Festival Season: Latitude 2012
Last weekend, Evie Macafee packed her bags and went off to experience Latitude on a solo music and poetry mission with cake. This is how she got on… [ed]
“It takes a lot of courage to go out there and radiate your essence” Baths encouraged. It was going to take more than courage to do this. I needed balls that I didn’t have. And a lot of wine.
Over-vigilant security means I have to turn back to secure my wine supply. This means I only make half the Iceage set. I’m going into this blind but on good authority. I didn’t want to miss this. They’re young. It’s kind of a shock for this type of music, but I like the sound. Weed abounds everywhere too. I tap on my chocolate cake – at least mine smells and tastes good. I’ve forgotten my ear plugs and the sound is rather loud. My tinnitus isn’t going to lessen this weekend then. I should look after my hearing really. Life without sound would end.
My mind wanders. I hope I look cute in my hat. I like looking cute.
But the bar’s not open yet so I’ll have a piece of cake. I stand behind two giants. I can see the whole thing. I’m surprised that Breton are playing such a small stage at such an early time. I thought they were bigger than this. Throughout the set the giants barely move despite the music being so danceable. I bounce. But the giants have their hipster faces on.
Breton are clearly a team, covering each other; they know it all. Completely gelled. A third giant arrives. It’s clear why they call themselves Breton LABS. – pure chemistry. And the experiment has gone well. The giants wake up during Interference and don’t stop moving after that. Breton shares beer. What an interactive bunch. One spots a friend in the front row and comes to kiss her mid song, whilst singing backing vox. He stays there for the duration of the song.
For their last song, Breton turns it up. It’s still early and in a forest, they admit, but there’s a reason. They dub it up. It makes me laugh.
They finish so I sit next to a dead rabbit and wait for Cold Specks. Wine or cake, I ponder. But the bar’s not open. I have cake.
Cold Specks struggle to hold my attention. Down beat blues but loud. Quite loud. Breton are a hard act to follow. After a couple of songs, Al says “Wanna hear a dirty joke? We’ve got a depressing song coming up after this so thought I might tell a dirty joke.” The crowd cheer. I’m puzzled. “Actually do you want to hear The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?” She launches into a capella and styles the theme song in her own way. The crowd love it. They play the sad song and I retract. I head to the arena and automatically hear a clash of sound. I don’t like it, but on the bright side, at least the stages are pretty close together. Tough call, I think, tough call.
Having forked over £4.80 for a small white wine I wander towards Obelisk. I catch the end of The Punch Brothers. They barely fill the stage so prefer to stay together as a group. This definitely helps their dynamics.
I find some tiered seating. How luxurious! A bumble bee finds me yellow and decides to stay and have a taste before leaving again in disgust. I’d be disappointed too. A fat kid blows bubbles and strives to gain Daddy’s attention. I can’t tell if he’s paying it or not. “We’re The Punch Brothers and you’re Latitude.” Profound, I think.
The weather hasn’t threatened yet and the clouds are glary, rendering sunglasses useful. The cake’s kicked in. I people watch and collect memories. I guess that’s all I’m doing. At least I can see from here – at the back of the arena. No need for me to get any closer. I might as well stay here for Glen Hansard, that rogue, though I have no wine.
I speak to my brother. “Heard from Mum and Dad lately?” “Not really, no” “I’ve been working like a dog.” Little girls stand on daddies’ shoulders and dance. I feel remorse but the sign language interpreter distracts me. Maybe I should learn sign language. First Aid Kit sings Blue. Wine seems so far away. Why is it, when I call my family, I have to disclaim that nothing’s wrong. Particularly to my brother. We obviously don’t speak enough. First Aid Kit are engaging and I enjoy their set. They blues/folk blend is becoming of the sisters and they maintain the attention of the crowd. I vow to listen to them more after. They use their hair effectively.
I clearly have a friendly face and people chat to me in the queues. Queues for loos and wine. The vibes are happy. My hat suits me, I’m told. You should see The Staves, I recommend. Happy days.
Now it’s Glen’s turn. “Love don’t pass me by” sings Glen. And it does.
