a few songs. The pulse of the room was raging and the crowd was a fist pumping, lyric belting swell of raucous energy.
Future Of The Left’s upcoming album, The Plot Against Common Sense, will be the group’s third full-length release.