What’s Latitude good for? Sitting by lakes until the sun rises, taking a gondola out, [A GONDOLA IN SUFFOLK], jiving, baking, criticising – it’s real life streamable art, for the masses, for the weekend.
Asides from the latitudinal art reach, the stages here including The Alcove, BBC 6, Lake Stage and i Arena all base themselves on the same ‘We love new music!’ schtick – everything bar the main stage focuses on new talent.
The i Arena, a beautifully hidden stage amidst the forest, houses a varied selection of classical, electronic and art-rock sounds which made waves. Mega ripples exuded from Wave Machines’ set, the band who easily hold the attention of the unsuspecting passer-by who is intrigued by their bouncy, matey on stage set up. Glaswegian electro-pop kids Chvrches garnered big attention, and Serafina Steer and Rachel Zeffira both charmed – C/T caught up with them both after their sets and the interviews will be published later this summer.
Kraftwerk, should you have the time to emotionally invest, were an audio visual masterstroke, their theme of journeying conveyed in 3D via big screens and made possible due to stewards handing out glasses like secret candy all afternoon.
Bloc Party are STILL sounding bored of the sound of their own records. Their set was a bizarre flurry of averageness, punctuated near its’ end only by Kele and team Bloc walking offstage, a supposed ‘curtain call’ if anyone had bothered to notice them walking off. ‘Silent Alarm’ era tracks worked best, as did the bands return-to-form single, ‘Ratchet’, but the set ended with a predictable swan song from Kele – who has cried wolf about the bands departure from the scene far too often.
‘This one’s for everyone who’s ever wanted to get a bit fucked up’ said Foals of ‘Providence’, with severity that shouldn’t suit such throwaway Rock N’ Roll spirit. These guys mean it, and their appeal – for fans of ‘Antidotes’ through to ‘Holy Fire’-ites – is their eternal youthfulness and sonic variety. Foals’ change ups in a live setting are how I’d imagine ‘Snapchat: the movie’ might play out. Super thrills, super quick.
Latitude, where Kids run amok and adults act like kids running amok. A successful formula.
The officials are begging a man to get down and stop making such a frightful noise before the council gets involved, and over the hills and far away, a horde of raucous campers are settling in for the night. It’s all getting very carnivalesque.
But I’m not at Latitude. I’m with the raucous campers; they’re bedding down on the Liverpool Street concourse because the stage which the troubled fellow is refusing to relinquish is the Ipswich Station roof, which trains can’t pass under now. That’s the thing I have to mention straight off about the Friday at Latitude: I spent almost all of it negotiating the transport chaos caused by Roof Man.
But when I finally hooked up with Culture or Trash, at seven, the fun we had cooled the ire from my Planes, Trains and Automobiles-esque misadventure. We picked out Rachel Zeffira, or rather, she picked us out; she and her little orchestra hiding in the sylvan shade of the i Arena, us chaps smitten by her glowing, Bat for Lashes mystique. We shyly collared her for questions, wringing our metaphorical baseball caps in our hands and scuffing the floor; Adam probing the contemporary influences, me, blubberingly, her operatic training. Watch out for her – and for our interview.
I know nothing of dance music, but I’m certain that Flume, that upstart DJ from Sydney, was a sticky riot. Even in his incongruous slot in the Film & Music Arena during hot, waking hours, with the parents queuing outside for the subsequent Judi Dench movie. But that’s the appeal, I guess. Latitude’s got juxtapositionary entertainments and campers getting down together at all hours. It’s not just for yoofs and nor – bucking the modern trend – is it designed only to usher in the new family demographic. We’re not far from the seaside here, and the democratic makeup of a beach is the best analogy I can find.
