Oh Latitude Festival, what a highly enjoyable, strange, beautiful place that you are. We may have only just met but I’d have happily stayed for longer and am already excited about my return.
The strange comes via the first night that I spent on the site at Henham Park. Those of you who follow TMB on Twitter will have seen my series of ‘Weird Latitude Trait’ tweets that broke that opening evening down. Whilst exploring the site, a tent located near the theatre that had people spilling out of the door piqued my interest. Clambering past the people milling about and standing on tip-toes I saw a man, stood naked on the stage, bathing himself in front of fifty or so people. He then proceeded to move to ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ by Daft Punk (brief clip below). Three more equally weird acts and a séance later, the strangest evening of my life came to close.
Weird latitude trait #4.
Just watch the video. pic.twitter.com/6qwwY8R2J2
— Too Many Blogs (@TooManyBlogs) July 14, 2016
The beautiful comes via the location itself. Fields surrounded by forest make up the setting at Latitude and the area is utilised extremely well. The lake which separates the forest area from the main couple of stages is used to provide people with a place to swim as well as for putting on the occasional show. With the sun beaming for much of Saturday and Sunday, the lake was the place to be for many of the festival goers.
The highly enjoyable comes from everything else available to you at Latitude. Many will mention the middle-class thing but it is relatively justified. At one point in the comedy tent, the compere asked an audience member for their name with “Saskia” being the response. This prompted the comeback of “that’s not a name you hear called across an Aldi, is it?”, a point well made. The fact that it is seen as middle-class is occasionally mentioned as a negative but that is unfair. The people are nice and there’s a sense of togetherness amongst the attendees. Taller people would annoyingly stand in front of me after pushing their way through the crowd but then they’d check to make sure they weren’t in the way and then step aside. Of course there were dickheads there, but they were extremely low in numbers.
New music is king too. Established acts get two stages in the Obelisk Arena and the BBC 6 Music Stage. New music gets three! The Sunrise Arena, the DIY Alcove Stage and the BBC Introducing stage all house new acts within the forest of Latitude. Outside of the forest is the Lake Stage, a platform that acts as a sort of go-between for new and newly established.
It was also a festival where women ruled the roost. Yes, The National were utterly sublime once again and were once again my favourite act of the weekend, but just barely. Their headline slot was in-part used as a preview to their upcoming seventh record, which must be said is sounding superb, but also in-part to further push their most disappointing record Trouble Will Find Me; featuring eight of its tracks over the course of the evening. I loved it but I do wish The National were a little more ‘Radiohead’ with their setlist selection and covered a wider range of the back-catalogue. In a touching moment the band also thanked the event for saving their career by taking a chance on them when others weren’t. The story was documented in a recent interview here.
But it was sets from Christine and the Queens, Estrons, The Big Moon, Chvrches, Grimes, Pumarosa, HANA and MØ that provided the most joy outside of that headline slot. From the off with Christine and the Queens there was a happy atmosphere within the tent. Héloïse Letissier words of encouragement to the audience to be free and to dance was taken on board by most of those watching and it was easy to see why she has quickly risen in popularity. Some Michael Jackson-esque dancing and a world’s first performance of ‘Jonathan’ with Perfume Genius led to Letissier declaring the set as “the most unexpected performance I’ve had in the UK”. The minute long ovation that ‘Tilted’ received would have been a part of that. Go see them if you can!
HANA enjoyed a modestly sized crowd in the DIY Alcove, a cool little secluded area tucked away in the forest. Her performance drew in more of a crowd the longer it went on and she proved that she is certainly more than capable to carve out her own career away from touring with Grimes. Speaking of which, Claire Boucher further established her ability to entertain a crowd on the Friday night. Up against The Maccabees, Grimes put on an enthralling show that captivated me once again, despite having only seen it seven days prior in Bilbao. Another act entertaining me just one week earlier was Chvrches whose second record continually grows on me the more I see them live (plus Lauren Mayberry used my picture of her with The National, so they gain extra points for that). Estrons, The Big Moon and Pumarosa all had half hour slots that helped further establish that they won’t be going away any time soon. Expect the debut albums of all three acts to be on a number of end of year lists when they’re finally released.
Away from the music the sheer magnitude of things to do, as someone who hasn’t been to Glastonbury, was more than I’ve seen a festival offer before. One of the other big highlights of Latitude is the extremely well-run comedy tent. It actually became part of my morning routine where I would go and catch a few of the morning acts there before heading off to catch the music on offer. Introduced by the voice of Penn Jilette, Piff the Magic Dragon was a delight and the best act I saw in the tent that weekend. Nick Helm would have been good in a twenty minute set but his routine of swearing and being angry grew more tiresome the longer it went on. The Boy With Tape On His Face is also deserving of a shout out here.
The festival similarly offers stages that are dedicated to poetry, theatre, literature and film and music. Although my presence at these stages was rare, they were always full and offered something different for people in attendance. Another weekend highlight came from an Adam Buxton interviewing Louis Theroux talk that took place at the film and music tent. Theroux was on fine form and also gave some of the most honest answers I’ve ever heard him give. This was thanks, in part, to Buxton’s questions but also their long-term friendship. Look out for the podcast when it goes live.
Latitude then. Should you go? Yes! Does the line-up matter? Not really. There’s so much on offer that even if the acts on the main two stages don’t float your boat, you’ll find something, somewhere that does! Did the fact that the sun shone all weekend cloud my judgement? Definitely, but that’s the case with all UK festivals right?
Primavera Sound is always the festival that I look out for, and has been for the last five years; but in 2017… that might have just been replaced by Latitude.