It’s mid-July and I’m back at Latitude. I love this place, not only because of it’s astounding natural beauty but also because, after walking a solid five miles around Glastonbury last month in search of a bloody jacket potato, Latitude is exceptionally easy to navigate in comparison. I even arrived late and was still able to pitch my tent basically at the door of the arena. I’ll give that a 5* for convenience.
Located in Suffolk’s Henham Park, Latitude is set in the kind of place you’d want to go for a weekend even if there was no festival. For many, it’s the ultimate middle class dream - boating, yoga and a Sadler’s Wells stage. After attending just once before, I already feel like I know this place like it’s my back garden, apart from the fact it took me a stupidly long time to find my way in. The ferns (which I have now been informed, is in fact bracken) still carpet the hill by the lake, the sheep are still fuchsia pink (despite the controversy) ((it’s natural animal-friendly dye, FYI)), the main backstage entry is still as difficult to negotiate with as it was back in 2017, and the crowd still mainly consists of large groups of 14 year olds and the sort of families that park their camping chairs right in front of a stage for a whole day to secure an above average view. Let it be known that the latter is not a critique, for I have seen the mothers and fathers of such families moshing down the front of the Lake Stage on more occasions than one and quite frankly I dig it.
As we all know, festivals are FUN. Any type of personality can find fun at a festival, and festivals are probably one of the funnest things you can do as an adult in the modern age. But many lack simple, entertaining things you get to do as a child - like riding scooters, skating, sliding down stairs in a box, being pushed around in a pram, etc. So naturally I’m delighted to see Isaac from Slaves bombing it at full steam on an electric go-cart that’s dressed up as a mini VW campervan in an enclosed corner of the backstage area. This kind of thing is what I’m living for, and as a 25 year old without a drivers license, driving a go-cart dressed as a mini VW campervan is like realising you can fly for the first time. And man do they go fast - possibly heights of 20mph. In terms of overall entertainment and enjoyability, the backstage campervans also get a 5* from me.
Moving on. Viagra Boys stand out in your memory because that’s exactly what Viagra Boys set out to do, and if the name hasn’t already stuck with you then their live set sure as hell will do. I’d put them pretty up there on the Richter scale of mental, and some have described them as Stockholm’s answer to Fat White Family. Singer Sebastian Murphy, half naked and covered in tats, spits his water everywhere and won’t start until someone brings him a bottle of “liquor” - now that is what I call punk rock. Meanwhile, his bandmates look like missing members of trainspotting. It’s exactly the kind of spicy meatball Latitude is gagging for, and VB dish it out in industrial sized portions.
With half of Working Mens Club - who played an energetic set on the Lake Stage that afternoon - and half of Slaves, we head to catch Nilufer Yanga who’s set sits perfectly in front of the leafy woodland backdrop of the Sunrise Stage. Her voice is deep and rhythmic but always gentle, her face looks relaxed and ruminating, and I’m drawn to the way she plays her guitar like she’s been doing it since the day she was born. I’ve read that Nina Simone and Pixies were big influences for her while growing up, and I’ve probably never heard anything that sounds more like a 50/50 concoction of the two, yet at the same time, sounds nothing like either of them at all.
Isaac joins us to watch Squid before his headline slot on the BBC Sounds stage. He’s tired because he literally just got back from Australia where they played just the day before, which seems pretty mad if you ask me. He wants ice cream but unfortunately between three of us we amass to only £4 and end up having to share it. The moment, sweet in sentiment and also on the lips, paints a fine picture of an artist’s struggle in 2019. And while Isaac is dreaming about having a sit down on the grass with his sweet treat while Squid play, his presence begins to garner the attention from endless festival punters and fans wearing Slaves merch. “Once you notice one, you can’t stop”, he tells me, as we spot them one by one. Isaac gracefully accepts photos with all of them, including a humongous family, and asks for a photo with a confused looking man in a Slaves t-shirt and gold leggings who doesn’t realise who he is having a photo with.
Squid, turn out to be my favourite discovery of the weekend. It’s the first time I see them play and my pal has been raving about them, citing them as one of the most exciting bands she’s come across lately as a music photographer. She’s not wrong in her enthusiasm. I start at the back of the crowd perched on the grass and end up at the front, enjoying it just as much as their already established fans. I love it when I come across a band that doesn’t look like what you had imagined from hearing their music beforehand, but after pushing the imagery of a band of squids to the bin section of my brain, seeing these young lads on stage certainly does make more sense. They finish on their new single ‘Houseplants’, which feels like it goes on for ages and I’m happy about that. It also happens to be the weirdest song I hear all weekend.
All of a sudden it’s Sunday night and Latitude is concluding its line-up with Lana del Rey on the mainstage and Slaves just a stone’s throw away on BBC. Talk about a dichotomy of sound! I happen to be a massive fan of Lana and I’m not afraid to admit that I darted back and forth between the two, twice. While doing so, I happened to miss perhaps the most dramatic event of the festival, so I am told. Two (separate) members of the Slaves crowd suffer from seizures and the band voluntarily stop playing for half an hour to help. I only hear of the calamity in the aftermath, while the band are surrounded by security guards and onlookers who thank them, shake their hands and ask for autographs. At this point I am drunk and begin to confuse Slaves for Jesus or the Pope or something, what with the way everyone is crowding around them. This notion is only solidified after they give us their fruit, cider, chocolate and wine upon leaving.
Luckily for me, the drama means I get to catch the end of the set, which was totally electrifying and feels like a big old kick up the butt after getting sentimental during Lana’s odes to Venice Beach and songs of unrequited love for fictional drug-addicted boyfriends who drive white Ford Mustangs. It was a boisterous crowd, as to be expected, but Isaac puts the seizures down to the lights. “Will you be changing your light sequence for your future shows?” I ask, half joking, half serious. He replies a simple and resounding, “no”.
Until next time, Latitude.