News / / 26.07.13

Latitude Festival

Henham Park, Suffolk | July 18-21st


“Meet me to buy coke by the dumpster behind McDonalds at midnight”, said Thurston Moore. After missing numerous trains, hopping in a cab with two random people we met in Colchester and inadequately assembling tents in the sweltering heat, we take shelter from the beaming sun in the shaded Poetry Arena, where the former Sonic Youth frontman is delivering profound dudeisms such as ‘I’m not a cop… I hate cops… To the max’ in his deep, sardonic moan.

We’ve heard that Latitude Festival takes pride in its surroundings, that the site makes you question whether or not a UK festival experience necessarily has to be a test of physical and mental endurance in an anarchic cesspit. It’s true. After walking through the woodland and crossing an idyllic lake, we arrived to a site that’s full of people sitting down to watch bands, toddlers rocking bucket hats, amiable security, and those little green parcels for putting your fag ends in (people are actually using them here). We’d go and check out what’s going in the Theatre or Film marquees, but they’re packed.

So over to the main stage it is, where the New Jersey indie legends Yo La Tengo begin with the mellower acoustic tunes from their recent album Fade just as a mercifully cool breeze kicks in. Then come the shoegazey jams, for which Ira Kaplan proceeds to go totally nuts. He frantically shreds the skinniest frets of his Stratocaster, waves it above his head, bangs it against the mic stand and dives to his knees like a Jewish Jimi Hendrix – and yet somehow, all the feedback sounds strangely beautiful.

The I Arena tent is shrouded by a gorgeously lit woodland, and every band who take to the stage seem genuinely chuffed to be here. Yet for all the location’s tranquillity, things begin to get nice and rowdy here once the sun goes down. The vibe is warmed up by Diiv, who’re thrashing around on stage, assumedly in attempt to inject their charming dream pop with some of that punk rock sentiment they’ve been known for due to Zachary Cole Smith’s recent ‘fuck the industry’ gestures. Later, Canadian anthem-makers Japandroids instigate a sweaty moshpit that’s populated by an equal ratio of boys and girls, and The House That Heaven Built gives us a feeling of euphoria which could only be equalled by hi-fiving one hundred people after scoring a goal on your birthday. We’re almost done for the night, and we’re here for the bands really, but our innate desire to hear relentless electronic beats until the early hours is satisfied by UK garage don Zed Bias and Orbital’s Phil Hartnoll, who’s DJing inside a giant mouth with illuminating teeth, of course.


Saturday morning starts well as we stumble across Cardiff’s Joanna Gruesome playing on the Lake Stage. Their effortless cool and teenage swagger sets them apart from so many of the young bands playing around the UK today. Their guitars twang and their bass feeds back as the hippest crowd we’ve seen so far at Latitude sings along to every word of every catchy chorus the band can squeeze into their short set.

It goes without saying that Bo Ningen deliver on every level. As they play, we get the distinct urge to text everyone in our phone book to tell them that we’re doing something far better than they are right now, even if they’re licking ice cream from Zooey Deschanel’s inner thigh. As they tear Latitude a new one with their own brand of Japanese chaos and flail wildly about the stage like ADHD stuntmen, we find the smiles on our faces becoming increasingly hard to hide. Normally noise has been the preserve of chin strokers, but Bo Ningen have something more to offer: extremely high entertainment value.

Opening with a ropey rendition of their 2009 synth-heavy single Zero, Yeah Yeah Yeahs look and sound exhausted, with Karen O’s sad clown style make up and glittery Michael Jackson t-shirt emphasising a sense of faded grandeur. And as the songs from recent comeback album Mosquito drift around in search of a tune, it’s hard to not question the wisdom of the band’s return. Having said that, O’s crowd interaction during Cheated Hearts is definitely a hit with the bemused kids on their parents shoulders, and the gloriously sleazy art-rock glamour of early tunes like Miles Away and Date With The Night make the crowd go insane.

Purity Ring are on hand to close off Sunday against the stunning forest back drop of the I Arena. They play a set which consists of all the highlights from their debut and end on the awesome Fineshrine before retreating, we imagine, to some kind of computer generated haven of electronic peace and harmony. And then it’s over to the main stage for the most anticipated set of the weekend: Kraftwerk’s 3D show.

Over the last four decades or so, endless column inches have championed the pioneering German collective for the seismic shift in popular culture they’re responsible for. In 2013 however, Kraftwerk are an aurally and visually retrofuturstic act. But with the 3D show, have they created a sensory trip unlike anything experience before? There’s a palpable sense of excitement among the crowd of thousands as we gather with the goofy cardboard specs on, as if we’ve been invited to the premier of some huge new blockbuster. And what unfolds is anything but anticlimactic. Gigantic doll-like figures in red shirts from the band’s The Man-Machine artwork reach out into the crowd, radioactive logos hover above our heads, and at one point, we’re looking out the window of a spaceship as it floats over planet earth.

We’re initially bothered by some cynical concerns. Is this comparable to the deceased rapper hologram gimmick that threatens to become a trend? Could the success of this show create future difficulties for festivals and acts with a smaller budget, like the impact that 3D has had on mainstream cinema? And how many people here would actually enjoy listening to a Krafwerk album from start to finish? But after a drunken, pseudo-intellectual debate, we reach the conclusion that it fucking ruled.


Bleary eyed, but eager to embrace our last day, the sound of The Bots lures us in by sounding like some kind of futuristic power-noise band, playing discordant guitars over layers of abrasive synth to what seems like completely random drum patterns. On stage they look like they could be the rock n’ roll contingent of some kind of new age cult, dressed head to toe in white with matching wacky headgear. The noise teeters steadily into less than impressive Black Keys-esque blues rock which is nice, but alas. only nice and sadly we lose interest and amble off to grab some food elsewhere.

Hookworms’ early evening set ensures a great start to our last night at Latitude, and we find ourselves instantly drawn in by their plodding, hypnotic melodies. They rattle through a set that showcases the band at their best: a loud, psychedelic wall of noise punctuated by the creepy, effected vocals of the singer known only as MJ. Later on at the same stage, we hang around to check out the impeccably dressed Brooklynite indie-poppers Friends, whose new line-up bears little resemblance to the band we saw last year. They’re either showcasing new material or plodding through tracks from their largely forgettable debut album. It’s actually pretty hard to tell.

If you’d told us in 2008 that Foals would be killing festival headline slots in 2013, we’d have spluttered our drink all over our Datarock t-shirt. But this was really something special. Anyone who caught their insanely energetic Glastonbury show would have trouble believing that it could be bettered, but the headliner status clearly galvanises the band, with Yannis passionately thanking the crowd between every song. Shit, at one point he’s almost smiling. From opening with the ok-to-like party banger My Number to the monster riffage of closer Inhaler, Foals provide the ultimate final night climax. After that, it’s all frolics in the woods until the stewards arrive. And, true to Latitude’s ethos, they boot us out of the main arena in the friendliest way possible.

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Words: David Reed & Billy Black