If there’s anyone that can fill up this arena, it’s Glen Hansard, with commanding voice and sweet disposition. I’m such a sucker for an Irishman. My father is one, after all. I feel compelled to write him a letter (Glen, not my father). He plays a Van Morrison cover and I melt.
The refund queue is tragic. I’m glad I’m drinking wine. Poliça’s next and I’m sure I can fit in a trip to the bar for another wine. I don’t want to deplete my other resources too soon.
I make it to Poliça, just. Change of guards at the bar. Verging on middle class riots. Channy basks in the drums. Channy does her best to look androgynous but she’s not fooling anyone. She’s sweet, she’s pitch perfect. What a sound!
I stroll back to the tent; primarily to get more wine but I want my hoody. There’s so many people in the campsites though and I worry about all the music they’re missing. Why is every fucking tent the same colour? And why the fuck did I buy a Tesco tent? Such a bad move.
I’m encouraged to go see Tim Minchin. I finish the day’s quota of cake, top up my wine and swap hat for hoody. So far so good. I head towards the Comedy tent but I’m drawn to the rhythm that’s coming from the Poetry tent. A woman alive with being a woman, a mum, a human and a poet. “I’m Hollie McNish” she announces “Google me and check out my stuff”. I sit and listen to her speak of dicks and Mummy brains.
I feel old waiting for Alt-J a few rows back from the front of the stage. They have groupies. Am I one of them? I question my motives. It’s the hysteria I want to experience, not the band, as it’s my third time of seeing them live. And it’s hysteric. Alt-J, Alt-J, Alt-J, the crowd chant and make triangle signs with their hands. There are limbs everywhere, wriggling like octopuses to Tessellate. Joe tells the crowd it’s the best reception they’ve ever had which encourages the masses even more. This is momentous! I’m pleased I chose Alt-J over all the other acts that clashed.
I’m left reeling at the end of their set. I have bruises. It’s incredible how far they’ve come despite the fact their set hasn’t changed much apart from the addition of Dissolve Me. The band look overwhelmed. Joe has a lot of power in his hands, but doesn’t seem to know how to use it yet. This summer will season them well.
At Yeasayer, I realise I still have a crush on the bass player. He’s more hot than ever before. Chris is a brilliant showman and they live up to my expectations. Until they’re told time’s up. And leave the stage cold. They could’ve fit one more in, I’m sure. They tell us we’ve been awesome and then they’re gone. Bon Iver hasn’t even started yet, I note, as I make my way over. They were supposed to overlap. That’s etiquette for you, I guess. Bands these days need more ego. More self-centredness. They’re clearly too polite.
Bon Iver’s stage is beautiful. I’m disappointed in my position but the breadth of the crushing around me is testament to how popular they have become. Their set features mostly new songs, but they also play Creature Fear, Skinny Love, Blood Bank, Flume, For Emma and Wolves I & II. Humanity. Happy as one. Quite a long queue for the churros and chocolate. I shuffle past and head for my sleeping bag.
I start my day with an Irish coffee. I need to brush my teeth. I need food that’s not cake (later). You know it was a good set when you come away and the only thing you want to do is listen to their album, as I did with Bon Iver. Being able to do your craft to such integrity whilst supporting your friends, I hope, is what many artists strive for. I’m sad for the acts I missed yesterday – The Antlers, Lana Del Rey, Kurt Vile, Metronomy, Tune-Years, Clock Opera. I’ve lost my sippy cup. I haven’t lost my pen though.
The Greenpeace self-professed hippy has done my head in. And my arguments were so half-baked thanks to the whiskey and wine. Naive in thinking. I ended the conversation by saying that if I did have this one realisation and wanted to contribute it wouldn’t be with Greenpeace. I spend the rest of the day coming up with arguments in my head and half hope I’ll come across him again just so I can counter his well rehearsed debate. I smell food and want some. Bloody hippy with his talk on authenticity and genuineness. Buddhism is for those who care. I don’t care! I care only for music, science, art and me. I’m the most hedonistic of all. Hazy head.
