Latitude Festival - Henham Park
Live Review

Latitude Festival – Henham Park, Suffolk

With the British summer known well for raining all over festivals, the forecasts assured us that there would be no rain. None. Dry. And Friday was no let down.

After sitting in diabolical traffic for too long, the sweat soon dried after a quick chat with the boys from Theme Park and standing with a cold (expensive) cider in the countryside watching youngsters Wolf Alice do their thing. The Lake Stage made for a picture perfect background for Florence-esque , who stunned and amazed with her ‘out there’ performance. Indie Brits The Maccabees proved that they have still got what Florence and Jessie Ware have, and pushed out what seemed like a strained, yet fun performance.

Unsurprisingly, performance of the day went to rightful headliners Bloc Party, who turned the stage into a party. Albeit an awkward house-party that your ex-girlfriend has turned up to, with her new boyfriend and bitchy girl mates. Oh and did I mention your best mate just made out with your sister? Confused as to what this has to do with Bloc Party? Yeah, we got carried away watching their relationship unfold on stage too. They played all their hits (none missing), with 3 or 4 new songs (Ratchet and Coliseum the biggest hits with the crowd). The problem was, they had no drummer – in his place was Sarah Jones, the fantastic drummer from Hot Chip; there were many snide looks, argumentative motions and complete mistakes throughout the performance – one that was good but has led to many rumors about the end of Bloc Party.

Latitude, the middle class festival, is not one that stops after the headliners. Although the older and younger generation head back to their yurts, the middle generation come out in force. Guilty Pleasures moving to Friday night gave people the camp pop experience (both meanings of the word camp appropriate here), and DJs sprang up all over the site – including one half of Orbital playing in the woods.

Saturday, after a cup of tea and overpriced breakfast, we were ready to face the world. The line-up led to some exploring. The comedy stage was the place we came to rest on some sofas outside the tent, and watched a fairly funny opener, and an ever-cynical Dylan Moran. Said earlier exploring led to a cocktail bar, and overhearing some of the most out of place, middle-class conversations (“mummy I want lobster for lunch”/ “yeah we only had 2 plugs”). From there we went to watch Mancunians Everything Everything, who although sound great on record, had trouble making that sound appear live. On the other end of the scale however, were main stage openers Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba that bought some summer to what had become an against the forecast wet and windy day. Next up were the weird and wonderful Efterklang, who made music that made your heart melt. On top of the sharp suits and the mega smiles, they handed out gifts from their set in Portugal the previous day, including hats, mugs and water bags…asking for donations for their trip to Latvia the next day.

After having an excellent morning for day 2 of any festival came the downer. There is not much to report on Jessie Ware, although I wish there was. The vibe was wrong, the energy was lacking and it seemed like she was there as a favour rather than because she wanted to be. Smashing that performance out of the park was not going to be difficult but Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs managed it with seemingly no effort. Tickling our ossicles and pinners with old hits, new hits and a screamingly sensational performance, with an excellent performance to boot, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had stolen the show of the weekend so far.

Hot Chip were up on the stage next and proved that they were a band that knew electronic music and their instruments really well. Around a mysterious crowd of dads waiting for Kraftwerk, hipsters that hang out with Felix and Joe in Shoreditch and kids (don’t get me started…) they played a performance that was nothing like the records but perfect for a festival stage, that they seemed to fill with no problem (and no movement). Not wanting their performance to end, after ready for the floor, flutes and I feel better, to deny that the expectations of a 3D show in 2013 wasn’t exciting would be false.

And then came the weekend’s biggest letdown. The Kraftwerk 3D show. Rumour has it that right in the middle, and near the front the show was spectacular, however for those 5,000 or so that did not have that prime position the show fell a bit, well, flat. It seemed like a good idea but transposed more as 4 dads failing at technology. Having left Kraftwerk early we were able to catch the last 3 songs of mystical Mercury Prize winners Alt-J, and their crowd spilled out the tent and sung every syllable along to their finale – Breezeblocks.

Sunday, funday. And Latitude 2013 was no let down on this point. Woken up by the palpable sounds of Alsion Balsom and the English Concert, being a trumpeter, I was in heaven. My day was made – it was like a scene from a fairytale, with the sun shining once again, and the beautiful scenes of classical music playing across the lake. It’s times like that that you feel old – hoping that her show inspires some of the younger generation that were there to get into music. A day of solo acts really, although Bobby Womack woke the crowd by the main stage and made everyone feel like they were happy to be alive!

Next we took a stumble into the literary tent; and came across compare Ben Target. And thankfully we did – witty, and dressed in some sort of medieval costume, it seemed that he was filling time, which he was. He did this spectacularly however – playing an accordion that he announced that he had only ever had one lesson on, making his aides try and play the pig at the right time, and then making the crowd get involved playing beach volleyball. He cleverly plugged his actual set which was after midnight, and one of the funniest, and most real, grounding comedy acts I have seen in a while, original but not too out there, awkward without being stale.

Feeling like we’d had a good belly laugh we went off to sit and watch Sam Smith (yes, the guy from the Disclosure record), and he was mind-blowing. Amazing acoustic singer songwriter that will hopefully gain credit off the back of the hits he has featured on. The only downside? Watching people walk past during his acoustic rendition of Latch screaming at him that he had ‘ruined a good song’. This was far from it – a very creative version, and proving why it has been suggested that he is the only one during the joint performance of that song that sings live.

The tallest man on earth took to the main stage for his first and last festival of the summer and truly blew peoples minds. With magical tales of heartbreak and happiness he was a great lead up to Mr. James Blake, who, although creating a somewhat tense atmosphere shattered that with the dulcet tones of his songs.

The only real disaster set of the day was from hype band Friends. With high expectations, they seemed to fall flat. Dev Hynes (singer Samantha Urbani’s boyfriend) has produced their new tracks – which sound great – but seemed to lack the inspiration live. Channeling The artist formally known as Prince, their new set up of members seemed to lack the emotion that was needed for their Purple Rain inspired songs.

Thankfully one of the highlights of the weekend soon swept that performance under the carpet. Local Natives were pitch perfect, with a well created set that screamed recent emotions, and although they had just flown in that morning – the energy was really flowing through hits from both records and a Talking Heads cover.

Although lacking Beyoncé and Jay-Z in our lowly British crowds, Grizzly Bear put on a sublime performance, really getting everyone going. Playing songs id never hard before, and with the perfect amount of crowd interaction they were pure to form and it was clear why they have such a strong following…and were so high up the bill.

Sad that we were missing Disclosure and the wonderful Beach House, the main stage started buzzing.
I wish I had the complex vocabulary that is needed to explain the sensations the moment that Foals stepped on to the stage, and broke into Prelude. After saying a few thank yous, and looking like the happiest young chaps you’ve ever seen, they broke into a real mix of songs from the most recent album, their first and even some old EPs. It being their only ever festival headline slot, Yannis and the gang sure made it look like they both appreciated being there, and deserved it. No real space for an encore, yet a big improvisation to catch some breath led to an encore of Inhaler and Two Steps, Twice, and an end to the festival that should be duly noted and replicated everywhere.

So, the sun has set on another glorious year at Henham Park, Suffolk, but what a year it was. We can only imagine what 2014 has lined up for us, and with tickets available already here, you have a chance to get involved.

Venue: Henham Park, Suffolk
Support Band: Bloc Party, Kraftwerk, Foals

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