To Die By Your Side

Latitude Festival Day One – 17/07/2009

July 23rd, 2009

After 7 hours driving, the first drink goes straight to your head. The second drink makes the endless rain on the dullest roads a distant memory. And by the time Bat For Lashes finish the exquisite opener ‘Glass’, you’ve almost forgotten that you’ve missed pretty much all of the first day of the Latitude Festival. Even the fact that the Uncut Tent is pitched on widely uneven ground fails to annoy you. Sure your view is nothing but a sea of heads and the lighting rig above the stage but it doesn’t matter. Not when you’re busy being thrilled by a wondrous performance. It helps that the sound is amongst the best of any festival. Natasha Khan’s vocals seeming stronger, more passionate than you’d have thought possible. They strike you with a richness and force beyond their recorded versions. And somehow, it almost seems right that you can’t see her. As though a visual presence would somehow detract and distract from the beguiling sound. Old songs mix in with new perfectly. Seamlessly. The step forward from albums less obvious. The band eschewing the fragility of the albums, in favour of heavier beats and a more intense delivery. After what seems like no time at all they finish with a rousing version of ‘Daniel’, sending us out to take in the festival site for the first time. 

Not that there’s much chance of getting your bearings in the black of the night. We’re surrounded by tents and stages but the strained neon glow of food vans, bars and stalls isn’t enough to judge detail and distance. We make out that Comedy is in front. Poetry and Literature to our right. While to the left, the vaguely familiar pop sounds of Pet Shop Boys draws us in, getting clearer and louder as we head toward the main Obelisk Arena.

We arrive in time for the final song. The familiar bass of ‘West Ends Girls’ pricks a nostalgic recognition. The song emerging from a macarena style keyboard intro into full bloom, updated but with the heart, soul and Neil Tennant’s mockingly dry delivery still in tact. Eighties pop meeting modern dance with the shadow of the Flight Of The Conchords looming over it. From the crowd’s reaction, you can only surmise that the rest of their set was equally this good. Smiles cover faces as the crowd disperses.

We grab some Chinese food before retracing our steps off the main site, across the river, up through the woods and back to our camp site, hoping the tent that refused to pitch without a fight would still be standing. And there we collapse. A myriad of festival sounds fighting for our attention through flimsy canvas. Laughter mixes with thumping beats with feet shuffling with dulled but familiar indie hits with the baas of painted sheep, but the urge to sleep is stronger than the noise and Friday fades into nothing.

Filed Under Live Review


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