Now in its eleventh year Latitude Festival is pulling into a lane all of its own, challenging the juggernauts such as Glastonbury and Bestival with its staggering selection of global music, theatre, comedy, performance and art. Set within the idyllic surroundings of Henham Park in Suffolk, it is a sun drenched bounty to behold with cultural riches, soothing escapes and forest frivolities.
This year they boast a musical line-up to make other organisers’ collective eyes water as they bill alternative juggernauts New Order and The National alongside some of the freshest and exciting emerging new talents. Friday is a celebration of the individual and the underdog. Perfume Genius performing an avant-garde display of off centre pop music with near operatic renditions of ‘Queen’ and ‘Take Me Home’.
London lads done well The Maccabees stand triumphant atop the Obelisk as a human endorsement for hard work, persistence and a solid discography. Indie anthems such as ‘Child’, ‘Wall of Arms’ and ‘Marks To Prove It’ proudly permeate the site and delight a mammoth crowd. Grimes hosts a disco for the outsiders in the 6Music tent as she crashes through a frantic set-list in her characteristically awkward stage manner with standout performances of ‘Flesh Without Blood’, a Russian version of ‘Scream’ and the all consuming ‘Oblivion’.
Friday’s shining star Héloïse Letissier a.k.a Christine & the Queens is on a personal mission to prove leaving the EU was one detrimental mistake. The French native performs in every sense of the word with impeccable vocal delivery, pincer tight dance routines and a natural spontaneity onstage.
It is no surprise after a faultlessly choreographed rendition of ‘Tilted’ Letissier and her queens receives the longest and largest ovation of the entire weekend. As though echoing a self-fulfilling prophecy during opener ‘Starshipper’, she claims ‘I want to be a star’ and with performances like this, it looks to be an incredibly achievable reality.
After a night of wandering between rave and cabaret in the wondrous woodlands, we wake on Saturday with sorer heads but equal excitement. We head down to the Sunrise Arena to catch future Obelisk alumni Pumarosa with a bewitching performance style, an emphasis on instrumental and two ready-made anthems in ‘Cecile’ and ‘Priestess’.
Meanwhile Danish newcomers Liss impress on the lake with soulful performances of ‘Try’, ‘Sorry’ and ‘Always’ although due to age and experience there is a current notion of more potential than practice.
White puncture the DIY stage with their abrasive indie pop as the raucous crowd gets onboard with huge versions of ‘Living Fiction’ and ‘Fight The Feeling’. Not blessed with the intimacy of the Alcove or the Lake Stage, Daughter take on the Obelisk and prove their world class ability to convey emotion on the grandest scale.
Though the stage dwarfs the three performers, the crushing despair of ‘Doing The Right Thing’ and ‘Smother’ bring instant tones of intimacy. An artist of equal emotive power, later in the day Billie Marten puts in a gripping performance to a handful of those in the know reminiscent of Laura Marling when she was cutting her teeth on equally minute stages
Although Saturday evening suffers from a poorly planned lineup as crowds surge energetic and empowered from a pumped up Chvrches to a more restrained yet equally accomplished set from The National the whimsy carries well into the evening with twilight DJ sets from Gold Panda and further woodland escapades.
Sunday morning comes all too soon and with heavy hearts we consider the selection of treats ahead to befittingly finish a fantastic eleventh edition. Laura Mvula steps proudly onto the main stage presenting as a fully formed artist supported by a well-equipped live band. Fickle Friends’ set goes down phenomenally from the Lake Stage gifted with Californian sunshine befitting of their trans-Atlantic sounds designed for festival afternoons.
Aurora and Jamie Woon deliver equally eschewed versions of pop music, an added atmosphere gifted from the 6Music tent as their noir styles translate well almost unaware of the baking sunshine outside. MØ proves she was always a mega-star in the waiting as she melds her set with the fizzing pop potential of ‘Waste of Time’ and ‘Pilgrim’ with chart frequenting anthems ‘Final Song’ and ‘Lean On’.
M83 would have been more at home in the darkness, their synth leanings sometimes struggling to carry across the vast sun drenched fields. A final performance of New Order draws Latitude to an expectedly euphoric close.
Although their stage settings are yet to enter the 21st century, Sumner and co sound indisputably current when lifting cuts from latest LP ‘Music Complete’ while ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ successfully unite the wide range of patrons for one final singalong to a true alternate anthem.
In times of divide and segregation within the UK and an increasingly uncertain future looming, safe spaces, as Christine so perfectly describes them during her performance such as Latitude become crucial. This festival is not only a world class showcase of music and art, it is a concrete example of the benefits of diversity, collaboration and most importantly unity.