Highlights: Latitude Festival - Day Two (18/07/2009)

Seb Perry | Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Highlights: Latitude Festival - Day Two (18/07/2009)

Saturday's Latitude started with the mellifluous folk of Dear Reader, a South African band whose career looks set to be hindered only by their chronic shyness. Singer and guitarist Cherilyn MacNeil was so nervous she accidentally began the closing song in the wrong key, confusing the rest of the band and derailing them entirely. It's a shame, because on the evidence of what they played, they've got little to be nervous about.

Things got a lot louder with Marnie Stern's brand of shouty arthouse metal - think Le Tigre meets Rage Against The Machine - though the interest was less in the songs than in her demonic finger-tapping guitar style.

An equally impressive guitarist followed in the form of St. Vincent's Annie Clark, although the band's set seemed rushed and uncertain. 'The Strangers', the haunting opener of recent album Actor, didn't deliver the punch it ought to have, though the closing skank-jazz saxophone freakout of 'Marrow' more than made up for it.

The sight of the bearded Thomas Dybdahl and his band, which included a pedal steel guitar player several decades his senior and a keyboardist in an immaculate suit, ominously foretold of muso Americana. But Dybdahl is actually from Norway, and while he may not exactly rock, he's blessed with a soulful falsetto that rendered most of the audience dewy-eyed and glowing with love for humanity. Comparisons with Tim Buckley aren't far wrong.

The things one does for one's favourite bands. Staking out a prime position at the front for Passion Pit's triumphant headline slot in the Sunrise Tent means first enduring a witless, gut-churningly tedious performance by Northampton electronica outfit Maps, who might as well have left a tape of themselves for all the visual stimulus they provided. "If you've got any drugs, now is the time to take them," advised singer James Chapman. Anything to numb the pain of this drivel.

By the time Passion Pit took to the stage, the Sunrise Tent had become a seething morass of screaming, sweat-sodden teenagers. Quite how five tubby, bespectacled college kids (apparently backstage some witty soul has graffitied their tent 'Passion Dorks') have become adolescent pin-ups is probably as much a mystery to them as to us, but there was no mistaking the crowd's pubescent frenzy. Singer Michael Angelakos seemed unnerved by the extent of the crush - "Is everyone still with us?" he inquires anxiously at one point.

It was hard to concentrate on the music a lot of the time, what with the bouncers racing to catch the crowd-surfing juveniles hurtling overhead, but tracks like 'Little Secrets', 'Sleepyhead' and anthemic closer 'The Reeling' sounded nothing short of incredible. It seems the dorks had the last laugh.

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