July 12th-15th | Henham Park, Suffolk
Lured in mostly by the line-up of stellar artists tucked beneath the crowd-pulling headliners, this was to be Crack’s first trip to Latitude. Situated in Suffolk, a two and half hour drive from London along the A12, in leafy grounds with a lake on site and coastline nearby. Latitude is a family festival, which aims to appeal to most generations, with poetry, art, dance and literature sitting comfortably alongside a well curated selection of music.
Predominantly it pulls in Norfolk and Suffolk folk (a mostly white middle-class demographic), plus friends and family from that there London town and beyond. Its reaches extend further we’re sure, yet the feel is decidedly local and homogeneous. It was Thursday and the festival had already began before a spontaneous decision to attend was made; with plus one cancelling late, we braved it alone, sans wingman.
Arriving at the festival late on Friday left us disorientated. We had regressed into a ‘dump (bags in press tent, fingers crossed they would return) and run’ toward the main stage, in the hope of catching Bon Iver (and finding friends). Frustratingly, the final act of the evening was already upon us, and we found ourselves wedged front left, no booze, no looseness, bedraggled (in a completely non-festival way), and feeling entirely incongruous with the essence of the music and evening on whole.
We’ve seen Bon Iver live many times, though not since the release of the eponymous second album and consequential rise to Grammy stardom. Fortunately the sparkling languor synonymous with For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver’s debut LP was present, yet now embalmed with complex layers it had intensified and began to slowly strip back our notions of the day. Moved, we reached out through the medium of text message to a fellow Bon Iver cult member wanting to share this moment in the universe with someone. We followed up the received message with a ‘Fuck Off!’ as unbeknown to us he was under the same Southwold skies; dipping back toward the sound tower, we were engulfed in a rapturous reunion, the music sounded even sweeter as the remaining set sent festival tingles from my core and beyond their natural reaches. It was an infinitely better end than we could have possibly have hoped for to a rather frantic and not so accomplished Friday.
Saturday opened with a youthfully enriching performance from Lianne Le Havas. We harbour a moderately nurturing desire towards the 22-year-old who lives round the corner from our home in Lower Clapton, not least because of her locality. But beyond that she possesses a wisdom and charismatic charm exceeding her years, Age and Forget highlighting her depth of storytelling. In her emerald green dress and doorstop wedges she delivered a rousing performance worthy of an album sale. Of Monsters and Men, a six-piece from Iceland and winners of battle of the bands, performed to a semi bouncing teen crowd – a fun(ish) 45 minutes spent. Next up Wooden Shjips, who drew a more eclectic audience yet still failed to really get everyone in the mood, whirring, psychedelic, spaced-out goodness that made you want to rock out, or at least nod your head and close your eyes in dignified manner (there was no one really going wild). In fact, the most wild moment came when we accidentally supplied a 16-year-old with a glug of rum – sorry parents. We decided to ditch the music and head off to the quieter side looking for action, comedy, theatre and food. After recess it was dance time: SBTRKT were up and the whole tent was geared, Latitude had finally gone off. Perhaps a little foolishly, we found ourselves in the heart of the crowd. Huge six foot plus boys jumping into each other as though they might die if their leap lacked enough ramped up enthusiasm, we suddenly felt sick and rather unsafe. Powering through the heat and body bashing thus avoiding the big holes of space that screamed stagger / snap / broken ankle, we embraced the circumstance and danced on, overlooking the mingled sweat and writhing. It was a fantastic set. We went outside and puked.
Sunday brought the energy and festival magic we’d been searching for. Perhaps a little too hard, since our arrival, we had been playing catch up. It began by the lake in rather sophisticated manner with Sadler’s Wells dance house providing three performances. Each with their own identity, the first was a beautifully choreographed contemporary duet on the lightness of love. Political dance poet Jonzi D performed a piece from the 1990s exploring identity and the search for the motherland, and finally an intensely dynamic group showing incorporating disabled dancers. Next up Zun Zun Egni in the woods, a Bristol collective with Mauritian frontman singing in his native tongue. This was an energetic showing that had everyone up and dancing. Members of Francois and the Atlas Mountains had sidled up alongside us and were providing most of the crowd hyping; with those crazy brandy-toting Frenchmen enhancing our spirits, we left enraptured.
Due to the stages running out of sync we missed St Vincent, but kicking ourselves we headed back to where we’d just come from to catch another superbly talented female, Daughter, who was fantastic. Somehow finding ourselves in the audience for King Charles, we shuddered as the tweens danced around to Paul Simon rehashes. Needless to say, we moved on quickly; just in time for NCZA/Lines, performing on the lake stage to a sunny hill. Our inhibitions dissipated, dancing around euphorically. Engaging even from a safe distance with room to manoeuvre, M83 were enjoyable, before we snuck in 20 minutes of Paul Weller (for mum’s sake), crossing fingers for some Wild Wood orStanley Road. Last up, in prime viewing spot and with boundless anticipation, Wild Beasts came to the stage, so charming and effortless in their delivery. A sublime close in the best tent of the festival.
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Photos: Andy Shepard / Marc Sethi / Pooneh Ghana
Words: Martina Randles