Last weekend I had my first (of hopefully many) experience of Latitude Festival in Henham Park, Suffolk. I’ve been excited for this Festival for a long time. Pretty much since I came back from Coachella to be quite frank and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint in the slightest.
While the line up was absolutely amazing this year the thing that impressed me most about Latitude was the amount of sheer effort they put into the Festival and trying to make it different, exciting, creative & impressive on the eye. There’s the huge Latitude sign by the lake, the spray-painted sheep, the neon lights in the woods and on the river, the waterfront stage that onlooks the river, all the messages that hang down from trees in different sized ball-balls, and even the 3D water profection that was extremely impressive and at times creepy to watch!
And not only this, the contrast in all sorts of arts that go on at the festival from music to comedy to cabaret to poetry readings. They do workshops in painting and all sorts of other bits and as I would walk around I’d feel like there was almost too much going on. Surely these tents and arenas would be empty half the time. After all, the Festival didn’t even sell out this year… And yet, every tent you walk past, whether it be Theatre, Literature or some sort of mysterious tent that was refered to by one punter as “highly disturbing but at least it entertained us”, they all seem to be full to the rafters. The crowd there seem really into their arts and music. When I was at Hop Farm recently some of the crowd were pretty dire at times for bands but here everyone seemed much more intent on getting their moneys worth and I don’t think anyone can really complain about value for money at Latitude.
And so enough about the Festival as a whole, how about my personal experience… The vast majority of it was spent watching bands (8-10 each day), hardly any of which disappointed. I was going to make a Top 5 but that seems way too hard and so I’ll try and do a top 10 instead.
First off I’ll start with those who made an impression but didn’t make the Top 10.
First Aid Kit’s set got better as it went on and while I enjoyed it greatly both visually and musically it just seems like they are still not quite clicked for me. As much as I really love some of their songs, others just leave no impression on me whatsoever. That said, the last three songs (which included my favourites Emmylou & The Lions Roar) left me in a really good mood for the day. I feel like had I of seen all of The Horrors set then I would probably have placed them somewhere in the Top 10 as I really enjoyed what I saw of them but having really failed to get into the newest album at all I have found my interest in the band has decreased somewhat in recent times. Elbow, who headlined the other stage also looked like they put on a fantastic show and I almost felt guilty for never really giving them much of a chance. They are a band I’ve always greatly dismissed though I feel like I’ll try work my way through their albums in the coming months and catch them again at a Festival one day. Tune-Yards are just incredibly strange. At times, it just sounds like a load of strange noises that don’t quite work, and then suddenly it twists and turns and it’s amazing. I’d like to go see them live at a gig, they look like they’d show you a good time and really are very unique. Michael Kiwanuka & Laura Marling gave assured sets though nothing really stood out. Had Laura Marling’s set included more of my favourites she would most likely have been up in the top 3 to be honest. Also the fact that I’ve seen her twice in recent months probably didn’t help. SBTRKT look like they’d be a fine live band if you were off your head on drink or drugs while Givers & Metronomy brought a real fun and uptempo feel to a somewhat subdued Friday. Finally before I indulge you with my top ten selection, I caught the end of We Are Augustines and they sounded like their sound had got even better than the last time I saw them. They seem to be developing a real dedicated fanbase judging on the involvement of the fans in their last two songs. It made me want to go see them again and they must definitely be a band to watch out for in the next year or so with an incredible sound like theirs.
And so from the nearly ten to the actual top ten on a weekend where I saw so many live acts it’s really quite hard to work this list out.
10. Alabama Shakes (7.8/10)
This band is all about rock and soul music and while the band are good at what they do, Alabama Shakes is really all about one person, lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard. Her voice has drawn comparisions with the legendary Janis Joplin and their music at times rolls back the years in terms of rock and roll. One of the few bands out there for me currently that really dismisses that silly notion that Rock music is a dying breed. The set itself was really pretty good. There was a bit of a mid-set lull but that can always be an issue for bands with only one album out but they (she) really killed it with the last few tracks. I sadly missed her perform Hold On at the start of the set but being the third time I’ve seen Alabama Shakes live I can’t really complain too much.
9. The Antlers (8.1/10)
The set was a little too trapped at one pace for my liking but this band really are one of my favourites these days. I wanted them to lift the tempo with Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Apart or just go crazy on Sylvia but despite the lack of those they still played some classics amongst the new stuff. I’d best get listening to the new EP. Personal highlights were the set closer Putting The Dog To Sleep and the fantastic live song Two.
8. Bon Iver (8.2/10)
His set was very similar to Coachella and when I saw him at the Hammersmith Apollo. I was glad to see some songs from For Emma and while the performance as an art piece is second to none it can get a bit same-y and dare I say it, boring when he’s not really changing up his setlists at all. Bon Iver, the self titled second album as a masterpiece and a stand off album is unbelievable. It deserves every plaudit it gets in that respect but what is loses from it’s predecessor was the down right in your face passion in Justin’s voice and just a hint of subtleness. I mean sure, it’s hard to right such a sad album and even to play it live when you’re not in that place anymore but yeah, I guess it’s depressing to sit here and think that there will never be an album like For Emma, Forever Ago made again. There will never be an album as raw and life-changing as that one from Bon Iver, and possibly from anyone. If I hadn’t of seen him before, this would be number one for sure, but having seen that exact setlist three times now it just feels a little worn out. If someone offered me tickets to see him live I’d take them in a heartbeat and a part of me is actually really excited to be going to see him in November in Glasgow. I’ll really appreciate seeing him in an actual venue again rather than at Festivals. I’m hoping that can re-ignite the flame, so to speak.
