After the winds, the rain. Thankfully, a morning downpour clears just in time for Active Child‘s strangely comforting blend of harp and crispy beats. Playing to a crowd swollen by sheltering patrons, it’s a testament to songs such as the gorgeous She Was A Vision that no-one seems to leave as the sun returns.
Up next is Medway-born Lupen Crook, whose initial (slightly affected) acoustic strumalongs have been usurped in favour of a full band set up that defies obvious categorisation. Singing songs about thwarted romance, idyllic lost lands and bygone eras, he’s like the Pete Doherty everyone assumed Pete Doherty would become.
Perhaps the best thing about Latitude is how varied the line-up is. Bands are placed together on the bill safe in the knowledge that a minority of people will just set up camp (not literally) in front of one stage and never leave. So, the street urchin guitar noodlings of Lupen Crook are then followed by American duo (and recent Warp signings) The Hundred In The Hands, whose sound comprises a drum machine, keyboard flurries and sharp, angular guitar riffs. They’re practically Ace Of Base in comparison to another Warp signing, LoneLady, who plays the majority of her wonderfully brittle debut album without uttering a single word or barely making eye contact until a final “Thank you. Good night”. Given how easy it is to be swamped by a festival performance, she manages to create her own atmosphere, and one that’s strangely hypnotic.
Out in the sunshine, John Grant manages to fill the huge Obelisk stage simply on personality alone. The excellent song Sigourney Weaver may have people assuming he’s some kind of novelty act (“I feel just like Winona Ryder, in that movie about vampires”), but a heartbreaking Queen Of Denmark clears that all up.
Swedish sisters First Aid Kit were born to play the Sunrise Arena, complete with forest backdrop and shards of sunshine creeping in through the cracks in the roof. It’s almost impossibly perfect, and to their credit they deliver a set that more than matches the setting. Tangerine and I Met Up With A King are greeted like old favourites, whilst their customary cover of Fleet Foxes‘ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song sounds like their own.
If First Aid Kit are like a warm hug, then Canada’s Crystal Castles are like, well, a punch in the face. As Alice Glass dives into the crowd for the umpteenth time during their aborted 20-minute set on the main stage, she’s allegedly groped, leading her to smack the offender repeatedly in the face. It’s a strangely thrilling moment and one that Latitude organisers must have secretly relished; in one fell swoop (of her fist), Glass manages to burst the impression that Latitude is a festival for the middle-aged.
The gloomy haze continues with The Horrors in the tent arena. With the stage completely engulfed in dry ice, the band creep out unnoticed and launch straight into Mirror’s Image, barely pausing between songs. There are no concessions, no interaction, just the majority of last year’s Primary Colours album played at full tilt. It’s an abstract, unsettling set that ends euphorically with the almost-dance of Sea Within A Sea.
After four long years away, Saturday night sees the return of Belle & Sebastian. Drawing a fairly large crowd (The xx are playing at the same time), the Scottish seven-piece draw on a back catalogue bulging with indie pop masterpieces. So, The State I Am In is thrown out early, frontman Stuart Murdoch skipping and shuffling around a stage that seems to shrink according to the band’s will. It’s not a massive festival headline slot, but rather an intimate indie disco with some mates. I’m A Cuckoo, Funny Little Frog and Judy And The Dream Of Horses are all greeted like lost classics, whilst a new song, I’m Not Living In The Real World, fits in unnoticed (this is a compliment). Even the slower songs – including a shamelessly lovely The Fox In The Snow – are enjoyed as opposed to endured.
They’re clearly having fun, with Murdoch telling story after story, whilst an aside about a dream he’d had leads to an impromptu cover of Jumpin’ Jack Flash. During a jubilant The Boy With The Arab Strap some kids are brought up on stage to dance about at the front, Murdoch pausing to warn them to “watch out for the recorders please”. An encore of Legal Man ends a set that simultaneously reminds just how many great songs Belle & Sebastian have and makes us excited to hear what they’ll do next.