Latitude Festival 2023

Latitude is probably the biggest festival in the East of England welcoming 45,000 music fans to the annual event. Launched in 2006, Latitude is set in Henham Park, an historic 4,200 acre estate situated north of the village of Blythburgh in Suffolk. The plan was to camp for the whole weekend but with the forecast looking wet we decided against the idea preferring to stay off site.

The organisation is pretty good. Getting into the site is easy despite increased traffic due to the rail strike. This year there’s a change to getting into the arena but it’s still a 25 minute walk from the car park to get there.

Friday gets under way in a very low key way. Ber and Tinariwen open the BBC Sounds and Obelisk stages. While their sets are competent, they aren’t really much to write home about.

Dublin’s The Murder Capital on the other hand make quite an impression. I’ve not come across these guys before but after a couple of songs I’m a fan. For their third song, singer James McGovern leaves the stage and takes up station on the crown barrier where he encourages a mosh pit to form. It’s not long before McGovern is joins the audience there he crowd surfs around the tent.

Next up are New Zealand’s The Beths complete with giant fish (is it a trout?). Again, this band is new to me, but I love their boppy guitar laden songs so will look out for them in the future. At the end of the set, singer Elizabeth climbs off the stage and hand slaps the outstretched hands of the audience. Sadly, there’s no crowd surfing. Up to this point, we’ve been very much in first gear.

However with the arrival of Georgia things went into overdrive. I seen Georgia a couple of times before and she’s quite a performer but today she seems totally fired up and within minutes she had the crowd eating out of her hand. The third song see’s Georgia leave the stage and head for the barrier. After borrowing a punters Pulp hat, Georgia then entertains the crowd up close even taking the time to dance with some children.

Confidence Man follow this. With the Macarena blasting out, siblings Janet Planet and Sugar Bones walk on stage dressing in oversized jackets. Their movement is jerky almost robotic. At the back of the stage, keys player and drummer are both hidden under what look like black beekeeper outfits. I find myself being mesmerised as they strut up and down to Toy Boy. Song two sees the first dress change with the jackets being discarded. During What I Like, Sugar says “All the girls say “Oooh”; All the boys say “Ahh”. It’s great stuff.

Day one comes to a close with 90’s icons Pulp who are on their reunion tour. There’s no pit access so it’s into the crowd to the show. As the sun falls “This is what we do for an encore” appears on a backdrop on the obelisk stage prompting a huge roar from the crowd. Pulp walk out to a louder cheer, with Jarvis appearing in front of a giant moon. I Spy opens their set, the opening riff of Disco 2000 is the queue for the canons to bring the night sky alive with streamers and confetti.

The tearjerker Something Changed is dedicated by Jarvis to long-time Pulp bassist Steve Mackey, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Jarvis leads an impromptu singalong of Happy Birthday to drummer Adam Betts, before asking “Have we forgotten something?” as they launch into an epic performance of Common People bringing day one to a thrilling close.

Day 2 Saturday

Despite the threat of torrential rain the party atmosphere is still in full swing as I arrive early Saturday morning. Kicking off the music on the Obelisk stage are Liverpool based, The Mysterines. I’ve heard a lot a good things about them but I’ve never had the opportunity to see them live.

Kicking off with The Last Dance you can’t fail to notice the guitarist Lia using a violin bow on their guitar. Hung Up, Old Friends Die Hard and Dangerous follow with some gritty guitar playing. It’s only a short set of about 35 minutes but it’s enough for me to want to hear more.

Continuing the 90’s revival sees The Lightning Seeds on the Obelisk stage. The forecasted rain has started in short showers as Ian Broudie plays Change. The classic songs just flow, Pure, The Life of Riley, Lucky You and my favourite Perfect are a joy. They have lost none of the magic. Ian announces “God bless the Lionesses” which is greeted with a cheer as the band strike up Three Lions. The sight of middle-aged dads crowdsurfing in the rain must be one of the funniest things I’ve seen all weekend.

The nostalgia continues with Paul Heaton and song from the House Martins and Beautiful South. There’s no Jackie Abbott due to illness so Dianne Downey has stepped in as guest vocalist.
The rain showers are lasting longer so I dive over to the BBC Sounds tent to dry off.

Rachel Chinouriri has just taken to the stage. She is completely new but her set was confident, inventive and spell binding, All I Ever Asked gets a huge response. Her debut album isn’t due to be released until summer 24 but it sounds like it will be worth the wait.

