Latitude is in a bit middle of nowhere-ish park in Suffolk. I imagine a local would give a more accurate location, but all I can give you is “somewhere between Ipswich and Norwich”. It was nice going through the country lanes and villages on a sunny Thursday on the way there; not so nice doing the same on the way home in the early hours of Monday morning.
The venue itself is in a country park – camping is the standard festival camping, although probably with nicer toilets (not anywhere near nice enough though!) and with more thistles than your usual park. Fortunately for some reason I had nail scissors, so a bit of gardening cleared out our immediate area, which made stumbling around barefoot and half-awake in the morning less likely to lead to pain.
The arena was bloody cool: next to a river, surrounded by trees, so it’s quite damn pretty, and nicely sloped. As you come into the arena you can see the main stage at the top of hill, with the usual variety of tents, stages, food stalls and ephemera on the way there. Although I guess the variety is slightly different to your usual festivals, what with there being specific stages for poetry, literature, theatre, film and comedy (which doubles as a disco late on, which was bloody great fun). And if you don’t head across the river, you can go up into the woods, where there are a couple of stages, and bunch of random attractions and bars, and generally just a pretty nice place. Even nicer at night as well, because there are tonnes of little lights hanging from the trees, which sort of serve to make it feel like you’re indoors. A nice place to watch bands, a nice place to wander through, and a nice place to chill out. Basically, the whole arena is very nice.
Continuing the theme of “nice”, the bloody southerners were all annoyingly fine. It’s a pretty damn posh festival, certainly in comparison to the likes of Reading and Leeds and what have you (something most of the comedians I saw made jokes about), but the result of that seemed to be that no one acted like a selfish dick. We came to the conclusion that, like the poker player who can’t see the sucker at the table, we could have been the dicks. We weren’t even bad. I saw no pissing in cups and launching them or anything like that, which seems to be the main form of communication at Leeds, and one of (a few) reasons that often makes festivals a chore. Getting through crowds to meet friends/pretend you’re meeting friends so you can get further forward was always easy. Bloody southerners. Too nice.
Might as well do this in alphabetical order of the bands and comedians I saw.
I’m not the biggest Alt-J fan. I tend to listen to them and sort of think “eh, they’re ok, but nothing special”, and they didn’t do anything to change my opinion of them. They headlined the 6Music stage on Saturday, which seems a bit of a stretch for a band that only has one album and with only one guy (the keyboardist) who is willing to say anything at all to the crowd. Apart from all the people whooping, cheering and applauding after each song, it basically sounded just like the album. Bands like this always feel to me like they aren’t really looking to enjoy the show, just to show off how good they are, and it all feels a bit soulless. Especially given how into it the crowd was, you’d hope for some sort of flourishes at some point, but there were none whatsoever. The highlight was probably a cover of College’s “A Real Hero” (that song from Drive), which was the only song that sounded anything different from how you might have heard it before. Basically, Alt-J were fine but a bit dull.
- Andrew O’Neill
I was hoping to see Mark Watson, who I quite like, but he ran late, so I didn’t get to see him. Andrew O’Neill was entertaining enough though. A transvestite, metal-loving comedian was probably always going to be a hard sell at Latitude, but he did ok. Hit and miss, but his jokes came at such a pace that it wasn’t like you were never not laughing for long. The highlight was probably his rendition of Cannibal Corpse’s “Hammer-Smashed Face” to demonstrate why singing in a death metal band doesn’t really get you that many chicks. I wouldn’t go and see him again, but it’s not like I’d avoid him if he happened to be telling jokes at me either.
- Bloc Party
They were headlining on the Friday, but I went to see Japandroids instead, so I only caught the last three songs. They were surprisingly good actually. Band and crowd both enjoying it, and I enjoyed what I saw. It did have a last show sort of feel about it, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see news that they’re splitting up some time soon. I’m not really bothered that I missed most of them, but I’m still glad that I caught a bit. It was a plus that they played the few songs that I knew once I turned up, which was very nice of them.
Basically the same as Alt-J. Standing there, playing their songs but not really seeming like they were hoping to enjoy it, just to show people that they could play them. We cleared out from this lot after about half an hour, so maybe they got better later.
This lot were great. They felt much heavier live than they do on CD (which, admittedly, was still not that heavy). I love a bit of instrumental rock though, and that’s largely what they are – a few lyrics, then 2-3 minutes of instrumentals. The singer was also pretty funny when between song. Pretty aggressive, pretty tight, all good fun. No real standout moments because it was all good quality, so I’d recommend them.
