Now in its thirteenth edition, Latitude has become something of a staple of the bespoke, mid-sized summer festivals, which there are an apparent abundance of as the years roll on. Generally speaking, Latitude has always been fairly consistent in booking a pleasing variety of acts, be it music, comedy or theatre. This year was no different, and despite The Killers arguably being the festival's ‘biggest’ headliner to date, that isn't to say the rest was booked in dutiful accordance. DiS went to check out what all the fuss was about.
Best: Trail of Dead, Solange, Alex Cameron, Parquet Courts, The Breeders, Mogwai, Idles, Jon Hopkins.
Surprise: Liam Gallagher
Worst: Preoccupations (sadly)
First off, a quick apology to early risers The Go! Team and Deap Vally; I had to remember how to put up a tent (it's been a while ok?) though, by all accounts from colleagues, you were both great. Instead, my day begins with French psych-punk band La Femme who are quite possibly the most effortlessly cool gang of musicians these eyes have seen. Despite being around for almost a decade now, the Biarritz troupe have only put out two full-length records, the last being 2016's Mystère, and while popular in their native France haven't really graced the UK much previously, but their ability to bounce around psychedelia, krautrock, surf and punk is massively impressive, managing to create one of biggest sounds on the main stage of the whole weekend.
Sticking with the continental feel established early doors, Madrid's Hinds take the stage on the slightly smaller BBC Stage and initially feel a bit of a comedown in comparison to the explosive noise that had just occurred. Once the dust settles, however, this is still a fun and impressive set from the much touted young Spaniards whom it's worth noting appeared to be making a real impression on the largely young, female audience observing them.
Following them on the same stage are ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead who are, in basically every sense, the complete opposite experience. Trail of Dead are in an interesting place right now, having spent a few years in the wilderness they appear to have solidified into an extremely tight unit once again, as shown on their 2012 album Lost Songs. However, 2018 has seen them celebrating the 15th birthday (well, when they started playing it last year, anyway) of their seminal classic record Source Tags & Codes. While this wasn't billed as a full album set, the smart money was on this being one anyway given it comes slap bang in the middle of their supporting tour. And indeed, the band do open with 'Invocation/It Was There That I Saw You' and 'Another Morning Stoner' - the former of which has to be slightly expended as a sound check but thankfully the mix is fixed by the time of their biggest hit - but that's not an unusual start to a Trail of Dead set. It is only when we get the usually Neil Busch-fronted 'Baudelaire' and Jason Reece's - who is celebrating his birthday here - 'Homage' that it becomes clear that we are indeed here for the long haul, and my word, what a treat it is. Given there's been many subsequent Trail of Dead records in the 15 years since their masterwork, and for some - this writer included - Madonna is the connoisseur's choice, it's unfortunately easy to forget just how good the album that shook the rock world of 2002 actually is.
Here, however, the band give it their absolute all in reminded just what a masterpiece Source Tags is, and yes while tracks like 'How Near, How Far' and 'Relative Ways' have remained staples in their set, it's a real treat to hear some of the deeper cuts ('Heart in the Hand of the Matter', 'Monsoon', the title track!) performed this well. The band close out this very successful set with their classics 'Mistakes & Regrets' and 'Will You Smile Again?' reminded us that, while there's nothing beyond 2005 here, this band can still pack a powerful punch.
Refreshed and energised for the weekend post-rocking out, DiS is ready to get a bit more adventurous, taking a cursory glance at some younger talent on offer at the festival. The first of which is London's excellently named Sorry (for a UK band anyway) who present a quirky mix of Blur and Pavement despite probably not even being alive during their respective peaks in the mid-90s. Following them are Husky Loops who have at the very least been going a year or so more and have a couple EPs to their name. The, also London-based, band present themselves with a real swagger and confidence which is slightly at odds with the jangly awkwardness of the previous act, but at their best are reminiscent of Geoff Barrow's exploits in Portishead/BEAK>.
