With Tom Jones, Vampire Weekend
Tom Jones at the Latitude Festival 2010

Wondering if we’ve had our ears permanently damaged by The xx and their bass, Clash wakes up on Sunday morning to the syrupy croon of a certain Welsh ladies man. If our ears aren’t deceiving us (and let’s face it we can’t be sure), Tom Jones is easing Latitude into its final push on the main stage.

A hike up the hill later and, we're proved right. Resplendent in a cream suit and hair so grey it’s positively metallic, Sir Tom is up there (with none other than Ethan Johns on guitar), introducing the crowd to his new record ‘Praise And Blame.’

He rocks and he rolls for a massively enjoyable hour, rendering us, along with the rest of the punters, grinning, hip-swinging loonies. Finishing with an Elvis Presley track he and “Elvis used to sing together back in the day,” he departs to a deservedly frantic reception.

After Tom has finished bowing, it’s time to bring NYC to Latitude. Today is a who’s who of Brooklyn’s blog roll of the last couple of years. Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer, Dirty Projectors, Pains of Being Pure At Heart and The Antlers are all present and correct, ready to bring Williamsburg to the woods.

But before we get all introspective and trendy, there is the tumultuous folk of Mumford and Sons to contend with. If the New Yorkers to come are consciously cool, then Marcus Mumford and co are earnestly excellent. They know their album has sold by the supermarket truckload, yet they remain focused, seemingly ignorant of the fuss and hype being flung their way from all corners.

Yummy mummies toe-tapping in their camping chairs and the more committed musos are equally appreciative of their set, which of course features more whoaaing and ahhhing than is strictly necessary.

Following a landmark Glastonbury appearance, Mumford and Sons are well on the way to becoming a booming, if occasionally saccharine, festival band.

The crowd evaporates once the set is over, leaving Dirty Projectors playing to a small odds and ends bunch of sun bathers, fans and those too inebriated to move. But the crowd soon swells as their intricate riffing and improbable vocal harmonies get into full swing, proving those who left very wrong indeed.

Various members of Vampire Weekend are watching in the wings, and they are right to look restless, because Dirty Projectors are in danger of outdoing them at their own inteli-world pop game. 'Knotty Pine' is delightful, unlike the interruption of the post-song hush by a charming proposition from a gentleman in the front row.

In the greenhouse atmosphere of the second stage, Yeasayer are setting up for their own gig. Without a roadie in sight, the trio are plugging, tuning and taping in full view of the boisterous throng. So when they briefly disappear only to re-emerge and start playing seconds later, the atmosphere is only mildly changed.

However, '2018,' ‘Rome,' and the closing pair of 'O.N.E' and 'Ambling Alp' soon change that. In vests and spangles Yeasayer play a consistently high octane, intricate and pop-tastic 40 minutes. We're all but danced-out and the stagger into the woods to catch Pains of Being Pure at Heart is something of a struggle.

The scuzzy loveliness waiting to greet us is so perfect it’s as if the band have hoisted a lasso around the sun, bringing it into the woods. Pains exude summer spirit this evening, bantering with the crowd and cooing about the poetry on offer at the festival. We already know the songs, 'Come Saturday; and 'Everything With You' are excellent, dripping with enough sweetness to make us forget all about how Girls disappointed on the same stage days earlier.

By now the festival is winding down, with the choice between the intelligent harmonising of Grizzly Bear and the Soweto stylings of Vampire Weekend giving us a headache. In the end, Vampire Weekend triumph and, with two albums to pick from, they make the right choices and fill their set with crackers. 'Holiday' gets the headliners underway, before 'California English,' 'Cousins' and a closing 'Walcott' propel these erudite charmers to dizzy, dazzling heights. They could yet go stratospheric.

What with all the poetry, cabaret, theatre and other distractions (that’s you, beguiling coloured sheep), you could be forgiven for saying that Latitude lacks focus, but this 5th instalment proved that notion very wrong indeed.

Words by Ben Homewood
Photo by Joel Knight


Check out more coverage from the Latitude Festival 2010:

Friday Review
Friday Gallery

Saturday Review
Saturday Gallery

Sunday Gallery

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