We passed on a business card to the Flume entourage, anticipating a beer over a Dictaphone, but they promptly scarpered. No matter: not with the Maccabees blazing through their first album on the main stage. Bloc Party, the headliners, missed their old energy. Perhaps it was the absent drummer Matt Tong, the band’s underappreciated powerhouse, but there was an air of depletion, with many morose noises about their forthcoming hiatus. I saw them just before their last split in 2009; back then, the emotions were translated into something more compelling. Still, ‘This Modern Love’ was an inspired send-off if it is the last we hear from Bloc.
Read more: [spoiler] Loads to dance to into the wee hours. Niggles getting out of the place the next day: the volunteers sent a group of us around the houses for an hour looking for taxis. Churlish of me to taint a good-humoured, expansive yet manageable festival with gripes about signposts (human or otherwise), but then, I am reviewing the whole package here. And all this is to say that actually, in these dark days for festivals, Latitude remains well worth the trouble. [/spoiler]
THUD! A suitcase comes flying out of a doorway and smacks against the wall, shortly followed with a yelp and crash by an elderly woman who arcs through the air and skids across the floor into her baggage, a wheel comes off the suitcase and rolls steadily away, lost forever. A creepy face appears sneering from the open doorway. ‘Welcome to London!’ The door closes and the train along with the face slowly departs the station.
This was a standard encounter with a train guard, the most dastardly and sneaky birds you can come across. It may be a bit of a steep generalisation but it is true that on the most part they are callous, cutthroat, blood thirsty suckers who would like nothing more than to ring your neck whilst laughing manically, but alas all they can do is give you a fine or grudgingly a ticket.
I’m off to Latitude, the middleclass party festival, and this means a lot of trains. I love train travel (apart from the aforementioned misery), careering along through towns and countryside, it’s madness of course, but there is a real joy in it, seeing snapshot postcards of life before flying on to the next scene.
However, today the trains were broken.
“We have been accredited for press passes for Latitude!” My Editor-in-Chief and fellow writer Adam Bloodworth told me.
Ticket paid for, no expenses spared (we are press after all!), it’ll be the real highlife I think.
“Another glass of your finest Cognac my good sir and be quick about it!”
A fellow passenger’s bag butts me in the head and brings me back to reality. Trapped in a packed carriage sweating, sulking and forlorn, squashed against the bin; this is real high life.
I make friends with a couple also headed to Latitude. They start handing out the ciders, and before long I have forgotten the heat and the bin. We meet a local who gives us some handy tips on how to beat the masses to the festival site, as well as telling us an intense story involving a tunnel, a girl messed up on acid, and hamsters. Hideous.
We do beat the masses to the bus stop and after more ciders and a long bus journey we hit the festival site. We have arrived. Great green fields lay before us which I hadn’t noticed before, probably because of the cider. We are pointed towards the main entrance (I would become familiar with lots of vague pointing), but as we arrive, a yellow jacketed man stops us.
“What tickets you got people?”
Read more: [spoiler] The couple tell him they have normal weekend camping. I tell him press.
A glint appears in his eye.
“You’re fine.” He gestures at the couple.
“Carry on a couple of hundred yards down that way.”
Looking at me he grins.
“You’re in for a real treat. A half-hour walk that way.” He wagged his finger in a general direction towards some distant woods.
The couple and I part ways promising to meet up later in the site, but both knowing that will never happen. It’s sad leaving them; they were a good pair I think as I head off with my heavy bag towards the woods.
An hour later I’m still walking. Multiple yellow jackets down.
“Oh press? Hmmm…”
“A long way, yeah mate long way!”
The journey is broken up by a bizarre encounter with a family of drunks. I see them all come stumbling out of the darkness of the woods towards me. Kids bow legged, the mother howling, the father cackling. I look for a place to hide but before I can get to one the father spots me and they make a beeline towards me.
“Whats you doing ‘ere then?”
“I’m er… heading to the festival site?”
This unnerved me, because if it wasn’t clear I was heading to the festival then what the bloody hell were a family of drunks doing wandering around in the woods at 10 o clock on a Friday night?
