Thank goodness for Latitude. A proper, bona fide festival atmosphere; but wholly devoid of stripey-trousered goons on stilts, wacky dealers in oversized felt jesters’ hats, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This year, as ever, the music line-up is a mix of big names and emerging artists; surrounded by a dizzying array of comedy, theatre, film, poetry, dance – and pretty much every other genre of artistic expression that the muses could inspire.
It’s desperately middle class; but if that troubles you, take heart from the fact that your tent is highly unlikely to be pissed on by a gang of lagered-up scallies, and that no Mark E Smith lookalikes are likely to become entangled in your guyropes at four in the morning. The choice of headliners – Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – is pretty smart. They’ve all been around for yonks, but have all enjoyed a credible renaissance in the past couple of years – ensuring that both cool teenagers and middle-aged musos are kept more than happy. Reviews and YouTube footage of the Pet Shop Boys’ current tour suggests that we’re in for something very special indeed.
If Nick Cave’s Latitude appearance as Grinderman last year was anything to go by, his Sunday night appearance will bring fire and brimstone down on the assembled masses like there’s no tomorrow. Less predictable is Grace Jones’ Saturday headline slot, though we can be certain that she’ll come on very late, will be sporting some kind of extraordinary headgear, and will scare the bejesus out of us all.
Older nostalgics are assured some familiar treats in the form of Magazine, Squeeze and The Pretenders. And those of us who have a little longer to wait before our bus passes arrive can swoon over Saint Etienne and Spiritualized. Which isn’t to say that Latitude’s all about reheating old dishes: there’s plenty of contemporary big names, evenly divided between punky electro (The Gossip, Ladyhawke, Little Boots, Patrick Wolf) and winsome spookiness (Bat For Lashes, Regina Spektor, Lykke Li, Camera Obscura).
The world of “indie” (ie. major label bands with guitars) is headed by Doves and Editors, while amongst the late additions to the bill are Thom Yorke with a solo set on Sunday at noon and the first festival appearance of The Duckworth Lewis Method, the cricket pop concept project from The Divine Comedy‘s Neil Hannon and Pugwash‘s Thomas Walsh. In a scheduling move designed to thrill musicOMH deliciously, they’re on right before the electro-paganism of Fever Ray, the solo project of The Knife‘s Karin Dreijer Anderssen. Two reasons enough right there to head to Southwold, we reckon.
Again Latitude draws in the biggest names in UK comedy, with a line-up that reads like the credits of a Channel 4 panel quiz show. The agreeable charms of Jo Brand, Ed Byrne, Dave Gorman, Marcus Brigstocke and Seans Lock and Hughes are unlikely to leave The Man quaking in his boots, but can safely be relied upon for some middleweight amusement.
The literary tents offer a hugely diverse range of household-name poets (Andrew Motion, Simon Armitage, Blake Morrison); and artists, authors and activists including Sir Peter Blake, Jonathan Coe, Vivienne Westwood and Mark Steel. And – I kid you not – Trigger from Only Fools And Horses reading TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. You don’t get that at Glastonbury, do you? Latitude’s postmodern agenda also sees performances from the RSC, the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, and Sadler’s Wells pitched up next to the bands and boozing.
All of which only scratches the surface. There are hundreds of new bands to discover; film, cabaret, vaudeville, karaoke, performance art, bingo, DJs, and all manner of surprises lurking in the woods – and of course those pink sheep. It looks very much like a year’s entertainment crammed into three short days.