Music festivals are a whole heap of fun in the sunshine. We rekindle old friendships, we converse on wittier and more subtle levels than we ever did before, we rediscover the forgotten fundamental pleasure of kicking back outside the city. But throw "sustained, intermittent showers" and "heavy downpours with high winds" into the mix and it becomes something else. Under these circumstances, the human race rapidly transforms into the kind of clawing, foul-smelling, desperate, sleep-deprived mass of human baseness not seen since William Blake woke up one morning and thought he'd give etching a go.
But you can't blame Latitude's organisers for our pathetic climate, so that earth-shatteringly irritating proviso aside, last weekend's festival confirmed its rank as the boutique outdoor sojourn of choice. Where else would you see a man tucking into an obscurely-sourced wedge of Camembert while listening to a semi-unknown Swedish husband-and-wife rock duo (Wildbirds & Peacedrums)? Or two six-year-olds fast asleep in a forest of wellies that are jostling closer to one of the country's most over-hyped multi-instrumentalists (Bat For Lashes)?
Anyone will tell you that Latitude isn't about marauding teenagers beating each other up to get a bigger slice of Kasabian, it is about the atmosphere, it is about the families, it is about that inviting patch of matting in the poetry tent for the man who has had no sleep. So that said, while the event's headliners – Grace Jones and The Pet Shop Boys – did pared-down versions of their recent London shows, and everybody got drunk and danced, there were some real gems to be discovered off-piste. Musically, and just in the first two days, there was, well, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, who are so much more than their reductive "White Stripes in reverse" label. While admittedly, they aren't a rock band, Mariam Wallentin has an easier-on-the-ear voice than Jack White's and her husband Andreas Werliin's drumming is seemingly more inventive than White's bandmate Meg's. There was Miike Snow, the threesome behind Britney Spears' hugely successful single "Toxic", whose self-titled poppy debut album is well worth a listen on Spotify. On a different scale entirely, young singer-songwriter The Boy Who Trapped The Sun proved himself to be an incredible if enigmatic guitarist and singer, while halfway across the festival, Mika performed what was supposedly an acoustic set which ended up every bit as colourful and musically vibrant as one of his "normal" shows.
Apart from the music, the spoken word arena continued to give Vivienne Westwood a platform for her current climate campaigning, as well as allowing festival regulars like human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith an opportunity to make some serious points, while showing off pictures of their children. The poetry tent was filled with people after the appearance of Simon Armitage, whose Smiths-inflected band The Scaremongers had performed earlier in the festival. Elsewhere, in many ways it seemed like the children got the best deal – a wander through the kids' arena was enough to keep an adult occupied for an hour or two. And sometimes, the sun does get its act together to shine at the right times.
One of the final highlights was Thom Yorke providing Sunday's midday hangover tonic in the baking heat. "Black Swan" was rendered using a digital loop, which allowed the falsetto-mangling singer to play all the track's rhythmic, repetitive parts himself. Yorke finished his set with a much-welcomed rescue mission of "True Love Waits" from the Radiohead back catalogue, though, ever the contrarian, he omitted its beautiful chorus. Perhaps this exposition on the pointlessness of life in the absence of love was too depressing even for him.Reuse content