Latitude 2009

Stewart Lee, Royal Court Theatre, Loney Dear -- the UNCUT Arts Blog

It's all gone a bit Late Review round here. In the absence of Tom Paulin, here's UNCUT's Arts Blog. Latitude is not just about music but comedy, literature, theatre, film and cabaret too – plus various hybrids of all of them. Which can mean being assailed by armies of performance-art gonks and patchy student plays about the Iraq war in the middle of a forest.

But it can also mean seeing A-list stand-ups like Stewart Lee riffing away about Big Brother, Martin Luther King and sardines on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Always one of the most pop-savvy comedians, Lee announced his intentions to see a last-minute festival addition. “Twenty seven years ago I wanted to go and see The Beat, but I had homework and my mum wouldn’t let me. Well, tonight I’m going to see The Beat play, at two in the morning, and there is nothing my mum can do about it.” Respect.

A delegation from the Royal Court Theatre are also playing all three days of Latitude with their “Shuffle” programme of short plays inspired by pop songs. Uncut caught two gems on Saturday, a frothy one-man monologue based on the Eagles soft-rock classic “Hotel California” and a more artful, bittersweet examination of generational conflict between an ex-punk mother and a gangsta rap-loving son. Clever, funny stuff.

For festival goers who can’t wait for the Arcade Fire’s Sunday night headline set, Swedish neo-folkies Loney, Dear provided a useful stop-gap on the Uncut stage on Saturday. Proving there is room for rueful reflection and acoustic elegance even in the middle of a giant teddy bears’ picnic like Latitude, these winsome Swedes conjured up a teasing preview of the ecstatic Arcadian bluster that awaits tomorrow night.

One of the chief pleasures of Latitude is its relatively compact and manageable size. Which makes it very tempting to drift away from watching big-name bands who have already played half a dozen festivals this summer, and catch a few fringe oddballs instead.

They don’t come much odder than Duloks, a cheerfully amateurish Anglo-Canadian trio who played a shambolic set on the fourth stage on Saturday dressed like slightly pervy children’s TV presenters. “Don’t take the brown acid,” singer Mira yelped. “It’s toilet paper with poo on it.” Yummy.

But unsigned Leeds foursome Middlemen played a more coherent professional racket on the same stage an hour later. Their reggae-tinged rap-rock close-harmony chat-pop got a small but appreciative crowd bouncing, like a PG-rated Jamie T or Mike Skinner without the drugs. A classic singalong festival band in the making.

STEPHEN DALTON


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