Only eight years into its festival life, Latitude festival proves that age is just a number.
With a mere capacity of 35,000 people, Latitude could still easily be recognised as a baby unable to challenge the forces of major festivals such as Reading & Leeds and Bestival. Yet what it lacks in size, it makes up for in its own unique ways. In fact, it is the smaller scaled crowd size of Latitude which allows for treasures and surprises to be hidden in every nook and cranny of the festival.
The festival is situated in the depths of Southwold, Suffolk, in a distinctive, breath taking area. Everything is tightly-knitted together so you don’t have to worry about busting your bladder in a ravaged attempt to find the nearest bog or suffer a dreaded half hour stumble from the main stage back to your tent.
The main arena itself is separated by a lake. One side consists of the Obelisk arena situated on top of a teletubbies-type mound of luscious grass. Here you will also find the enchanted forest, which hosts a range of bizarre things you would perhaps rather not see at 11:30 in the morning, but at least it’ll make you wake up. For those who don’t like to use their legs so much there’s the opportunity to kick back in the Comedy tent or probably have a quick nap in the Poetry and Literature tent (sorry Carol Ann Duffy). The BBC Radio 6 stage acts as the second stage for music and the Lake Stage is situated at the bottom of the arena where the Welsh twang of Radio 1 DJ, Huw Stephens, repeatedly introducing ‘one of his favourite artists’ can be heard for miles. The other side of the river plays host to a few smaller and intimate stages for up and coming acts which at night turn into DJ sets situated under a canopy of trees and twinkling lights, only for the magical atmosphere to be stunted by ex-Robot Wars presenter turned Corrie cabbie, Craig Charles, to take to stage for the ‘welcoming party’ on the Thursday night. Some welcoming that was…
Alt-J’s Kylie Minogue cover, a camp man skipping around the forest dressed as Bambi and Swim Deep front man, Austin Williams’ trousers are just a few more sights that will leave you rubbing the confusion from your eyes. Latitude’s motto of ‘more than just a music festival’ certainly sticks to its word; however, most people are there mainly for the music so let’s cut the crap.
The Friday morning feeling at a festival of not knowing what is to come is one of uncertainty but ultimately after Theme Park had opened on the BBC 6 stage all nerves were shaken away and excitement crept in. A fitting opening act to see, bringing their, funky vibes to the heat-wave infested fields of Suffolk. In the afternoon, Wolf Alice tore up the Lake Stage, starting a mosh-pit, making you realise that they’re probably not going to be playing such small stages for long to come. Huw Stephens even managed to present lead singer Ellie with a birthday cake on her 21st birthday, managing not to guzzle it down himself.
The next tasty treat of the festival was presented on the Obelisk Arena on Friday evening, The Maccabees putting on a faultless performance setting up Bloc Party. A band who have, in the past few years shown that they aren’t quite the best of friends raised a few eye brows as drummer, Matt Tong was absent and replaced by Hot Chip’s, Sarah Jones. Nevertheless she filled in Tong’s boots comfortably for what was an exhilarating non-stop performance of Bloc Party classics old and new only marred by the evident cock up between bass guitarist Gordon Moakes and front man Kele in ‘Octopus’. The Friday party atmosphere continued through dance influenced songs, ‘One More Chance’ and new track, ‘Ratchet’, which judging by the occasion could be one of Bloc Party’s last. Finishing on the twinkling, ‘This Modern Love’, the spectacle felt like the end of an era, long term or short term, who knows.
Having glanced at the festival line up on more than one occasion leading up to the weekend, it was clear that Friday headliners Bloc Party and Sunday headliners Foals were due to steal the show. That is, unless you have an un-dying love for 1970s German electronic oldies Kraftwerk, who let’s face it, were only saved by the fact they had a 3D performance which captured us for 5 minutes until the monotonous lyrics, ‘we are the robots’ made us believe the static four-piece really could be robots. Alt-J were the band who headlined the second stage at this time and the contrast couldn’t have been bigger, gathering a much younger crowd, under an intense and steamy tent. Covering Kylie Minogue’s, ‘Slow’, was a bold move but one which ultimately paid off more than, ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, probably would’ve done.
Earlier in the day, Everything Everything performed on the same stage, impressing a mass crowd with a more beefy performance than has been seen in previous years. An even heavier rising duo, Drenge, took the I Arena by storm with their Death From Above 1979 inspired, ‘Bloodsports’. Saturday also saw, sub-headliners Hot Chip smash a much livelier performance than headliners Kraftwerk where elsewhere on the smaller Lake Stage, Jagwar Ma had just become the coolest guys about with the buoyant Aussies lapping up the crowd. It’s always nice to see bands grateful for being there, unlike Temples who never seemed quite satisfied by their turn out, but for a band that only formed a year ago to the day, it looks like they could be going places if they up their live game.
Sunday evening completed the party bag of thrills before the masses left the festival. Swim Deep stole the show on the I Arena and can expect to gain many more fans, that is, if they close their eyes, as front man’s Austin Williams’ rainbow infested trousers and guitar duo were all a bit too much to take in, but lyrics, ‘with the sun on my back it’s a nice day’, to potential track of the summer, ‘King City’, couldn’t be more fitting as the sun regained its reign over the cheery crowd. Disclosure had a brief spell too on the BBC 6 stage, the tent bursting with young teens that have been won over by the new vibrations of deep house. However, it was ultimately the Obelisk Arena which had all eyes on it for the last time in 2013.
2013. What a fitting time for Oxford quintet Foals to take position for their first ever festival headline spot. The band who has recently acquired many more fans from all ages to their extensive family fitted right in at Latitude. An array of some of their oldest songs such as, ‘Red Socks Pugie’, beefed up for their live shows, mixed in with swampier, grungier new songs such as ‘Providence’ as Yannis lit a red flare to a sea of almost tribal, chanting fans. Ending on, ‘Two Steps Twice’, drums echoed around the grounds of Latitude, sending shudders through the trees, leaving thousands of dust-covered festival-goers to bop back to their tents and wait another year.
This year Latitude showed us it’s ready to compete with the big boys, next year, could we see it champion other major festivals? We sure hope so.