Kai Jones looks ahead to the biggest boutique festival of them all, Latitude.
What, when and where?
Latitude is the nearest the UK gets to the idiosyncratic nature of some of Europe’s most beautiful festivals, such as Lowlands and Benicassim, which offer fashion, theatre and literature alongside the music.
Consistently pulling-in perfectly-billed headliners and a mouth-watering, eclectic supporting cast of Guardian-enthused artists year-on-year, Latitude’s charm is actually the packed non-musical programme. This is a festival that you suspect pays as great (or more attention) to the cabaret, film and comedy stages as it does to the music – even offering separate arenas for poetry and literary.
As a result of this welcome understanding and dedication to the arts, Latitude draws some seminal names – this year alone you can catch Bret Easton Ellis, Chris Morris, Jon Ronson, Rich Hall, Sebastian Faulks, Hanif Kureishi, the Royal Opera House, Julian Temple, Emo Phillips, Swan Lake, Josie Long, Paul Greengrass, John Cooper Clarke, Modern Toss and Julie Burchill.
After that, the music seems almost incidental, but Latitude have pulled in headliners Florence and the Machine, Vampire Weekend and a joyous return for Belle and Sebastian.
Latitude Festival 2010 runs from 15-18 July at Henham Park, Southwold, in Suffolk. Basically head east from Cambridge, it’s skipping distance from the black syrup of the North Sea.
Five to watch
Belle and Sebastian
When Belle and Sebastian announced their return from a brief hiatus to headline Latitude and curate Bowlie 2 later this year, thousands of twee-pop fans around the world let out a sweet sigh of satisfaction before returning to their copies of ‘the Collected Works of Philip Larkin’. Belle and Sebastian’s idiosyncratic charm will always be the sombre mood that belies their affecting indie-pop, a bewitching mix of baroque and bubblegum that has given us such classics as ‘Dear Catastrophe Waitress’ and ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’. An archetypal Latitude headliner.
Rodriguez y Gabriela
You should only have to listen to their compelling dual-flamenco-guitar take on ‘Orion’ by Metallica to be convinced that Rodriguez y Gabriela’s Sunday night slot propping up Vampire Weekend, is an absolute must see. Taking Cliff Burton’s darkly-poetic instrumental from ‘Master of Puppets’, they reveal it as a Mexican sunset of slow-burning beauty. Informed equally by the Mexico City metal scene they grew up in as much as Latin folk guitar, Rodriguez y Gabriela are extraordinary, fiery virtuosos who pay equal respect to the lyrical structure of thrash pioneers Overkill and Slayer as they do to Hungarian gypsy violinist Roby Lakatos.
Girls are delicious West-coast pop cool, Elvis Costello fronting at a Beach Boys campfire. This is not just sun-blissed pop though, there's a biting melancholy running through the love-lorn songs, a sullen, frazzled edge that at times brings to mind the swooning glory of early 90s Lemonheads. Fittingly Girls singer Christopher Owens, all sun-bleached locks and puppy dog eyes, is probably the only male singer to carry off a floor-length dress at gigs with panache since Evan Dando.?
Islet are a small island of fractious, largely-instrumental rock from Cardiff, a multi-drumming crag of incestuous instrument swapping and beastly rhythm sections. This all sounds a tad post-rock but far from it, there’s too much devastating tribalism and a sense that they’re having far too much fun onstage to wallow in self-indulgence. An absolute highlight of the Huw Stephens-curated Lake Stage.
As perfect a billing as anything in Latitude’s history. The beguiling Charlotte Gainsbourg straddles the worlds of film and music, releasing two of the most absorbing records of recent years while starring in Lars Von Trier’s ravenous and challenging Antichrist and Michel Gondry’s ingenuous, cerebral Science of Sleep. New album ‘IRM’, is an intimate, fragile and wondrous record, which should make Gainsbourg one of the most rapturous appearances of the weekend.
