As I walk beneath the celestial glowing lights of the Faraway Forest and make my way to the idyllic lake running through Henham Park, there is an indescribable mixture of comfort, emotion and frenetic excitement as droves return to the 10th anniversary of the arts festival known as Latitude. We stand on the bridge united beneath an extraordinary firework display and quietly consider the treasures and trinkets that lie ahead for us across the weekend.
Friday begins in a manner as fittingly idyllic as the surroundings with a sun drenched site looking suitably beautiful. The vibe to Latitude is incomparable to other festivals as patrons gather shoulder to shoulder regardless of age, music taste or background to enjoy this deliciously varied melting pot of culture and experience. The 6Music stage once again promises the finest selection of new and exciting music including a hopeful and exacting performance from SOAK who demonstrates terrifying potential as a songwriter after stating she penned ‘Sea Creatures’ at just 14. Meanwhile Public Service Broadcasting craft a show of utter bewilderment with intelligence, visuals and astonishing creativity running through the performance in an exultant and sensational manner unmatched by their fellow performers.
Huw Stevens proves he still has some form of musical clairvoyance as Honne and Formation both perform upon his Lake Stage in a manner that envisages a rapid ascension to the larger stages of the festival and the performances seem even more poignant when placed on a lineup bill closed by Alt J, a true example of Latitude’s mentality to elevate artists to headline level based on merit of music. The London folktronica trio really performed an admirable set that drew a huge percentage of the site to bask in the glow of lasers and unusual visuals.
It was a strong performance which was disappointingly unbalanced as the crowds jumped below for ‘Hunger of the Pine’ and a smattering of singles lifted from ‘An Awesome Wave’ including the enthralling ‘Dissolve Me’ yet as they hit the one hour mark it appears the crowd pleasers have been exhausted and they are forced to limp towards the finish line with the unnecessarily complicated ‘Leaving Nara’ and ‘Nara’. Fortunately, the night was not destined to end there. As we followed the masses into the warped woodland, rum in hand, we were welcomed by electro and dance havens courtesy of the Little house and The Disco Shed. New this year was Solar, an immersive area which guaranteed relaxation and treatment during the day, no doubt to cure ailments caused within its self contained pop up discos from the night before, nestled perfectly within the forest at the water’s edge.
Arising slightly more fragile on Saturday morning, all maladies of the previous night were cast aside for the busiest day regarding music acts. The Obelisk arena promised a delectable trio beginning with the soulful stylings of Lianne La Havas who impressed with guitar in hand and new tracks that already sound like timeless classics including ‘What You Don’t Do’. A Latitude frequenter Laura Marling performs a mesmerising set with personal resonance as she delivers the endearing ‘I Speak Because I Can’ along with reworked electric guitar emphasised ‘Warrior’ and ‘I Feel Your Love’. There is undoubted power and promise here and Marling looks set to become an artist revered in decades to come owing gratitude equally to the strength of her live show and recorded material. The guitars are put away for James Blake as the young electro virtuoso proves his Mercury Prize worth with a melange of tracks old and new including a taster of the third album along with the masterful ‘Retrograde’.
The iArena hosted a selection of auspicious British talent including Ben Khan, Marika Hackman and Nadine Shah all auditioning for those future main stage slots. The former performed his alt-dance with three accompanying musicians adding deep bass tones to the likes of ‘Zenith’ and bridging a gap between groove and dance that would have been best exemplified in ‘1000’ if his set wasn’t cruelly cut short. 6Music hosted a curious quartet on Saturday all potentially destined for the Obelisk headline slot with their own version of music centred around the genre of rock. The season’s it band Wolf Alice strip away the masquerades and perform viscerally on ‘Fluffy’ and ‘Bros’ with a delectable nod towards post-grunge that proves popular as they pack the tent to maximum capacity.
Savages create apocalyptic punk as Jehnny Beth snarls at the crowd through ‘Shut Up’ and ‘City’s Full’ and impressively transformed the sunny afternoon beyond the tent into a moody basement for those curious enough to wander within. Catfish & the Bottlemen also pack out the tent thanks to Latitude’s appeal to teenage demographic and although the music is not particularly dynamic, it is inarguably anthemic and the following is staggering thanks to the ongoing popularity of ‘The Balcony’. The band most likely for an early promotion is the tent’s headline act The Vaccines who play a sixteen song set complete with singalong, a jumping crowd and absolutely no sign of filler no matter what album the material is taken from. Following this, the birthday celebrations really climax across the festival with the Comedy stage blaring out old school hits including ‘Parklife’, the Lake Stage satisfying the younger crowds with Beyonce and Tay-Sway whilst the Cabaret hosts a deranged and devilish disco curated by Duckie and friends soundtracked by Madonna and Robyn for the festival’s growing LGBT community.
The final day beckons and as many take a refreshing dip in the lake, we ponder the wonders we have seen so far and enthuse about today’s events. The comedy stage hosts the superb Aisling Bea, Romesh Ranganathan and Katherine Ryan who follow on with equally excellent sets as their predecessors Joe Lycett, Alan Davies, Jon Richardson and more from previous days. Seasick Steve and Warpaint offer some Californian strings to a festival site that has been blessed with the LA sunshine before the majority of the hot and heady patrons head towards 6Music for a 2015 UK success story Years & Years. The likeable trio certainly have been racking up hits with ‘Gold’ ‘Shine’ and ‘King’ all going down tremendously well in the tent whilst a flawless cover of ‘Breathe’ by Blu Cantrell is the icing on a fast increasing cake.
La Roux performs a career defining set that successfully proves that despite the lack of hits lifted from her second album ‘Trouble In Paradise’ the fans still remain behind her as they dance and sing along to the achingly cool ‘Let Me Down Gently’ and ‘Cruel Sexuality’ with the latter being a potential performance of the weekend. She punctuates the set with ‘Bulletproof’ ‘Tigerlily’ and ‘In For the Kill’ and demonstrates a criminal injustice has been served for not offering Elly Jackson a headline set in the big top which would have easily rivalled Alt-J or Portishead. Rae Morris closes the Lake Stage in expected class with tender tracks lifted from ‘Unguarded’ and as we sit beneath a tree snacking on a vegan curry and cumin rice watching the sky explode into vivid pinks and purple whilst Rae’s celestial vocal floats across the field, Latitude feels like an otherworldly bounty.
The festival promises one final flourish in the form of it’s most prolific booking of the weekend, Noel Gallagher and his high flying birds. The crowd is noticeably smaller and diminishes quickly as the Brit-pop institution lacks a dynamism that makes for interesting headline performances. Perhaps it is the almighty shadow cast by the success ‘(What’s The Story?) Morning Glory’ and the like as although the Oasis singalong offer snippets of momentum, it does not compensate the lacklustre appearance. An artist who seems to understand the balance between visual, creativity and music needed to close not only a stage but a weekend is Aaron Jerome best known as SBTRKT who performs an incredible set of world class dance and electro which has the entire interior united in hedonistic euphoria.
With a world class selection of music, art, theatre and comedy and a reputation that now rivals the juggernauts including Glastonbury, it is staggering to consider what Latitude Festival has achieved in one decade. It has an atmosphere of utter enchantment as you meander the woodlands, gaze across the water and dance beneath the summer sun and disco lights with friends and strangers as you have an unspoken appreciation for this marvellous and magical corner of the Suffolk countryside.