I’m pleased I’ve made it to the Infinite Monkey Cage in time and even had enough time to take a pee. Charlie is giving us some heckling lessons. Hitler, veganism and stats all come up during the discussion. I should’ve thrown some ethics at the hippy. Missed opportunity. Art in truth. Truth in art. I need to find that quote. Absolutely right. I’m looking forward to Sharon. Going to get some noodles along the way. Hedonism. That’s it. Not altruism. Greenpeace: the scourge of every middle class festival. “The Canon” – a book. Natalie something. I must look it up. It’s a nod to the canon. “To be or not to be”, says Al Murray. “Don’t be,” I think.
Time has no meaning now. I’m dictated by the band I want to see next. Why do I need people (around me) when I’ve got music? (I’m not that naive to believe that I don’t need people. How grim my life would be. But my friends are back in Cambridge and I love them for not questioning my motives of coming alone.)
Sharon Van Etten. What a soul. She makes The Word Stage seem so intimate. She draws us in and celebrates her time. Her voice lulls and makes me feel like it’s all ok. OK to be me and here by myself. I love her. “Love you, Shazza!” I shout. She laughs, “Heh, Shazza. I love you too, whoever you are.” I feel smug. Her final song is a homage to music. I bask in it an all its glory. I should listen to Tramp more. And this new trend of bows on guitars: I like it. Shaz has the best looking instrument. It’s like an electric accordion. I want one. Maybe one day, I promise myself.
Smoke Fairies are next. Think I’ll watch them from where I am. I make friends with a child. She sucks her thumb. LA Vampires should be all over Smoke Fairies. It would be perfect genre-bending music.
Lianne La Havas exudes talent. I close my eyes to focus on the music. Her chats between songs are off track and random. She doesn’t need to justify. Instead she just sings. Her cover of Scott Matthew’s Elusive is glorious; her blend of soul with undercurrents of funk is inspired. The crowd dances to Is Your Love Big Enough. I should be watching Team Me. But I have whiskey and I refuse to be guilty. What a day. She’s going to be huge, this one. I just hope she doesn’t compromise her integrity.
I’m stood here in this melee
This pulse of creativity
Downright insecurity and think
Am I stoned?
And I half-baked and alone
In this hubbub of reality
I don’t know who these people are
Who sing me these songs
And half hope they belong
To this scene of
What goes around comes around.
Of Monsters and Men are bloody good. I’m going to check them out later. Wooden Shjips and there’s too many acts relying on harmonies. Off to Tall Ships instead.
Oh my, I would totally do the lead singer of Tall Ships. I swear he looks right into my eyes. Not once but multiple times over. I think my desire is deceiving me. I want him to come and find me and sweep me off my feet. I’d bet we’d hit it off. I should’ve seen them from the start.
Rain, so I seek out the poetry tent. My haven. I feel at home here. He recites about death a lot. It’s a bit sad really. Mostly about the death of his mother and the ensuing depression of his father. From Leeds. No idea who it is. It doesn’t really matter because I Break Horses is about to start in the iArena and that’s where I head. I overhear Kewes at the Lake Stage. “I’m still getting used to all this, it’s mad”. I know how he feels. I feel the same. Anonymity. I keep forgetting about anonymity. Maybe because it doesn’t matter.
I Break Horses hold the crowd. It’s a well defined wall of sound. People can groove to it. Maria’s voice is restrained, technically via machines. I can’t help but want her voice to be unleashed so it can crawl up the wall and climb over it.
The sun finally breaks through and the evening is looking awesome. There’s a lot of kids for SBTRKT. I’m guessing they’re going to be pushy. I secure myself against a barrier and hold on for the ride. It’s everything I wanted it to be and more. I’m blown away. I don’t understand how he can do it. Who needs drummers when you can do it all yourself. I’m particularly taken by SBTRKT’s drum and bass skills. It was a club scene, in a tent, in a field. This wasn’t a DJ though, this was a musician. I shake my head and breathe deeply all the way to the iArena.
Zola Jesus. Band starts. Plays. This is not Zola Jesus. It’s Walls. I’m like an hour late but fuck me, Walls are good. Insert favourite Walls song here. “You’re off the hook”, some bloke yells in my ear. “They’re off the hook…? Yeah! They are!” “I bet you’re with someone aren’t you?” I shake my head. I dance and meld with the music. “Tell me to go away, tell me to fuck off, I’m a bad, bad man. Just tell me to fuck off.” I can’t. I just dance. “I want to fuck you right here, right now, standing up. Tell me to fuck off.” I dance and dance and dance and dance. I laugh at him and dance some more.
