As history shows us, headlining a big festival with a back catalogue stretching to just one record doesn't tend to go too well.
YES argues Anna Hyams…
Florence and the Machine, from humble beginnings on the gig circuit in 2007, trounced all competition with the 2009 release of their debut album ‘Lungs’. The singer, Florence Welch – a copper haired, florally bedecked neo-hippy – brings festival feel right into your room from the off, I defy anyone to not imagine they’re back in the summer sunshine with an ice cold beer whilst listening to this album.
After more than your average handful of festival appearances last year, including Bestival and Glastonbury, some might say that Florence is a no-brainer to headline Latitude. I ask you to consider the calibre of previous Latitudinal hotshots: Pet Shop Boys, Nick Cave, Grace Jones, Sigur Ros, Interpol. Can Florence and the Machine’s one album offering really compete? Actually, yes it can. There is an unquestionable merit to the album hitting number one then staying at number two for five straight weeks, and with another in the pipeline Florence and the Machine have potential to blow the smelly three-day old socks right off the revellers at Latitude. If you dig a little deeper and look at some of the other acts on previous year’s bills, rather than the headliners, you will see many of Florence’s genre pals.
For example, back in 2007 Latitude was host to Bat For Lashes and Kate Nash, while 2008 heralded Beth Orton, Foals and other relative unknowns – Noah and The Whale. At the last pass Latitude pulled out all the stops with Newton Faulkner and another enigmatic female newcomer, Paloma Faith. Anyone who cares to argue with the logic of Florence and the Machine taking the top spot at Latitude need only look at the build-up of similar acts over the last three years.
Although previous headliners have been of an earlier generation of musical legend, and have a few more tracks under their belts, you can’t say Florence wasn’t due to hit that status all along. Everyone has to start somewhere and it’s about time we embraced new and exciting music at the top of our lists instead of spending all our time reminiscing. While it’s nice to see an epic performance of a band you used to listen to when you were eight (in all likelihood dancing around in your big sister’s heels and smearing lipstick all over your face), you have to make the most of your ‘here and now’ and Florence is definitely that, embodying a sound of our time – this is the music of the moment.
Florence herself has more than enough persona and stage presence to pull it off: she’s quirky and likeable, she has a completely unique sound and a solid set of crowd pleasers up her sleeve, which includes the astounding hit cover of ‘You Got The Love’ by The Source. Florence and the Machine embody the festival mood and if you ask me, will fit right in with her neighbours Belle And Sebastian and Vampire Weekend. I’m going, it’ll be a scorcher.
NO argues Rhian Daly…
Florence and the Machine – one of 2009’s success stories and an artist who’s star is no doubt going to continue ascending at the same rapid pace. Now, she’s been confirmed as one of the headline acts for this year’s Latitude and you’d be forgiven for assuming she’s booked to close the Word Arena. But how wrong you’d be! No, Florence Welch is set to top the bill for the Friday night with her huge back catalogue of, er… just the one album.
Have the folk behind Latitude made an error in booking such a new act? In relation to the other headliners, Belle And Sebastian and Vampire Weekend, Flo is still fresh-faced and wet behind the ears. There’s no doubt she’ll bring her usual exuberant, manic performance but for an hour and a half? What’s she going to do, do a super extended version of You Got The Love? Or maybe we’ll be treated to the original and the Dizzee Rascal abomination of a ‘mash-up’. I can hardly contain myself.
As much as Florence has worked her socks off these past few months and certainly deserves to be edging her way up the bill at events like Latitude, putting her into the headline slot at this point in her career feels like Festival Republic might be trying a bit too hard to ride the zeitgeist (possibly in an attempt to make Latitude appeal to a wider audience?). Of course, you could point to the fact Marina And the Diamonds are headlining Secret Garden Party in July, by which point The Family Jewels will be only five months old. But SGP is a much smaller festival than Latitude, something which could work in Marina’s favour.
As history shows us, headlining a big festival with a back catalogue stretching to just one record doesn’t tend to go too well. Remember The Strokes headlining back in Reading and Leeds 2002? Is This It? was barely a year old, and struggling to fill the time, the band took a break to present Julian Casablancas with a birthday cake. Cute, maybe, but what you’ve paid £150 plus to see? Not really. Luckily, it’s not Florence’s birthday until August so the Suffolk crowd will be spared this tedious time-killing tactic at least.
In contrast, The Maccabees headlined Standon Calling in 2008, a year after the release of their debut album. Having already started work on new material, the band were able to litter their set with fresh songs whilst playing majority of ‘Colour It In’. If Flo has begun writing her next album, she might pull it off but she’ll have to work carefully on her setlist.
Her voice is somewhat of an acquired taste live, sometimes straying dangerously close to the line between astounding and strong, and horrific caterwauling. With her famous ADD-charged performances, will she be able to stay just calm enough to keep control of this? If she doesn’t, she could see her crowd abandoning her before she’s finished.