It’s my second year covering the festival and the event’s unique location continues to astound me. My Thursday night consists of a dubstep rave in a forest, a worryingly bleak assessment of my future by a fortune teller and a particularly ill-advised midnight swim in the lake. It’s safe to say that Latitude transforms Henham Park into a weird and wonderful place each year, and my first night’s antics don’t even scratch the surface when it comes to fully experiencing what Latitude has to offer.
SuperGlu embraced some DIY spirit by sticking up posters advertising their lunchtime Lake Stage set, and they are rewarded with a dedicated crowd who responded to their raucous indie-punk set in a huge way. Singer Krista Lynch reveals the heart-warming story which brought the band together to me backstage, but it’s the selection of tunes the four-piece offer which truly impresses and set highlight ‘Diving Bell’ leads to the festival’s first mosh-pit.
Trippy psychedelic voyagers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard followed and flourised in the forest setting of the iArena, cementing their billing as possible heirs to the Aussie-psych throne currently held by Tame Impala.
London-based art-rock band Django Django have been creeping up festival bills since the release of their debut LP in 2012, but their set on the BBC 6Music Stage was disappointing. The band have enjoyed universal acclaim for their delightfully well-crafted songs, but their music translates far better on record than it does live and an initially boisterous crowd lost enthusiasm as the set progressed.
Main Stage headliners Alt-J have a lot of history at Latitude, and their Henham Park performances have felt like a pretty accurate barometer for their consistently increasing commercial success. Much like Django Django before them, though, they’re not natural live performers and subsequently they don’t make the most of a huge platform. Whilst seeing a crowd of thousands chant “in you’re snatch fitzpleasure, broom-shaped pleasure” sums up the band’s remarkable crossover to the mainstream, the subtle nuances in their instrumentation that make their records so special aren’t audible on a large festival stage. As a result, the feeling that they can’t recapture the magic of their albums is inescapable. The mass exodus of bodies moving to the iArena as word spreads of a secret Ed Sheeran set proves that try as they might, the night simply doesn’t belong to Alt-J.
Saturday arrives and Drenge‘s blisteringly epic riff-heavy set felt like a deliberate response to a somewhat tame opening day of music. The Loveless brothers, who recently added bassist Rob Graham to their line-up, delighted the crowd with brutal renditions of ‘We Can Do What We Want’, ‘Face Like A Skull’ and highlight ‘Bloodsports’.
Band of the moment Wolf Alice followed on the 6Music Stage and whilst they failed to reach the dizzy heights of their already legendary Glastonbury set a few weeks ago, they ultimately justified the hype that continues to surround them. The rammed tent screaming every lyric to ‘Bros’ has to go down as one of the best moments of the whole festival.
Nineties indie heroes The Charlatans were arguably in danger of being shown up by the new generation, but Tim Burgess and co looked far from past it. Established baggy classics ‘The Only One I Know’ and ‘Weirdo’ contrasted poignant new tracks from recent LP Modern Nature brilliantly in a set that proved the Midlanders are still safe bets for festival bookers.
A little later on the Lake Stage Pretty Vicious went through the motions with a disappointingly low-energy performance that bored onlookers who gathered to the Lake Stage expecting to see the ‘next big thing’.
Completing a guitar-heavy Saturday on the 6Music stage, Catfish and the Bottlemen and The Vaccines both triumphed with huge sets that proved rock and roll remains the main draw for festival goers. Van McCann’s huge enthusiasm for the occasion rubbed off on the crowd who didn’t stop dancing throughout the set. The whole performance was delivered at a lightning fast pace, with recent ballad single ‘Hourglass’ deliberately left out in order to retain a sense of urgency.
The Vaccines’ headline slot was similarly intense – with the band shunning many tunes from their latest release English Graffiti in favour of the guitar-blaring pop of their first two records. The likes of ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ and ‘Dream Lover’ offered a nice change of pace, but the heavier numbers worked better and the closing one-two punch of ‘If You Wanna’ and ‘Norgaard’ delighted the adoring crowd.
Band of the moment Years & Years proved to be admirable ambassadors of chart pop with an excellent mid-afternoon set. Showcasing tracks from their surprisingly diverse debut record, Ibiza dance bangers ‘Desire’ and ‘Shine’ complemented ballads ‘Eyes Shut’ and ‘Without’ really well. Number one single and closer ‘King’ prompted one of the weekend’s biggest sing-alongs.
La Roux followed and kept the dance-pop flame alive on the 6Music Stage with an excellent set that leaned heavily on her summer-ready second album Trouble In Paradise – a record we at WOW247 ranked as the fourth best of 2014 last December.
The job of closing the festival was left in the capable hands of Noel Gallagher, who joked about performing to ‘a crowd of Guardian readers’ in a typically anthemic main stage headline slot. Despite the success of his two solo records, which both charted at number one, it was the Oasis numbers that truly delighted the crowd – and ‘Fade Away’ and ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ were both brilliantly reworked by his new band.
At one stage he teased he’d perform classic Nineties anthem ‘Live Forever’ if a fan ‘bought every bit of merchandise available’, but no one could be disappointed after closing number ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ which was gleefully sung by the entire crowd.
All told, the weekend proved to be a fitting tenth anniversary celebration for Latitude. Long may it continue.
All image: PA