Latitude Festival sells itself as being more than just a music festival. Looking at the line up,the origins of the boast are clear. In an effort to be all things to all punters, four music stages sit alongside literature, poetry, film, cabaret, theatre and dance arenas placed in as diverse locations as a waterfront pontoon dock and a forest clearing, as well as the usual performance tents and outdoor stages.
In reality, Latitude is both more and less than your average music festival. More in the sense that there is as culturally broad a line up as you are likely to find, where you can slip from watching arena filling comedians to a new and exciting band via household name authors without breaking a sweat, provided you can ease your way into the massively overcrowded tents.
Less in the fact that, with as wide a line up and a reputation for being nice (there are stewards to help you erect your tent and multi coloured fluffy sheep), Latitude attracts a different type of visitor than other festivals. One where fold up chairs and picnics scatter the site which has arena style seats at the back of the main stage. One where its just as easy to get a chorizo and haloumi wrap as a box of day old noodles, and one where the idea of wanton abandon is wearing a novelty hat or henna tattoo.
This means that if you like your festivals with a mosh pit or in a drug addled dance tent, you would be in the wrong place. But its pretty obvious that for the mixture of tweenies, professional type thirtysomethings and middle aged festival goers that Latitude attracts, thats probably something close to their idea of hell anyway.
This years line up was headlined by Bon Iver, Elbow and Paul Weller, but featured a smorgasbord of arts and culture. We endeavoured to grab as much of the discerning palate as possible.
Friday at Latitude starts in its own imitable fashion. Heading through the already muddy site we pass directly through a performance art piece by the lake involving men and women dressed in feathered headdresses warbling and twittering to each other. A quick glance shows that a popular high street coffee chain has attracted a sizeable queue as festival goers get their cappuccino fix for the day ahead.
The Literary Tent starts the day by hosting a talk by Paul Mason, Newsnights Economics Editor, on Why its kicking off everywhere the new global revolution. Mason gives an intriguing account of how collective action among the young is on the rise, alongside the power that individuals can wield.
Surely spurned into action, many have filled the somewhat compact I Arena to see bright young electro rock things Breton. Fusing beats with guitars is nothing new, but there is an energy and purpose which, combined with some tasty combinations of catchy choruses and samples, makes the slightly sleepy crowd take notice.
Latitude books artists in the image of its clientele, so its apt that you can go from relatively new band like Breton to Lloyd Cole (sans Commotions), who has been in the game for going on 30 years. Taking to the stage in the Word arena with support from his son, Cole plays a mix of his solo work and Commotions hits including Perfect Skin, which gets the biggest cheer of the morning so far.
To the main stage where Punch Brothers are treating the mostly sedentary crowd to their heady mix of bluegrass and country folk. Its too early in the day for their picking and harmonies to resonate much with the Latitude crowd though, despite some seriously aggressive ukulele. This is not a problem that Russell Kane has, in a packed comedy tent. One of the flaws of the Latitude site is that when anyone popular plays in one of the non music stages, its impossible to get in. If you could prise yourself into the back corner of the tent, you could just about get to see Kane spend the first 10 minutes of an impressive 40 minute set abusing the very punters who have come to see him for being, well, a bit posh. He then goes on to discuss porn, relationships and rumours about his sexuality with trademark hyperactivity. The crowd soon forget the ribbing and give him the adulation he deserves.
Things are getting a bit serious on the music stages as Brooklyn indie boys The Antlers take to the Word Arena. Wowing the criminally sparse crowd with their haunting and atmospheric guitar, Front man Peter Silbermans vocals are impeccable and beautiful at the same time and they band easily fill the expanse of a festival tent; a tent that fills up pretty rapidly for Lana Del Rey. Mud free in a spotless white dress, she looks rather shell-shocked and attracts borderline hysterics when she descends from the stage to press the flesh with the devout, young crowd who have packed in at the front. As she huskily gets through Video Games with the audience singing every word, its clear that Lana thinks she is already a superstar; the jury is out on whether shell be proved right, but its the biggest show of the day so far.
En Route to the Obelisk Arena, many have been sidetracked by Serial Stepperz on the Waterfront Stage. Put on as part of Sadlers Wells’ programme of events at the festival, the group of French dancers fuse hip-hop, street and African moves and pull in quite a crowd with the scenic backdrop of the lake behind them. Dance moves aplenty then, as the day begins to draw to a close on the main stage in time for Metronomy, with a crowd ready to throw some shapes of their own. Theyre not disappointed as the band rattle through most of The English Riviera, telling them in between bass driven indie-funk that Latitude was their first festival and that its good to be back in Blighty after being on tour abroad.
Latitude’s first day ends with Bon Iver, the brainchild of Wisconsins Justin Vernon. Anyone acquainted only with the double Grammy winners’ lo-fi, sparse first album would be forgiven for wondering if they’re really headliner material. But the better informed, who have heard their award winning self-titled follow up, know that the band now fill up every part of their tracks with sound, horn and string sections aplenty, which, alongside Vernons peerless vocals, make for a rousing and cerebral show. Skinny Love sounds like its been taken from that much mentioned cabin in the woods where it was first recorded and turbocharged for a festival field, whilst Perths guitar riff rings out around Henham Park with a haunting air. There is a mixture of sheer joy and confusion amongst the crowd, depicting the discerning indie fans and the curious, but as Vernon guides the crowd in a sing along version of The Wolves (Act I and II) for his encore, you get the impression he has won the curious over.