Latitude is a special festival for me. Since first going in 2007 I’ve seen some of my favourite acts play some of the most memorable live sets I have ever seen, (Sigur Ros, Arcade Fire, The National etc.) . In 2009 I had a day ticket for the Sunday having returned from 6 months away on the Saturday. It was here that I managed to catch the last of Slow Club‘s set and it was almost exactly then that this blog was born.
Now 3 years later the blog is where it is now and we have 2 press tickets to the weekend. The perfect chance to welcome Kathleen to the blog’s writing flock.
Read on for her words on how we got on and the reconstituted mixtape we put together with Latitude last month.
My experience of festivals is comprised of two stints at Reading, at the ages of seventeen and eighteen, and a visit to Bestival last September. Reading is considered to be a bit of a rite of passage – that last upper-sixth hurrah that is sandwiched somewhere between a trip to Magaluf or Malia and everyone’s going their separate academic ways. I think Reading is a bad introduction to music festivals, and actually made me think I hated them, until I summoned the courage to try something different in the form of Bestival. I’m probably bitter because my friends at the time were emos and metalheads and didn’t want to see Mystery Jets with me.
Bestival got closer to the mark, but still didn’t quite cut it for me. It was still a bit too big, even if about half the size of the monstrous Reading. Again, I went with people whose musical tastes clashed with mine, and came away from it feeling like I hadn’t really made the most of all the extra-musical attractions (unlike my friend who went “looking for lasers” on Friday night for about six hours dressed as the lovechild of Freddy Mercury and a kangaroo), and promised myself that at Latitude I would make time just to wander a little.
Latitude is expecting a different festival-goer. It crossed my mind that if anyone attempted to keep sheep at Reading, they would be set on fire with the aid of a Lynx can at some point during the Sunday night carnage. But, they grazed harmoniously by the banks of the Latitude Lake, bothered by nothing but possible tinnitus. When I went to Latitude, I didn’t know I would be writing this blog post, and so it will run unplanned and be hazy in places. But that is largely how my spell in Latitude flowed, and was all the better for it.
We arrive late morning on Friday. Parking is actually a relatively calm affair (I glimpse the swamp that the parking field had become and have a flash-forward of my small yellow car pathetically revving itself into a muddy grave), and my first impressions of Latitude are promising. Jauntily dyed sheep share our campsite, punters navigate the lake, and we are welcomed by pixies in the woods.
We wander over to the Literary Arena and manage to squeeze into a packed tent to listen in on a bit of You Can’t Hide the Sun: a Journey through Israel and Palestine, delivered by John McCarthy. We get to I Arena in time for most of Cold Specks’ stirring and bluesy set, delivered to a big crowd rightly deserved from her stunning recordings which stirred the music world so wonderfully. Visiting the Poetry Arena for the first time, we catch the end of Aoife Mannix’s repertoire. It’s novel to stretch out on the carpet and be lulled by wonderfully accented stories of holidaying in Kerry and immigrating to New York. After this, we plan to see Kindness, but manage to walk to Destroyer by happy accident, Destroyer are a that have loomed, unheard but respected, on my musical periphery for some time now but they delivered fantastically . We catch some of an upbeat Poliça and the end of We Have Band on the Lake Stage, but a rogue nap back at the campsite means I miss The Urban Beekeeper: A Year of Bees in the City in the Literary Arena.
The last time I saw Metronomy live, they looked slightly lost on a main stage at the Wireless Festival last summer. I’ve always thought they would sound incredible on a smaller stage. But by the time it gets to 8pm the Obelisk Arena is bathed in sunset, and their English Riviera songs feel just right in the open air. To my delight, they also revisit a lot of their second album, Nights Out. Disgruntled about the clash between two of my favourite bands, we retreat to the Word Stage to see Yeasayer. Playing moodier, more recent material at the beginning, they drift through a genre-bending set into a fantastic slowed-down re-work of O.N.E. To the crowd’s dismay, they are called offstage before they get to play Ambling Alp: a real shame, as it would be a well-known song for the festival crowd and an upbeat closer to what turned into a memorable set.
I don’t intend to go and see White Lies, but we slink off after a bit of Bon Iver to revisit one of my old favourites. After having played their first album to death (no pun intended), and having been to a couple of small gigs, I hadn’t followed them at all after their release of their second album, Ritual. So, it seems, is also the case for most of the crowd around me: the songs from To Lose My Life go down with great enthusiasm; those from Ritual are appreciated but no one is singing along with quite as much conviction. The wonderful thing about White Lies’ songs is that you don’t need to have heard them before: they sound like they’ve been written to fill stadiums and they’re very accessible. This is reflected by their drawing in of all the demographic strata of Latitude: euphoric 80s-style synth brings in the older crowd, their chart success brings in the teens, and they’re a perfect foil for the steady stream of beauty from Bon Iver playing in the open air. The bass and drums seem to reach inside your chest and make your heart pump on your body’s behalf – particularly the opening to Death and the ending to E.S.T.. I emerge from ‘I Arena’ feeling like a champion, “watching the world so small below”.
Summer Camp are called in to replace The Phenomenal Handclap Band. This intimate venue within the festival is used almost exclusively as a cinema, and Summer Camp play out their set against a projected backdrop of old dance and romance movies. The wonderful thing about having this band on this particular stage is that you feel like you’re going to a small gig. Their nostalgic sound, the John Hughes movie samples and the flickering projector took me into one of those 80s teen films, and we dance away like it’s prom night.
