Latitude Music Festival 2013
Family vibes, Jägermeister, and mystery protests in the rump of England

It’s that time of year in England when festival goers forget the not so distant memory of Winter (which only came to an end a week or two ago) and take to the fields for a marathon of binge tanning, cider drinking, and stage exploration. From the mainstream themes of Glastonbury, to the metal-tinted Download and indie-flecked Reading/Leeds combo, the summer is awash with musical appreciation and recklessness across this bright and drizzly isle. At the far corner of that setting, located in the rump of England, sits Beccles, an area of beautiful and unspoiled countryside. It’s just a few miles West of Southwold, a lovely spurt of coastline, which brings a slight sea breeze to the picturesque landscape that plays host to everything Latitude.

In its eighth year, Latitude remains new to the scene. The festival distinguishes itself through the tagline, “More Than Just a Music Festival,” which is generic, but apt — there is a great deal happening at this event besides the intriguing selection of music on offer. There’s an outdoor theater, a literary arena, a poetry tent, circus performers, a comedy stage, a film tent, and an area dedicated exclusively to cabaret, making it one of the most unique festival experiences the British Isles has to offer. That nifty little package comes in addition to five music stages, ranging from big-name headliners at the Obelisk Arena (Kraftwerk, Jessie Ware, and Bobby Womack), to smaller acts performing for more adventurous audiences (Boom Bip and Charlie, Mordant Music and Walls). On top of all that, the festival prides itself on a camping field reserved for families, which allows for perhaps the most exciting summer holiday experience for kids — it’s probably one of very few places where you could find a man tripping his face off on acid next to a group of children playing with a soccer ball.

With such an impressive selection of music, performing arts, and comedy on the roster, it was distressing that a fellow in Ipswich decided to complicate the first day by climbing the roof of his train station and threatening to jump for an unknown cause. Armed only with a knife, it took fire fighters a good few hours to coax the man down onto the platform, during which time the entire line — the only one out of London to the festival — was closed between 8:30 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. This meant a huge number of weekend ticket holders planning to travel up on the Friday were diverted, and I was one of them.


(Photo Credit: Jenna Foxten)

Regardless of the wild detour affecting an entire day of coverage, it still proved to be fun and games. It was easy enough to spot folks heading up to the festival on public transport, with their backpacks and profuse frustration, and I made it my mission to shake the social blockage of anonymous city life and talk to as many people as possible. I needed to take a train out of London, then a bus, then another train (which eventually was replaced by a taxi) and then another bus before reaching the festival gates. I didn’t get to Latitude until 7, but on my way I met a number of wonderful people who all were heading in the same direction. Sure, there was anger vented at the climber for holding up the entire line, but on my travels I had a fantastic chat with a trader from the city, who was meeting his wife and children in the Purple field. There also was a young Japanese gent who was desperate to get there in time for Bloc Party, and a poet who was due to perform at the festival that very evening. My traveling companions were excited about the festival as I was, and there remained little else but to make the most of a bad situation.

The fields span more than 4,000 acres, so even when I arrived, there was yet another bus journey in store before I could pitch up. I bode my fellow travelers adjure and jumped into an already chock-full minivan — the people I met inside were either remarkably high or fuming at the climber. Either way, it felt like this mini-adventure would finally pay off — we were almost there. After sorting all the formalities at the gate, time was of immediate essence after finding a place to pitch. I ate like a ravaged animal and made my way down to the event area to find some friends who were sensible enough to come up on the Thursday — it was time to get stuck in.


Friday

Calexico kicked things off, for this reviewer at least. They were based in the BBC Radio 6 tent, the second largest at the festival, and despite belting out a fantastic selection, the joint was only three-quarters full. Couples swayed in their salsa dance, making the most of the space while getting physical to a combination of trumpets, guitars, and maracas. Joey Burns was in top form as he bounded from one track to the next, introducing his bandmates and urging on an already excited audience. Despite the heat, it was impossible not to move to the band’s excellent cover of Love’s “Alone Again Or” and the dazzling trumpets of Jacob Valenzuela, who got an amazing cheer after each solo — it was an incredible start to the festival and the perfect soundtrack to a scarlet sunset behind the oak trees that lined the area.