One to miss
Sticking out like a herd of Latitude’s famous kaleidoscope sheep, the Feeling’s Friday night Word Arena set is a shock of horror in between the fairy tale beauty of the National, Wild Beasts and Richard Hawley. Latitude may as well added Scouting for Girls, Keane and Twang and turned the evening into the Muddy Dirge Arena – personally we’d rather watch the bleating cacophony down at the sheep enclosure.
Playing a rare festival date
This should be an absolute treat. Obviously we can expect Kennedy to deliver the work his name his still closest to – his sublime and seminal Vivaldi recordings – but for the past decade he has settled in Poland with his Polish wife, and explored the country’s acclaimed jazz scene as well as collaborating with the stirring klezmer of Krakow’s Kroke. Always a free spirit, this recent exploration and the words ‘with orchestra and band’ after his programme billing, should provide Latitude with an intriguing, eclectic ensemble mix of Bach, Vivaldi, jazz and klezmer. Unmissable.
Playing at midnight on Thursday in the woods, the Welsh legend has recently made his biggest reinvention since he released ‘Kiss’ with Art of Noise in 19. Finally letting the grey-white through on the hair and goatee and dropping the sexual sass that was looking tired when he was doing the Vegas lounges in the early 80s, Tom has released to much acclaim, drawing comparisons with Rick Rubin’s reinvigoration of Johnny Cash. To cement the new direction he could have relied on the Glastonbury Pyramid stage kick-back, but instead has chosen to deliver a sumptuous midnight performance of in the magic of the woods. A brave move and one that could be the highlight of the festival.
Be at Latitude if you like...
An education with your festival pint of XX. Goldie peddled the dawn of digital radio a few years ago by saying “one day you’ll be able to see radio”. That day has come and Latitude is a visible BBC Radio 4, 3 and 6 Music.
Avoid if you hate...
BBC Radio 4, 3 and 6 Music basically. Oh, and reading. And discovering new treats and what has gone before. And painted sheep. And basically everything that is wondrous about culture. Limp Bizkit and Reading are that way – move!
As soon as you pitch your tent on the luscious grass get hold of the ridiculously-packed programme (the ‘War and Peace’ of festival programmes). Ignore your mates and devour it for at least three hours, avoiding the music tips and heading straight to the literature pages.
Fashionista or folky
Latitude is fasionistas playing folksters, a Glastonbury boutique festival for the Radio 4 massive. This is no bad thing. It’s a festival for those of us who stay up late on Thursdays to watch Diane and Michael get all cosy on the This Week sofa, while programming our iPods with Four Tet and Yuck. It’s music to watch Andrew Marr By. A Hay On Wye bookmark stuck into the KLF’s ‘The Manual’. Stumbling home from 12 hours in a Bristol basement dancing to minimal techno, but making sure you pick up an Observer on the way to devour with your Waitrose sausages. If you hate this concept, won’t see you at Reading; if you get it – see you down the front for Sweet Baboo at the Lake Stage.
Alcohol of Choice
Gin and tonic. Perfect tipple for getting all dreamlike in the ‘Willo the Wisp’ woods following a day of Bret Easton Ellis discussing rats and nail guns.
Take Your Mum Score – 8/10
Imagine how thrilled she’ll be when you call and say “Hi Mum, I’ve got you tickets to the Royal Opera House”, before getting her all confused as you drive her towards the North Sea syrup and drop her off at ‘The Faraway Forest’ for some Shostakovich while you sneak off for Yeasayer. The joke will be on you though when you rock up at the Lake Stage at midnight and find her going 60s pop-crazy to DJ supremos Vinyl Vendettas.
Can I still get tickets?
Nope, zilcho, nil pois, Latitude is becoming one of those festivals that sells out before you even hear the second syllable. “Lati- sorry, better luck next year”.
Virtual Festivals official ticketing partner viagogo have a number of passes available to the festival still currently starting from £80.
Click here to buy Latitude tickets.
viagogo provides a safe and secure online platform enabling fans to sell spare tickets if they are unable to attend. They guarantee every transaction meaning that buyers can be sure they will get the tickets they paid for, and that sellers will get paid for their tickets.
They also have tickets available for Reading and Leeds Festivals, T In The Park and many more.
Click here to visit viagogo.
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