Latitude – depending on your viewpoint, it’s either an idyllic family weekend full of high culture, fine street cuisine and quinoa cocktails, or a three-day queue in the Valley Of The Brats, occasionally interrupted by Jessie Ware blaring supper club soul in your face. The actual experience, of course, sits somewhere between the two, so let us take you through the highs and lows of Latitude 2018 – the secret sets and the nightly starvations, the woodland wonderlands and the gutfuls of grit.
Judging by the relatively sparse showing at the main stage for Solange and Alt-J’s headline sets, and the crammed-to-the-latte-stand crush to see The Killers on Saturday night, a hefty portion of Latitude 2018’s band budget was spunked in the general direction of the fifty per cent of Las Vegas’s greatest showband that tends to turn up these days. And boy, did The Killers give good bang for their buck. Pounding out hits as huge and glitzy as the Luxor – ‘The Man’, ‘Somebody Told Me’, a warp-speed ‘Spaceman’ – they put on a show as intense and inclusive as any of the stadium greats that Brandon Flowers studied, but without the self-indulgent solos or phone-the-Pope Bono bollocks.
In ‘Human’, ‘When You Were Young’, ‘Runaways’ and the volcanic gospel rush of ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, The Killers have built a collection of ultramodern bombast that hits like a freight train, but there’s still space for humility and frailty in the opening lament of ‘A Dustland Fairytale’ and a bit of slapstick. As Brandon picks out a fan to play (superb) drums on ‘For Reasons Unknown’, Liam Gallagher wanders on claiming to be “wankered” and makes excuses for not singing on a cover of ‘Acquiesce’, still a song further down the setlist. Beneath clear summer skies, Vegas’s greatest showmen absolutely stormed it.
The line-up in general
Idles roared through a full-throated set of rabble punk insanity, dedicating songs to the NHS and Latitude security, announcing the sex of their friends’ unborn child by means of coloured confetti cannon, congratulating Mary Berry on having a job and carrying guitarists plucked from the front row around on their shoulders while shouting their way through ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. Alvvays stroked the BBC Music tent into a euphoric daze with amorphous dreampop and grunge rewrites of beehive pop that felt like sucking on a balloon full of cumulonimbus. Superorganism somehow managed to personify Velvets slacker cool while wearing luminous rainbow rain macs, performing synchronised yawns and singing sci-fi skipping tunes about prawns and Instagram. The Vaccines tore up a passionate hour of Ramones retro rock’n’roll and demonic doo-wop despite vocal problems giving Justin Young a touch of the Leonard Rossiter at times, and Wolf Alice proved themselves the most un-cageable rock animal of the age, tearing off into motoric punk, romantic waft pop, bliss-indie and blistering great prog doom epics as the whim took them. While other major festivals were busy pandering to the pop and rap diversity brigade or trying to consolidate their niche in a troubled market, Latitude somehow cherry picked the finest alternative acts of the year, and even rammed out the BBC Music tent with James. Bravo.
The water holograms
Out on the lake beside the site’s main bridge a fountain of water sprayed into the air, into which 3D holograms of everything from leaping whales to Einstein were projected. Shat on the pink sheep, frankly.
With all those greasy burrito vans shunted out in favour of a site-wide Street Feast collective of gourmet morsels, Latitude 2018 was a foodie’s dream, full of award-winning Nicaraguan plum tikka wraps and unicorn dumplings on beds of hummus sherbet. It all looked amazing – unfortunately, if you wanted to watch any bands at any point, you couldn’t actually taste any of it. Queues were half an hour long all day, everywhere; we had no choice but to starve ourselves until midnight, when we had a slim chance of getting within begging distance of an order station. It used to be you’d have to arrive an hour early to get into the tent to watch anything vaguely interesting at Latitude. Now you have to do it just to eat too.
The ground at Latitude is made of powdered powder. Hence, the entire weekend is cloaked in a dust cloud that the average vengeful mummy would find a bit claggy. No doubt we’ll all have to get used to this sort of child-choking pollution levels post-Brexit, but as we all get home coughing half of Suffolk into our Kleenex it feels like we’ve spent three days with our heads stuck in a woodchipper.
Boring soul music
Latitude’s middle-class prosseco’n’Pampers vibe automatically means there’s going to be a fair chunk of soporific soul music at sundown. While Nao and MNEK were making fascinating moves in future soul in the BBC Music tent, out on the Obelisk Stage Jessie Ware and Rag’n’Bone Man were re-treading rootsy soul territory already trodden down to the dirt. We yawned ‘til dawn.