Bloc Party (Photo Credit: Danny North)

After a selection of smuggled rum cocktails and a good chinwag about what I had missed, we headed over to the Obelisk Arena to catch Bloc Party. I’m not a huge fan of the band — I remember enjoying Silent Alarm when it came out and jumping around to “Luna” in various rock clubs on the continent, but my appreciation for the British four-piece has gone little beyond that. However, Kele and co. just released an awesome new single, and the band are renowned for putting on an animated live show. They played a selection of old and new material, focusing a little more on A Weekend in the City than I would have hoped, but it didn’t stop them breaking into early tracks such as “Banquet,” “So Here We Are,” and “This Modern Love.” I bounced about in a slight state of shock after realizing Silent Alarm came out eight years ago. Even though Kele Okereke was streaming with hay fever, he still put on a superb show as Gordon Moakes danced about the stage sporting a fine mustache and Hot Chip drummer Sarah Jones delivered every kick drum thud with force — making for a glorious set and a wonderfully positive way of wrapping up the first day. Having said that, the festival never really ends after the last band stops playing — on the contrary, that’s when all the fun begins.

The short trek back to the tent took me through a tree-lined area leading up to the smaller iStage, where Japandroids had just finished. As campers made their way back to base, it seemed impossible to resist the luscious charge of a tree-covered disco, with slow pulse lighting and deep house, cradled in a forest-like setting. The bar remained busy until the wee small hours — as an antithetical statement to the cheese music tent located somewhere on the other side of the site. The disco posed hard hitting bass lines, which only stopped as daylight began to rear its presence. Amid a colorful collection of Jägermeister shot glasses and shambolic cheer, the crowd began to return for a few cheeky winks until the breakfast bar opened.

Saturday


(Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana)

The audience and the atmosphere at a festival always are essential components. People turn out for so many different reasons; from celebrating a final year at Uni with one last royal piss-up, to families taking their children to experience live music for the first time. Somewhere in between those two extremes are the people keen on the music they are there to witness, and even though at times they may feel like a minority, the appreciation stood out more often than not among the diverse groups I encountered. I was camped up at the Yellow gate, with a really mixed bunch that also consisted of several young families. On Saturday morning, children wandered about with their parents, eying up bacon rolls as their olds plotted the bands they wanted to see; hung over teenagers poured over their cappuccinos and iphones in an attempt to regain their enthusiasm and upload last night’s shenanigans onto Instagram. The staff radiated their positive vibes; smiles and sunshine first thing in the morning, every staffer I met seemed happy to help out, and those positive vibes radiated far beyond the event’s crazy demographic.

I made my way through the woods, past a number of random paintings that seemed to have sprung up overnight, and past the Big Screen night kino, where Mordant Music were set to wind up that evening. The path led to a river separating the woodland from the main event area, which was bisected by a beautiful bridge that gave rise to outstanding views both up and down the water. I headed to the Literary Tent for the opening session and a talk by none other than Germaine Greer. Upon entering though I noticed the large 18 Certificate on the doors of the tent and couldn’t help but think that was a pity — surely there should be more effort to get young people interested in literature and poetry (which also was age-restricted) as opposed to censoring it from them. That was a shame, even though the kids had their own adventure playground over the other side of the field — it just seemed wrong to exclude them from what should have been one of the most interesting areas of the festival.

