As soon as the clock hits midday on the first day of Latitude 2017, the schedule is jam-packed, and doesn’t let up. Julia Jacklin’s early set in the BBC Music tent is an early calmer, with highlights from ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’ and extremely promising new material solidifying the Aussie as a serious one to watch.
A quick dash over to the cavernous Obelisk Arena - the festival’s main stage - sees Pumarosa stepping up to the biggest stage of all. There’s a decent crowd gathered, despite Isabel Munoz-Newsome’s worries that everyone would still be asleep at this sober hour, and tracks from debut record ‘The Witch’ fill the huge arena. Isabel is on dazzling form, conducting her band through a sprawling set that comes to a head during the gigantic ‘Priestess’. Last here in 2016 at the Sunrise Arena in the festival’s wooded area, the transition to the main stage feels seamless for Pumarosa, and it’s clear they’re not stopping here.
Someone else on an unstoppable rise is The Japanese House, who battles significant technical problems to wow the festival’s largest tent. Set closer ‘Face Like Thunder’ is fast becoming an anthem, and new single ‘Saw You In A Dream’ sees Amber Bain taking things widescreen, with a limitless future laid out in front of her. The consistent technical issues are a shame, but Bain’s talent and ambition shine through.
Marika Hackman then proceeds to thrash through beefed-up versions of cuts from her brilliant new record ‘I’m Not Your Man’ over in the Sunrise Arena amongst the festival’s labyrinth of woods. A permanent backing band have now replaced The Big Moon as Marika’s touring partners, and even after such a short time, the chemistry between the four-piece is irresistible. Every show the singer plays since her reinvention-of-sorts - swapping introspective singer-songwriter tropes for unapologetic, grunge-influenced hammerblows - is met with at least a certain deal of surprise from the crowd, but Marika wins each and every one of them over.
Also winning over new admirers at every next gig is Pixx, who brings ‘The Age Of Anxiety’ to a packed out crowd at DIY’s stage The Alcove. A shortened set due to delays just serves to highlight Hannah Rodgers’ growing repertoire of hits. ‘Grip’ flies into ‘Waterslides’, before ‘I Bow Down’ sees Rodgers at her most menacing. The album is one of the brightest debuts of the year so far, and today’s set sees festival season only strengthening Pixx’s standing as one of the country’s most exciting newcomers.
The Horrors are far from newcomers, but after a solid two years away, today’s set on the main stage feels incredibly fresh. Back with huge, genre-bending new single ‘Machine’, the show serves as a reminder of the band’s genius, with ‘Still Life’ and ‘Endless Blue’ as captivating as they ever were. Faris Badwan is on top form, complete with face glitter and a sparkly, neon blue shirt. He leads the band through vicious, instantly appealing new material that makes us thoroughly glad that they’re back. It’s a joy.
Sløtface then provide the perfect tonic for an early-evening slump. They crash through cuts from upcoming debut album ‘Try Not To Freak Out’ with limitless energy, while inciting singalongs and bobbing heads for ‘Empire Records’ and ‘Sponge State’. By the time ‘Shave My Head’ closes the set at DIY’s Alcove stage, both vocalist Haley Shea and guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad find themselves thrashing around in the front rows. It’s a suitably chaotic end to a first day that brings eclecticism in the extreme to Henham Park. Bring on day two.
Photo: Phil Smithies