Being a festival virgin myself (Odd right? I’m 24 for fuck sake) I was told Latitude was a good one to ease into, slightly more placid than some others that populate the summer. Certainly the park is stunning – that Friday night, after a day of blissful, uninterrupted sun, the trees, lakes and woods crackled with warmth. Wandering across to the park to catch Bloc Party, I soon remembered that I had lost interest in that band pretty much as soon as I’d finished Silent Alarm – just not my bag. Texas were the alternative headliner on the BBC6 Stage, and though I was hugely reticent and just a bit confused as to why they had been picked to replace Modest Mouse, turns out Halo is still an excellent song, and Charleen Spiteri still has a pretty phenomenal voice.
Hangovers were slaked with coffee, carbs and vitamins Saturday morning – the tent had survived the night, just, and we took a cursory glance at the lineup, wanting to get a feel of the different things the festival has to offer – Latitude is as much about spoken word, literature and comedy as it is music. That said, our first port of call was the iArena for Thomas Dybdahl, a Norwegian folk singer with a voice like salted caramel, and someone who’s been on my radar ever since his brilliant song Cecelia was released as an iTunes free download a few years back – judging by the cheers that song received when he played it, I’m guessing a few other audience members have stuck with him since then too. A charming performer, he put his arm around the audience and eased them into the day.
My partner in crime opted for Germaine Greer in the Literature Tent, but there was no way I was missing Charles Bradley on the main stage, not least because of the interview I had scheduled for later that day. His set was a Religious experience, Charles making the crowd his congregation, turning the Obelisk into a Southern Baptist Revival, wailing on the microphone like a man possessed and dancing with reckless abandon in bright yellow shirt and trousers matched with a purple jacket – a strong look, I think you’ll agree. There’s something wonderfully unpretentious about Charles, and totally joyous too – nobody is making music like him nowadays.
Of course sacrifices have to be made in terms of who you can and can’t see. I would have loved to catch Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the main stage, but had heard good things about Half Moon Run – they were justified, expect this Canadian three piece to go big, sing-along choruses and beautiful harmonies a-plenty. Matt Corby was another highlight, his voice a force of nature and his guitar playing deep, restrained and soulful – without me catching either of his big singles, Brother or Resolution, he had me hooked. Jessie Ware and Hot Chip delivered massively on the main stage. We stuck around for a bit of Kraftwerk 3D...I don’t know man, something I’m not getting, we all know what a 3D effect does, it’s no more impressive on a festival stage than it is in a cinema. Alt-J had pitched up in the BBC6 Music Tent and nailed their set, segueing briefly into an acapella version of “Real Hero” from Drive. The night ended with the brilliant Hollie McNish and later Daniel Kiston in the poetry arena, my mind a haze as lyrical dexterity swam around me in the warm summer night.
As Saturday rolled into Sunday with the help of potentially one too many Jack & Ginger from the press tent there was one name on the lips of everyone at the festival – Bobby Womack. The soul legend was due to open the main stage like Charles the day before – incidentally, I kind of hope all my weekends in future start with rapturous sets from old soul singers, it’s up there with the holy trilogy of coffee, eggs and bread in terms of “ways to start a day”. After seeing Nish Kumar and Simon Evans in the comedy arenas we sauntered over to the Obelisk. Bobby was stunning, soaring through Across 110th Street, backed by a virtuoso band and three incredible female backing vocalists, including his daughter. Deep River was a highlight, a beautiful piece of gospel from his latest record, but when he launched into A Change Is Gonna Come I felt the tears well up. Extraordinary.
The main stage was the place to be on Sunday. The Tallest Man On Earth commanded a packed crowd with sly humour and great guitar playing, proving that all a musician really needs is good songs – ending with a mash-up of The Wild Hunt and Graceland was a definite highlight of the weekend. James Blake was impressive too, though a more laid back affair I couldn’t imagine. I did think I’d stumbled into Butlins however when Rudimental and Disclosure hit the BBC6 Arena – you’ve never seen so many 10 year old kids with snapbacks on their parents’ shoulders.
And that was sort of that – standing at the back of the Obelisk with our tent packed up and in tow, Saturday’s mist replaced by as clear a night as I can imagine and a brilliant full moon, Foals closed the festival in hugely energetic fashion, clearly enjoying their headliner status, and we traipsed back through the campsite to catch the bus back to London. Until next year Latitude.