Alex Nelson offers his verdict on Latitude Festival 2014, which included sets from Mogwai, Slowdive, Rudimental, Eagulls, Parquet Courts and Fat White Family
Rudimental take to the main stage of Latitude under spurious circumstances. It’s arguable whether they’re a band worthy of such ‘Special Guest’ slots, and they’re certainly not an act you’d associate with the pomp with which festival director Melvin Benn was hyping the announcement (he reportedly said the booking was an act that would dramatically change the demographic of the festival… though the Hackney collective appeared last year too).
The cynic in us is inclined to think Lily Allen was the real surprise guest, bumped up last minute to stage headliner in the wake of Two Door Cinema Club’s illness indebted cancellation while behind the scenes bods hastily thumbed through the filofax and landed on Rudimental.
Either way, their energetic drum ‘n’ bass lite chart staples get the already excitable crowd moving to a backdrop of beaming rays and summertime vibes. Bright brass motifs parp their way over rumbling bass, and while the set-closing number one single ‘Feel The Love’ is the only track to deliver anything definitively trouser flapping, as a Friday evening party starter, it serves as a delectable hors d’oeuvre.
Slowdive only manage to draw a modest crowd to the BBC 6 Music stage, but the lucky few who do turn up are treated to an impeccable set from the reformed shoegaze pioneers. The set is decidedly light on tracks from 1991’s defining masterpiece Just For A Day (only ‘Catch The Breeze’ manages to make the cut), and despite rabid calls from the crowd for ‘Alison’, the band’s biggest ever ‘hit’ is seemingly shafted to keep in line with strict stage times. Nevertheless, the set is a masterclass in woozy atmospherics, as wonky guitars crescendo into glorious walls of noise, all backed by Rachel Goswell’s cooing vocal.
Mogwai’s headlining set atop the BBC 6 Music Stage’s bill seems to have been long awaited by many attendees of the festival, who flock to the tent to see the Glaswegian post-rockers’ lesson in noisy beautalitly . “I hope any children in the audience are wearing earplugs” forewarns Stuart Braithwaite cheekily before the swelling synths of ‘Master Card’ flourish into almost unbearable levels of volume.
Sure, it runs on a few noise-rock epics too many, but in the early goings, Mogwai effortlessly bridge the gap between pop and contemporary classical music, many songs sounding like they should be sound-tracking montages of beautiful vistas.
On the Sunday, Parquet Courts manage to take one note and string it out into a five-minute plus track with ‘Duckin’ And Dodgin’’ from their latest LP, Sunbathing Animal. Unfortunately, the same mentality perpetuates itself throughout their set, with the Brooklyn four-piece never really changing gears. It’s punky yes, but it lacks the punch or conviction to set it apart from the crowd, and when chunkier guitars do kick in, they don’t so much as explode from the speakers as fizzle out.
Eagulls take to the stage over in the iArena, situated among wooded surrounds on the banks of the Latitude site’s lake for some late afternoon chaos. After a weekend of dreary middle-of-the-road singer-songwriter types it’s clear the Leeds quintet’s caustic post-punk is a kick up the arse the festival security weren’t quite expecting, and they respond overzealously. “Tell security to fuck off,” barks singer George Mitchell before launching a gobby globule towards the shiny dome of a burly looking security guard, “they’re just enjoying themselves!”
And enjoy themselves the Latitude crowd do, the movement among the first few rows growing ever steadier with each Cure-esque guitar line (‘Tough Luck’) and every aggro fuelled post-punk screamer (‘Footsteps’). Crowdsurfers greet the final peels of ‘Possessed’ with the kind of arms aloft jubilation normally reserved for musical epiphanies, but it’s not the last of the lawlessness we’ll see today.
As soon as Eagulls finish, a noticeably inebriated Mick Squalor of Dingus Khan fame is serving as hype man for the Fat White Family, leading the waiting crowds in an impromptu singalong. He retreats to the back of the stage when the set starts proper, but doesn’t stay there long; once a member of security tries to reign him in after nearly toppling a stack of amps he decides to make haste for the barrier, launching himself into the crowd.
The Fat White’s skewed take on rock ‘n’ roll has sat uneasily with many commentators, who’ve found the sight of six grotty Londoners lurching about onstage in a state of semi-undress somewhat hard to stomach. True, things get rather sticky rather quickly, and the rate with which frontman Lias Saoudi downs a bottle of spirits is enough to make the on-site paramedics queasy.
But it’s all about the show with Fat White Family, and despite the depiction of drug-fuelled carnage these kids have to know what they’re doing; you wouldn’t get this far without doing so.