“Local bloke steals show!” It’s the headline all new acts dream of in the middle of festival season, blowing giant world famous acts off the bloomin’ stage in a frenzy of burger-flipping, sun-burning, tent-tensing delight. So July in Suffolk brings the giant combines out for the harvest and a combination of the fruitiest live bands for the county’s biggest and best music festival. We speak, of course, of Bardfest, an 8,000 capacity two day hoedown in Bardwell village. The teenagers are here for headliners THE VAMPS, but we’re taking a more esoteric approach and amidst the pretty-sounding acoustic girls and soulful boy singers our new local faves BAG OF CANS are on fine, feral form with raucous songs about going to the pub or being in the pub or recovering from being in that pub. Are they hungover from playing Voodoo Daddy’s the night before? Of course they are.
On a slightly less grand scale a couple of weeks later it’s time for Latitude. It’s a curiously mixed bill, but a good chance to get the Pandaman gigging count up while checking out another smattering of local talents, from the summer grunge of TUNDRA and GAFFA TAPE SANDY to the whiplash double rap attack of Ipswich hip hop (Ippo hip-hoppo??) crew THE BROTHERHOOD and the charming guitar pop of BESSIE TURNER, who appears to be playing live with two pirates as a rhythm section. She is very happy to be here. She has a song called ‘Donkey’. She seems very nice.
Indeed, Latitude is very nice. Very, very nice. We will see a lot of big saxomaphones and many, many small children in small child-carrying trolleys. We also see a lot of very nice female singers across the weekend, none of whom are very much nicer than FREYA RIDINGS, who smiles a lot and sounds a bit like Florence Welch from 100 yards. Freya cranks up her gentle machine while exuberant American CAROLINE POLACHEK comes across as a slightly less stranger thing than Kate Bush. MAGGIE ROGERS has a curiously old-fashioned name which befits her tidily passionate mid-’70s sound, and the increasingly fabulously famous PHOEBE BRIDGERS plays serenely sassy indiepop songs to thousands of screaming girls, some of whom she politely surfs on top of at the close of her set, as you may or may not expect from an artist whose website is www.pheobefuckingbridgers.com.
But for all the modern touches, the multitude of middle class blokes in a dazzling array of adidas trainers (other brands are available, but less stripy) hark back to a time of guitar-driven festival innocence. To wit, last year SUPERGRASS were parachuting into the midday Saturday slot on the Obelisk stage thanks to the cancellation of Kendal Calling. At least three of us thought it worked such a treat they should have a Britpop retro slot every year. We’re not sure if anyone was listening, but this year SHED SEVEN open up the second day and all of a sudden it’s 1994 in 2022 with some endearingly durable tunefulness from the York barsurfers. ‘Dolphin’ and ‘Ocean Pie’ go down swimmingly well, and if Saturday midday 2023 brings us SLEEPER, ASH or THE BLUETONES then we are very much the winners.
Continuing the staggeringly loose aquatic theme, SEA POWER – who’ve been subbed in (in thangyew) for BETH ORTON – continue the old school indie heroics, creating a sweetly intense mood for the heated crowd with a lovely ‘Two Fingers’ and the ever-unforgettable ‘Remember Me’. But it’s Sunday evening which sees the alternative intensity in full effect as the Pandaman pinballs between the Obelisk stage and the BBC Sounds arena trying to catch as much rock action as possible as MANIC STREET PREACHERS launch their set with ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ and barely relent on the epic Welsh anthems thereafter, even digging out the M*A*S*H theme ‘Suicide Is Painless’ from the ’90s vaults.
Headlining BBC Sounds stage are FONTAINES D.C. who have taken their early brusque post-punk perambulations to a whole new level of intense insanity. They look like the most rock starry-ish of the rock stars present, all furious hair and thunderously bendy guitars. And sometimes, not least halfway through a hectic ‘Hurricane Laughter’, they sound like all of your favourite alt.rock bands since 1988 nailed together and thrown off a clifftop. They’re preceded by very special Pandaman faves AFGHAN WHIGS, whose ‘Gentlemen’ album was a Sub Pop classique back in those there ’90s. Chunky grunge-soul was their bag back then, and the years haven’t dulled singer Greg Dulli’s passion for a lurid love song or frankly perverted power chord. Being super-weird, our best moment isn’t actually even an Afghan Whigs song, it’s a piledrive through ‘Teenage Wristband’ by Dulli’s side project The Twilight Singers.
On a slightly less esoteric (lessoteric?) note, Latitide ’22 bids farewell with one of the first ever headliners, from back in 2006, SNOW PATROL lighting up the eastern skies with mobile phones a’plenty for the mellow ruminations of ‘Run’ and ‘Chasing Cars’. It’s a bit odd to induce mass singalongs for some of the quietest anthems in festival history, but Gary Lightbody gives it his showbizzing best. It’s also bassist Johnny McDaid’s birthday. He has co-written a tune or two with some guy from down the road. Snow Patrol start playing ‘Bad Habits’ and Ed Sheeran bounds onstage to singalong to his own song and send the mobile phoners into a Framlingham-tastic frenzy.
Local bloke steals show. Again.
PANDAMAN’S 2022 TOTAL: 205