Review: Latitude Festival 2015

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There is something quintessentially British about Latitude Festival. A festival where there is almost as much for children to do as for adults, and where families can explore the different worlds of art and culture together; whether taking in a talk in the literature tent, or strolling through the garlanded woodland area, or swimming in the lake running through the middle of the festival site. It is the jewel of the British festival summer, and proudly celebrated its 10th anniversary this year with aplomb.

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(Photo by Victor Frankowski)

Thank Folk For That made it down to Henham Park on the Friday night, just in time to see Alt-J headlining on the Obelisk Arena. Latitude is famed for giving young bands a chance to headline the festival, having had Foals and Florence & The Machine in recent years, and this year was the turn of Alt-J to showcase their headliner pedigree.  Their ambient sounds work well on record, and seemed to impress the relatively young crowd, yet, after 45 minutes and a quick check of the schedule, TFFT left to hear a talk by former Radio 1 DJ and all-round fountain of musical knowledge Edith Bowman over at the literature tent, promoting her new book all about the Great British festival. During the talk, Edith let slip that a special guest was performing in the woods at midnight, and kept the crowd guessing about who it could be right until her time was up – which began a mad rush from the crowd to try and catch a glimpse of Ed Sheeran, fresh from headlining three nights at Wembley Stadium. For the 2000 lucky people who managed to cram into the iArena (of whom TFFT were a part of), the hour that followed was a masterclass in how to engage a crowd and to make new fans. Whether it was through rapping, or using his effects pedals, or giving the crowd instructions, Sheeran owned Latitude for 60 minutes, and this writer left the gig very impressed. After a long day and a long drive, it was back to the campsite to recharge, ready for the impressively scheduled Saturday.

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(Photo by Sam Neill)

As the Latitude revellers awoke to the rather glorious Saturday sunshine, and took their places in queues for showers and breakfast buns, TFFT began to plan their day, knowing that early morning plans are usually never stuck to. The day began with a stint in the comedy tent to see the hilariously crude, foul-mouthed US comedian and actor Rob Delaney, whose jokes are unprintable but had this writer in stitches for the rest of the weekend.

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(Photo by Dan Medhurst)

It was then off to the main stage for Badly Drawn Boy, celebrating the 15th anniversary of his Mercury Prize winning Hour Of The Bewilderbeast by playing it in full. The hour that followed was a set of beautifully played music, expertly fitting the weather, interspersed with Damon Gough (performing under the Badly Drawn Boy alias) having, in his own words, ‘a meltdown’, admonishing the festival for only paying him £5000, and declaring that he was the ‘most important artist of the past 20 years’. The final song saw Gough reading off a lyric sheet as the instruments were packed away behind him due to overrunning his time slot. What should have been a celebration was sullied by Gough’s bad mood; a shame, as the music was brilliant.

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(Photo by Dan Medhurst)

Wolf Alice followed over on the BBC 6 Music stage and more than justified their recent charge to becoming one of the bands of 2015. A trip back to the main stage to catch Lianne La Havas perform tracks from Blood, her latest LP, was a delight, especially in the blazing heat, and she went down a storm with the Latitude crowd. It was a short wait until Laura Marling took the stage with her new, slimmed down band, and together they played raw, Americana-tinged versions of songs old and new, with Devil’s Spoke given a radical reinterpretation, becoming a foot-stompin’ Country and Western song. Exuding more confidence than this writer had seen from Laura before (a broken guitar left Laura having to tell jokes for a few minutes on stage), the set was a success, and proved how versatile Laura Marling has become since her debut back in 2007.  To end the day, it was back to the 6 Music stage to catch The Vaccines tear through their back catalogue in fantastic fashion; the frantic rush of 20/20, the singalong chorus of Post Break Up Sex and the lighters-in-the-air festival moment on Wetsuit all contributing to one of the best sets of the weekend.

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(Photo by Jen O’Neill)

To Sunday, the final day, where weary heads and bleary eyes emerge from wind-battered tents to find the weather in complete contrast to the previous morning, providing some rain for the dry and dusty ground around the festival grounds. Sundays at Latitude often provide the best days to catch the best names in Comedy and Literature, and it was in the comedy tent where TFFT placed themselves to watch the very funny The Last Leg with Adam Hills, Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker, followed by Jason Byrne, Shappi Korsandi and Jason Manford, each providing laughs aplenty. Later, we caught Warpaint, who on the main stage seemed somewhat over-awed by the crowd amassed to watch them perform their mix of disco-tinged psychedelia.

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(Photo by Jen O’Neill)

Warpaint were followed by one of Wales’ finest musical exports, Manic Street Preachers, who filled their set with singalongs, shouty choruses and lyrically intricate verses, and a sense of bombast. A Design For Life has become their ‘anthem’, embraced here by 15,000 fans, and it provided a good vocal warm up for Noel Gallagher And The High Flying Birds, who over the course of their 90 minute headline set played a mixture of classic and lesser-known Oasis tracks alongside songs from both number 1 albums, the eponymous first and 2015’s Chasing Yesterday.  Noel was on good form, toasting the Guardian Newspaper writers, acknowledging the middle-class tagline attached to the Latitude Crowd, and tipping his hat to the fans, both old and young, who remain committed to the songs written when in Oasis. As the final notes of Don’t Look Back In Anger played out, and the crowd sang along, it became apparent that Latitude Festival has a healthy and long future ahead of it, having established an audience which transcends age barriers. This 10th anniversary party went ahead with a bang – here is to another 10 years of one of the best British festivals around!

Joe Sweeting