Dead Interviews consisted of a group of actors reconstructing conversations between famous people in a chit-chat setting. Parker Sawyers played Jimi Hendrix, and Peter Marinker managed to pull off Richard Nixon, but the undisputed highlight of the bunch was an interview with Marcel Duchamps, by Michael Faber. The French artist was played by Scott Handy from The Village. Along with his interviewer, the pair reconstructed a fictional conversation about modern art as well as some of Duchamp’s most controversial pieces, and it was absolutely hilarious. Handy played his character extremely well, making jokes and chasing innuendos about Duchamp’s Rose Selavy as well as the issue of controversy in modern art — “art does not have the potential to shock anymore” was a central argument. He approached this by tackling the shock value of Tracy Emin’s “Bed.” He said the subject matter was not shocking, but deduced people were rather shocked by the amount of money paid for it… dead or alive, perhaps he has a point. So good was the performance in fact that I stayed on to watch the rest of the interviews and missed Charles Bradley, whom I later heard rocking the main stage at a distance — it was a tough call, but I was still whacked from the previous day’s travel/dance combo. I sprawled on the ground and listened to a version of Ian Rankin.


Germaine Greer (Photo Credit: Danny North)

Performers aren’t immune to transport delays, and Germaine Greer was running 20 minutes late. So instead of waiting around and listening to the awful compare, I kept to my schedule and headed over to see a young British band called Drenge. They had been recommended by one of my traveling companions, and I was curious to see what they could do. The band consists of Rory Loveless on drums and his brother Eoin taking on guitar and vocal duties. With their crazed following at the front of the crowd, shouting along to the chorus of their opening song “I Wanna Break You In Half,” they certainly had the potential to cause a rift in the audience. Their sound ended up being somewhere between Black Sabbath and Modern English, but from the perspective of a fresh-faced twosome. They were fiery and aggressive, but also slow and pondering as a particularly young boy attempted to crowd-surf his way to the stage. Drenge melted into a stoner, blues heavy jam and asked politely if the young boy was OK after their song had bled out. He probably was, the security guys seemed extraordinarily vigilant in spotting crowd surfers, who were immediately dragged to the front of the stage and evicted from the tent; the same thing seemed to be the case for the Obelisk Arena — long gone are the days when security would just catch you, pop you back on your feet, and then send you in the right direction toward the crowd.

I’d left a friend waiting for Greer, who must have arrived shortly after I departed the literary tent. By the time I got back, the fiery Australian was in the throes of a Q&A section. Standing confidently alongside the lady signing next to her, she tackled topical feminist issues surrounding the use of the burka, the right for feminist organizations to remain “female only,” and for local initiatives to support any sporting facilities that focused on female-dominated activities. Greer is a fascinating speaker, her ideas truly captivating, but she did little to win the hearts of the ladies I watched her performance with — after she had finished, we discussed Greer’s ideas concerning the inclusion of men into feminist organizations, and how it doesn’t appear just. Surely it’s the right of anyone to fight for feminist opinions, not only women, and the inclusion of diverse participants has to be the best way to go about it… or perhaps not — perhaps men then warp the feminist agenda somehow and appeal to values that distort the cause, as Greer would argue. It was compelling to have such wonderful platforms for discussion at the festival, wherein acts were able to provoke wonderful conversations and debates on social issues in a context in which everyone was there to collectively appreciate the arts in one form or another. It’s a shame the compare thought it was his duty to act vulgar and menacing throughout the interval though. His brash conversationalism had people leaving the literature tent in droves.


(Photo Credit: Danny North)

As we took our seats on the sun blazed grass in front of the main stage, Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba cautiously appeared wearing long, green traditional Malian dress. Of all the acts I had missed at last year’s Latitude, Fatoumata Diawara was the one I was most sad to have not seen — she probably played at about the same time and on the same stage as Kouyate and his band, who were this year’s main-stage African representatives. With beaming smiles and a selection of handmade string instruments, Kouyate and his family conducted an amazing performance of songs from Jama Ko. The set was split up with solos by Bassekou and his brother Andra, as they skillfully competed for vocal appreciation from the audience. The crowd was relatively small, but it steadily began to grow as the band slipped from one traditional Malian lute jam to the next. Before the set came to a close, Bassekou introduced everybody on the stage, which included his wife, two sons, brother, and nephew. The glee and happiness the frontman shared along with his family was a tough act to beat throughout the whole festival; the guy was stoked, but seemed at home with the crowd that was building up in front of him.

