Latitude festival review – stylish, dramatic and surprisingly edgy

Henham Park, Suffolk
It may be the most middle-class of events, but pink sheep, Scottish sarcasm and Stereophonics singalongs notwithstanding, it was still classy

‘This is one of my favourite festivals as a punter,” beams Friday’s headliner George Ezra. He’s exactly the sort of well-spoken, charming, scrubbed-up home counties boy you’d expect to find at Latitude festival, although he’s brought chirpy chart smashes with his tent. With its highfalutin foods, “enchanted garden” and luxury camping with “pamper parlour”, it’s the most middle-class (and, shh, loveliest) festival, but it isn’t without edge.

Louisa Roach of Liverpudlian psych-popsters She Drew the Gun raps about food banks, and Primal Scream’s set is packed with hits, politics and Glaswegian sarcasm. Giant Trump images give Swastika Eyes a powerful new relevance before Bobby Gillespie comically urges the cheering audience to “Get your rocks off, country bumpkins!” There’s drama, too. Sunderland spiky guitar types the Futureheads’ return to the circuit after seven years is cut short after three songs by an electrical storm; the festival’s cutesy pink dip-dyed sheep prompt a Peta protest and social media outrage.

Kelly Jones of Stereophonics performing at Latitude, 20 July 2019.
Uniting the Latitude demographic … Stereophonics. Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

After Snow Patrol’s withdrawal in the wake of medical issues, late replacements Stereophonics surprisingly pull the weekend’s biggest crowd as their unfashionable but catchy post-Britpop anthems unite the Latitude demographic: parents and their teens. Most remain in place for electronic dance giants Underworld, whose blistering, career-spanning set is perfectly timed as the crowd’s mood shifts from singalong to party.

Elsewhere, you can stumble across Simon Armitage reading poetry, Frank Skinner or Michelle Wolf doing standup, or dream away to Sigrid or Aurora’s mellifluous Scandi-pop. And indeed, women dominate Sunday’s main stage. Pale Waves, Cat Power and the joyously exuberant Chvrches steadily up the ante before Lana Del Rey brings her classic, fatalistic take on Americana to a moonlit Suffolk field.

Eschewing her studio ennui, she sings Pretty When You Cry writhing on the floor, Video Games from a trapeze and poses with front-row fans for selfies. New songs Mariners Apartment Complex and Venice Bitch are more hopeful than usual, but Summertime Sadness – back in the charts seven years after it was first released – exquisitely captures the moment as this special festival closes for another year.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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