Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk
Latitude shouldn’t really be billed as a music festival.
It’s got a whole lot more than that going on: comedy, dance, poetry, literature, talks, debates, films, theatre, a healing field, cabaret, and enormous amounts of delicious food are all up for grabs over the four nights. That’s why when we saw the yawnsome headliners lined up for this edition, we were anything but deterred.
That said, the music agenda was nothing to be sniffed at – we manage to swerve the aforementioned headliners all weekend without getting bored for a second, instead preferring to camp out elsewhere. The 6Music stage is where we see Grimes annihilate a high-energy, high-tempo set that leaves the girls around us gasping and hopelessly wishing for an invitation to join her hard-as-nails girl gang. The next night, we are similarly thrilled to witness Soulwax ecstatically ripping their way through their biggest hits, ending on an extended and euphoric version of NY Excuse. The crowds for each set maybe differ in age by about twenty years, but both are awash with the kind of delirium reserved for only the most special sets.
6Music also offers up some of the best middle-of-the-day fun. Perfume Genius completely owns the stage at his late afternoon gig, his features picked out fiercely as he sways and writhes in time with his alternately agonising and foot-stomping indie pop. It’s a heart-swelling experience. On Saturday Kurt Vile’s drowsy Americana suits the sweltering stage just fine, and the time he spends treating us to deft guitar runs and stoner comedy asides slips by in no time at all. Last tune, Pretty Pimpin’, even gets the lads in front of us swaying their lighters in respect. Sometimes there’s something to be said for unassuming stardom.
The Alcove Stage, set into the woods just around the corner from the campsites, is another sweaty triumph. Kagoule’s set is thickly populated by head-banging teens who chant along to the heavy basslines and anthemic choruses, only pausing to shout out song requests (“this has never happened before,” says frontman Cai Burns, rather humbly, we think, considering how far they smash it out of the park).
The Sunrise Stage, again set in the woods (but another bit of woods, the festival is so leafy) enjoys sets from Let’s Eat Grandma, Weaves, and Protomartyr in quick succession on the Friday. Let’s Eat Grandma are impressive to watch technically but seem entirely closed off from the crowd (which only increases their precociousness), and Protomartyr put in a great effort – but it’s Weaves that impress most. Lead singer Jasmyn Burke stalks the stage knowingly, leading a jazzy, feverish excursion into their berserk, pop-powered world. Guitarist Morgan Waters plays the guitar with his teeth as a matter of course, and the crowd goes mad for an extended run of solos from each band member as a finale.
Of course, as we previously outlined, there’s so much more to Latitude than the music – though the range of indulgent extracurriculars on offer are probably why it’s earned such an enduring posho rep. For example, you can take a gondola ride, enjoy some lakeside tango lessons, or prop up a prosecco-only bar – but the panel discussions are where we find ourselves on two separate evenings. The Literature tent, a usually chill reserve away from the beating sun, takes on a heated atmosphere at The Porn Perspective, an examination of our nation’s pornography habits, and at The Good Immigrant on Sunday, we’re subjected to some excellent post-Brexit food for thought.
Comedy is also a huge offering at Latitude, and though we don’t stick around the sticky outoor sofas too long, we do catch a hilarious set from Irish comedian David O’Doherty and a woefully unfunny one from The Last Leg’s Josh Widdicombe. Elsewhere, Adam Buxton proves a huge draw to the Film and Music Arena with his touching Bowie retrospective and a thoughtful chat with Louis Theroux that begins with Louis popping bottle of champagne to share with the packed-in crowd.
Essentially, it’s moments like these that characterise Latitude – snatches of opera, Shakespeare, or parkour as you bumble past to the bar to buy a Tuborg in a commemorative cup – and it’s these instances, and the relatively chilled atmosphere, that’ll have us returning again and again.