I’ve seen Don Letts’ Rebel Dread DJ sets but today it’s the debut of The Rebel Dread Band. Their album Outta Sync has been 3 years in development is due to drop in September. Today we treated to a preview in it in its entirety. They kick off with the album title track ‘Outta Sync’, after which Don states “I’m not going to say much in between songs, as everything I have to say is in the songs already!”.
Although Don at times did look a little awkward out at the front, it was a brilliant set. The tent wasn’t packed as many probably believed it was going to be Don’s DJ set. Those that did attend were treated to something very special.
The rain is falling quite heavy now, the ground had turned to mud. Once again there’s no pit for the main act Paolo Nutini so I decide to bail out.

Day 3 Sunday

The rain had continued overnight. When I return the carpark looked more like a swamp and the car got stuck before I could get parked. Luckily 2 parking attendants came to my aid. There were rumours that major headline act was to play unannounced secret sets but these turned out to be unfounded.

Opening Sunday is one of my favourites, James. Having a major act in opening slot appeared to be an inspired move as the arena was already packed. Someone mention they had done this as they didn’t want people talking though there set.

Complete with orchestra and choir they open with Sit Down which immediately goes down with the crowd and everyone soon singing along. The sing along continues with Born Of Frustration, Say Something and Getting Away With It (All Messed Up).

The set was brought to a close with Laid. It would be fair to say that this was solid set to kick off the final day. No one seemed to mind that the set over ran by about 20 minutes.

Next up were Irish rock band Picture This. Back in their native Ireland they are massive with 17 top 50 songs. I’ve never come across them before but then neither had many in the audience which by now was a lot more sparce. They were ok but they sounded just like a million other bands. Latitude is their only UK festival appearance.

The bootleg Beatles look and sound just like the Fab Four. It’s probably the closest you will get to the real thing. They are great fun and had the crowd singing along to the Beatles songs. At one point it
looked like Ringo and his false nose were going to part company.

Over in the BBC Sounds tent is TikTok and Spotify sensation Caity Baser. Again I’ve not come across her before so I head over to see what the fuss is about. As she takes to the stage, I can’t help thinking
what the hell is she wearing, as it looks one of my Gran’s tea towels cut up.
Opening with the crowd pleaser Friendly Sex it’s not long before with crowd (all mainly teens) are singing and dancing along. She says she’s from Southampton “but don’t go there as it’s a shithole!”.
Haters follow and then 2020s, which is pretty bouncy and gets everyone dancing. Her song STD about an ex who had 3 other girl friends makes me think she’s a younger Lily Allen. Caity, while only 21 is extremely confident and witty. You can’t help but smile when she performs.

Back on the Obelisk stage, Sophie Ellis-Bextor was serving up a helping of Kitchen Disco. Dressed in a sequined number with orange tassels she looked amazing. Her set is a mix of covers and her own material. This was without doubt one of the highlights of Sunday.
Her mother former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis is there to support her from the side of the stage. Sophie says “it’s taken me 25 years to bring her to a field”, Young Blood a song about her mother and late step father has her mother in tears, as well as many in the crowd.

The Proclaimers continue the 90’s revival with several of their hit songs including I’m on My Way, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) and Letter From America. The brothers deliver an hour of feel-good sing along.

One act I was determined not to miss was Kiefer Sutherland. Over the past few years, Kiefer has carved out an impressive musical niche that rivals his acting career. His on-stage theatrics would make Jack Bauer proud.

Blending his own spin on country music with americana rock to create a unique sound full of emotion. You cannot fail to be drawn by his gravelly vocals and heartfelt lyrics. I’ve seen Kiefer a few times and you always come away with the feeling you’ve just experienced something very special.

George Ezra brings the evening to a close on the Obelisk stage. It’s also his final stop on his 18 month world tour. Taking to the stage in a denim jacket with Gold Rush Kid stitched to the back he’s greeted
by cheers from his adoring fans, many had bagged their spot at the barrier earlier in the day.

It’s difficult not to want to sing along to Anyone For You, Budapest, and Paradise. There’s complete silence as he sings Hold My Girl, while Green Green Grass is a call for everyone to get up and dance.
Overall, it was a great weekend. Latitude has established itself as part of the festival music scene. The sight is huge with lots to see and do, included cookery and comedy. That said it’s still a family friendly festival with family orientated activities.

Words and Photos by Mark Stimpson 


Philip Goddard

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