Total Guitar headed across the country to Henham Park, Suffolk to review Latitude festival 2010 – the fifth incarnation of the thriving arts event. The first day of music saw sets from The National, Laura Marling and Everything Everything.
Arriving on site, it was immediately apparent that much had changed since TG's last Latitude (2007). The arena area practically groaned under the expanded capacity and queues abounded for most of the smaller tents and concessions stands.
Starting the day, rather appropriately, in the beautiful Sunrise Arena (a large canvas-covered clearing in the woods) TG caught local boy Matthew P opening the stage for the weekend. While not a bad songwriter, it was very much your usual common or garden one-man acoustic pop fayre, but he's still starting out, so we'll let him off.
Musically, Villagers (in the Word Arena) offered a lot more to write home about. Frontman Conor J O'Brien melding bile, anguish and, occasionally, wolf howls into beautiful folk song and proving junior-sized nylon-string guitars are the ultimate songwriting tool.
Over on the Lake Stage (the festival's new bands epicentre), Yu(c)k (who recently appeared in Free Track Friday) appeared to be thriving in the dust-strewn sunshine, mixing their Dinosaur Jr guitar-styles with vocals that sounded like they were filtered through a household plumbing system.
Following Yu(c)k, TG was pleasantly surprised by new act Y Niwl. This refreshing Welsh four-piece play an updated brand of instrumental surf-pop, drawing on the likes of The Surfaris and Dick Dale and peppering it with modern flourishes. We'll tell you right now that there aren't many credible new acts out there playing this kind of guitar music.
Shifting on to the rather massive Obelisk Arena stage, folk starlet Laura Marling struggled to fill the space with her acoustic guitar. While her playing, singing and performing were all endearing, it was somewhat undermined by the poor sound and lack of atmosphere that a day-time slot on a main-stage can bring.
TG's first 'great' band of the weekend was Everything Everything, headlining the Lake stage, the appropriately-named Manchester group take in a wide-variety of influences (rock, disco, pop, hip hop) and turn it into something new. New and infectious. Accordingly, they caught most of the audience off-guard and people seemed to find dancing the best recovery method. You will be hearing more from these guys.
Given a choice of Florence & The Machine and The National as headliners, TG opted for The National and was not disappointed. The veteran American indie stars have worked their introspective nuts off to get the kind of attention they're now receiving and they don't plan to screw it up anytime soon.
Drawing mainly from new album 'High Violet', their hour long set also pulled tunes from earlier full-lengths 'Alligator' and 'Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers', before closing with one of TG's favourite songs 'Mr November'. Intense doesn't cover it, but few audience members will have felt that the band don't deserve their recent success.