Back for its third year, Latitude has been at the forefront of a recent shift in festival tastes as Britain goes boutique. So do the frills, quirks and comforts make the difference, or is it still just down to line up?
Cast aside the post festival blues after any weekend and take a moment to recount what the peg just happened. You’ve no money, a low level of hygiene and a high level of toxins seeping out of all your orifices, and all of this just cost you £140, but was it worth it? In many cases that’s a no, and whilst festival ticket prices have taken a considerable hike, the value for money factor has flip flopped on its back, but Latitude is different. A line-up dominated by pioneers (old and new) a beautiful site littered with delicate touches, lakes, woods, poets, comics, thespians and even gondolas, Latitude has all manner of irritants and unimaginables carefully selected and sold to us for a mere £140 notes. And frankly it's worth every penny, I mean, who wants to spend their hard earned cash on lambs spray-painted pink, or tutu and wings for fat informants for our information requirements? Us, that’s who, and the 20,000 odd blessed souls that flock here each year.
Detailings aside, Latitude's focus is set securely on the music. Past years (there have only been two!) headliners have included Arcade Fire (immediately post Neon Bible) and Anthony and the Johnsons (immediately post release of breakthrough debut) which undoubtedly displays a knack for timing, which often produces career defining sets. This year, however, the line-up is lacking that power of hyperbole. The creative slump has somehow handed Franz Ferdinand Friday (boggling to many onsite), whilst kings of their respective ‘genres’ Sigur Ros and Interpol headline Saturday and Sunday respectively. So in a year that has been relatively low bearing in terms of “best new band in the world” moniker so readily presented (mostly by NME), there are still a few ambassadors of the title gracing Latitude’s stages, most notable Glasgow’s Glasvegas and Oxfords Foals.
Whilst NME and little Alan ‘Scotland rules’ McGee swoon over Glasvegas, Sunday sees them in probably fine form yet lacking in any real substance. ‘Geraldine’ discarded relatively early in their set sounds massive against all others. It is a special track, both lyrically and musically, and yet you’d expect a similar feat from the ‘world’s greatest new band’, either a song better or similar in quality and gravity of ‘Geraldine’ or a whiff of their next move, but no, Glasvegas have Geraldine, and Geraldine only.
Choosing to duck out of their usual intricacies Foals are evidently tired from their earlier performance in Spain that morning. Front man Yan talks of a fracas with Johnny Rotten and police handcuffs, and although barely intelligible, and appearing scarcely tangible the boys plough on regardless. They’re far from terrible but each track lacks the delicate guitar interplay their live performances usually muster.
However, one particular newbie touted by hacks as la crème are Slow Club, who soar under Latitude lights in the most sickenly sweet way. The northern male/female duo graciously received generous applause and even marriage proposals whilst cooing delicate and touchingly emotive ditties. Imagine Regina Spektor without the pretension, backed by the happiest ‘diamonds on the soul of your shoes’ style Paul Simon, and you’re a little way to Slow Club. As fame beckons their angelic demeanour will surely crumble, yet at that moment Latitude falls in love with their affable and endearing ways.
But on the whole the small-fry contenders packed little to extinguish the might of the consummate experienced, namely the critically underrated The Coral, the aerial Joanna Newsom and the mighty Sigur Ros who all shine more brilliantly than (we’ve) ever witnessed.
The Coral, return to the festival circuit with experience that bellies their years having released an incredible five albums. And it shows, their ‘acoustic’ set fleshed out in electric, is a tirade of hits ranging from the shanty shuffle of ‘Pass it On’ to their more recent lullaby ‘Jacqueline’. Fundamentally it is James Skelly’s baritone warblings (and his little bowler mop) that’s the draw, but what always shines through is the band's tight structured performance. Ending the days soirée with a new unnamed track sees a rockier side to the more relaxed Coral of late, maybe signs of a change, something The Coral are in little need of judging from this performance.
‘Tight structured performance’ isn’t a phrase able to describe Joanna Newsom’s Sunday morning performance, which sees our flaky friend forget countless lyrics. What’s excruciatingly embarrassing for her, manages to elevate her performance above a mere spectacle. But beyond that and beyond Joanna’s twitching limbs and gurning delivery is a breathtaking talent. As spectators sway and swoon to ‘Peach, Plum, Pear’ and three new piano led songs it is apparent her quirks are little more than punctuation to her ever increasing talent.
And so onto a performance that will go down in Latitude history as simply perfect. Sigur Ros. A band that rarely visit our shores and fit no festival better than Latitude step up gracefully to headline Saturday night. Jonsi dressed like an Icelandic time lord looks suitably freakish, delivering his whale like siren to delicate swathes of guitar. Opening with that orange advert theme tune (lets be hones no one knows how the title are pronounced) immediately absorbs the Latitude crowd into their ethereal world, and its beautiful and vast (if not a little repetitive) and matched utterly to this festival.
So, as we recount our thoughts once more on Latitude passed, we ask again, was worth the £140 outlay. Painted sheep and abundant thespians aside, we can categorically say you will never have a more worthy experience under £200 (ps – we cannot be held responsible if it's rubbish next year but with so much going on it's impossible to imagine thunder and rain aside). And now be honest, would you be able to say that about your last festival?
by Daniel Pratley