Tune-Yards (who thankfully dropped the stylised version of their name) are next up and deliver a very impressive and energetic set for only a trio of musicians. Merrill Garbus remains one of indie rock's most dynamic and intriguing prospects, there's a rather amazing feeling with her music that literally no one else could have possibly come up with this combination of elements, even if the individual parts (afro-beat influenced rhythm section, for instance) can be traced. Their live performance is perfect in this festival setting sending the gathered crowd into something of a small frenzy with recent single 'Look at Your Hands' especially impressing.
Over to The Lake Stage to see the hotly tipped live show of Aussie group Confidence Man and well, they are probably worth the ticket alone. Without exaggeration, musically, they sit somewhere between Primal Scream, Todd Terje and Village People, while visually they have an incredibly strong presence, with the band's rhythm section performing under black veils, while the dual front of Janet Planet and Sugar Bones perform in pure white, using their sexuality, campiness and cool to perform easily one of the most entertaining (and surreal) sets of the weekend.
And so to our opening headliner, Ms Solange Knowles. Solange is something of a brave booking from Latitude as a headliner, as while she is more than befitting of the status, she is not exactly what would be considered an expected headline act for this particularly bourgeois festival. Indeed, while many people turn out to see her, she has notably the smallest crowd of the three headliners this weekend, with many choosing to watch James instead for some bizarre reason. Anyway, Knowles is of course completely unfazed by this, creating a sleek, elegant but minimalist show in parallel with her similarly deceptively simple modern R'n'B masterpiece A Seat At the Table. Watching the younger Knowles sister rise into the shining star she has become over the years has been a real pleasure, but with that record, she established herself as no longer "Beyonce's younger sister" and as just simply, Solange, one of the finest songwriters of our current generation.
Solange and her band, all dressed in white matching the simple stage props of large white objects which the band coexist around, give something of a masterclass of soulful, sexy, melancholic, even angry, R'n'B - so, as it's supposed to be, then. Her band are a stunning force, managing to be perfectly tight without ever missing a beat while also performing simple yet effective choreographed moves along with their bandleader - whom literally conducts them in their closing moments of 'Don't Touch My Hair'. While A Seat, of course, dominates the set, Solange does find time for her melancholic summer jam (easily the best kind) 'Losing You' to give the amassed crowd a big festival moment to remember fondly, but honestly, even if it had been omitted, this seriously impressive performance would have still done her justice.
Saturday requires a session with the good doctor Mark Kermode to kick off and ease us back in, his talk on pop music in film is a fascinating one and a similar concept to his upcoming BBC4 TV show. Musically, however, we start the day with dreamy Londoners My Sad Captains, which we could do a lot worse than. They provide a cinematic, whimsical indie pop with a touch of post-rock, a nice breezy start to the day as they feature tracks off their latest album, last year's Sun Bridge.
Next up are the fiery Ibeyi who provide a politically charged, inspiring performance from the first of two sets of twins to share the BBC stage today. A real dynamism and creative flair from the daughters of Buena Vista Social Club's Anga Diaz - so we'd expect no less - as well as an incredible energy and charisma for what is a relatively simple set up of piano, percussion and voice.
Over on the main stage, Alex Cameron and his band are setting up, which is somewhat of a different mood to the previous act, but then his act is quite unlike anything else here. In some regards, Cameron is a perfect booking at Latitude, a festival that prides itself on celebrating all sorts of performance art such as theatre and cabaret. Because make no mistake, Cameron is a performer in the traditional sense of the word, but his talents are so subtle that it's fairly easy to miss the subtext of his shtick. Cameron is a truly magnificent performer (and band) who can be enjoyed both at the surface level of slightly cheesy Eighties pop schlock or on the deeper, sleazier plane his character exists. It is rare but refreshing to hear songs about the sleazy losers out there we all know exist, masked in toxic and fragile masculinity but still somehow have a strange charm, and Cameron is the perfect mouthpiece on tracks such as 'Studmuffin96' or 'Candy May'.
Back to the BBC Tent, we find Alvvays just starting up, who are reliably good pop fun. The Canadians are always (again, pun intended) good value for getting a festival crowd going with their pleasing melodies and rhythms, and kicking off here with songs like 'Adult Diversion' or 'Plimsoll Punks' do nothing to disprove that, there's just often a nagging sense that they are a bit... safe? While entertaining, Alvvays never quite push beyond their default mode, however, this writer supposes it is perhaps a case of if it ain't broke don't fix it.
