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Latitude 2016 review

Alan Wragg took in a raft of music and comedy with huge sets from New Order, Father John Misty and Grimes.

Ben Smith

Date published: 22nd Jul 2016

Image: Latitude 

Latitude has carved a fairly specific niche in the festival scene over the past decade. By focusing as much on the arts as the music, keeping itself relatively small and providing a ton of amenities for kids it’s attracted a loyal following, with families returning year on year.

Thursday evening provided a suitably cultured and relaxed entry into the festival, as Royal Opera North drew a huge crowd playing Hungarian and Polish dances long into the night. 

The sight of school trips on the Friday morning brought any hangovers into sharp relief, but the perfect cure was waiting, with Emmy The Great bringing her pristine crystalline pop to open the main stage.

Elsewhere the Comedy tent bought Nick Helm performing a post-modern non-show to mixed success, and Sara Pascoe faring better with a personable set from her feminist stand-up.

The real joy in the daytime was better found away from the arena tents, and wandering was always rewarded, be it with impromptu poet sets outside a mobile bookstore, or a moment of decadence with a cocktail by the lake. 

On the main stage British Sea Power were well received in the mid-afternoon slot, 'Waving Flags' feeling particularly poignant in the current climate. Father John Misty was a revelation, with laconic showmanship giving songs from ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ a fiery, sexy and funny edge.

The rest of the day truly belonged to the genderqueer end of the musical spectrum. 

Perfume Genius struggled to keep hold of a crowd at once restless and tired, but Courtney Barnett hit the right tone more successfully with her slacker grunge.  

Christine and the Queens followed on the 6Music stage, and gave hands-down the best show of the entire weekend. People flooded in to see a slick, artful and unique pop show, with her standout single 'Tilted' getting a bigger response than almost another band's full sets. 

That discovery of the day was quickly followed by another, with all-girl group The Big Moon lighting up one of the smaller stages, and clearly having the time of their lives.

The night started proper with a one-two assault of Blanck Mass' wall of bass and Slaves' spit and snarl sending kids reeling into the night.

Main-stage headliners The Maccabees were eschewed in favour of a huge draw for many of the attendees, Grimes. With a pounding production, the maximalist songs from her recent pop masterpiece were pushed even harder and faster. A triumphant show.

Contrary to my initial worries, the all ages vibe was actually very welcome, leading to an easy 'nothing to prove' atmosphere, sometimes missing from the younger, city festivals.

The late night continued to belong to the gay and genderqueer, with tiny tents playing disco with bearded drag MCs, the cabaret tent offering shows from bearded drag, really just lots and lots of bearded drag. DJ sets were dotted all over, and further wandering brought shock, awe and joy at all turns. Any worries of the weekend being boring or without energy were already blown away.

Saturday morning belonged to comedy, with The Boy With Tape On His Face giving a magical show based solely on audience participation and Reggie Watts giving us meticulous and considered bout of random nonsense.

The sun caught everyone off guard, making Nathaniel and the Nightsweats more of a chore than it should have been, however Squeeze still managed to thrill the all-ages main-stage crowd.

Adam Buxton interviewed Louis Theroux for his (excellent) podcast, with queues out the door for the entire hour. Meanwhile Manchester jazz heroes GoGo Penguin performed lakeside in conjunction with a dance company to a crowd that stretched all the way to the other side of the lake, taking the prize for best drumming of the entire weekend with their IDM-inspired grooves.

Other nice small-stage surprise finds of the day came from Samaris' soft electronic pop and White's intense funk energy.

Policia sounded huge on the 6music stage, but only received a middling reception. Likewise John Grant took his white funk to the main stage with mixed success, not having half the charisma or energy that Father John Misty had in the same slot the day before.

Chvrches had a much better reception, their electronic pop sounding huge over the main system. They have always looked slightly uncomfortable on the big stages, overcompensating with exaggerated moves, but here they relaxed into their surroundings well and were rewarded for it.

The National have long been Latitude mainstays, with many fans in the audience having discovered them at previous years. The set felt triumphant, with a guest appearance by Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry sealing the deal. 

Elsewhere Soulwax had long since left their rock-band roots, bringing a seven man troupe (including three drummers) to play a non-stop mix of a live set designed around their standout tracks, 'E Talking' and 'NY excuse'.

The night brought further DJ sets of all stripes, markedly more energetic than the previous nights. The alcove continued with the live bands late playing groove and soul into the night, until Leeds own COWTOWN finally brought the blissed out crowd crashing back to earth with a pounding surf-punk set.

Sunday came with the heatwave in full effect, but the remedy was once again provided in the form of the 1000 voices choir greeting the sun and David O'Doherty providing a solid hangover-cure.

Post-Rock supergroup Minor Victories gave slow burners and washes of noise to the heat-stricken but appreciative crowd. In the heat the desire to rush around to see acts in the sweaty main tents diminished and the smaller forest stages benefited, be it a classical trio high up in the woods, or Kagoule with a ramshackle grunge set.

Chet Faker took the mid afternoon main-stage set, and may have seemed a strange choice but absolutely owned the large space with his radio-friendly club sound. Meanwhile Mura Masa gave an altogether wonkier take on club-pop, and the Radio 1 touted newcomer received a huge reception from the younger contingent in the crowd.

Completing the electronic line up for the afternoon, continued the weekend trend of pop performers looking in complete control. 

The comedy was packed with top talent; Mark Steel attempted to bridge the gap between the liberal and affluent to mixed success, however Bill Bailey provided by far the biggest draw of the day and showed his mastery of arena-sized spaces. 

M83 make a sound tinged in nostalgia that seems custom made for providing nostalgic festival memories, and with a clear sky, happy crowd and emphasis on their biggest songs they delivered in spades.

Speaking of nostalgia, it is impossible to separate the history of New Order from the music, having had such a huge and lasting impact on the British music scene and wider culture. Playing a set that spanned the decades, and sounding in great voice, they took a crowd that was already in their favour to new heights with a closer of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘ Blue Monday’.

Words: @tacetmusic

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