Latitude 2018 – Day One
We arrived in Suffolk in lovely weather this year. Walked the back roads from our farm to the festival, it was very quiet away from the main roads. Spotted the signature pink Latitude sheep looking very warm.
We briefly saw “And you will know us by the trail of dead”, a long time alt-rock band, sounding like they’d not practised for a few years.
We moved over to the Obelisk stage, and saw “The Charlatans” – Tim Burgess has a fine head of hair! Lots more grandstand seating at the back of arena area for oldies!
We thought that there were lots more varied food outlets this time. I enjoyed some delicious pickled salmon and seaweed that was thankfully a long way from the normal fried festival fare. A Prosecco bar, Argentinian wine bar, and American Gin bar were the only real outlets for anything other than Black Tower wine though. Carlsberg is still the only beer available despite the Adnams Brewery being 3 miles away, which for us is rather disappointing.
In between big acts we saw “Confidence Man” on the lake stage. Hailing from Melbourne, they’re a group of 4 with 2 musicians and 2 singer/dancers. The entire act was a big mix of cheesy pop/funk/dance with the two singers hamming up the dance routines whilst dressed in retro 90s Top of the pops garb. One has to have respect for anyone who can take the mickey out of themselves while genuinely entertaining you at the same time. Needless to say the crowd loved them and rightfully so. Much like the Cuban Brothers, there is genuine musical talent just hiding behind the showmanship.
Went to Obelisk stage for Solange. Big build up for dull, pretentious, R&B by numbers! We left for BBC tent to see remaining James set. Perhaps the best James performance we’ve seen. They were relaxed and enjoying themselves with a packed out crowd of gleefully enthusiastic fans. Very long cheers and appreciation after they had to finish.
The staff are all very good. We saw security guys at several venues dancing away to DJs whilst still doing their job.
Day two at Latitude 2018
Drove onto the site to avoid the trudge in the dust. Pedestrian access is not good really, with a heavy reliance on motorised transport. Given Latitude’s green standpoint, which they are trying to build upon, perhaps better measures could be taken to allow better pedestrian access?
It did make swimming in the lake look very attractive though, after the hot dusty walk.
We dropped in on the Waterfront stage and saw pre-production piece by Zoonation called Sylvia, about the rise of the Suffragette movement which is to be performed later in the year at the Old Vic theatre. This received a well-deserved standing ovation. If you loved Hamilton, then you will love this.
Then we moved on to the Sunrise stage in the woods and saw a new band “Black Midi”. A very young 4 piece with echoes of The Fall, Joy division, crossed with taut Punk riffing and electro beats. A band that will potentially go a long way we thought.
We visited the pamper area, where Alex got a great trim from Felix, who plays the drums in the Saboteurs, soon to be seen at Standon Calling. Payment is by donation of what you think it’s worth, the same payment scheme was also in operation for the stall applying glitter to lots of adults and kids alike. Find him at work at Farley’s in Hitchin.
Whilst we were grabbing a bite to eat from the many many food outlets, the surprise guest appearance arrived on stage, none other than Liam Gallagher! The BBC tent was packed to overflowing!
We moved on to the Obelisk stage for “The Vaccines”. We have seen the Vaccines before and know they are a very energetic entertaining live band. The band seem to have widened their audience somewhat, perhaps having picked up a segment of much younger teen fans than before. We thought that given it is a festival with many families and younger attendees they were just there for a bit of fun, but no, they knew all the words and sang along to them all (Including Post-Break-Up Sex!)
After The Vaccines, we split up, with Sarah heading back to the main Obelisk stage for the headliners for Saturday “The Killers” with Lucy, whilst Alex elected to head for the BBC tent to see Mogwai.
The Killers did not disappoint their legion fans with renditions of all their major hits. Some bands try to get creative or play too much new material, but the Killers know what people want and certainly deliver. One odd point though was the plunging of the stage into total darkness between songs. Bands have different approaches to the potentially awkward periods between one song and another, some letting the frontman chat to the audience, some turning away momentarily and having a swig of water (or beer), and some avoiding it completely and just melding into the next song with no gap. The blackout approach the killers took was a bit odd. And a bit confusing for the audience. However, the Killers are a big enough band to get away with it.
