Latitude: Alela Diane, Gurrumul, The Rumble Strips

As the sky threatens to rain, we head into the safety of the Uncut tent to see Alela Diane.

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As the sky threatens to rain, we head into the safety of the Uncut tent to see Alela Diane.

The American singer-songwriter, joined by a four-piece band, including a subtle backing singer, performs her woozy country-tinged songs to a good-sized crowd.

Her voice is a very fluid instrument, picking up the slack where the songwriting may not be memorable enough – her pronunciation of ‘canyon’ alone on one song is enough to sustain attention for the whole track.

‘White As Diamonds’ gets a big cheer from the crowd, but it’s the tribal, meditative closer ‘The Ocean’ that really hints at the more interesting avenues Diane could pursue in the future.

The rain’s coming down thick and fast, so the tent fills up to bursting point – a good bit of fortune for Aboriginal singer Gurrumul, up next.

Backed by a string quartet, double bassist and classical guitarist, the blind singer’s tracks are a little bit too ‘Pan Pipe Moods’ – if it wasn’t for his voice, that is.

Soaring over the (far too) tasteful strings and folk-derived guitar picking, Gurrumul’s voice is a tremulous wonder, stretching from guttural rumbles to almost unnerving animal-like cries.

It’s a moving performance. Perhaps Gurrumul’s putting in all his reserves today because (as his double bassist says) the monsoon-like conditions remind him of home.

An act who don’t quite get the same comfort from the rain are The Rumble Strips. Out on the main Obelisk Arena stage, they start their set with only a small crowd due to the harsh weather.

The sun begins to peek out, though, as they continue and the audience swells. Their earlier material features their best songs, for example, ‘Girls And Boys In Love’, but it’s their newer, Mark Ronson-produced work that impresses most live, due to the fuller instrumentation and more reliance on keyboards and strings than horns.

As much as they deny it, there’s a real Dexys feel to their music – in the sprightly rhythms and Charlie Waller’s sonorous, soulful voice – and it’s both their strength and their weakness.

As the sun comes out during ‘Motorcycle’, though, Latitude’s loving it.



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