The film tent was probably a hard sell while the weather was so nice. Watching movies in a dark tent as the sun was shining brightly and wonderful musicians were playing outside didn’t sound like the most popular choice at the time. On this occasion though, something very special was afoot. Total Film had arranged a live interview with the outstanding British actor/director Paddy Considine. The tent was crammed, which laid waste to my inkling, and when Considine came out, he apologized for his lateness. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ve just been out the back, pissing in some bottles.” How festival-like, I thought, and the crowd cheered. It was a real delight listening to Considine talk about working on Dead Man’s Shoes, almost hitting the big-time through his role in the Bourne Ultimatum and of course his relationship with Sean Meadows. He discussed the personality combustion that existed after the pair spent too much time with each other, their friendship over the years, and how Meadows had a skinhead, a black eye, and a psychedelic jumper on when the two first worked on a paired exercise back in college. It was a grand insight into one of the finest working relationships in British film history, which ended on a positive note — as far as Considine is concerned, he and Meadows will be working on a project together at some point in the next 10 years — a tasty carrot if not a vague and ambiguous one.

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Back in the realm of indie rock, Daughter were warming up in the totally swarmed out Radio 6 tent, for what turned out to be one of the most listless experiences of the festival. I enjoy Elena Tonra’s folk-tinted tones, and her album If You Leave is one of the most heartwarming mainstream releases of the year. I was intrigued when guitarist Igor Haefeli took a bow to his guitar and began to charge out harmonious post-rock sequences to Tonra’s delicate vocals. The young lady was indeed timid, but the two giant “EXTREME!” balls that had been inflated and were hammered about the audience for the entirety of her set didn’t lead to distraction. It must have been off-putting for the band to see these inflatable objects punched about in front of them, but they showed little sign of being fazed — they waded through their tracklist, differing very little from their album — it was OK. In need of something a little more driven, I turned to the main stage to catch Jessie Ware, who must have been a quarter of the way through her spot. “This fucking thing doesn’t work,” she blurted, jibing her sampler. Ware is a born performer, and her tenacious grip on the audience was just startling as she soared through “No To Love,” Wildest Moments,” and “Running.” In between songs she would introduce band members and thank the audience, promising them that she would be out partying later on that evening. Her instant transformation from pop-soul extraordinaire to South London flybanite was riveting to witness, and she gave the fest that much needed kick to see it from late afternoon Saturday slump into early evening mash-up as the crowds gathered for the following act.


Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana)

Even though the half-baked disappointment that was Mosquito only came out a few weeks ago, there remained a buzz in the air for Karen O as she graced her audience wearing something like a ’70s retro-brand casino-valet PE kit. With huge sunglasses covering the upside-down crosses under her eyes and hockey socks pulled up to her knees, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs opened with “Zero” — a hopeful indicator that they were going to stick with past material as opposed to focusing on Mosquito tracks. I hadn’t seen the YYY live since 2003, just after they released their debut album, and the enthusiasm they displayed back then was just torrential — this is something Karen O has maintained over the last 11 years, and she appeared a ball of rabid ecstasy, flaunting about the stage in her frazzled blaze. The band crashed through “Pin,” “Heads Will Roll,” and “Gold Lion” amid a set that also was scattered with new material. The slight Mosquito bent didn’t matter so much though, as the audience was hyped just at seeing Karen and the fellas playing so wildly and having so much fun. When the band’s touring member (and former Slint guitarist) David Pajo departed the stage, leaving the original threesome, things got really hot — they played a spine-tingling rendition of “Maps” and finished with a rip-roaring version of “Date With The Night.” I don’t care much for what the band released after Fever to Tell, but seeing them play that early track as a closer was enough to rekindle an old flame. For if nothing else, seeing Karen O run a riot, deep-throat her microphone and spray backwash all over herself time and time again made for a statement in itself — the Yeah Yeah Yeahs haven’t grown up, and they are all the better for it.

