Latitude Festival offers a polite alternative in one of the most chaotic festival seasons ever. Featuring at least two sit-down restaurants, an on-site wellness retreat and a range of family-friendly fun, it’s easy to see why the Suffolk weekender has a reputation for being more well-mannered than most – especially with a line-up that this year features an abundance of acoustic guitar-wielding singer/songwriters, a member of Take That and a Snow Patrol headline set featuring a surprise appearance from Ed Sheeran.
Even the usually disruptive Lewis Capaldi feels surprisingly safe as he headlines the Friday night. It’s been three years since his debut album ‘Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent’ took over the airwaves, and despite cancelling all of his live dates in 2021 to focus on a follow-up, tonight he plays nothing but the classics. “I’m horribly lazy,” he explains of the lack of new material, admitting to the crowd that he spent a majority of lockdown “masturbating away”.
Bouncing between soaring songs of heartbreak and crude toilet humour, it’s reassuring that despite the constantly shifting state of the world, absolutely nothing has changed with Capaldi. He’s the sort of artist you can always rely on – unless you’re his record label, of course.
Foals clearly missed the memo about being on their best behaviour, though, as they close out the Saturday night in vicious style. When they last headlined Latitude in 2013, the Oxford gang were being touted as the next ‘Great British Rock Band’, set to follow in the footsteps of Muse and Biffy Clyro. Sure, tonight an extended ‘Inhaler’ inspires the biggest mosh pits of the weekend and ‘What Went Down’ may as well be a hardcore punk song given the ferocity frontman Yannis Philippakis spits the lyrics into the front row of the crowd, but from the opening hammer of ‘Wake Me Up’ through the funk-driven ‘2am’ to a confetti-soaked ‘In Degrees’, their 90-minute set is a celebration of their party-starting potency as the band further cement their place as guitar-driven masters of the rave.
With the triumphant ‘Two Steps, Twice’ still echoing about the festival site, the late-night areas of Latitude come alive with the likes of Queer House Party and Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon taking over. Like Glastonbury’s South East corner, these after-dark celebrations feel otherworldly, rebellious and show a very different side to Latitude. As Philippakis says on-stage: “It’s such a magical festival.”
Nestled away in the woods, PVA’s pulsating electro adds to that feeling of escapism when they take to The Outpost as darkness descends. New single ‘Hero Man’ (taken from upcoming debut album ‘Blush’) is a demanding dance number, while the south London band’s 60-minute set also flirts with industrial might, post-punk fury and ‘80s pop excess without fear.
That reckless energy is something Rina Sawayama knows well, with her debut album featuring both crunching nu-metal guitars and delicate bedroom pop. Today, people chant her name long before she takes to the Obelisk Arena, and those swaggering first album tracks sound as vibrant as ever. But it’s the two new tracks from her second album ‘Hold The Girl’ that feel the most exciting. The theatrical country twang of ‘Catch Me In The Air’ and the glitzy pop might of ‘This Hell’ have plenty of bite, but Sawayama sounds more ambitious than ever.
Los Bitchos take to the main stage on the Saturday for a spirited performance which suggests that their mostly-instrumental music was custom-built for huge fields, and not the sweaty London clubs they’re used to. Despite the complete lack of singalong moments, they keep the ever-expanding crowd entertained with sunshine-soaked psychedelia and a seemingly determined desire to catch the crowd off-guard by changing gears and genres without a hint of warning. The packed field follows their every move, though, with their Alex Kapranos-produced debut album ‘Let The Festivities Begin!’ certainly living up to its name.
Elsewhere, 22-year-old Dylan (fresh off a stadium tour with Sheeran) twists hard rock swagger around relatable pop storytelling, while Carline Polachek’s increasingly confident art-pop continues to shock, surprise and delight. Self Esteem, meanwhile, returns to Latitude a year after she first performed tracks from ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ live, with this year’s set continuing to find new emotional extremes within her shiny music. Over on the Sunrise Stage, Bartees Strange brings his brilliant second album ‘Farm To Table’ to roaring life by taking the grand, thunderous ambition of Foo Fighters and cutting it with the intensity of the hardcore scene. It’s a mesmerising gig that is never short of power.
Little Simz may have had to fight to win the crowd over at Glastonbury, but at Latitude there’s nothing but love. There’s a playful swagger to material from 2019’s ‘Grey Area’, while tracks from 2021’s ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’ are full of purpose: ‘Protect My Energy’ brings a relatable delicacy and ‘Point And Kill’ serves as a fierce pushback against anyone who’s ever tried to box Simz in. Closing with the one-two swing of ‘Woman’ and ‘Venom’, Simz delivers a self-assured set that never panders.
Manic Street Preachers have always been a rebellious voice, but in recent years the snarled warning of ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ has taken on new meanings for many, with climate change, political corruption and the war in Ukraine all demanding protest. Today that song feels particularly poignant, especially with so many parents singing along surrounded by their young children.
The Welsh legends aren’t the only ones calling for change at Latitude 2022, though. Playing early on the Friday, punk mob The Oozes set out to challenge the festival’s conservative (with a small c) image with their playfully venomous, anti-TERF and anti-Tory anthems. Yes, one person tuts loudly when the band admit they aren’t fans of the police before launching into the screaming ‘Piggies In Blankets’, but they still stay for the entirety of their fiery set regardless. Across the weekend, everyone from Maximo Park to Example publicly bashes the current government, while the numerous political scandals make easy pickings over at the comedy tent.
Slightly more subtle than a “fuck Boris” chant, Maggie Rogers brings the “feral joy” of her new album ‘Surrender’ to the festival’s Obelisk stage. ‘Want Want’ is a rumbling burst of jubilant desire, and the unreleased ‘Be Cool’ is an optimistic, laidback number – perfect for this sunset slot. ‘Horses’ is so gut-wrenching that Rogers needs to “emotionally take a minute” after performing it, while the closing ‘That’s Where I Am’ is a huge, reassuring chunk of hope, love and promise, born from a time of fear and anger.
Later that night, Phoebe Bridgers brings the cathartic, comforting power of ‘Punisher’ to the packed BBC Sounds tent. The album provided a soothing soundtrack to many during lockdown, but out the other side it has swiftly evolved into a ferocious live beast.
Backed by storybook visuals, the entire set strikes a balance between heartbreak and hope. Bridgers shares her anger at the US Supreme Court’s decision to overthrow Roe v. Wade before ‘Chinese Satellite’, a song “about getting screamed at by white radicals”. Later, she gives permission for the entire audience to let out whatever rage they’re feeling during a stunningly beautiful ‘I Know The End’.
“If you have the opportunity to scream really loudly, you should,” she explains before Sawayama and Rogers crash the stage and she dives off it.
Latitude is still the most well-mannered festival around, but there’s a bubbling rebellion to the 2022 event. Whether it’s a one-off reaction to the extreme times we’re living in or the shape of things to come remains to be seen, but with the likes of Nova Twins packing out The Alcove with their hard-hitting rock as Snow Patrol sing ‘Chasing Cars’ on the main stage, it seems that even Latitude is hungry for change.