I managed to overcome my aforementioned ‘festival dilemma‘ and decided to go to Suffolk’s Latitude festival just over a week ago with a small group of close friends. I had never been before and I had read all good things – being particularly interested in the emphasis on literature, poetry and comedy, aspects neglected by most festivals (it describes itself as ‘more than just a music festival’). I had high hopes for a weekend of glorious sunshine and laid-back culture, and I was not let down.
The sunshine followed us from London to Suffolk, and despite being stuck in traffic for hours on the way there, we arrived in high spirits ready to explore. Thursday evening resulted in us exploring the enchanted forests, meeting new people and having a few bevvies and a bit of a boogie. We explored the site by darkness, with walks around the lake and the fairytale-esque small stages and decorated woodland.
Friday was the first day of music, we met a couple of friendly Australian girls on the coach from London, and it just so happened that one of them, Naomi Keyte, was performing on friday morning at the I-Arena in the middle of the forest. What a lovely way to kick off the festival. The stage was in a little tent in the shade of towering trees, and Naomi’s etherial voice was captivating. Melodic and poetic lyrics floated through the forest, making it feel truly enchanted. After a thumbs up as a well done to Naomi, we left to catch some more performances.
We decided not to meticulously plan our days, which allowed us to stumble upon some great plays, spoken word performances and comedy by people we had never heard of before (and some that we had). We found a little space inside the Comedy tent and watched hilarious performances from Romesh Ranganathan, Seann Walsh and Sean Lock. Seann Walsh was my favourite, who seemed to relate to much of the audience with tales of drunken mistakes, bachelor life and the moment you decide a large round of Jagerbombs is the best idea you’ve ever had.
That evenings headliners were Bloc Party. I had seen them many times before, both at intimate gig venues and at huge festivals, so I wasn’t super excited about seeing them, but that soon changed once they kicked off. It’s easy to forget how good a band is at live performances when you listen to them on CD. Bloc Party are practically veterans now and boy do they know how to get a crowd excited. They played a mixture of the old singalong hits and tracks from their new EP, ‘Nextwave Sessions‘.
Saturday was what I was looking forward to most before the festival. One of my favourites, the New York rock band, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, were performing that afternoon. I couldn’t wait to go mental with the mad Karen O once again. But before that, there were some great acts to see. We went to see English indie-folk band, Daughter, who remind me very much of a mix between Warpaint and The xx (which in my opinion is no bad thing), on the BBC Radio 6 Music Stage and the fabulous Jessie Ware. Jessie’s got a modern vibe, but still manages to be funky and soulful, in a way many modern artists fail to be. She also came across as really down to earth and admitted to be completely overwhelmed to be playing the Obelisk Arena (Latitude’s main stage), winning over the crowd with her voice and her humble nature. Next up was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, contrasting with Jessie’s laid back demeanour, Karen O burst onto the stage in a sparkly yellow ensemble, being wild in a way only she can. They played so many crowd pleasers, including several from their first album, and my favourite, Fever to Tell.
Next up was Hot Chip, who I had greatly looked forward to, and I have to say are the only act who slightly let me down. They played the hits, which were as funky as ever, but they had little stage persona, and lost my attention at times. However, they were a great in-between band to keep us excited and dancing, ready for that day’s headliners, Kraftwerk. We didn’t really know what to expect, none of us had witnessed a 3D concert before, but we knew it was going to be very strange, very German and very interesting indeed. And that it was. There wasn’t much dancing, and there wasn’t much singing along, but the whole crowd stood entranced, eyes transfixed on the stage. The 3D special effects were a great addition to the performance, and gave an additional visual aid, which I think was much needed as Kraftwerk are famous for their lack of movement and facial expressions. They were unlike anything I had seen before, it wasn’t my favourite act of the weekend, but they were without a doubt the most interesting. We left slightly before the end to head over to the BBC Radio 6 Music stage to catch the last few songs of Alt-J.
Sunday saw yet another day of great music and comedy. We kicked off the day with some Bobby Womak (Latitude’s special lunchtime guest, a slot previously filled by the likes of Thom Yorke and Tom Jones) on the main stage, which was lovely and relaxing in the sunshine as he brought a colourful spash of some old-school Sunday soul. We then headed over to catch Icelandic band múm, who sound like the musical lovechild of Björk and Sigur Rós. They were musically and visually brilliant, and deeply strange – in a way only the Icelandics can be.
Next up was another highlight of the weekend, Eddie Izzard. The comedy arena was unsurprisingly packed, as it seemed as though all the middle class lefties of Southern England had tried to squeeze into one tent. It didn’t ruin the performance at all. Eddie spurted out his familiar intelligent annecdotes and eccentric, whimsical musings to the delight of the crowd (and confirmed that he would either be running for London Mayor or to be an MP in 7 years time – to much cheering and whooping).
Before catching Foals, Sunday’s headliners, we went for a bit of a boogie in the BBC Radio 6 Music stage to some Rudimental (with some great trumpet playing), followed by the achingly cool Disclosure. Made up of Guy and Howard Lawrence (born in 1991 and 1994, respectively), the electronic duo, Disclosure, completely owned the tent, playing their way through their debut album, ‘Settle’. Unfortunately, Jessie Ware did not hand around an extra day to join them on stage for the remixed single ‘Running’, as many of us were hoping she would.
Finally, we saw Foals. Foals are a band who have seemed to pass me by slightly, I wasn’t hugely familiar with their repertoire and I didn’t know much about them. I think this served in my favour as I experienced their performance with a blank canvas and fresh ears and eyes. I knew a lot of their material, to my surprise, and frontman Yannis Philippakis’ voice blew me away. It just shows what an impact a charismatic and deeply talented frontman can make, which made Foals a highlight for me – even as a band I knew little about.
Overall, Latitude was a festival with fantastic atmosphere – very family oriented (in the way Glastonbury is, but on a smaller scale), really friendly and overall radiating positive vibes. I’ll end it there as this is getting pretty long – but I’ll definitely be returning to Latitude in the future, and I recommend you do too!