“Oh is you now? Hear that Mags? This one’s heading to the ‘festival site’! La de da! Mr Festival is it then? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” They all start guffawing.
They are a family out of some b-flick horror movie. I have to get out of here before they claim me for their own, or force feed me bourbon, or sacrifice me on one of these tree stumps, letting their children ‘have a go’ to learn the trade.
“Go to Ranti over there in the trees; he’ll sort you out Mr Festival! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! You hear that Mags I told him to go to see Ranti! HAAAHAHAHAHAHA!”
While they are laughing with each other I make a break for it, and decide not to head to the murky figure of this Ranti I can see skulking by a car through the trees, as he may be in league with them or worse he may think the same about me. I hear them shouting after me but I don’t stop and when I do, and look back, I can no longer see them. Another ten minutes and I am finally out of the darkness of that terrible forest and walking along a main road. I make it to the box office a short time later; half-dead I almost collapse onto the press window.
I spot Adam, James and Adam’s friend Tom sauntering along merrily. They show me to where we are camped and I put up my tent as they head out to see Bloc Party, who I must admit I am not particularly interested in going to see, especially as I find out the news that Modest Mouse have cancelled and been replaced by Texas. I spend an hour or two wandering the festival site, through its wooded areas and across its lantern lit lakes, before meeting up with the Bloc Party lot. We dance the night away in the forest, where a DJ plays as sweat mingles with dust in the trees and fairy lights twinkle out of the mist. We are here Latitude. CultureOrTrash have arrived.
James and I share a tent that night and I awoke to the snuffling sounds of a Fitzgerald snoozing next to me. As I go to unzip the tent to let some much needed cool air in, James awoke startled, and for a moment looked at me with pure terror in his eyes! Who knows what he may have been dreaming about? Maybe a world of windows, nothing but windows, and they’re all dirty, and James has to clean them but there’s no sponge! Where’s the bloody sponge?! And no one’s coming?! No one is coming to help?! But he has to clean the windows! And when he spits and shines and manages to clean one window, he sees there is another and another and another and more and more windows! Help! Help! HELP!
After the terror, we spent the rest of the morning happily talking of life and lack of, before eventually getting up and heading out into the morning. James is off home, so I walk with him for a bit. Asking for directions to the bus stop we encounter a hilarious comedy duo to rival Laurel and Hardy, a right pair of slapstick buffoons. They argue and argue and shove and rage. I could watch them for hours, but James must go, so he decides he can find his own way and I watch him potter off into the distance, and I head off to see Charles Bradley And His Extraordinaires.
My first act of the festival, and what an act! It’s pure entertainment; it’s theatre and it’s soulful. An old cat doing what he does best and working his ego on the crowd. There is a beautiful moment where Bradley starts to dance and light rain begins to fall. It spurs him on to greater and wilder dance moves, and he has the crowd in the soles of his shoes.
“No more bad dreams baby!” He croons.
No more bad dreams.
I am so exalted, elated and enthralled by Bradley’s performance that the rest of the day seems a blur. Was that Germaine Greer? Was that some ballet? Blurred and hazy, until press drinks…
“Take a drink guys!” A smiling PR person tells us.
Multiple shots and beers and other drinks later and we are blasting around the tent making friends. I only know it’s time to go when I hear Adam ranting on about something useless at some terrified looking middle aged man who looks exhausted by the whole experience.
We head back to the camp and I have a short sleep. Waking we begin to drink again, and head off full of life into the site.
“Melvin!” Adam suddenly shouts.
What? There was something in that Jäger or Adam has finally lost his mind.
“Melvin can we have a word?”
Interviewing Melvin Benn head of Festival Republic after a day like today may not have been the best plan. Adam keeps it together pretty well, whereas I am often side-tracking into stories and side conversations about Reading festival, which both Melvin and I love, and Adam is disdainful of.
