So, after a day of sleeping and staggering groggily about the flat with Supernoodles dangling from my slack gob, I’ve officially recovered from Latitude festival 2009. My voice is still pretty buggered, so no arias for a week or so, but aside from that I’m compos mentis so woot.
Despite intermittently shitty weather, this year turned out to be a bit of a corker. I was performing every day, doing sets in the Poetry Arena and also reading from We Can’t All Be Astronauts in the Literary Tent. The reading from my book was a particularly nice surprise – they told me to tell the audience that I’d be signing copies afterwards, and I cringed at a vision of me sitting glum and alone behind a pile of my books. Instead, we sold out of copies! I felt incredibly flattered and a tiny bit fraudulent, but, you know, I think in these instances it’s best to drop the self-effacement and just enjoy it, which I did. Thanks if you bought a copy. You made me feel really chuffed.
In the Poetry Arena the audiences seemed bigger than we’ve had in previous years, and on Thursday and Sunday they were particularly enthusiastic. I didn’t catch everyone who performed, but I felt Nathan Filer, John Osborne, Kate Tempest, Dockers MC and MC Angel had particularly good innings. Kate Tempest with her band Sound of Rum managed to get a crowd who had started out listless and subdued up on their feet and dancing by the end of their set, which was incredible to watch. John Osborne did the best performances I’ve ever seen him do – I particularly enjoyed the point where audience members started spontaneously yelling out names of bands that only use the vowel e. One guy shouted out ELO, to which John responded: ‘That’s a rubbish attempt. There are three letters in that name. One of them’s e, and one of them’s l. Do you see where you fell down?’
The tent on Sunday just got warmer and warmer as the evening went on, until it was rammed and the crowd were really up for it, whooping and cheering and belly laughing. My highlight of Aisle16 and Friends was watching MC Angel start a rap battle with Keith Allen. Keith Allen was better at freestyling than you might have guessed, and it was great, drunken, knockabout fun that had the audience laughing and questioning their sanity in equal measures. Aisle16’s late night sessions in the Poetry Arena always teeter on anarchy, and the upside of that is that amazing bits of performance can arise spontaneously and give everyone present one of those festival ‘moments’ that we’re all fiending after. Watching Ross Sutherland carry the mic into the middle of the audience to lead the tent in a rousing chorus of Total Eclipse Of The Heart was another bumper, albeit silly, moment.
Thank you to everyone who came to watch us, or gave poetry a try over the weekend. It’s really salutory to do it and basically not be crap. It reminds me of why we do it in the first place – we just want to give people something fresh and new that can be funny and exciting and emotional all at once. That sounds gushy and pretentious until you’re in the middle of a show that’s going really well, then you realise, oh, it’s true.
In another news, yesterday I stumbled across the Decemberists for the first time. Someone mentioned them in the same sentence as Jonathan Coulton, and I was like, aha. I love what I’ve heard so far. After my nap yesterday I got up and had a little dance around the living room with my wireless headphones on. Here are just two, Valerie Plame and The Legionnaire’s Lament. Funtimes.