Generally speaking, this year's edition of Latitude has been pretty good at avoiding big clashes between similar style bands, but as the saying goes, you can't win them all. However, as good as Alvvays are DiS is happy to skip the second half of their set to catch Parquet Courts in full, back on the main stage, as, after all, their latest album Wide Awake! is an album of the year contender. It turns out to, initially at least, be quite the clash of moods too, as de facto frontman Andrew Savage is in an absolute rage at the start of this set, ripping through 'Total Football' with a real venom in his voice before announcing ‘We are Parquet Courts and if you are an Oasis fan then fuck off’. Wait, what, Oasis? What's that got to do with anything...
So, once the dust had settled, many approached the BBC tent, with its notable gap in the schedule, and just why were Parquet Courts making so many references to Oasis? And then it happens, the opening chords of 'Rock 'n' Roll Star' are strummed out and the rumours are indeed true, it's our kid Liam Gallagher. In fairness, LG gave the game away earlier in the day on his twitter, but for those who genuinely didn't know and were curious; it is an excellent festival moment. I don't bother trying to fight my way into the packed-to the-brim tent, choosing to pick a decent spot outside in the sun, but it must be said, for all of the Gallaghers' shortcomings over the years, there is still, 25 years on, an undeniable charm and quality to hearing 'Morning Glory', 'Some Might Say', 'Supersonic' and 'Cigarettes & Alchohol' not only performed but performed well in a relatively intimate setting. LG closes by breaking things down to acoustic versions of 'Wonderwall' and 'Live Forever' for the packed crowd to essentially sing everything for him and to finish a remarkably impressive surprise set (it's a damn sight better than Ed Sheeran anyway).
As a result, the festival needs a moment to calm itself down again, but luckily The Breeders are up to the unenviable task of following on from the genuinely surprising secret set. Though even they need a moment, the resulting following of the previous set means it takes a long time to turn over the stage and sound check, meaning they start a little late, and even need a couple tracks to settle into their already fairly scrappy rhythm. Once they get there, however, with 'No Aloha' they provide one of the most charming and entertaining sets of the weekend - it's just impossible not to love the Deal twins. As the set progresses the band show their long-standing versatility and ability to switch roles and instruments, such as is the lo-fi and often forgotten 'Off You' or the Josephine Wiggs-led 'MetaGoth' off of their latest album All Nerve. Suspiciously, Kim holds onto the bass guitar after the latter song, and then it happens... without any announcement, she begins playing the bass line to 'Gigantic' sending the tent into a total frenzy. It seems this has been a staple of The Breeders' current tour, but no one here seemed to know about it, making for another genuinely brilliant festival moment, resulting in a sing-a-long rivalling the end of the previous set. To keep up momentum, this then transitions into their mega-hit 'Cannonball' to call time on an excellent set from the indie-rock veterans.
Closing the middle night of the festival on the same stage are another band that can comfortably be described as veterans also, Mogwai. The Glasgow giants headlined the very first Latitude in 2006, but tonight going up against the marquee headliners The Killers or even Clark - which is probably the most ill-fated clash of the weekend - sees them play to a pretty small crowd initially, though the tent does steadily fill up as curious festival-goers can't help but notice this transcendent sound (see also: Jon Hopkins tomorrow). Those who do make the (correct) decision, however, are treated to a blistering set. Mogwai are generally always a pretty reliable live act, their massive sound can pretty much make any stage or hole sound great, but tonight they are on particularly strong form performing mostly material from last year's Every Country's Sun. Honeyblood's Cat Myers, who filled in for usual drummer Martin Bulloch on their last tour due to an illness, remains involved providing additional percussion, which is a nice touch, as the band are preparing their next release, the OST for James Franco film KIN. Though they close on usual staple '...Fear Satan', it is 'Helicon' which is the real highlight tonight as they also performed it at the very first Latitude 12 years ago, making for a beautiful and emotionally charged moment for the crowd in a masterful set, as ever, from the masters.