Melvin is a well-oiled, slick PR machine. Giving away just enough to make us think we have got something of interest, but probably only giving away exactly what he wants us to report. He is an interesting character, that is for sure, loping around the site amidst the chaos, clearly enjoying the atmosphere, when he could well be at home sipping a glass of fine Dom Perignon and working out the profit margin.
We leave Melvin with hearts lifted, and head off to Kraftwerk/alt-J. I watch Kraftwerk mostly alone as the other two head off to see Alt-J halfway through. It’s a spacey performance, 3D visuals behind the band, most of the crowd gazing on inquisitively, some of the crowd fulfilling a lifelong dream.
The night passes. We dance. We sing. We drink.
The next morning and it’s time for me to leave. Let me start the hideous journey to home. Goodbye C/T. Goodbye Latitude.
But not so soon….
No signs. No help. Nowhere.
I wander around for what seems like hours, the sweats return. This is what madness must be like; wandering around the fields of your mind just looking for a way out. I pause for a rest in the ‘Faraway Forest’ and reflect. It’s a twee little area, where middleclass couples wander around with cameras posing for pictures next to hanging beach towels and giggling about the wild things that they get up to at the weekend.
“You need directions.”
One of those pixie helpers appears from behind a tree.
“Yes I’m looking for the bus stop so I can go home.”
“But you are home?”
I can’t deal with this right now.
However eventually she proceeds to give what sounds like precise directions right to the bus stop.
They are precise. I spend the last leg of my journey battling with a lone horse fly that seems intent on biting me. It’s like Ali-Foreman, I am ducking and diving and whipping my hand through the air as he arcs over it and comes at me again. I make it to the bus bite free and the fly has disappeared. ‘Ding Ding… Winner by UNANIMOUS DECISION AND STILL OWNER OF A PRESS PASS OLIVER ‘CULTURALBASHER’ HOLMESSSSSSSS!’
You were worthy fly. You were worthy.
A girl is screaming at the bus driver as I arrive about having to wait for two hours to get a bus because she doesn’t have the correct change. As she yells I slip by and onto the bus unnoticed and settle myself happily into a seat, well I have got a press pass after all…
… P.S On the train journey home, there was an incident. The carriage was predictably packed but I had managed to obtain a seat at a table, jammed against the window. As we sped along the girl opposite me got my attention, she looked terrified.
“Did you go to Latitude?”
“Well you have brought a friend back with you…” Dramatic silence…
I turn over my bag, and sitting on the other side is the biggest spider I have ever seen. Its legs seem to bulge with muscles, 8 furious weapons flexing menacingly. The carriage erupts. Women and men are screaming. Two boys with a drawling posh accent who are sitting behind me produce a bottle and thrust it at me.
“Kill it! For God’s sake kill it; the thing’s vile!”
“I’m not going to kill it. Why would I do that?”
“It’s what we would do?”
I bet you would. What a couple of creeps. They remind me of Cameron or Clegg or Miliband. I bet they kill spiders.
I pick up my bag and head out of the carriage. People who had stood up to gawp, suddenly screech in terror and dive out of the way as I walk towards them. What happened to the stiff upper lip? It thawed I guess. A man practically cries when he sees the spider on my bag, but we are confined in the outer part of the carriage by the doors, nowhere to go. For a second I think he is going to hurl himself out of the open window, or he is at least seriously considering it. The first time I try to pick up the spider it runs up my arm and leaps off into the air back onto my back. The second time I manage to get hold of it in my hand and it scrabbles around furiously.
I see the window open and we aren’t going along too fast so I toss the spider towards it. It narrowly misses an old lady who I hadn’t noticed before; she ducks as the spider floats past her head and out of the window. The man thanks me profusely and shakes my hand, as I try to get away. You know, I probably had more in common with that spider than any of these bozos. I notice the old ladies luggage is missing a wheel. It’s been a messy weekend for everyone lady. [/spoiler]
Check out Local Natives discussing their set before this year's Latitude Festival