1) Zola Jesus 10/10
After Portishead the previous night, it was difficult to imagine any experience not being an anti-climax, but in a more intimate setting, Zola Jesus was even more powerful. Indeed, it had the greatest emotional impact on me of any art since the remarkable set by St Vincent at Manchester Cathedral in early 2014. I suspect that the forest setting was an important motivation in Nika Rosa Danilova agreeing to come to Latitude. She grew up in rural Wisconsin, and after a spell in LA, talked about how she feels more comfortable in the vastness of the Pacific Northwest. The title of her latest album, Taiga, refers to the boreal forest in Russia. As an ecosystem, Suffolk may have little in common with it, but the trees visible behind the stage gave a sense of connection to nature. She’s explained: ‘I wish you could make music in a specific place, and it could be experienced only there,’ and there’s little doubt that environment has a profound impact on appreciation of music. Zola Jesus was backlit throughout, making for an extremely dramatic visual spectacle, and giving a sense of total absorption and escapism. Indeed, appropriately for a festival which embraces a wide range of the arts, this set brought astonishing dance to the aesthetic and sonic. Zola’s soaring vocals remained at its heart though, in a flawless, virtuoso performance, backed by soaring, majestic brass. Yet, there’s also a playful, mischievous side to this intellectual introvert, which emerged when she took a security guard's sunglasses and climbed up the rigging at the side of the stage in a strong echo of St Vincent. Above all, though, for all the formal framework, this formed a short, concentrated, devastating burst of emotion which as a memory will remain in my consciousness for years to come.
2) Warpaint 9/10
A large festival stage in the daytime isn't the ideal context for Warpaint’s subtle music, and despite being on the barrier, they felt physically distant. Yet, the LA quartet weaved their spell, proving atmospheric with their harmonies, and reaching a climax with Disco / Very. This was one of the most absorbing, haunting sets of the weekend.
3) Young Fathers 9/10
I’d recently seen Young Fathers in small venues, and this was their third time playing Latitude, but they made the leap to a larger stage successfully. The Scottish rap trio exude energy and impact, whilst pushing boundaries of genre musically. Their unexpected, imaginative leaps seize the audience’s attention, despite their conscious decision not to compromise for popular appeal.
4) SBTRKT 8/10
Ending my festival, SBTRKT illustrated the relevance and rise of electronic music to headlining status, even at a non-mainstream festival such as Latitude. They created a boisterous, excitable atmosphere in the absolutely packed BBC 6 Music tent. Aaron Jerome urged: ‘Let’s end this right’ for one final escape from reality in the closing Hurricane, though in truth some of the crowd departed after his hit from the first album, Pharoahs. The London producer mixed soul, dubstep and techno in a visually spectacular presentation, in a fitting conclusion to Latitude’s tenth anniversary.
5) Adult Jazz 6/10
My motivation for attending this set was to get a prime position for Zola Jesus, who followed, and the art pop of Leeds quartet Adult Jazz proved to be too fussy for my taste. The performance was polished, but despite comparisons to Alt-J, their music simply didn't move me.
6) Kindness 5/10
Kindness’ pop (with R&B and soul influences) wasn't quite to my taste either, but his stage craft can’t be faulted, and neither can the energy of his collaborators on stage.
7) Kwabs 4/10
Kwabs is a hotly tipped rising star with his upbeat soul, and the set felt carefully choreographed, with energised dancing. Yet, it also felt overly calculated, and most problematically, the music was refined to the point of blandness. In contrast to Young Fathers, a determination to court the widest possible appeal meant that it had lost character; I wouldn't like to speculate on whether such compromise will pay dividends commercially.