- Dylan Moran
One of the main attractions for me, because he’s insanely funny. He was good, but not brilliant, and not the best comedian I saw. Mostly newer stuff as far as I could tell, and mostly very funny without quite hitting the heights of some of his previous stuff. It sums it up that the best parts were bits I recognised from previous tours. The other outstanding line I hadn’t heard before that I can recall was about the debate between homosexuals and the Catholic Church from the perspective of someone raised as an Irish Catholic: “My position is that I don’t agree with the one dressed as a wizard.”
Foals were the final band of the festival, and they were bloody great. I think they actually kind of ruined Foals for me, because listening to their albums again won’t be anything like as good. I’m not even sure why. Probably just the atmosphere and sheer energy of it. The only disappointment was that they finished a few minutes early and went off stage for a few minutes before their encore. Why not just stick about on stage and get another song in? I don’t really like encores. That being said though, if the encore is “Inhaler” and “Two Steps Twice” it gets a little hard to argue with.
- Grizzly Bear
Third time I’ve seen Grizzly Bear, so it was pretty obvious I was going to enjoy them. And I did. They aren’t terribly exciting, but they’re exciting enough to, if not get me jumping around, then at least get me nodding my head a lot, and applauding heartily after each song. I don’t really have much more to say about them. Love the drumming? There were go.
- Hot Chip
Not my favourite band of the weekend from a music perspective, but they were probably the band that we had the most fun watching. Lots of jumping around, lots of shouting along, probably little bits of annoying people around us as we all went a little bit mental. Great fun band to watch if you want to dance around. I’m not sure how good they are as a band if you just want to listen to them. I think they’d still be pretty damn good, but you definitely get the most out of them from if you want to make it a party too.
- I Am Kloot
Just pretty average. I basically only watched them because there was nothing else on and we were already sitting there, so it wasn’t like I was that engaged in it. They were there, that’s all I have to say about them really.
- King Charles
Another band that I watched because there was nothing much else going on at the time. They were basically bang average. After a while I started trying to work out what they did well and what they did badly, and in the end I couldn’t really come up with anything for either category. Every part of them was basically average. The singer did have nice shoes though.
Probably the most disappointing band of the weekend. They clashed with Alt-J, but I figured I wouldn’t really get the chance to see Kraftwerk again (as they aren’t the type of band I’d go out of my way to watch), but they were decidedly dull. It was a 3D show, and the best bit of what I saw (about 25 minutes or so) was the effect that made it seem that the band were almost in the screen, which was almost cool. It felt like there were three parts to the show: the 3D part, the music, and the performance of the band. And none of them were particularly good enough to carry the others. The 3D was ok, but its 3D, it’s never going to be much better than that. The music was ok, but that’s all I was expecting. The performance was basically non-existent (four blokes standing still). If any part had been better I think it could have been really good, but they weren’t, so it wasn’t.
My second favourite band of the weekend. Only two of them, but they make a tremendous racket. They were good enough that they basically transformed my opinion of them from “like” to “absolutely love”, they were that good. Crowd was really into it as well, with a surprising amount of crowdsurfing given that it was a pretty small tent. I’m not sure there’s any particular highlight, because every song was great. “Evil’s Sway” and “The House That Heaven Built” are probably my favourite songs of theirs, so I’d go for those. Fortunately, they clearly realise their second album is far, far better than their first: I’ve seen them twice now, and I’m sure if I’ve heard anything off the first album.
- James Blake
Mediocre. Much like Daughter and Alt-J, it felt more like they were playing to show off, rather than for the enjoyment of it. The best song was one that he announced as a dance song from their new collective, so I’d be keeping an eye out for more of that in the future I reckon. Wouldn’t watch him again.
- James Skelly & the Intenders
The first band of the weekend, and one of the better ones. He used to be in The Coral, and I always liked the Coral, so it was a pretty safe bet that I’d like his new stuff. The set was mostly his own stuff, with a few Coral songs thrown in towards the end of the set. The Coral stuff was better than his stuff, but not by so very much, which was nice. Still, “Dreaming of You” was the highlight.
- Jessie Ware
Good bits, bad bits, ended up average. She’s got a nice voice, her songs are mostly good enough (although she’s a bit annoying between songs). I think the bigger problem was basically that she had a 45-minute set to fill with only one album of material, which meant there wasn’t really enough of high quality to fill the time. Some decent songs, especially “Wildest Moments”, but all in all it dragged a bit.
- Local Natives
Pretty good, but they just don’t really do anything to excite me. They played immediately before Grizzly Bear, and while the two were sort of similar quality I just enjoyed Grizzly Bear a lot more. I’m not even sure why. I guess Grizzly Bear seem to just do more stuff that’s fun and interesting, while Local Natives are a bit more average. The closing song (which I can’t for the life of me remember what it was!) was about the only time they really came out of their shell, and make me think about doing anything more than nodding along and clapping at the end.