I make it up to the Faraway Forest. It’s pretty here and there are happy trees. A goddess is being weaved. I guess she’ll be finished tomorrow but right now she has no eyes, no ears and no mouth. She can’t hear, see or sing with the music. They’ve started the wrong way round. I pity her. Eyes wide open as the fireworks over Elbow go off. I’m sure they’re putting on a great show. Their chords are glorious. And I see yellowgreen.
Elbow’s finished and people are everywhere. Swarming, warming, calling and falling. Some impromptu poetry. Poems about suicide. I enjoy it though. Should find out who this is! Brilliant spoken word. Scroobius Pip! Can’t quite believe my luck…
Bloke passed out in my tent. He snores and calls me wonderful despite me yelling at him to leave. He doesn’t so I leave him be. This is weird. I think he might get a shock when he wakes up. His phone rings. It’s in his pocket and I watch it glow as it vibrates. I think about this and decide to leave him where he is. I can’t stop giggling. I change my mind though and fish his phone out of his pocket. I search for missed calls on his phone and call back. Karen- the screen flashes “Heeeellllooooo!,” a voice cheerily says. “Eerrrr, hello? Your friends passed out in my tent”. After a bit of an explanation and exploration of solutions she tells me there isn’t anything she can do and tells me to cuddle up. I protest and decide to give up. I’m going to let him be. After my mind races around despite music and eye mask I feel him move. I bounce up immediately and he looks confused, snaps into a smile and tells me I’m lovely again. I tell him he has to go now. He kisses me on the cheek and tells me he’ll be back shortly after he takes a piss. He wanders off, I shut up the tent but within minutes he’s back trying to get into the back of the tent. “You can’t get in there!” I yell. “Karen?” he questions. “It’s not Karen, it’s Evie! Come round the front and I’ll prove to you that I’m not Karen”. He comes round and asks if we slept together. “Definitely not” I reply. I tell him to call Karen but he’s not convinced it’s a good idea. “It’s fine”, I say, “I’ve spoken to her. She knows you’re here.” “Are you sure?” “Yeah, just call her. She’ll help you find your tent.” He mumbles an apology and heads off. I stretch out and make use of having the space to myself again. Thank god for well trained bladders.
Lovely day to wake up to! I’m pretty sure I’m going to have pie and chips today. Definitely! And I can wear my hat again! Still reeling from yesterday’s events. Can’t quite believe all that happened. I remember taking a photo for a group in the Faraway Forest. Got another kiss on the check for that too! The breeze is lovely and I feel quite good. Coffee is still slightly warm. Today will be a down day of quiet and reasonable solitude. I may dance a little to Edward Sharpe but that will be the extent of it. I’m feeling a bit fragile, both in body and spirit. I listen to Scott Matthew’s version of Elusive. Lang Lang’s piano is a bit overwhelming in the background right now.
I reflect. The one thing that is most striking to me is the fact that the acts all seem genuinely humbled and pleased with the reception they’ve received here at Latitude. It’s refreshing and I’m overwhelmed by the quality of this festival. Right size, right place, right vibes, clean toilets, reasonably small queues, happy volunteers.
I take my seat with the mainstream massive. I’ve no idea who Rufus Wainwright is but feel like I should. I guess we’ll see. I’ve found a seat in the tiered seating. My head is heavy.
I start reading Bukowski’s Post Office because it’s the only thing keeping me warm right now in a sadistic sort of way. Rufus passes me over.
Alabama Shakes comes on but I barely notice since I’m so engrossed in Bukowski. Post Office is grit between my teeth and barely the voice of Brittany Howard can get my attention. She does in the end and her energy exudes.
For Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, I head up front. It’s going to be fun. I swear, Alex Ebert is Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden. Charismatic, shambolic and slightly, intentionally mad. He gives the crowd what they’re here for. He dances, sings and endears himself to us. He knows what the crowd wants but he asks anyway. “Oh, Home! You want Home, huh?” They lap it up. We lap it up. We sing, we dance and it’s the only time this whole weekend that I’ve wanted, no, needed, a hug.
So I head home.
(Thanks to our friends at Dots & Dashes for the photo)