After yesterday’s pre-festival ‘warm-up’ evening Latitude Festival 2018 really got going for Day Two, with a complete programme of high profile musicians, comedians, actors, poets and much, much more.
One of the main comedy headliners this year was QI: Live at Latitude, a uniquely live version of the popular TV comedy panel show. Perfectly recreating the format of the show within the confines of the new improved Comedy Arena – including the infamous klaxons highlighting popular misconceptions (or obvious gags!) – it starred series regulars Sandi Toksvig and Alan Davies, along with Marcus Brigstocke (who demonstrated his knowledge and wit throughout), and Rachel Parris and Lou Sanders (who… didn’t). Fun to watch, though lacking some of the magic of the TV show, the panel answered Latitude Festival linked questions, covering everything from portaloos and tents, to other popular festivals (such as Hawaii’s Spam festival, Mexico’s Night of the Radishes, and the Alaskan Moose Dropping Festival), to the more tenuously-connected (lines of Latitude, and magic donkeys).
Also at the Comedy Arena that day, Marcus Brigstocke made a very reasonable and charming Satan (complete with full devilish make-up and horns), for an abridged version of his Devil May Care show, currently touring the UK. Not dissimilar to a classic stand-up routine by Rowan Atkinson, it was at times clever, other times coarse, but always hilarious, and clearly written to project his well-informed, left-wing political views onto a mass audience.
Not a million miles away from 1980s comedy acts (in this case, Ben Elton on Saturday Live) were further left-wing political rants from fictional news reporter Jonathan Pie. Taking pot shots at the entire range of political views, Pie’s show was not for the faint-hearted or easily offended. The new face of political satire, Pie is loud, angry and, for the most part, impossible to argue with – but he’s always very, very funny. For Latitude, he aimed his controversial but well-informed rage and bile towards modern social concepts – such as straight white privilege, mansplaining, cultural appropriation, and the general culture of offence – directly at the packed Comedy Arena audience. The experience clearly demonstrated that although he says the unsayable, thinks the unthinkable and may not be to everyone’s taste, he is absolutely what the world needs right now.
On a completely different note were Latitude regulars Pappy’s, who recorded an episode of their popular semi-scripted podcast Flatshare Slamdown. Purile, coarse, very silly and not remotely intellectually challenging, it was as if the laddish humour of the 1990s – seen in shows like Men Behaving Badly – had returned, with three idiotic 30-something men producing a shambles of a podcast in their fictional flat.
This year’s festival also had strong musical representation from the 1990s. Led by frontman Tim Burgess (with his somewhat distinctive dance moves and hairdo clearly inspired by comedy legends Trev and Simon), The Charlatans performed a crowd-pleasing set at the Obelisk Arena, mixing new tracks with many old favourites (such as “The Only One I Know”, “Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Are Over”, “One To Another”, “North Country Boy”), effortlessly showing that they can still make groovy music after nearly 30 years together. They might look a bit a older, but as a band, they haven’t changed a bit. In contrast, over at the BBC Music Stage, James clearly have matured considerably in the last 20+ years, coming a long way from encouraging people to “Sit Down”. Focusing on their darker, more intense and less catchy material, their set was impressive, if not exactly crowd-pleasing. Both bands were worlds away from Belle and Sebastian, whose entire set of eternally delightful fluffy pop tunes – new and old – were lots of fun for everyone at the Obelisk Arena.
Also at the Obelisk Arena, contemporary music headliner Solange did exactly what you’d expect of her: R&B pop not a million miles away from her more famous sister Beyoncé. To be fair, it’s a bit of a coup for Latitude to have such a bit US artist – but in our opinion, she was a tad mainstream and a tad ordinary for Latitude. Much more inline with our idea of the festival were the up-and-coming Citadel, an incredible jazz/funk band, who performed over at the BBC Introducing stage, bringing the entire Lavish Lounge to life. Lively, dance-worthy, good clean fun with astonishing musicality, these guys deserve to go far.
Sadly not all the more obscure musical acts were quite so successful: Dom Coyote‘s one-man musical We Can Time Travel was a bit of a disappointment. Promising a tale of a man who talks to time travellers, interspersed with techno-synth music from different musical eras, it fell somewhat short of its promises, due to a lack of spectacle, average music and a dull story which was difficult to engage with. Similarly challenging was Reeps One‘s We Speak Music, a demonstration of beatboxing in the Film and Music Arena, which although impressive to begin with, grew repetitive and really was only for big beatboxing fans.
In comparison, the absolutely amazing Oh My God! It’s The Church were lots of fun over a sustained period; indeed, never having heard of them, they quickly became an unexpected highlight of the festival! Filling the Film and Music Arena with energy and positivity, their naughty, tongue-in-cheek and sometimes frankly bizarre late night show was a combination of top tunes performed well, mashed together with a wicked sense of humour. Performing as a parody of an evangelist religious group – consisting of a Deep South preacher and his choir – the group appeared to have been tasked by God to encourage the crowd to sing (and dance) to a range of hymns to compensate for their sin – their hymns being a range of hugely popular pop and soul classics, including Outkast’s “Hey Ya” and The B52s’ “Love Shack” to name but two. Highly recommended, not only for their obvious sense of fun and their vocal and musical talents, but for their genuine passion for their core beliefs and their strong positive message of inclusivity.
Also going on throughout the night, Guilty Pleasures was everyone’s favourite old skool disco, featured back-to-back irresistible bangers from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (including smashes from T-Rex, Eurythmics, Backstreet Boys and countless others). Just simple, pure joy, the set included classic track after classic track, all of them being impossible not to dance the night away to.
Meanwhile, taking the retro fun even further was Latitude favourite White Mink, where the sounds of the 1920s and 30s were turned on their head and smuggled into the 21st century. Featuring electro-swing, speakeasy jazz mashed up with modern dance, it was perfect opportunity for all modern day flappers to try out their latest charleston moves.
With a huge range of brilliant comedy and music and fun to be had, with only a few acts not hitting the mark, Day Two of Latitude really was an amazing start to the festival. Bring on the weekend!