My plan for the rest of the day was to seek out some of the smaller attractions. After watching the likes of Daughter, Jessie Ware, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, it felt as though I needed to see something a little less obvious… My first port of call was the Faraway Forest, which was home to the outdoor theater; the show times were sporadic, but it was intriguing to see all the props scattered about in the open; a set of manikins tied to a tree, a cylindrical partition among the branches with a small set of speakers playing “This Charming Man” with a guy sitting there on his lonesome. Without the feast of spectacle though, there was not much to be seen, and I veered toward the poetry tent. As I arrived, Jess Green was giving instructions to her audience, asking them to chant the final words of the poem along with her as it reached a climatic finale. The tent was doing rather well for this time in the evening; lots of people sat around on the floor hugging random inflatables and listening to the verbal flow of poets and comedians gearing up for the Edinburgh Fringe. Green was confident in her delivery; an amusing piece about young, porn obsessed chap who was looking for his soul mate — it was funny and clever and unadulterated. The audience listened, but nobody chimed in during her final few lines. Green was followed by poetry and rap artist Charlie Dupre, who proposed to perform both Faust and Hamlet in his half-hour slot, voicing all of the characters and modernizing each story for a contemporary audience. Faust is a personal favorite of mine, and it was a joy to hear performed with such zeal. The same, encapsulated format was applied to Shakespeare, the performer casually informing his crowd, “Right, I’m gonna do Hamlet now.” He spat rhymes like a Jacobean gangster more than a poetry enthusiast, making the production sound quite odd and rash — Faustus was decidedly the better portrayal but both shows gave a distinct outline as to what was happening off the beaten track.


Kraftwerk (Photo Credit: Danny North)

I recall reading that Matt Biancardi had seen Purity Ring at a show in Chicago recently — he even hit it up for our Live Blog. The Alberta duo were playing on the iStage and I made a bold decision to head in their direction as opposed to the main stage for Kraftwerk, who I saw at the Tate back in February. The woodland location was rendered even more mystical by the furry lantern lights that Megan and Corin hung around their instruments. Corin’s mixing desk was accompanied by a smattering of bell lights, and when Megan appeared in a cloud of smoke, all hand gestures and mystique, the atmosphere was smashing. The tent was crowded, and I happened to be standing next to a group of young teens who had all just double-dropped — their hopes were to come up at about the time the bass kicked in, and they made their intentions very vocal — they must have been about 18. It was probably the only show I have seen where the audience was distracting enough to ruin the music. That’s not always easy to avoid, but I shimmied back a few places and found myself in the center of the tent with a great view of the band, who played most of their debut album Shrines. It sounded spooky, especially with their stage all rigged up and glowing. What had the potential to be a horrid experience of dodging amphetamine-ridden teens turned out to be one of the best — the rest of the crowd sang along joyfully to “Bellyspeak,” “Saltkin,” and set-closer “Fineshrine” as neon lights flickered and Megan pranced about the stage. The fact that their set finished half an hour before Kraftwerk’s meant it was easy enough to head back to the main stage to catch the conclusion of Kraftwerk.

Even for the last half hour of the iconic German group’s set was a small batch of highlights: “Radioactivity” followed “Tour de France” and “Trans Europe Express,” then “Boing Boom Tschak,” “Techno Pop,” and “Musique Non Stop.” The crowd reaction seemed mixed — heading back to the disco tent, it was strange hearing people talk about how disappointing they found the set. I guess Kraftwerk remain for the fanatics, and in a huge field, where only one of four large screens was displaying the 3D effects, it was always going to be a bit of an uphill climb.