We make it to the Word Stage to see most of Sharon Van Etten. I’m told that I will like her, but I’m sceptical. There was once a time, a few years back, when female-solo-artists-with-
By the time we get back into the festival swing of things, we head over to Poetry for Luke Wright. We get to I Arena for the unforgettably eccentric Soko, but break away to buy a cider before Django Django. Arriving back at I Arena the tent has been completely packed out we less leisurely fans than us, we stand at the edge. Django Django share the title of most-hyped band to watch with Alt-J, and deciding that we could maybe get a better time out of the latter we wander down and are rewarded with possibly the best set of the weekend. Phenomenal music to a phenomenal crowd. Unfortunately we aren’t able to stay for Default, which I’ve prophesised to be a peak festival moment, as we have to run off to catch Laura Marling. The Obelisk is a lovely place to be whilst she’s playing in the evening sunshine, the first of the weekend. I’ve always been in awe of Laura Marling – she’s nine days older than I am and yet she’s achieved a storytelling maturity in her lyrics that inspire me and make me feel so naïve. Her set was exactly what mainstages should make their priority to deliver.
SBTRKT is one of the only sets we watch from start to finish. We leave the fresh evening air of the Obelisk and venture into the darkness of the Word Stage for this masked genius of post-dubstep. He’s joined by his most frequent collaborator, Sampha, and the pair of them storm through a set based around his hyped debut album. I sing my heart out to Right Thing To Do and Pharaohs, and everyone goes completely insane for Wildfire. In maintaining an anonymity about himself, SBTRKT is hoping to let his music speak for itself. But the mask ensures his live show also takes on a mysterious, cultish vibe that’s extremely exciting, competition for highlight of the weekend is getting fierce. When we emerge, Elbow are still playing their set. We enjoy the Obelisk fireworks from the woods, where we sit down to watch a very strange short film. The guy sitting next to us is coming up strong and runs away after a few minutes when it all gets a bit too weird.
After a considerable amount of day drinking and an extremelydelicious grilled halloumi and chorizo wrap (just to clarify Latitude has the best food of any event anywhere) we flop down on our airbed early on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, the tent comes down and I don my cow Kigu for the day. We wander into the arena before the masses descend, and chow down on some breakfast. It’s the best day we’ve had so far: the sun is shining, and we’re off to see The Early Edition with Marcus Brigstocke, Andre Vincent and guests at the Comedy Arena. This is our first attempt to actually get into the tent: the Comedy Arena is always so rammed that we haven’t been able to just drop by as we have with Poetry and Literary. There are screens and speakers outside, but because it’s been raining all weekend this hasn’t really appealed too much. The pithy contemporary satire and my cup of tea get the day off to a good start, and it’s good to see Luke Wright, the poetry compère, again. We share a pie and mash for lunch and wander over to convene with some friends at Rufus Wainwright and his band who are playing the Obelisk Arena. They’re followed by Alabama Shakes, who are great fun and, like Laura Marling, the perfect band for their stage and time. After this, we spend a long time exploring the side of the arena by the Faraway Forest. People are making bunting for loved ones and hanging thank-you notes encased in baubles from a big tree. The area swells with a great feeling of goodwill. We join in with the Swing Patrol Tea Dance at the Outdoor Theatre, but don’t stay for long because as a human dressed as a cow I seem to be making a lot of toddlers rather nervous, and we can’t dance for shit. Dirty Beach has created a big sand sofa and other amazing sand sculptures on the edge of the Children’s Area.
We take a seat for most of Simple Minds’ set at the Obelisk Arena, soaking up the sunshine on one of the stadium-style seating blocks. We get up to sing along to (Don’t You) Forget About Me, and then drift over to the Cabaret Arena. We’ve been drawn in by sordid curiosities about a show, with musical elements, about the touchy subject of faecal incontinence. Kazuko Hohki introduces herself and half-narrates the proceedings, and is joined by a professor from University College London (who provides the educational spiel), two young actors (who attempt to the subject matter through rather physical theatre) and a one-man orchestra. Hilariously weird songs are broken up by some horrifically heartbreaking anecdotes and at one point we are told to get up and join in with it all. I’m horrified but it’s not as messy as it sounds – just a spot of dancing. A man sitting behind us in the sparsely occupied tent splits his sides through all of it. I’m slightly relieved to leave for M83.
We must be the oldest people at the Word Stage for M83. This is a band who have really captured the attention of teenagers with their latest album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. They’re like the new MGMT, with Midnight City an anthem of the youth, like the new Time To Pretend. My gripe is that I wish they’d played a bit later so that it had been properly dark, because their light show doesn’t seem as remarkable as it should be with sunlight still streaming into the tent. I don’t quite lose myself in the music as I did with SBTRKT the night before – partly because I was anticipating a long drive home, I suppose. We have to escape before the end of the set to rush to Slow Club who are playing at I Arena, and get scowled at by the die-hard fans who think we’re leaving with the hipster kids now that Midnight City is over. Slow Club come on late in the end, but are definitely worth delaying the journey home for. They open with an acoustic version of Pulp’s Disco 2000 – a sure-fire way to win Kathleen’s love. I was a little anxious about seeing Slow Club, I haven’t seen them since the latest album which hasn’t captured me like Yeah So and was prepared for 7/10. I wish I had never waivered, every song from the new album came to life in a big way. Driven on by the full band noise, the humour and also I suspect from the slightly more raw and less produced sound that the festival set up gives it. I love this band as much as I love this festival.
So, we got here a bit late, and we definitely left far too early. But the real world, in which sheep are monochromatic and pixies do not live in the woods, beckoned.
Thankyou Latitude, thankyou Chris and everyone at Midas and thankyou for reading this.
Marcus and Kathleen x