2014’s Latitude was different. In previous years, we would be ready in the queue waiting for the gates to open, with tactical pre-chilled beers in hand. By the time we’d passed through the various stages of festival entry and put our tents up, the party would be in full swing. This boozy theme generally continues throughout the weekend, with the occasional break for food and sleep, until the arrival of Monday morning and the stewards, to tell us to move on from the campsite while we nod, smile and chuck another log on the fire of fun.
This year we decided the wee man, who I’ll refer to as Mr C for the duration and purpose of this review, was ready for his first full weekend of festivaling. This meant it would be a much tamer and more wholesome affair for us. So how did we fare as responsible adults attending the festival, instead of slightly disjointed, post-pubescent delinquents?
Well firstly most of our group had kids with them too, so we weren’t alone in our plight. Whether you’re on a wild or a sensible one it’s essential that your compadres are on the same level as you for a smooth running party. These festival friends were possibly our biggest allies, as I’ll explain later.
The act of bribery is the first weapon in your arsenal to combat any difficult situations. Our first purchase of the weekend was made on Thursday afternoon – a furry little Sesame-Streetesque squeaking hand puppet, which we thought would be a lovely little play-mate for Mr C.
Friday – A Tale of Us Versus the Sun
However we realised we’d scored a horrific own goal on Friday morning, when the little furry monster woke us at 7am with his squeaking. This is the first hurdle you face when bringing children to a festival. Sure, lack of sleep is standard at a festival, but when you have a little one to look after, jumping straight back on the wagon to battle through your hangover simply isn’t an option. It wasn’t just the squeaking puppet that caused an annoyance either – we found that during the night we’d been sucked dry by the numerous midgeys that seemed to also be attending Latitude for their own party.
So we were up and about and getting on with the day. The sun was blazing and we managed to find a rare spot of shade to sit down in and listen to Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, who went through a back catalogue of true pop classics including Happy Hour, Marry Me and Rotterdam.
I wanted to catch Billy Bragg and his leftfield blend of folk music, but the moz bites were actually killing me so badly I decided to seek some professional advice and made my way to the first aid tent to seek some relief. After receiving some soothing treatment with our laughs, we trundled over the In the Woods to listen to Cape Town’s John Wizard’s Afro Pop.
A lazy day of music rolled on and we went for a BBQ at a friend’s camp. Under the beating sun the walk felt like miles and whilst we sat munching on a just-about-cooked sausage in a bun we could hear the tones of Rudimental on the faintest touch of summer’s breeze float over the tent. I was gutted I missed them, but pleased they had a big slot at the event. They put on a great live show and I’ve already got a tenner on them to win festival band of the summer. Last time we saw them at Glasto they were cut off by bad weather, but on this glorious afternoon they managed to play all their biggest hits and we could only sit and wonder at what it must have been like to be having it hard in the middle of the crowd.
As we cooled off in the evening we had a rave up at the lake stage with Bondax and finished things off with some dark and dirty Indie sounds from Glasgow rockers Mogwai. From the nearside bar we could even hear a few refrains from Lily Allen from the main stage as the popular popstress took on the headline slot left vacant after Two Door Cinema Club cancelled due to illness.
The plan that night after we’d seen the headliners was for the boys to have a night out and the girls would babysit. The following night the boys would babysit freeing up the girls to take some time off. There’s no point in everyone missing out and this was a satisfactory compromise. This is where your same boat friends are critical to the enjoyment of your festival.
Trouble was, the sun beating down on you whilst pushing a push chair around for 10 hours, coupled with a distinctly insufficient intake of alcohol and an early rise had left me bushed, and even though my partner had promised to keep Mr C occupied for the following morning, allowing me to have a lie-in, I actually declined the offer and went back to camp for some much needed shut eye.
Saturday – Surprisingly Good to Go
Saturday came and I felt right as rain. I feel the need to comment on this because it’s an uncommon feeling for me at a festival, but one that’s most welcome indeed. Especially with another 12 hours of push-chairing in the blazing sun ahead of us. Mr C had grown tired of his new monster friend, so first things first – it was off to the bubble tent to make another purchase, and then the bar for us.
With everybody happy, we made our way to the main stage where Booker T was singing Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe. This is another bonus of having kids with you. OK, we’d missed a couple of acts already, but quite often we don’t usually make it into the arena until 4-5 in the afternoon. We also heard the classic Green Onions and then joined our friends feeling good about actually catching acts we’d put down on our festival scorecard.
American Rockers The Afghan Wigs showed us how to Rock in the afternoon. Then we returned to the Funk with Daryl Hall and John Oates demonstrating why the sax makes a hit record, and then the super-fly Jungle played their Tropical Funk. The night closed for us with Royksopp and Robyn. They came out at sunset and Royksopp warmed things up with some of their classics before Robyn joined them on stage. For the finale lightning flashed in the sky like a free light show, before the heavens opened and we legged it back to camp.