Sunday


(Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana)

After a festival breakfast bap I headed straight to the film tent on the final morning. There had been a muffled sense of hype behind the scenes at TMT about an obscure duo named Boom Bip and Charlie who released a very peculiar EP last year called Music for Sleeping Children. The record consisted of sound bites from interviews with teenage girls about school, food, gossip, and relationships, and was mixed with an electro-pop backing track; a strange idea, but one that apparently came with a video installation piece. There were a few people waiting outside as I ate a pot of organic oats and chatted to the security guard about streakers and people getting drunk and climbing trees yesterday evening. He was working a 16-hour shift, which adds perspective to my energy levels that morning — this gent was most pleasant considering his sleep deprivation, and explained that of all the festivals he had done, this was one of the calmest. That was an interesting thought to take away as Charlie White sat at his laptop and the cheerleading schoolgirl collective Emeralds took to the stage for an introductory segment. The girls spiraled and pirouetted as the hungover audience looked on at such a crazy Sunday morning spectacle. The music was taken directly from the EP, but it came with a visual component that was a cross between Super Nintendo graphics and ’80s-style TV commercials; all tied up in comments about lemonade, crunchy ice, and having relationships with older guys. This was possibly the weirdest thing I saw over the weekend, and it made for a great start to the last day.

The comedy tent was rammed as I walked around the corner to find Marcus Brigstocke’s policy unit in full swing. Crowds were huddled around the various exits and operating a self-sufficient one in, one out policy — it was all very civilized. Brigtocke was joined by Andrew Maxwell, Robin Ince, and Simon Evans, who were discussing various political and social issues in attempts to come up with new policies surrounding them — each proposal was put to a vote, which Brigstoke either passed or waved depending on the show of hands. The whole thing was a format for topical comedy that had the audience roaring with laughter. From animal death matches on X Factor to issuing licenses for narcotics, the chat was as UN PC and expressive as you might expect.


(Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana)

Meanwhile, over the other side of the field, Hookworms were warming up for their set. Hailing from Leeds, the British four-piece have just released their debut album Pearl Mystic, which has been out in the UK since February and is getting a U.S. release in the coming weeks. The band were very much fronted by MJ, who supplied vocal and synth debauchery. He came on shouting wildly into space, optimizing the microphone as a useful tool, but not an essential one. Hookworms played an absolutely devastating set; riddled with noise, psych, and prog-rock, they carved the festival apart with a performance throbbing with energy. As the young kids down the front came tearing out with their hands over their ears, MJ continued to turn up the ferocity of his distortion and his vocals and as he pillaged the iStage. The atmosphere was electric, an absolutely spellbinding performance — Hookworms, whatever they morph into as critical acclaim begins to mount, were the undisputed highlight of the festival and had me trembling in my boots. I haven’t been this excited about a rock band in years.

With only a few hours to go, we regrouped at the meeting point, a mythical crooked tree. múm were next on the agenda, and even though I haven’t been blown away by any of their recent stuff, they’ve always remained one of the bands I felt I needed to see live. When Summer Make Good came out in 2004, it rode on the back of the mysterious charisma the band carry. The crowd filled a good third of the tent, which made for plenty of space to gain a vantage point as two vocalists took to the stage in typically outrageous frocks. As the cellist began to play (was that Hildur?) she also sang tenderly in front of the band’s percussion and bass section, creating a mesmerizing mood, graceful in their freakish exuberance. At one point both singers were flailing their arms about the stage, darting back and forth, before one of them picked up a melodica, which she played while wrapping her hands behind her head like a tangled octopus. It wasn’t the strangeness that made the performance so spellbinding, but the confidence the musicians exposed in pulling it off, not to mention those gorgeous cello renditions and wonderful vocals. When the band played, “We Have A Map of the Piano,” the audience clapped ever so softly, as if they were taken back by how confident the act had become in their wackiness — Hildur wrapped her arms around her skull and simulated her neck breaking as she fell to the floor over and over again during their closing number — it looked exhausting.

We made our way back to the exact same place to watch Austra. The tent was half full, so we were able to secure that vantage point once again as Katie Stelmanis embraced the stage. múm must have been an exceptionally tough act to follow, particularly after Hildur’s dramatics, but the Canadian singer came bounding onto the stage with huge bubble sunglasses and a seemingly ecstatic young gent wearing denim dungarees, pink socks, and matching nail varnish. The set was high energy and marvelous fun. Stelmanis had the crowd in the palm of her hand, and the front few rows in the Radio 6 tent were seemingly enchanted by her delightful electro pop.


