Latitude Festival @ Henham Park, Suffolk, 12-15/07/2017

Latitude Festival 2017Arriving at a festival in style is not always an easy feat. Thankfully I’ve got friends in all the right places, and we make our way to Latitude Festival 2017 in the ‘Approach Autograph 765’. This juggernaut boasts a cooker, toilet and shower. I’m still in a tent, but having slummed it at festivals in my younger days, I’m looking forward to a bit of luxury; and nothing cleanses those hangover blues like a morning shower.

After the standard M25 crawl, we arrive late Thursday night and the press box is closed. Back to our home for the next four nights. I’m eager to see the lay of the land, with a river running through it and access to the music arenas only by bridge.

Friday morning and I get to the press box (the long way around). As a boy scout, I used to be pretty tasty with a map and compass; it seems those skills have since left me. Upon entering the arena, the first thing you’re greeted by, and I swear I haven’t taken anything, are bright pink sheep.

First up, The Coral are early on the bill. With an impressive eight albums under their belt, they’ve a wealth of songs to choose from, but delight the crowd with a set full of hit singles. Drawing heavily from their debut, “I Remember When” gets the crowd on board before the tender, uplifting “Jaqueline” soaks up the summer air. An epic jam of riff-heavy “Goodbye” leads to the opening bass notes of “Dreaming of You”, which gets a huge cheer and sing along. The boys from the Mersey have got this festival off to a flyer.

Marika Hackman’s keeping it real in the Sunrise Arena. No gimmicks or guitar techs, she’s on stage with the band setting up her own equipment. She’s got more than a decent crowd for her perfected style of blending folk with modern pop. Her voice has left me in a trance; I need some air.

The Horrors are well known for their captivating live sound and having witnessed them previously, I opt for country folk troubadours The Head and the Heart. Although the tent is half empty they know how to charm with  male and female harmonies. It's uplifting and pulling sweetly at my ale-soaked heart strings. You don’t always get the crowd you want at these things, so fair play to them for giving it everything.

Gearing up for the evening we’ve a birthday boy in the gang, so mountains of gin, hidden in bottles of Fruit Shoots, are consumed, leaving the Friday night headliner an easy choice. Having fell out of school and into the 90s, I ask my daughter for some eyeliner and we head for indie rockers Placebo. Opening with “Pure Morning”, it's “Nancy Boy” that takes me back. Still punk and glam, an encore of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” is the huge surprise and soars to a triumphant end.

Saturday has an array of great acts to get through. Declan McKenna is all over the stage, strutting his stuff like a young Johnny Borrell. The glorified indie-pop seems masterfully executed for a man barely out of his teens. The BBC has been kind to this man with airplay, and he didn’t disappoint a crowd that knew a good chunk of his words.

Bristol’s Idles are wild, heavy, and a whole lot of fun. Brutalism opener “Heel/Heal” sets the tone for a frantic set full of well-crafted punk songs that allow the band to dazzle the crowd with stage presence. Guitarist Mark Bowen bends in flamboyant style and throws himself around as much as he rocks the heavy riffs. Singer Joe Talbot has the crowds in stitches declaring: “This songs about growing up in a shithole… it’s called Exeter” to which I hear some poor soul behind me say, “I’m from Exeter”. They finish with “Well Done” a stand-out a track from their debut.


Anticipation is building nicely in the crowd ahead of The Lemon Twigs' set in the BBC tent. Annoyingly young (19 & 17) and super talented, they waste no time getting the show started with “I Wanna Prove To You”, a wonderful blend of Beatles sounds over Beach Boys harmonies. “Baby Baby” is joyous in its funky keys interludes, and it’s not long before the brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario swap places, and now Michael has centre stage, topless and kicking the air triumphantly as the songs take a heavier turn. New songs are debuted, with a punkier edge proving there’s not a musical era these boys aren’t afraid of exploring.

