Latitude Festival: Sense of Liberation with Densely-Packed Music Fans

Dream Wife’s guitarist Alice Go said they had so many dreams about this as the band prepared to play their first show in January 2020. She had a dream that they couldn’t find any food until just before the show – and when they did, they were so hungry they gorged themselves. Then they couldn’t play because they were too full. And actually, she was pretty full. She was worried about digestion time.

Dream Wife gave one of the most incendiary performances on Latitude’s first day. Like everyone else, the band is overwhelmed at being back in gig-land for Latitude – the UK’s first full-capacity festival since 2019. As part of the government’s live event pilot scheme, Latitude has brought 40,000 mask-less but Covid-tested fans to Suffolk for three days of music, comedy, drama, and entertainment.

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But this is no average festival audience. Driving around Henham Park, there’s a detailed insight of liberation amid the densely-packed music fans – many of whom commenced the day with a Disco Yoga session and accompanied that up with an old-school hip-hop singalong in the BBC Sounds stadium. They’re that excited. The festival will allow 40,000 people each day this weekend. So when the relatively unknown alt-pop artist Lynks opens the main stage at midday, he’s instantly taken aback.

Not that everyone’s run wild – that was never likely at the toddler-friendly, hedonism-free Latitude – but there’s a carefree abandon that’s oddly reminiscent of a bygone era (i.e., 2019). People are seen talking that it’s lovely to get back into the festival vibe—no major outbreaks detected at mass pilot performances. For the artists, the ambiance is no less euphoric.

It is noteworthy that they are super-emotional, super-buzzy, super-nervous, as told by Theo Ellis of headliners Wolf Alice. Maisie Peters drew a considerable crowd at the Obelisk Stage on Friday afternoon. But many troops are also conscious of how precarious the live music scene still is, particularly as the UK experiences a vertical rise in Covid cases. Coming was surreal and magical – but a little bit frightening at the same time, for many.

Breaking the rules

Backstage, few musicians are lingering in bubbles, so they don’t jeopardize future shows. And three performances – Fontaines DC, Alfie Templeman, and Arlo Parks – ought to pull out after testing positive. Parks told followers she’d been struck down on Friday, notwithstanding being “as careful as possible” in the run-up to the carnival. Arlo Parks tested positive for Covid on Friday, a day after being chosen for the Mercury Prize.

Even though it’s very secure and everyone’s been tested, she felt like she was breaking the rules as told by Camilla Staveley-Taylor – whose band The Staves plays a quietly spectacular teatime set on the BBC Sounds stage. She further commented that there’s also the pressure of how that affects the crew and the rest of the band. Everyone’s had a tough time this last couple of years, so if she gets Covid, then all of them are out of work. So they are not having much time until the season is over.

Almost everyone represents the event as “surreal”; a token of the before-times. And it rolls out that playing to an audience after 18 months of live streams needs a bit of learning used to. In addition, the Staves performed without their sister, Emily, who is currently caring for her one-year-old daughter. But if anything, the fans’ enthusiasm encourages the musicians. Mabel has to withdraw from the stage on three separate instants because she tells that the public is making her dance so hard, her earpiece keeps coming out.

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