James Blake (Photo Credit: Jessica Gilbert)

It had been a brilliant start to the day, and I still hadn’t quite recovered from Hookworms, but there were still two remaining acts on the agenda. As we made our way out of the Radio 6 tent, the hordes began to flood toward the main stage. The sun was at its most powerful by this point, and that didn’t quite suit the mood of the next performer. I don’t know if it’s because his latest album cover features him walking about in the snow, but Overgrown is surely an album for album for Winter, ideal for the period long after the trees have lost their leaves and the cold has set in; the deep melancholic air that embellished James Blake’s debut was seamlessly carried through to his most recent record. But even with the sun blazing, the young London musician managed to retain a sense of atmosphere. Opening with a selection from “Air & Lack Thereof” and moving straight into “I Never Learned to Share,” he introduced the set as a combination of songs old and new. He was joined on the stage by Rob McAndrews on guitars and drummer Ben Assiter. Together they worked through a brilliantly executed set and exhumed the most prominent sections of the artist’s catalog. I stood right in the center of the audience, directly between the two main speakers, and the bass tones were phenomenal. Blake was utterly composed and relaxed at his machines, as though he was sitting comfortably in his studio laying down beats for his mates. It wasn’t until “CMYK,” that the crowd started to get physically involved — it was probably the peak moment, looking on as one of the most accomplished and inventive electronic musicians of the age conducted his finest selection of dub rhythms — the set was flawless, a genuine treat.

It would have been the perfect point for my departure — an awe-inspiring high for the end of the fest. I had a six-hour trek back into London, which relied on my having to find the right bus pick-up points, but there still was time, and so I took one of my dear friends back to the Radio 6 stage.

It was a risky choice, especially as Eddie Izzard was performing at the same time in the comedy tent, but we had received word that area was bursting with people. We stayed in the cool of the R6 venue and watched as Sierra and Bianca Casady appeared in their wild outfits. Tales of a Grass Widow is my favorite Cocorosie since Noah’s Arc — I also loved La Maison De Mon Reve, but I was so put off by Ghosthorse and Stillborn that I didn’t even give Grey Ships a chance — perhaps I should have done so, especially because the band’s set was to contain material from 2007 onward (No “By Your Side” or “Lyla,” sadly). The sisters performed alongside a dark and unidentified man at the far right of the stage who had bass responsibilities, opposite him on the far left was a mysterious chap on keyboards, and then there also was Tez on beat box. I had seen the latter perform online before, but never in the flesh, and alongside Cocorosie, his gnarly flow and their wacky antics made for one of the best performances — it was outlandish. Across a spectrum of new and songs that were all pretty much unknowable to me, except for the latest album standout “Childbride” and perhaps “Werewolf,” these weird little melodies took on a different vibe. They were enchanting in this context — as Sierra played her harp and wailed operatic, Bianca twirled and spun her odd combo of folk rap, and Tez was electric. The Gothic circus quintet they became was a mesmerizing end to the festival. I’m not sure what the man next to me thought; he was tripping and touching everyone’s hair.

I had every confidence that I could make it to the right exit point for the last bus across Norfolk and to Diss station. After saying my goodbyes, I hurried back to the tent and packed everything up before heading to the nearest exit, which was located all the way across the site at the Orange gate. That’s the area from which the bus departed, and I was prepared to walk it, if it had not been for a volunteer minibus driver named Scroggy. Typical of the people I had met, this bearded and long-haired gent picked me and another Londoner up and drove us all the way to Orange. The conversation was typically friendly; it was the guy’s fifth such festival and every year he comes back to help people out, make new friends, and offer his services as a driver. He was a local man, and I don’t know where the attitude comes from, but it seems Norfolk was a fantastic place to host to the festival; the landscape wasn’t the only reason for hosting the event there — it’s all about the people you meet along the way.

  

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