Mogwai suffered a little in early numbers probably due to the presence of the Killers on the main stage at the same time, but by the second half of the set, the BBC tent was full. We have seen Mogwai several times before, and they never disappoint… ever! As far as post-rock goes as a genre, you won’t get away without mentioning or referencing Mogwai, such is their influence. Did we mention they are loud? They are LOUD! Alex’s ears were still ringing the next morning. If you get the chance, Mogwai is a band to see at least once in your life.
On the subject of noise, being a family-friendly festival, there are many younger children present. Young ears need protection, and many parents are very responsible and equip their children with proper ear defenders if close to the music. It still amazes us though, how many don’t. Perhaps the organisers might consider a bit of a campaign next year to raise awareness on this? Maybe have them on sale at the official merchandise stand?
Latitude – The Final Day
We arrived reasonably early (for us) and headed over to The Obelisk stage to see South African musician Jeremy Loops. The Loops part of his stage name referring to his use of a Loop pedal in a lot of his material. It was a great start to the day with his upbeat afro-folk sounds, and his infectious energy had the audience bouncing and responding in a way they usually wouldn’t so early in the day. He’s number 1 in South Africa, but as he said himself, it’s the same as being number one in Switzerland – no-one cares!
The crowd enjoying Jeremy Loops.
Next up after some delicious Indian street food from the many excellent food outlets, was MNEK. As a show goes, it was a wild and fabulous one, with much strutting and posing to a mix of high energy dance R&B, but all a bit camp tongue in cheek. Behind all that fun though MNEK’s voice is really something else! Powerful, ranging, and subtle too.
After some more food, we headed back to the Obelisk arena and awaited the much-vaunted Rag n Bone Man. Rag n Bone Man completely breaks the stereotypes of what someone is supposed to sound like compared to what they actually do sound like. Brought up on hip-hop he has moved on to blues and soul and the key element of this is his voice, his just incredible voice! Everyone is aware of his deep baritone, bluesman voice but we hadn’t reckoned on his having the range to sing a beautiful falsetto as well. Every now and again a genuinely individual, hugely talented voice comes along, Dusty Springfield, Adele, Florence Welch, for us Rag n Bone Man joins them with ease.
Next up was Wolf Alice, the indie rockers turning out to be much rockier than expected, with shots of short, punk-riff led stuff too. A band poised on the edge of something great if they manage it.
The final headline act was Alt-J. They are ploughing a particularly niche furrow in my view, as there isn’t much else like them. Perhaps a bit like Radiohead but weirder? Potentially, like Mogwai, they aren’t best suited to a festival, but more so to a venue where the sound is more controlled, and people have bought tickets specifically for the act. Nonetheless, they were impressive in complexity, quality and also the light show.
On reflection, Latitude has continued to provide an eclectic and varied, but quality mix of acts. Where else can you be punted? Probably the only miss in the main acts was Solange. We missed a lot we would have loved to have seen due to conflicting schedules; there was masses of great comedy, science, discussions, drama, and dance all on offer.
The food this year had got significantly better in terms of choice, and is probably the best choice in food of any of the festivals we have attended. The drink selection however, in complete contrast is very poor! The main bars have a considerable job to do, serving drinks to thousands of customers in short sharp bursts, but the choice of overpriced, Carlsberg pap lager, one cider and one mild of indeterminate heritage was awful. The wine was Black Tower red or white and just dreadful! Other than the main bars, there were only two independent outlets selling wine, one of which was Prosecco. This approach is at complete odds with Latitude’s PR stance of being “local” and “green” Especially given that Adnam’s brewery is literally 3 miles away and tendered for the job.
We understand that sometimes only the very large companies can cope with the significant demands that a festival might impose, but surely there is a space for the small guys too? Could not say 10%-15% of drink be given over to the small producers, with say a similar “village” area like the food avenue? Nailing down the food AND the drink would make Latitude unique amongst festivals.
One thing amongst many others however that Latitude does do very well is the staffing. There was always plenty of staff around and all were cheery and helpful, even after a long day in the sun. Festival toilets are always pretty bad after a few days but even the loos remained usable which is no mean feat!
Latitude also allows camping on day tickets, which allows you to attend your chosen day, and then at least be able to retire to a tent for the night before heading home.