How many festivals are there where you can dance along to SBTRKT in a crowded tent, listen to Lang Lang play Chopin’s études, and watch Benjamin Zephaniah rap his poetry on stage? How many festivals are there where the stewards have wands and wings because they’re dressed up as pixies? How many festivals are there with sheep in all colours of the rainbow that graze under a bamboo canopy? Just one, my friends, and that one is Latitude Festival.
A festival with something for everyone (its slogan being ‘it’s more than just a music festival’) there are four music stages, a poetry arena, a film and music arena, a literature arena, a cabaret tent, a comedy tent, a children’s arena and (my personal favourite) a faraway forest. It’s possibly the most middle class festival I’ve ever been to, but don’t let the Loch Fyne food stall or the numerous Radio 4 chat shows put you off, because it’s also the nicest, most civilised, and most genteel festival.
First Aid Kit – they’re wearing very Swedish dresses, a lot of red lipstick and they swish their hair around so much I’m surprised their heads haven’t fallen off. Amazing rendition of ‘Emmylou’ and beautiful cover of Fever Ray’s ‘When I Grow Up’. Definitely worth seeing again.
Lana Del Rey – opens set with ‘Born To Die‘, gets a steward to light her a cigarette mid-song (much to many mothers’ disapproval) and gets lifted into the crowd to hold everyone’s hands and ‘meet her fans’. Huge amount of people turn up to see her, and when she sings ‘Video Games’ the crowd reaction is incredible.
Bon Iver – there are no words. So emotional. Everyone’s crying. There are 3 guitarists, a violinist, a saxophonist, a drummer, a trombonist, a trumpeter, a percussionist, and, of course, Justin. There are hundreds of tea lights that intermittently flicker and rags hanging from the sky. When they play ‘For Emma’, I imagine they’re playing it to me and cry. Amazing.
Dermot’s (O’ Leary) Indie Disco – terrible. Since when was he ever a DJ anyway? He plays ‘Mr Brightside’, followed by ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, followed by ‘Reach (for the stars)’. Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realise I paid £175 for a night out in Jesters.
Lianne La Havas – she has an afro and plays the electric guitar so everyone instantly loves her. Brilliant stage presence and she definitely knows how to play the crowd. She takes an instagram photo of us all to put on twitter so she can “remember the moment”. What a babe.
Tony Harrison – stops mid-poem to tell a photographer 1ft away from him to stop taking photos and go away. Everyone applauds.
Laura Marling – beautiful voice but oh my God I wish she’d smile for once in her life. CHEER UP LAURA.
SBTRKT – completely worth missing the majority of Laura Marling for. Front man Aaron Jerome wears his cool raffia mask and the bass is so heavy that everyone feels physically sick, but in a GOOD way. Crowd go mental when they play ‘Wildfire’. Lots of jumping up and down and bashing into each other.
C!RCA – A bizarre circus act where three grown men stand on a girl’s head. Spectacularly shocking.
Lang Lang – supposedly the best pianist in the world. Arrives at the Waterfront Stage by punt and plays Chopin like you’ve never heard Chopin being played before. He then follows with a Chinese song about a lake and states: “I will play this song about a lake. Because we are by a lake.” He then giggles. Everyone falls in love and wants to hug him.
Buena Vista Social Club – age range on stage is between 19-89. Omara Portuonda (82 year-old Cuban singer) comes onstage shimmying and lifting up her dress a bit too far. She then grabs her husband (the banjo player sitting behind her) and they salsa their way across the stage. One of the most entertaining, talented and uplifting bunch of people I have ever watched perform.
Benjamin Zephaniah – if only he were Prime Minister. He has dreadlocks to the floor, funny teeth and a Jamaican-cum-Birmingham accent, but he is the most amazing man on the planet and exudes happiness from every inch of his body. Children laugh ecstatically when he reads ‘Be Nice To Your Turkeys This Christmas’ and I think it’s safe to say that we all leave smiling after ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’.
If none of this appeals to you, there’s also a knitting tent, a chill-out circle, a silent disco and the aforementioned faraway forest. There’s a reason why Bon Iver chose their only UK festival performance to be here. If you go to only one festival in your entire life, make sure it’s Latitude.