7. King Charles (8.4/10)
Surprised me as one really to watch in the upcoming year. Seems to have great mainstream appeal and put on a fine live show. The fans (myself included) were loving it and seemed to be pulling out great hit after great hit. His crazy and moustache-y appearance seems to send a lot of young girls into raptures, but his music equally is making the same waves on the rest of us.
6. Ben Howard (8.5/10)
One of the best live acts about right now I think. When he has another album or two out he’s going to be everywhere and be world famous surely. So much talent and he’s got a good band behind him too. Black Flies was a highlight for me especially seeing Elena Tonra (of Daughter) accompany him on stage. The Fear always sounds brilliant and was a fitting ending to a sub-headlining slot fully deserved. Had I of been able to enjoy all of his set up close he probably would have been in the Top 3 but I couldn’t really take in the first 3-4 songs as much as I’d wanted to watching them from really far back.
5. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (8.6/10)
The new songs sounded much better in this set than they had initially for me on record. This band is definitely one of my favourite live bands and their debut album was fantastic. Alex and Jade work so well off each other and Alex is absolutely mad. Looking like Jesus, jumping in the crowd on multiple occasions and performing in there to the adoring fans, walking up and down the barrier, giving the microphone to others to take over his role and sing (and surprisingly well). The set seems all about the fans at the front rather than the whole Festival itself but to those who love Ed Sharpe and “get it” they always put on a show that will be remembered for quite some time.
4. Glen Hansard (8.9/10)
Glen is just the most brilliant singer live. So much passion in his voice and it was a joy to finally get to see him live. I get the feeling that when I get to see him perform a full set at Union Chapel it will go down as one of my finest gigs that I’ve been to. One to rival the Gaslights, Bon Ivers & Arcade Fires… I look back on this and wonder why it wasn’t number one. I think perhaps it’s due to the fact that I feel Glen does it best when it’s just him, a guitar and he is singing his heart out and despite the pleasant surprise of numerous members of Bon Iver joining him on stage it took a little bit away from the pure emotion that Glen tends to portray. However it was a great set and he really showed that there is lots to offer after The Swell Season & The Frames.
3. Lana Del Rey (9/10)
She lit up a cigerette inside the signposted NON smoking tent, and then proceeded to sing a whole song with cigerette in hand, not taking a single pull from it (at least to my knowledge…). Only Lana Del Rey eh? She may come across as fake, she may at times come across as a copycat of previous generations but she’s an enigma. And a very interesting one at that. Not only that of course but she’s also released one of the best albums of 2012 and can actually sing live! Lana put on another great display after impressing me at Hackney Weekend. Apart from the disappointment of her not being in a red dress I loved every second of her 45 minute set. She may appeared out of pretty much nowhere like DJ Pied Piper but, yes we do really like it, and Lana is here to stay.
2. Of Monsters And Men (9.1/10)
If this band don’t take over the world then I don’t know what’s wrong with music. They’ve already got their big break hitting number 6 in the US charts. They are selling out show after show in the UK, the band buzz excites the hipsters and the lyrics are accessible for the mainstream, and choruses that are big enough to fill arenas and headline sets all over the place. Add to that a brilliant live show in general and you’ve got yourself Icelandic superstars in the making. They opened with my favourite song Dirty Paws and while that left me feeling slightly little under-whelmed the rest of their 6 song set just blew me away. They would have been my highlight of the Festival if Dirty Paws had of matched up. King & Lionheart sounded epic and when Little Talks came on the place went crazy. My favourite of the set was the final track Six Weeks. Believe the hype, the new Arcade Fire have surely arrived.
1. M83 (9.5/10)
I think M83 have to be my number one. I just had a ton of fun listening to them perform. I was pretty drunk at the time (which was rare for me last weekend!) but they do make amazing live music. I do think back and wonder if I only really enjoyed it because I hadn’t really heard any dance music in a while and had been listening to way too much depressing slow stuff throughout the weekend! Though I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case. Reunion sounded so epic I just had a massive smile on my face the whole way through. As did the amazing Wait. I can’t even remember half the stuff Anthony and co played but obviously the whole place went wild for Midnight City. I can’t wait to see them at Brixton later this year. I’m just planning to make sure I’m in a very drunken and rowdy mood for it! My favourite Festival set of the weekend and I’m sure the gig will be right up there in the gig of the year stakes.
And so overall I had a really fantastic weekend. I’d definitely recommend Latitude to anyone. They really pull out a great line up each year of up and coming bands from a mix of genres and not only that, they also offer all sorts of other arts for all you creative types. The Festival itself looks amazing and despite the crappy weather we endured throughout the weekend I still felt really sad to be leaving on the Monday. I would suggest avoiding train journeys to/from the Festival though. One very overly packed and busy train every two hours from Halesworth when you’re extremely tired and just want to get home isn’t quite what you hope for. Anyway, I’ve rambled for long enough now so I’ll leave it at that.
OH AND IF YOU WENT TO LATITUDE SEND ME YOUR THOUGHTS AND FAVOURITES FROM THE WEEKEND!?