Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk, 13/7/2017...16/7/2017
published: 12 /
Gillian Fish returns to Latitude Festival in her home county of Suffolk to discover new bands and revisit some old favourites
Latitude festival is now in its 12th year and attracts a varied programme of music, comedy, theatre, film and so much more every year. Music remains at its forefront though and this year is no exception with a jam packed line up that sees thousands of people descending on the Suffolk site at Henham Park for the weekend. The main stage headliners are The 1975, Mumford & Sons and Fleet Foxes with Mumford & Sons curating the festival on Saturday as part of their Gentlemen of the Road takeover.
The first band we catch on Friday are Londoners Formation in the BBC Music tent, their electro-pop-punk gets things off to an energetic start with catchy and politically charged singles ‘Pleasure’ and ‘Powerful People’ providing the lunchtime crowd with something to get their teeth into. Over on the main stage – or the Obelisk Arena as it’s officially known - Liverpool veterans The Coral have drawn up a crowd-pleasing setlist that features ‘In The Morning’, ‘Pass It On’ and of course ‘Dreaming of You’ which sends everyone into a mass singalong. Next up are Mystery Jets who take the opportunity to play tracks from their most recent album ‘Curve of The Earth’ before tempting back the slightly chatty and distracted crowd with the familiar opening chords of second album favourites ‘Young Love’ and ‘Two Doors Down’. Fellow Londoners and mid 2000’s counterparts The Horrors provide one of the standout performances early on Friday evening as they play new material and revisit songs such as ‘Endless Blue and ‘Sea Within a Sea’ which are delivered with more exuberance from frontman Faris Badwan who seems reenergised after their two year absence. Six piece band HMLTD are an eclectic mix from all corners of the globe, residing in London. Their Lake Stage performance on Friday night wows the audience with a unique show both visually and musically. Singer Henry Spychalski sports an electric blue mullet with matching eye make-up; it’s a look straight from the 1980s with their sound reminiscent of the decade too. Bowie, Adam Ant and Talking Heads seem like obvious influences.
Not many bands divide opinion quite like The 1975, dismissed by many as “just a pop band” or “music for teenage girls” there is no denying their rise to global superstardom or singer Matty Healy’s charismatic showmanship following the release of second album ‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It’. From the Prince style beats of opener ‘Love Me’ to the joyful bounciness of ‘Girls’ and ‘The City’ The 1975 take the audience on a journey through every single emotion with their eclectic sound. The stripped back simplicity of ‘Loving Someone’ is made even more poignant by the striking display of rainbow lights across the stage that follows a heartfelt declaration of unity and equality from Healy, while the R&B tinged ‘Somebody Else’ is captivating and dreamy and the rare appearance of instrumental ‘28’ showcases their musical ability. By the time the band reach the finale of ‘The Sound’ the crowd have reached hysteria level with every single soul in the arena bouncing up and down singing along to every word. As the band announces the end of an era for ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ it seems as though their Latitude set has rocketed them even higher into the stratosphere.
Saturday afternoon sees American singer/songwriter Willy Mason taking to the tiny SOLAS stage which is tucked away in the forest, he plays a stripped back set and provides the perfect chilled out afternoon performance that suits the mood of the festival, leaving his biggest hits ‘Oxygen’ and ‘I Got Gold’ for a mini encore as his appreciative audience sing along to every word.
Chicago’s Twin Peaks bring their garage-rock to the Sunrise Arena on Saturday evening, having received heaps of praise for their most recent album ‘Down in Heaven’. The record incorporates more country and blues influences but the band have lost none of their rowdiness as they play an adrenaline- fuelled set yelping and jumping their way through newer material including opener ‘Butterfly’ and old favourites including ‘Flavor’ and ‘Making Breakfast’ they even treat the crowd to a cover of the Rolling Stones ‘Dead Flowers’. Their unique selling point of having no obvious frontman makes for an interesting watch as they switch and share vocal duties throughout; Twin Peaks provide an authentic live experience and infectious energy that is hard to ignore.
As Mumford & Sons take to the main stage on Saturday night interestingly the festival, (or perhaps the band themselves?) decided to keep the larger stages free of any performers on Saturday night, even though it was advertised as a ‘Mumford takeover’ it still seemed fairly odd that for the first time at Latitude there was no option for punters to see a second headliner. Whether they are your cup of tea or not the folk-rockers know by now how to headline a festival and provide the crowd with plenty of singalong, phone lights aloft moments during songs like ‘Awake My Soul’, while the stomps of ‘Little Lion Man’ and ‘I Will Wait’ create a euphoric atmosphere at the main stage. There’s also room for a handful of guests as Baaba Maal who collaborated with the band on their 2016 EP ‘Johannesburg’ joins them and later returns alongside Lucy Rose, Leon Bridges, Maggie Rogers and many more for a rendition of The Beatles ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ to close proceedings. The music didn’t finish once the main headliners had left the stage though, with the SOLAS stage about to provide us with one of the performances of the weekend from young Australian band Parcels. The five-piece have a funky-pop sound that has drawn comparisons to Daft Punk – who they are also currently working with - they provide a captivating live experience as the forest stage is transformed into a mini disco complete with neon lights and a mirror ball.
It’s Sunday before we know it and the silky tones of Matt Maltese coming from the Lake stage get things off to a chilled start, the 20 year old Londoners politically tinged song writing including his ode to recent world affairs ‘As The World Caves In’, Maltese has been championed by The Maccabees with guitarist Hugo White producing recent material. Sunday evening sees The Magic Gang bring their infectious indie-pop to the lake stage, if there was any last day at a festival weariness the crowd hid it well as they danced and sang along to the Brighton band who managed to carry on as normal despite singer Jack Kaye’s leg being in a brace. It’s rare to find a band where every song played feels like “a hit” but that’s exactly what The Magic Gang manage to do.
While Fleet Foxes were taking over headline duties on the final evening the Sunrise Arena was welcoming a return for Temples who first played the same stage back in 2014. The quartet remain influenced by the psyche-pop sounds of bands like Tame Impala but with newer material seem to have honed their own familiar sound, evident on tracks like ‘Certainty’ from recent album ‘Volcano’. Older material like ‘Keep in the Dark’ and ‘Shelter Song’ sound just as fresh as they did four years ago. Temples are a polished outfit who despite a few technical issues midway through the set look set to move further and further up festival bills. The sounds of Fatboy Slim in the BBC Music tent tempt us in for one last Latitude dance before it’s all over for another year.