Latitude competition: Magical, emotional… and a little bit frightening

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

picture copyrightPA Media

picture captionPop star Mabel carried out “banger after banger after banger” because the solar set behind Latitude’s important stage

“We’ve had so many dreams about this,” says Dream Wife’s guitarist Alice Go, because the band put together to play their first present since January 2020.

“Dreams and nightmares,” corrects her bandmate Bella Podpadec.

“I had a dream that we couldn’t find any food until just before the show – and when we did, we were so hungry we gorged ourselves,” she continues.

“Then we couldn’t play because we were too full… And actually, I’m quite full now. I’m worried about digestion time.”

“The nightmare is coming true,” laughs singer Rakel Mjöll.

On stage an hour later, there aren’t any indicators of gastric issues because the punk trio head-bang and high-kick their manner by means of a set so raucous it would register on the Richter scale.

“Rock and roll is an extreme sport, kids,” Mjöll informs the sweat-drenched crowd. “And that was the best work-out ever.”

picture copyrightGetty Images

picture captionDream Wife (pictured in 2019) gave one of the incendiary performances on Latitude’s first day

Like everybody else, the band are overwhelmed at being again in gig-land for Latitude – the UK’s first full-capacity competition since 2019 (alongside Sheffield’s Tramlines, which additionally takes place this weekend).

Part of the federal government’s dwell occasion pilot scheme, Latitude has introduced 40,000 mask-less however Covid-tested followers to Suffolk for 3 days of music, comedy, drama and leisure.

But that is no regular competition viewers. Walking round Henham Park, there’s an unmistakable sense of liberation amid the densely-packed music followers – lots of whom began the day with a Disco Yoga session and adopted that up with an old-skool hip-hop singalong within the BBC Sounds enviornment. They’re that enthusiastic.

picture copyrightPA Media

picture captionThe competition will admit 40,000 individuals day-after-day this weekend

When the relatively-unknown alt-pop artist Lynks opens the principle stage at noon, he is immediately shocked.

“A mosh pit on the first song? I love it!” he marvels.

“I can’t believe this is my first crowd back,” says pop star Mabel later within the day. “You’ve given me enough energy for a lifetime.”

After 18 months indoors, its virtually just like the pandemic by no means occurred. Everyone is crammed collectively, whether or not they’re dancing to Hot Chip, queuing for the portaloos or throwing paper cups of water over their fellow festival-goers. At least, I hope it is water.

“Remember to stay hydrated and pace yourself when drinking alcohol,” pings a message on the competition’s official app at 15:30. It’s already too late.

Not that everybody’s gone feral – that was by no means possible on the toddler-friendly, hedonism-free Latitude – however there’s a carefree abandon that is oddly harking back to a bygone period (ie 2019).

For the artists, the environment is not any much less euphoric.

“This is very momentous for us,” says Theo Ellis of headliners Wolf Alice. “We’re super-emotional, super-buzzy, super-nervous.”

“When we arrived and we were given our passes, there was a real unspoken moment of everyone just being incredibly emotional,” provides pop singer Maisie Peters – whose cherubic pop ballad Favourite Ex is an early crowd favorite.

“Performing was perfect. It felt exactly right – and like what the point of everything is. Wonderful and affirming.”

picture copyrightPA Media

picture captionMaisie Peters drew a large crowd the Obelisk Stage on Friday afternoon

But many bands are additionally conscious of how precarious the dwell music scene nonetheless is, particularly because the UK experiences a steep rise in Covid instances.

“Arriving here was surreal and magical – but a little bit frightening at the same time,” says Dream Wife’s Podpadec.

‘Breaking the principles’

Backstage, some musicians are staying in bubbles so they do not jeopardise future exhibits. And three acts – Fontaines DC, Alfie Templeman and Arlo Parks – have needed to pull out after testing optimistic.

Parks instructed followers she’d been struck down on Friday, regardless of being “as careful as possible” within the run-up to the competition.

“As recommended, I’m now stuck in isolation, sniffling in bed, feeling very upset to let all you angels down,” she wrote on social media.

picture copyrightReuters

picture captionArlo Parks examined optimistic for Covid on Friday morning, a day after being nominated for the Mercury Prize

“Even though it’s very safe and everyone’s been tested, I felt like I was breaking the rules,” says Camilla Staveley-Taylor – whose band The Staves play a quietly spectacular teatime set on the BBC Sounds stage.

“We’ve got gigs every weekend over the summer,” provides her sister Jessica, “and the reality is that we have to isolate between shows because it’s a job where, if you can’t go to work, no-one can cover you.”

“There’s also the pressure of how that affects the crew and the rest of the band,” says Camilla.

“Everyone’s had a really hard time this last couple of years, so if I get it [Covid], then all of them are out of work. So we’re not really having much of a life until the summer is over.”

Almost everybody describes the occasion as “surreal”; a relic of the before-times. And it seems that enjoying to an viewers after 18 months of livestreams takes a bit of getting used to.

“I felt like I’d been teleported on stage,” Camilla says,

“I was sort of remembering the chords for the songs,” Jessica provides, “and then I was like, ‘Oh no, there are some people here as well!'”

picture copyrightSequoia Ziff

picture captionThe Staves performed with out their sister, Emily (proper), who’s presently caring for her one-year-old daughter

But if something, the followers’ enthusiasm spurs the musicians on. Mabel has to go away the stage on three separate events as a result of, she says, the viewers is “making me [dance] so hard, my earpiece is falling out”.

The greatest beneficiaries are opening night time headliners Wolf Alice, who draw a crowd of hundreds to their blistering, euphoric set.

Opening with the ferocious alt-rock anthem Smile, it is a masterclass in dynamics and pacing, as they intersperse their greatest hits (Bros, Don’t Delete The Kisses, Moaning Lisa Smile) with the dreamy, layered soundscapes of their newest album, Blue Weekend.

picture copyrightGetty Images

picture captionWolf Alice performed an intimate warm-up present in Bournemouth the night time earlier than their biggest-ever competition slot

Highlights embrace the snarling Giant Peach and a tender, acoustic model of Safe From Heartbreak – after which the band catch one another’s eyes burst into laughter, relieved at getting the harmonies proper.

Towards the tip of the set, the band’s usually implacable frontwoman Ellie Rowsell surveys the ocean of individuals and smiles, “There are no words. No words.”

And as the ultimate chords of The Last Man On Earth ring out, the band flip and blow kisses to the group, who reply in type.

It’s a becoming reminder of how a lot either side have missed one another.

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