Latitude festival 13-15 July – first thoughts

I and my son Kieran, plus friend Jon and his daughter and niece all went up to Suffolk, near Southwold,  for the Latitude music and arts festival this weekend.  Yes it rained a bit, yes it was very muddy in places, but yes, most of all, it was a brilliant three days of musical discovery and celebration. And yes, a big party!

Me in the mud at the campsite

Just a taster tonight of some of the things I liked most about the festival.  For those of you with time and stamina, I’ll be writing about each day of the festival over the next few days.

The site with Word tent in background

Today, it’s ten things I loved about Latitude. In no particular order, though I’ve numbered them.

1. The Vibe. It’s my first festival so they may all be like this (or maybe not) , but I was just so impressed by the friendliness of everything. The positivity. The celebration.  The way so many different generations were present, all just doing their own thing, tolerant of each other, at one.  It was like being transported to another world, a world I think we’d all like to live in all of the time. Respect. 

2. The wonderful variety of experiences available.  There was so much enticing literature, poetry, drama, comedy and other creativity.  But above all, for me (and Jon), there was so   much good music that we didn’t have time for much else.  The past, the present and the future – all had to be imbibed.

3. The contrasts in music.  My favourite place was a place called the I-Arena, sponsored by the Independent newspaper.  It was in the woodland area, across the lake from the main action. But it was the place to see the bands who might be big in the future, if they aren’t already doing pretty well. On Saturday, I saw in succession a psychedelic/ hard rock band from San Francisco called Wooden Shjips (bizarrely I thought they were Norwegian – why?) and then my favourite band of this year, the Staves, the trio of sisters who sing the most beautiful harmonies. Both were brilliant. But so different.

4. So many new bands to discover.  One of the best was Splashh, who we saw at 12.20, Saturday lunch time. I seriously thought they were out of New York:  they had the look and style of the Strokes and the sound of that band, with a discordant hint of Sonic Youth and a touch, through the singer, of Liam Gallagher. A brilliant guitar sound. Will they be big?  Who knows, but they should be.

5. I have seen the future of rock’n’roll… that was the infamous quote about Bruce Springsteen in 1975 that almost sank him.  Well when I was watching We Are Augustines at the I-Arena on Sunday afternoon, I felt the same.  They have picked up the baton from Bruce and played such an energetic set that I was almost in tears about how good it was. They are back for Reading and Leeds and are doing a tour in Autumn.  If you like Bruce, or just love rock’n’roll, catch this band!

6. A lovely start to Sunday with an hour of classical piano from Lang Lang, a Chinese pianist, who I now know is a world superstar. He played on The Waterfront Stage which juts into the lake near the main bridge, the Writers’ Bridge. He came to the stage in style, on a Venetian-style gondola. He played a selection of Chopin, Liszt and Schumann. Not my speciality, but I found it entrancing.  The two banks of the lake and the bridge were packed with admirers.  Not just a rockfest, Latitude.

7. Dub Boy at the I-Arena, after hours, late Friday/ Saturday morning.  A firing set of reggae, dance, dubstep, or whatever else you choose to call it.  The tent packed to the rafters with revellers. Such a fantastic vibe.  I may have been the oldest person there – though there were probably a few more of my generation dotted around – but I can tell you, no-one was enjoying it more.  Just love that music and the pulsating bass lines, the pounding rhythms.

It was very wet outside…

8. Paul Weller hitting his stride at the end of his headlining set on the main stage, the Obelisk Arena, on Sunday night. Launching into the Jam: “In The City”, “Town Called Malice” and a magnificent encore of “the Eton Rifles”. For people of a certain age..

9. The truly magnificent set by the Horrors, closing the Saturday performances at the Word Arena. This was the moment when I realised just how good this band is. There was a harmony between the music and the presentation – the lights, the dry ice, the moves.  A real power and mystery.  I loved so many bands over the weekend, but it felt like the Horrors were on another level.

10. The Indie rock disco! After Paul Weller on Sunday, Jon, who had to drive the next day, said he was tired and need to retire to the tent. (Turns out he stopped off at the poetry tent on the way back and enjoyed a rousing set from John Cooper-Clarke).  I thought I’d head back to the woods for a last dose of dance and reggae, but stopped by the Lake Stage when I saw a few hundred people on the slope getting down to some great indie sounds.  As I got there, it was ‘If You Wanna”by the Vaccines.  That was followed by “Blitzkrieg Bop’ by the Ramones and then, unbelievably, the Osmonds’ “Crazy Horses”. I had to stay for a bit longer. The music was being laid down by a blond woman in a cape (I think) on the stage, with a few friends really rocking to the music.  The sound system was called Vinyl Vendettas. It was so infectious. The music lurched from “Town Called Malice” to “Paint It Black” by the Stones,  to “Debaser” by the Pixies, “Last Nite” by the Strokes, “Too Much Too Young” by the Specials, “Blue Monday” by New Order and even “Dancing In the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen! The whole thing was so uplifting. Hearing Bruce in this company really moved me. I stayed for a couple of hours, refilling my glass of lager from time to time. Never made it to the woods.

Such a great end to the festival.  For me it summed up the whole vibe.  Loads of people, all ages, just really enjoying, celebrating, dancing to great music.  In a field.  In the early hours. Sharing the love.

I’m missing it already!

If you are interested in more, watch out for my day by day account, coming next…

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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8 Responses to Latitude festival 13-15 July – first thoughts

  1. Wow! What a music feast.

  2. Jon Grantham says:

    I’m the Jon that went with John, Kieran, Connie and Annie. I’m missing it too (those post-Latitude blues). It was my second visit to Latitude. Last year The National on the Oblelisk Stage on Friday was my stand-out highlight. The Horrors had the same effect on me this year. But as John says, there is so much more to enjoy. Lloyd Cole and his son kicking things off (reminded of Edwyn Collins and his son doing the same last year); the faintly ridiculous but somehow magnificent “stadium” set by Simple Minds in the sunshine on Sunday afternoon; Ben Howard (how the teenagers and over 50s alike love him); Alabama Shakes (Brittany Howard banged out the tunes, complete with signer on stage and screen); John Copper Clark and his observations on John Terry and much else besides; Guilty Pleasures Saturday evening; and our teenage siblings sharing a Jack Daniels and coke with us in the afterglow of the Horrors. Best thing for me about Latitude – everyone’s having a good time. Roll on next year……

  3. I’m the Connie who went to Latitude with John. Like my dad and John I too am seriously missing Latitude! This was my second visit to latitude, and very different to my first, and in many ways a lot more enjoyable. Highlights for me included Django Django (on the infamous I-arena), SBTRCKT and the amazing Ben Howard which involved Annie climbing on my shoulders and us seriously rocking out! I also enjoyed hanging out with new people, and seeing a brand new side to ‘the dads’ or as we now call them ‘the lads’!
    An amazing experience, and cannot wait till next year!

  4. John S says:

    Great stuff Connie. I feel honoured to have made the transition from “Dad” to “Lad”!

  5. Lulu says:

    Ahah the mud reminds me of Reading Festival last year. Why are all the best festivals in wet countries ?

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