Latitude Festival is on the other side of the country from my hometown of Cardiff. Located in the heart of Suffolk, the journey is a gruelling 250 miles. After completing various (lengthy) legs of public transportation with our rucksacks laden with sleeping bags, waterproofs (unused) and ciders, Exeposé Music eventually arrived on Friday afternoon just in time to haphazardly pitch a tent before exploring what was, deemed by almost every act we saw, to be the most middle class music festival of all time. Its 11th year running, Latitude’s largest demographic seemed mostly to be middle aged John Lewis shoppers attempting to regain their adventurous youth by drinking extortionately priced cider in Latitude branded cups (£2 extra, for the privilege) by day and struggling to get a solid eight hours on their chiropractic roll mat by night, combined with sixth-form escapees looking to go wild for a weekend having just finished their AS Levels.
When exploring the festival, we were at first treated to the field of famous pink sheep (yep) that nibbled grass and gazed longingly over the sun-drenched lake that divides the main arena from the camping area. It’s a different world to the drudgery of city life, and I like it. A lot. The care-free attitude is infectious, and I immediately felt myself falling seamlessly into a lifestyle of wavey garms and organic falafel as I headed over to the main stage for Bear’s Den. The bearded trio were completely at home on the main stage, and pulled in an early afternoon crowd by opening with the title track from their newly released album (22 July) ‘Red Earth and Pouring Rain’ and confidently powering their way through to end with their banjo-reliant and simple singalong ‘Agape’.
I immediately felt myself falling seamlessly into a lifestyle of wavey garms and organic falafel
Aside from being distracted from Courtney Barnett by the small yet heavy Estrons, the highlight of Friday was the last two bands to play the main stage. Beirut performed their earworms ‘Perth’ and ‘Santa Fe’ effortlessly with a laidback brass section (who also played every other instrument on stage) and stunning lead vocals, only added to my ever-increasing love for their fabulous song-writing ability.
Beirut’s set brought on the sunset and the unbearable wait for the Friday headliners, The Maccabees. Featuring the heart-melting softly-spoken Orlando Weeks and the constant smiles and bright eyes of guitarist Felix White, the band put on one hell of a live show. With enticing opener ‘Given to the Wild’, followed by the build-up of ‘Feel to Follow’, The Maccabees stole Friday’s hearts with their first ever headline festival appearance. (We’ll smoothly brush past the fact the set list was identical to their Cardiff show two days prior. Ssh. I won’t tell if you won’t.) Friday ended with a bang of confetti canons (an alarmingly regular occurrence at Latitude, I’m still finding tiny bits of coloured tissue paper in my sleeping bag) and an old school rock and roll party in the woods.
After a hungover delicate slow start to the morning we went to find the DMAs in the BBC Radio 6 Music tent: only to be instead greeted with a swarm of sweaty topless adolescents throwing themselves at one another to the sound of Chelmsford’s very own cheeky chappy Ratboy. AKA Jordan Cardy, the teenager frequently likened to Jamie T surpassed my expectations, and dare I say it I found myself enjoying the guitar riffs and his compelling charm. He got the crowd dancing to youthful and oh-so-relatable favourite ‘Fake ID’ and moshing to his lyrical narrative of being fired from Wetherspoons and having to “sign on”. Having gained significant maturity on the latest single ‘Get Over It’ however, he probably won’t have to worry about his financial insecurities for too much longer.
One of the best things about festivals is the coincidental stumbling across upcoming bands, and lunchtime Lake Stage seems to be the best time to find the gems. During yet another gorgeously refuelling bacon buttie, we took a walk around the Huw Stevens curated stage, our Weekend Guest wristbands and French plaits trailing in the light breeze, and discovered the warm synths and melodic hooks of Liss echoing around the picnic benches. Their triumph ‘Try’ stayed in our heads long after the set had ended, and a quick search reveals their cemented place on Spotify’s Indie playlist. I expect they’ll be gaining recognition in no time at all. While taking shade under an oak tree here on Sunday, easy-listening guitar-based indie band Bleeding Heart Pigeons won us over, same time, same place, but over a box of noodles and a burning desire for the queue to swim in the lake to not be 2 hours long.
