Latitude: Music preview

Simon ParkinNext weekend 35,000 people will descend on Henham Park for Latitude. The festival will feature more than 750 performers ranging from theatre to opera to ballet to cabaret to comedy - oh, and some music too.Simon Parkin

Next weekend 35,000 people will descend on Henham Park for Latitude. The festival will feature more than 750 performers ranging from theatre to opera to ballet to cabaret to comedy - oh, and some music too. SIMON PARKIN previews what to expect.

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Latitude revels in being a festival that does things a bit different.

It's perhaps the place you can see an indie-punk band followed by a classical ballet followed by a talk by a Booker winning author followed by a burlesque show - all in the space of one afternoon. That's why 35,000 people will again descend on Henham Park, near Southwold, for the four-day festival next weekend.

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While its true that Latitude is more easy-going, more laidback and more eclectically diverse in its offerings, its also undeniable that its still the music that gets people most excited.

Some people claim to have attended but to have not seen a single band, usually said as a sort of boast meant to make you seem a pleb for preferring The Temper Trap to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

While I imagine its perfectly possible to have a wonderful, stimulating and relaxing weekend without ever venturing to any of the four music stages - The Obelisk, The Word Arena, The Sunrise and The Lake Stage - you'd only having half the fun.

Certainly anyone culturally boycotting the music this year will be missing out. After last year's more urban electronic pop offerings - the Pet Shop Boys and Grace Jones - this year's line-up somehow feels much more naturally Latitude.

Indeed by luck, chance or - more likely - months of good planning, its a gathering of the most interesting, exciting and fascinating non-mainstream artists around at the moment.

If you'd have asked the average Latitude-goer to draw up their ideal line-up, I'm pretty sure many of the bands set to appear would have been on it. That said there is just enough to challenge the audience's musical horizons too.

Latitude has cultivated a reputation in special one-off performances - think Thom Yorke's Sunday lunchtime appearance last year.

This year the musical offerings kick-off with Tom Jones much publicised special midnight performance of his new gospel-inspired album, Praise and Blame, in the intimate woodland stage. It promises to be something memorable.

There is surely no argument that Florence and the Machine were ready-made Latitude headliners. Flame-haired singer Florence Welch and her band and have enjoyed a remarkable 12-months since the release of her Brit award-winning debut album The Lungs.

They will be headlining the main Obelisk Arena on Friday night, with no doubt plenty of capes, harps and swirling theatrical indie-pop.

Closing the following night will be Scotland's finest Belle and Sebastian, who have cornered the market in sweet-sounding indie ballads with lyrical bite. However given the introspective nature of much of their material it will interesting to see how they cope performing to such a large crowd.

Headlining Sunday night with their unique brand afro-beat indie-pop will be Vampire Weekend. The New York four-piece divide opinion, but their upbeat offerings are sure to be crowd-friendly and anyone who saw their recent appearance at Glastonbury will know they perfect for a sun-blessed festival.

This year, alongside such dad-friendly offerings as Richard Hawley (Fri, Word), The Feeling (Fri, Word), Corinne Bailey Rae (Sat, Obelisk) and a special appearance by 1990s favourites James (Sat, Obelisk), others well worth seeking out are Midlake and Mumford & Sons, who also went down a storm at Glastonbury (both Sun, Obelisk).

You can take your pick from artists as diverse as ethereal The XX (Sat, Word), rowdy electro-punks Crystal Castles (Sat, Obelisk), heavily hyped Brit-folkstress Laura Marling (Fri, Obelisk).

There's also a smattering of bands registering a 10 on the style-bible cool-o-meter, including 80s post-punk inspired These New Puritans (Sun, Sunrise), Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit (Sat, Sunrise), Wild Beasts (Fri, Word), The Horrors (Sat, Word) and Grizzly Bear (Sun, Word).

Others to look out for include a highly-anticipated solo return for J�nsi, two-years after his band Sigur R�s headlined (Sun, Word), ever-green faves The Coral (Sun, Word) and a headline slot by The National (Fri, Word), which seems to be a potential highlight for many.

If that's too much popular music, you can also catch a very special performance by Nigel Kennedy on the Thursday evening at The Lake Stage, which is sure to draw a massive audience.

The Lake Stage will also again host BBC Introducing, curated by Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens, and featuring a plethora of upcoming and local acts. If you want to see who'll be appearing on big stages in years to come, this beautiful lakeside setting is the place to be. Among those appearing will be Norwich's very own These Ghosts (Fri).

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