Latitude has a reputation for being the hipster-infested, middle class-dominated corner of the British festival season and, sure, there was a packed poetry tent and more indie bands than you could shake a pair of ironic Ray Bans at – but the stereotype is not at all fair.
In wonderful, mud-free conditions, Thursday led us into a six music-infused weekend with a six music-infused bang, Craig Charles playing a thrilling, albeit overcrowded, funk and soul set deep in the woods on site, and musically the festival only climbed higher from there.
Glaswegian bounce-merchants Chvrches brought the intimate iArena to a state of sweaty afternoon ecstasy, for example, followed by indie mainstays The Maccabees and an excellent headline set from Bloc Party.
Kele Okereke led a hit-filled set through to one of the best encores I’ve ever seen, using the chorus of Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ to build up to ‘Flux’, followed by ‘Helicopter’ (mosh pits opened up everywhere you looked) and finally an emotional ‘This Modern Love’.
Saturday provided the musical highlights for me: the showmanship of Karen Ough (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) was only bettered by the incredible Hot Chip. They more than any act at the festival managed to work the daytime crowd into an absolute frenzy, finishing with a note perfect first performance of new single ‘Dark and Stormy’.
Kraftwerk were, astonishingly, a letdown. I, unlike many, like their albums, but their obvious lack of stage presence added nothing live whilst the 3D light show and graphics only very occasionally reached the point of real entertainment. I left to catch the end of Alt-J.
It’s not fair to just talk about the music, though. The comedy tent was unmatched by any other festival: Dylan Moran, Eddie Izard and Richard Herring were all highlights; a literary tent boasted mathematical nerds and authors galore; as many rappers and international beat boxers as published poets filled the poetry tent; what’s more, there was an incredible outdoor theatre, a late night water screen and the world famous painted sheep.
The line-up was varied and as part of this variety was a real understanding of how to keep several thousand attendees, ranging from mid-teens to large families, happy and entertained. You could wake up horrendously hung over and, as I luckily did, chance upon a chilled-out Norwegian singer-songwriter (Thomas Dybdahl, check him out) or roll over to a classical trumpeter or pianist, set against the back drop of the gondolier taxis.
We were presented constantly with clashes between a world-famous comedian and a rising electro sound, or between two parallel genres of music (Grizzly Bear vs. Disclosure a particularly tough one). Of all the many festival friends we made, not one of them has any complaints of boredom or of a dud act.
It seems strange to say that an event as famous as Latitude is a rising star of the festival world but year-on-year their line up keep improving and the planning is truly excellent. If you can, seriously consider making the difficult journey deep into Suffolk in July 2014.