Another in the list of bands that, like Local Natives, don’t really do it for me for some reason. They’re obviously good, and I can see why people like them, but they just leave me a little cold. I don’t dislike them either, they’re just ok. I dunno. I only watched about 25 minutes before going to watch DIIV anyway.
- Marcus Brigstocke
Definitely the best comedian of the weekend, and he wasn’t even supposed to be playing. He filled in because Mark Watson was running late. He came up with my favourite line to sum up the relative poshness of the festival: “I’m going to watch Foals because I have one.” He was basically consistently funny and interesting on a variety of topics, enough so that I’ll probably try to see one of his shows next time I get a chance.
- Sean Lock
Straight after Brigstocke, and he was ok. Hit and miss really – he seemed a bit pissed off about something, and he did refer to Ant & Dec hosting I’m A Celebrity… as being like “those Jews who collaborated with the Nazis”, which was a) ridiculously wrong and b) not even funny. I think the main problem (well, beyond that Ant & Dec joke) was that a lot of his material seemed dated – for example he started off by chatting about the Olympics and the Jubilee. His stuff about that was funny enough, but it was also clearly from his last tour (at least I’m assuming it was).
Really outstanding. I hadn’t heard of them before, but they were just lovely. I can’t even really describe them. Electronic, but very chilled out with decent vocals, which aren’t really things I tend to associate with electronic music. But very nice to listen to, and conveniently it was in the stage in the forest in mid-afternoon, which was a very good setting for his sound. Definitely the kind of music you’d like to listen to in a forest.
Another band that was helped by their setting. Like a girl holding a guitar gets 2 points added to her score out of 10, a loudish folk band will always get two points added to their score out of 10 if they happen to be playing outside while it’s sunny. That’s just science. The fact that the setting was the highlight probably says a bit about them – they didn’t actually do anything memorable, they were just nice to have playing while sitting around chatting in a field with your mates.
- Tallest Man on Earth
Maybe the oddest band of the weekend. He’s not really odd (well, apart from the fact that he’s a small Swede called the Tallest Man on Earth who plays Americana bluesy folk music), but it seemed an odd choice to have a not-particularly-well-known, quiet, solo artist on the main stage in the middle of the day. He seemed a bit annoyed about things generally (especially being able to hear the dance music from the 6Music Stage, and the fact that he had to explain that he’s not a Satanist). He was damn good though. And did a lot of really good stuff that was noticeably different to his album, especially “1904”, which seemed to have the guitar played much quicker than on the CD, but with the vocals at the same tempo. A lot of quiet, solo bands tend to lose the crowd quite easily, especially on large stages, but I don’t think ever did, which was good. I think the highest praise I can give is that despite his songs being pretty simple, he was never boring. Opening with “King of Spain” annoyed me a bit though – I hate it when bands open with my favourite song!
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Hands down my favourite band of the weekend. I’d been waiting to see them for about 10 years before I saw them at Coachella, where they were simultaneously good and underwhelming – too much off the (weak) new album. They were much, much better at Latitude. I probably jumped around more for them than I have for any other band at a festival ever. The highlight was definitely the closer, “Date With The Night”, where a judicious pause before the final minute meant the last minute was spent with what seemed like the entire crowd going mental, and creating such a dust cloud that the stage became almost invisible. That was my defining image of the weekend. Still played a bit too much off the new album though…
- White Denim
This lot really took me by surprise. I’d never heard of them, and they were absolutely great. One of my favourites of the weekend, simply because they never stopped. 40-45 minute set, and there wasn’t a single pause for applause. Just wall to wall rock songs. On the occasions they got into traditional rock songs they did sound a bit Rolling Stones-ish (that’s not really a compliment coming from me), but most of the time they were interesting enough to avoid that. I really, really enjoyed them. It’s not often I enjoy a band that I’ve not heard of at all this much, and with Sohn and White Denim it happened twice in a weekend.
- Willy Mason
I feel like I almost shouldn’t include him here, because I didn’t really watch him – we just sat outside the stage while he was playing and chatted. I used to really like him a while back though, so I enjoyed hearing songs off the first couple of albums. He did actually sound really good on stuff like “Oxygen”, which makes me wonder if he would have sounded even better from inside the tent. Do acoustics change dramatically inside and outside festival tents? I dunno.
There you go. All my thoughts on Latitude. My main thought though, is that I’d definitely be interested in going again. It probably wasn’t so good that I’d go regardless of the lineup, but then again, I suspect I could have a great fun time just wandering around the arena and other stages and not even seeing any music, so maybe I would. Great festival, great weekend.