The Alcove stage also proved fruitful in the unearthing of fresh talent. Hard-core Irish newbies Otherkin called from the depths of the tiny DIY associated tent, a floppy haired foursome with all black clothes and a massive sound. Energetic and punchy, they gave it their all, with front man Luke Reilly removing his t shirt and creating a mosh pit in the sparse crowd, resulting in a curious nine year old girl being knocked to the floor. Classic rock band material. Almost worth missing Frightened Rabbit for. (Medical note: the girl was fine.)
Tired Lion were ultimately this stage’s best band. A lovable stage presence combined with their combination Jesus/Ashton Kutcher lookalike guitarist, the band connected with the audience in a way I’ve rarely seen at big festivals. Despite songs detailing their crippling agoraphobia, their dynamic Latitude set was the end of a mammoth Europe tour for Tired Lion, and we expect them to emerge from the Australian undergrowth and into the chasm of household alternative rock names any day now.
Having big fans at Exeposé, seeing The National headline Saturday night was an envy inducing moment for my Instagram followers. I struggle to think of enough adjectives at this point, but the spectacular performance put on by Berninger, Dessner, Devendorf et al was something to behold. A few rows from the front, we were almost in sniffing distance of Berninger glugging wine from the bottle, but at least he didn’t fall over during ‘Mr November’ (see Glasto 2010). They came on to the sound of The Smiths’ ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ and got straight into ‘Don’t Swallow the Cap’ and ‘I Should Live in Salt’ from 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me. Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches) joined the band for ‘I Need My Girl’ taking a female vocal twist on the heart-wrencher. We even got a preview of new high-hat-heavy track ‘The Lights’ which Berninger admitted “shitty title, but a good song”. The set brought on mixed emotions. We ached at the beautifully dark lyrics but warmed for the singalong ending of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’: everything’s going to be just fine.
The heat of Suffolk’s sun-drenched Sunday may have stolen the energy from us campers, (and made our tent feel like sleeping on the surface of the sun) but not the artists. The whisperings of a wild Ed Sheeran appearing the night before during Foy Vance’s set (signed to Sheeran’s own record label… are we surprised?) made everyone excited about the night ahead. Would there be any more guest appearances? Who should we catch to make sure we don’t miss any exciting surprises? The answer was to of course, see everyone. A long string of acts including Laura Mvula, Chet Faker, The Lumineers and M83 all busted their guts on the 30 degree heat main stage, mustering energy from anywhere they could to make the last day as faultless as the wandering, bow-tie donning strawberries and cream vendor.
I felt out of the loop and a failure as a music journalist during Miike Snow, a teenage favourite of mine, as I hadn’t heard about the release of his latest album, iii, which naturally his set heavily relied on, though we were treated to ‘Black and Blue’ and the Friday Night Dinner theme song ‘Animals’ for an explosive ending. Just enough time for a hog roast roll before the last band of the weekend, Of Monsters and Men, featuring yet another confetti canon that decorated the grassy floor with sprinkles of red and white paper flecks that danced among our upraised hands, and an audience battling exhaustion the only way they know how: by chanting the lyrics to the ‘Little Talks’ with over-enthusiastic vigour, then passing flat out back at the tent at 11.30pm with empty cans and a waft of confetti in tow. Hardcore.
Latitude 2016 boasted an amazingly relaxed 3 days of some fantastic bands of old and new, a vibrant line up providing (brace yourself for cringe-worthy cliché) something for everyone, the twelve hour journey home furnished with radiant memories, one of the worst colds of my life so far, and the occasional rogue piece of confetti. I’ll be doing it all over again next year.