99. Latitude Festival, Suffolk, 19 July 2009

June 24 email from me to Yasuko:
I’m going to Latitude! (Gabi called me about 10 minutes after she found out about it to say she had bought me a ticket!) it’s a little crazy and we are just going for the one day… all a bit unreal really. Also despite me not having a job at the moment I’m making plans to go to Prague. I will do what I did last year and go by train (hopefully) I don’t think I will go to the other shows (Unless there are suddenly spare tickets). What were your plans? I can’t remember!
Prague will be gig 100.. so CHAMPAGNE (I hope – even if i have to provide it)
hope things are good with you.

Getting from Scotland to deepest East Anglia on public transport offered a few challenges but I managed to make all my connections with time to spare on Saturday, even the bus from Lowestoft turned out to be a fairly smooth ride and I arrived in Southwold at 4pm. I had time to explore and discovered a 1920s style tea room.

The whole place was like some Cath Kidston dream of what an English seaside village should be like, as if it had been laid on to be the opposite of Blackpool. I’m sure after a few days the whole place would be insufferably twee, but it felt right this weekend.

Despite going to bed early, I managed to spend the whole night in a funk, dreaming that I was still awake. We’d ordered an early taxi to the site and arrived in time to find the box office and then exchange tickets for wristbands. These two facilities where about half a mile apart on the site – allowing us to get a flavour of the type of thing to expect at this festival – lots of BMWs in the car park, large families moving their camping kit around in wheelbarrows and more kids than I’d ever seen at a festival before.

We joined the queue to be among the first onto the site (some people had been there since 5am, but I’m not convinced that this helped, they still had to run into the site to get the much desired front and centre spot at the foot of the stage.)

It was an uphill jog to get to the barrier of the Obelix stage, but once we were there we could relax, have a coffee (Latte – tude?) and investigate the MASH style latrines.

After watching Thom do a bit of lurking at the side of the stage and trying to guess the jobs of everyone on the stage who we didn’t recognise (an entourage of four including Nigel Godrich who appeared to be taking pictures on his iPhone) By noon we were very ready. Thom was only a couple of minutes late.

It was too early to be nervous and the kit was triple checked so there were no hitches. I don’t think the performance could have been better. It soon didn’t matter that he was alone on stage, although it seemed very strange at first. Having nowhere else to look, no Jonny flailing around on our side of the stage. He played the piano and a sampler for the Eraser tracks and an acoustic guitar for a couple of oldies “from the shelf”. Follow Me Around and True Love Waits, a brand new tune called The Present Tense.

Worth the effort, no question!

The rain graciously kept off until we’d had time to get a beer, eat some Argentinean barbeque lunch and settle under a tree. I spent the rest of the day wandering round in a daze, not quite sure how to deal with a festival with quite so many children and older people around… then realising that I was bang in the middle of the demographic.

Of all the bands playing later, the only full set I saw was Phoenix. I caught the last couple of songs of Magazine’s set. I’d wanted to see Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds too but I was so tired during their set, and unable to make my brain accept something from so far over to the other side of my musical taste on the same day as Thom’s set. We decided to leave after a few songs (all that drama and preacherman stuff just wasn’t quite right for the moment).

On the long walk to the exit I found the Disco Shed, now lit up and pumping out some old school classics, so we had a bit of a boogie to Paid In Full by Eric B & Rakim before we left the site.

I felt kind of subdued. It was a strange experience to see Thom play not only on his own, but also at midday, when one is used to having to wait around all day to get a good pitch at an outdoor show like this. It was not so much an anticlimax as being left wanting more.

The next day I had until mid afternoon to explore Southwold, and spent a while on the beach and looking at the Donwood-esq contraptions on the Pier. I enjoyed myself and one day when the lotto numbers are kind I’ll maybe get myself one of those beach huts….