Saturday night was the girls turn for a night out, and for the lads to stay in on babysitting duty. I handed the hipflask to my partner and wished her well as the girls walked arm in arm off into the night. As she went I hoped she’d keep it real and make a better effort than I had managed the previous night.
Us lads huddled under a tree until the rain eased off and then we made our way back to our various camps. I tucked Mr C in bed, then sat up chatting with the neighbours for a while, before taking down the storm damaged gazebo and making my own way to bed, hoping that the missus wouldn’t make too much racket when she got in.
A drowned rat emerged, soaked from the storm as soon as my head hit the pillow. I soon realised it was actually my missus. The time was only 1am and with a smile on my face I fell asleep comforted in the knowledge that I wasn’t the only past-it lightweight in our team.
Sunday – Winding it Down
We thought we’d spend a little time indulging Mr C, and took him over to the kids’ area. After one trip down the Helter Skelter he’d had enough and wanted to go back to the main stage where all his buddies were partying. It looks like he’s going to have no problems growing up with the real festival spirit.
Whilst we were at the music stages Mr C would often talk to other children, giving us the perfect excuse to go and have a bonding moment with the other adults, instead of finding togetherness at the bottom of a bottle as you sit around with a pile of wasted youths. The music was great across the day breaking in with George Ezra and Chrissie Hynde.
Chrissie was on the main stage and she banged out a number of classics. She currently has a new album doing the rounds, but as I recognised most of her songs it must have meant she hardly played much of the new material. I like this attitude as everyone turns up for the old time hits and its great to see that she doesn’t consider herself bigger than her back catalogue. After all, who wants to hear the new stuff at a festival? Maybe the latest material doesn’t go down too badly at a gig, but at a festival its all about crowd pleasing so I was delighted to see that she’d hit the right notes.
Haim are a little big of a guilty pleasure, but I was looking forward to hearing their Feel Good Pop on a sunny Sunday on the main stage at Latitude – a perfect setting for their sound. They were at the end of their tour and obviously celebrating a large degree of personal success, which seemed to carry over in the vibe. Next up was The War on Drugs in the 6 Tent. These guys are an exceptional band of the moment playing serious music and after all the camembert from Haim and Hynde we rocked out with some proper music.
The night was finally rounded off with headliners The Black Keys on the main stage. This is a band that has taken the US festival scene by storm for a while, but is only now breaking on to the UK scene, with Latitude introducing them in a headlines slot. In short they put on a terrific show – however they did seem so caught in the moment that they didn’t allow the crowd to build the appropriate tension before they returned to the stage, after leaving for an encore.
As the crowd dwindled and the sound subsided Latitude started to wind down and come to an end. This was a different feeling to previous parties. Usually at this time we’d be draining the last drops of togetherness and high spirited behaviour from the glass, ready to give it one last push in the wood. But this year we were all quite sober. We said our goodbyes and made our separate ways back to camp. It was quite calm, cool and collected instead of the overly emphatic big, soppy, drunken I-love-you-man style hugs. It was more of a case of job-well-done and an handshake.
As the sun rose on Monday morning and I almost felt refreshed. It was as if I’d returned from a relaxing holiday without a dose of the Summertime blues. This was a welcome change instead of the traumatic feeling I’ve come to associate with the drive home. I even almost went into work on Tuesday morning after scheduling the day off. However, half way down the road I thought better of it, turned round and drove home again. Looks like I haven’t quite lost it yet…
And In Summary…
So once again we had attended the nation’s most cultured festival and once again we managed to miss all of the cabaret, comedy, spoken word and other alternative arts entertainment. This wasn’t because we were too busy partying after dark in the woods or sleeping our hangovers off for a change. The music was so good we simply couldn’t drag ourselves away from the stages. The line up at Latitude seems to become more eclectic and spectacular each and every time, bettering itself year after year. It’s easy to see why many are drawing comparisons between Latitude and Glastonbury, but I would limit to this to the line up.
With the golf buggy hire, private toilet option and ban on taking your own drink into the arena, one would hardly call it an Alternative festival and the Boutique label is possibly a bit tenuous. There isn’t the edge or old school festival spirit you’ll find in Shangri-La or Shambala. It’s a safe festival. So safe that when we returned a phone we found to its owners, they told us it was the second time it had been lost that weekend, and the second time it had been handed in. This, along with the tranquil setting and carefully curated line-up, is what we love about the festival.
So is it better or worse taking a small child to a festival? OK, we didn’t come away with so many crazy stories, but is that actually a bad thing? It’s different but certainly in no way worse, and in some ways it was better. We probably saw more music because we were up early, and I certainly have a decent recollection of most of the events. Afterwards I almost felt refreshed, and as Mr C’s teacher said “If you’re going to take a kid to a festival, Latitude is the one to take them to.” I’ll just have to remember to pack the midgey spray next time.
More on Latitude Festival here.
Image credits: Main photo by Jen O’Neil, Royksopp & Robyn by Alex de Mora, Helter Skelter by Marc Sethi