As we entered the final day heads were getting fizzy and energy dragging somewhat, which the 30-degree heat wasn't exactly helping with. Thankfully, Glasgow's Spinning Coin are able to bring us out of the third-day fatigue, playing the seemingly (intentionally?) impossible to find Alcove Stage. Their jangly indie-rock/pop is very rooted in their hometown, meaning it's perhaps not a surprise they are signed to Stephen ‘Pastel’ McRobbie's Domino imprint Geographic records, but they give more than enough reason to show why they are turning heads.
Next up are the much-hyped The Orielles who provide good youthful fun, befitting of much of the Latitude crowd. Their debut record Silver Dollar Moment has been featured as a low-key highlight of the year so far, and it is not all difficult to see why from this very talented, young band. Their garage rock meets dancier disco rhythms reminds one of the very earliest post-punk bands, such as The Slits or Gang of Four and it is clear this band have a bright future ahead of them.
Over on the BBC Stage, Superorganism have a similar exuberance to The Orielles though a totally different sound. This international collective are a bit of wild experience both sonically and visually. Their various members all have inter-changing roles and do well to keep a live feel to their highly touted pop-sound. The accompanying visuals are surreal but appropriate for their scattered sound, reminding one of this year's festival openers, The Go! Team.
I am just in time to catch the beginning of IDLES and we are very, very glad to have done so. This set is phenomenal, arguably the best of the weekend, there is so much palpable energy and anger that feels very vital right now. Vocalist Joe Talbot's mix of sardonic wit and cutting social commentary is very much the voice that the UK needs, and perversely, deserves, commenting on the state of the country from an unashamedly left-wing perspective. New single 'Danny Nedelko', from upcoming album Joy As An Act of Resistance, for instance, is a perfect slice of punk commentary on the importance of immigrants to this country. One is a little surprised that other recent single 'Colossus' doesn't feature here, but perhaps given its much slower tempo, the band felt it would disrupt the flow of their punishing set, typified by the excellent tracks from debut album Brutalism such as 'Well Done', 'Mother' and '1049 Gotho'.
As we enter the final stretch, IDLES almost finish us off. As a result, despite being a wildly different experience, Porches initially feel a bit underwhelming in direct comparison. However, Aaron Maine is a smart enough songwriter and performer, with a more than capable backing band in tow. His set, in fact, proves to be the perfect comedown as the sun begins to set on the final day of this year's festival at the idyllic Sunrise Arena in the woods.
Preoccupations follow on the same small stage and sadly return the only real stinker of the weekend. This isn't entirely their fault, the sound for them is absolutely horrendous, with all the mid and top end taken out of Matt Flegel's bass, which anyone familiar with the band know that's where most of the songs are built-up from, plus they have possibly the smallest crowd we witnessed over the whole weekend. This meant for a bit of a low energy set, which interestingly still relied heavily on their Viet Cong record, which only really started to come together in the final passages of 'Silhouettes' and 'Death' which still remain absolute classics.
So, to our finale of the weekend, Jon Hopkins. Much like Mogwai last night, Hopkins initially has a smallish crowd too due to going up against headliners Alt-J - though admittedly, it also seemed as though many punters had already left the festival to get some sleep ahead of the new week. Regardless, Hopkins is a perfect closer to a rather beautiful weekend on the whole. His set is only an hour, but that it seems is all he needs, with the crowd in absolute awe as he runs through the opening four tracks off latest album Singularity in order. Hopkins's music is special because he manages to achieve that transcendent feeling that all the best electronic music should provide, so effortlessly, making it absolutely possible for one to just lose themselves in the moment of this pure bliss. Older hit 'Open Eye Signal' still bangs just as much as it ever does, while 'Luminous Beings' is a beautiful end to his set proper, complete with stunning visuals and two dancers performing with shape-shifting light tubes. Finishing on a remix of Disclosure's 'Magnets' he sends the remaining festival crowd into the night feeling pure ecstasy, capping off a hugely successful weekend.