It’s not hard to understand why Saturday is a sold-out day as I approach the Obelisk Stage ahead of Mumford & Sons. They have the biggest crowd of the weekend and waste no time getting them on side with the single that broke them, “Little Lion Man”. They draw on all three albums before inviting Baaba Maal and The Very Best to the stage for some African-infused folk. A huge spectacle comes when Marcus Mumford asks the crowd to hold aloft their phone or a lighter. It’s not an original moment (I think Robbie Williams did it first), but it’s a beautiful moment all the same. “The Cave” gets the biggest singalong of the night and they wrap things up with another great single, “I Will Wait”. Well almost. Having curated the day, the band bring out earlier performers Maggie Rogers, Lucy Rose and Leon Bridges for a special version of “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends”. Having done this at Glastonbury in 2013, the only thing missing tonight is a bit of originality; but you can’t fault them. They packed the house and delighted the crowd, proving they’re still masters in a world of folk.

I’m all folked out and need some dreamy, uplifting guitar indie-pop. Thank god for Girl Ray. Now here’s one of those hidden gems I was talking about in my ‘Ones To Watch’ article. Three-way harmonies are shared by all ladies in the band, but its singer Poppy Hankin that soothes the crowd. It’s a deeper Cate Le Bon with elegant breaths of Joni Mitchell fresh out of boarding school. They let one boy in their band adding synth textures, allowing their sound to sit effortlessly in modern times. Definitely a band to watch out for.


Iceland’s Kaleo have this wonderful ability to captivate you with acoustics blues, thanks mostly to singer JJ Julius Son (they are Icelandic). His vocal range is like nothing I’ve heard all weekend. One minute he’s crooning all drenched in whiskey gravel. The next he’s screaming like Little Richard. Not to take anything away from the band. They’re a close-knit gang and a year of touring has made their live shows incredible. The last two songs are just balls out rock 'n' roll with huge blues riffs that’ll keep The Black Keys quiet. Finishing with new song “Rock 'n' Roller”, their second album is sure to make them the new kings.

What follows is the trademark stamp of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Loud, heavy-distorted feedback is how every song begins and ends. But it’s alright by this now-bustling crowd of followers. Having been in the game for 35 years, it’s nice to see the older crowd familiar with their post punk, shoegazing indie pop.

The final headliners of the festival see Fleet Foxes go toe-to-toe with 90s DJ legend Fatboy Slim. I’m a fan of both, so must annoyingly dance from one to the other. “This is our first UK performance in 6 years” declares singer Robin Pecknold; sadly, to a field half empty. Perhaps that 6-year hiatus wasn't such a good move after all. Like Mumford they also have three albums to draw from, but it's songs from their debut that truly delight. The soaring harmony intro of "Ragged Wood" are massive as the skiffle of drums get me shaking my aching hips. "Battery Kinzie" from Helplessness Blues also stands out, but upon hearing the heavy bass of Fatboy, as Pecknold solos "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song", I feel it’s time to see out the festival with a boogie. But just as I turn my shoulder, "Mykonos" keeps me transfixed and singing with joy. Right, I must go. But no. A male and female are summoned to the stage, who are they? Its two love birds getting engaged. I won’t tell you what she said, who cares? I’ve got to get to get to Fatboy Slim.

So, this is where everyone is. I caught the last half hour teetering on the edge and all I can tell you is: beats and samples mixed together. Surely he’s going to finish with "The Rockafeller Skank". Nope. As I come to learn from a few fellow revellers, he didn’t play any of his classic songs, bar the odd line being dropped in and out just as quickly. When you have a seminal album like You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (even I bought it and I’m clueless with dance music), an album that brought him worldwide acclaim, and you don’t play hits like "Praise You" and "Right Here, Right Now" at a festival, you can piss off back to The Housemartins as far as I’m concerned.

I sound pissed off, but I’m in no way disappointed (unlike my friends who sweated it out inside). Latitude has been a thrilling place to be for four days. When not immersing yourself in the diversity of musical tastes, to which it can happily boast - folk, country, indie, dance, punk, rock 'n' roll, soul - there really is something for everyone. Wooded areas lit up at night make for exciting exploring, but the music never really stops. By offering a buy-a-cup system the estate in Suffolk is clean throughout. With day tickets for die-hard fans it’s also family friendly, with a friendly crowd as diverse as its line-up. Cracking start to my summer.

Fancy going next year? Latitude Festival 2017's website is over here


One Response to “Latitude Festival @ Henham Park, Suffolk, 12-15/07/2017”

  1. Lauren 26/07/2017 at 7:33 pm #

    A very enjoyable read Paul. I didn’t make it to the festival but after reading this I wish I had!

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