Latitude 2018: A Dustland Fairytale

The Killers ‘A Dustland Fairytale’ epitomises Latitude Festival in a nutshell: a beautiful, dreamy escape from everyday life paired with a dangerous amount of dust swarming around. Latitude makes you feel like you’ve left the real world behind, everyone mutually celebrating in true festival fashion with an overdose of flower garlands and glitter, I even got my tarot cards done! Seeing as it was the weekend of Trump’s arrival to England, there were few musicians who didn’t bring up politics. Even Solange interrupted her sweet set to shout “Fuck Trump” into the crowd.

Announcements of secret sets got us running around the festival in search of the likes of Idris Elba’s DJ set and Liam Gallagher’s impromptu performance. Gallagher sounds exactly as he did 20 years ago, and it was easy to get nostalgically lost in his throwback Oasis hits like ‘Wonderwall’, ‘Morning Glory’ and ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’. Latitude 2018 was certainly full of surprises and driven by a strong creative buzz, the more avant-garde and unpredictable performances being hidden within the forest or the woods.  Although Latitude comes across on the surface as middle-class and civilized, and on many levels it is, it has an underlying yet incredibly experimental side that takes more effort to discover than the standard headline acts.

Credit: Poppy Marriott for NME


Benjamin Clementine amazed The Obelisk Arena with his sleek blues-pop and elegant, old-timey swagger. At one point his microphone went completely off, of which he was totally unaware and the audience had to tell him, yet he dealt with it with comedy and style. He also made us sing the refrain to his song ‘Condolence’ 20 times, an interesting yet interactive approach to his attentive audience. The trio didn’t take themselves too seriously with their interactive playfulness, nor did this distract from Clementine’s beautiful and raw musical performance.

Headlining Friday night was the powerful Solange, sister of Beyonce, putting on quite the spectacle with edgy dance choreography and bold, passionate performance. Apparently her worthiness as a headliner was debated and she has been dubbed a “sexless Sade,” but Solange undeniably made her stance on The Obelisk Arena with sexy sophistication. Her intermittent twerking got the crowd going, whilst the elegance of the performers in white uniform brought a serious undertone, reminding us of the bittersweet poignancy of her lyrics about being a black woman. Her vocals and stage presence were moving and graceful, telling the crowd “I want a charge, I wanna build a frequency” that we absolutely felt and participated in. Her transformative approach to the atmosphere shone through in her diverse range of songs, slow and moving, to politically charged RnB and upbeat, sing-along worthy ‘Losing You,’ which prompted her to “want to turn this into a junior high school prom”. She adapted the environment to her music and proved her incredible skill as a performer, although I don’t think the festival go-ers of Friday night were too happy when she claimed “I want to turn this festival into church”.

The Lake Stage offered a glimpse of rising stars. London band Sorry delivered a strong performance of their bedroom-grunge tracks, reminiscent of the likes of indie-metal band Wolf Alice who totally rocked on Sunday night at the main stage. Female front-women are certainly lacking in rock bands, and these two are turning that ship around with full force. Wolf Alice are the perfect band for a summer evening, their dream pop blurring the lines between reality and festivity and their sudden switches to metal and screams jolting us into an old-school rock show. They provide the kind of variety, particularly between their two albums, that most bands fail to achieve. Sam Fender also stunned The Lake Stage with his soulful indie-rock and angelic yet powerful vocals.

Brandon Flower’s knows how to put on a show like the back of his hand, he glitters from afar and waltzes on stage like a true showman (as he rightfully belts “I’m the man”). Of all the headliner’s this was the one the festival had the highest hopes for, judging by the at least doubled audience, and they certainly pulled through. He impressively got the audience to sing the whole of ‘Mr. Brightside’ without his help, nor did they need it, being one of the most loved stadium pop songs of all time. Despite my apprehension about Flower’s glaringly white teeth and the undeniable cheesiness of their music, it can’t be denied that The Killers can bring an audience together and put them in a hell of a good mood. It’s safe to say that he is “The Man,” a status approved by Liam Gallagher himself when he was invited up on stage to join a cover of his own song, ‘Acquiesce’, to which he claimed he couldn’t remember the lyrics to. He said he’d leave up to the “professional” and on that note he was probably right.

The Sunrise Arena was home to a variety of DJ sets, from Elba’s upbeat, mainstream mix to DJ Boring’s tech-house vibes. At night the forest came alive to dub-pop and distorted Drake tracks, and as Latitude Festival tends to go it was filled with 15 year olds in which I admit I felt a bit out of place, but it was fun nonetheless. On the last night everyone got a little bit rebellious, someone handed out reeds that the crowd incorporated into their dancing in true Suffolk spirit. Dirt on the rise, most took to wrapping their clothes around their faces to protect, making for a festival masquerade, minus the glamour and sophistication.

Despite a fun and talent filled weekend, Sunday’s set list didn’t match up to the two previous days. If it weren’t for Wolf Alice, the day would have been bleak. Alt-J offer a great atmospheric backdrop, but if anyone’s worthiness as a headliner should be questioned it should be theirs, not Solange. Wolf Alice triumphed The Obelisk Arena and were the stand-out show of the day; I think it’s safe to say that they may be playing the headline slot in the foreseeable future.

Fiona McDowall

Featured Image by Rob Whitworth for Timeout