In the world of music festivals, Latitude is a middle-class land of variety, woodland and multi-coloured sheep. There are tents dedicated to poetry, literature, comedy, cabaret as well as a whole host of pleasures to be found hidden within the depths of the Faraway Forest. Musically, it presents one of the strongest line-ups of the summer, collating an all-encompassing mix of indie, rock, soul, dance and folk, to the delight of a discerning demographic.
We head to the BBC 6 Music tent on Friday to find an impressive crowd gathered for Denver’s bear-like John Grant, whose deeply rich voice is orchestrated over rumbling electronica that pulsates to create a new heartbeat in our chests. Performing a balanced mix of tracks from his latest offering 'Pale Green Ghosts' (Clash review) and 'Queen Of Denmark', with a poignant dedication of ‘Glacier’ to “our gay brothers and sisters in Russia”, it’s a magnificent set, cut short all too soon, and leaves us wanting much more.
With an introduction from Steve Lamacq, headliners Bloc Party take to the stage for the last time before their indefinite hiatus. Drummer Matt Tong’s absence is noted, but with New Young Pony Club’s Sarah Jones behind the kit the band's set is a crowd pleasing mash-up of singles and album favourites, lasers and Kele Okereke’s unabashed confidence. It’s a crisp, no-risk performance, but one where 'Helicopter’ and ‘Banquet’ from 'Silent Alarm' are still the highlights.
Following Friday night’s antics, we are soothed into an overcast Saturday by the charming Thomas Dybdahl, whose contemplative Norwegian folk is beautifully presented within the woodland setting of the i Arena. Cradling us with songs like ‘Cecilia’ and ‘A Lovestory’, he seems genuinely surprised with the recognition he receives from the crowd, and we are swept away by the delicate intimacy of his craft.
A far cry from the Dybdahl’s gentle soul, we head to the BBC 6 Music tent to find Texan quartet White Denim, who may look like a bunch of supply teachers but wield instruments like men possessed. Hammering through their entire set without pausing for breath, tracks including ‘Shake Shake Shake’ and ‘I Start To Run’ segue seamlessly from one into the next, as they gather momentum like a sweat-fuelled steam train.
Over on the Obelisk, Karen O proves exactly why she’s one of the best front-women of our generation, backed by the powerhouse combo of Brian Chase and Nick Zinner, as Yeah Yeah Yeahs blast their way through a decade’s worth of hits.
Kraftwerk are engaging with their enormous 3D presentation to the awe of the glasses-wearing assembled, leaving many grasping at the space satellites and as they hurtle from the screens. The godfathers of electronic music show us that this is not simply a case of old dogs and new tricks, but that they are still just as relevant and influential now.
By far the highlight of Sunday’s proceedings comes from LA’s Local Natives. Drenched in sunlight, the Californian quartet gives one of the tightest performances of the weekend, with meticulous harmonies and note-perfect renditions of their most beloved tracks from album 'Gorilla Manor' and 'Hummingbird'.
It’s fair to say that Foals have had a pretty good year and, by the looks of it, their debut festival headline set may well be the icing on their indie cake. Confident, yet humble, the five-piece powers through an energetic and exciting 90-minute performance.
The posters tell us that Latitude is "more than just a music festival", and they’re right. But even if it wasn’t, with the quality and scope of musicianship on display, it could still be counted amongst the cream of this year’s crop.
Words: Puja Maniar
Photos: Marc Sethi & Pooneh Ghana
Get the best of Clash on your iPhone - download the app here