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Going Against The Flo: A Quietus Latitude Festival Preview
The Quietus , July 14th, 2010 12:01

Charlie Ivens looks forward to this weekend's Latitude Festival, and finds much to love behind the headliners

Following last year's triumphant triumvirate of main-stage headliners – Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones and Nick Cave – the droids behind the Latitude festival were going to have to go some to top their triple-whammy coup of Proper Living Ledges.

So what wonders have they come up with to light up the main stage over three glorious, deathless nights this time? Er, Florence and the Machine, Belle & Sebastian and Vampire Weekend.

This, frankly, is not what we've come to expect from Festival Republic supremo Melvin Benn and his merry band of bookers – but, y'know, we understand there's a recession on, and they can't be taking any chances with acts who may not come up with the necessary crowd-pulling goods.

For better or worse, anyone who saw Florence Welch's undeniably extra-rammed Other Stage set at Glastonbury (either on telly or in person) will be grimly aware of the hollering foghorn's alarmingly snowballing popularity – and just to ram the point home, she popped up with Dizzee Rascal and The XX as well, like an eager-to-please workaholic freelance.

The Vamps, by the same token, play their peppy, preppy songs uncannily exactly like they sound on record, which we're constantly reminded is what lots of music fans like, so as long as they pull off the same trick on Sunday, the Latitude accountants can sleep tight. What am I on about? It's sold out anyway, but you get my drift.

Belle & Sebastian are arguably this year's curve-ball headline booking. Even class-of-‘96 Belles fans (like this writer) blinked twice when their name came up – god love ‘em, but their live shows can be horrendously bitty and with the best will in the world, do they really pack the requisite hits to please a not-necessarily-partisan crowd of Grauniad-reading granola munchers? Never mind the whole twee thing – how they're going to follow the electropunk chipcore maelstrom that is Crystal Castles is anybody's guess. Time, as always, will tell.

[By way of comparison, incidentally, this year's V festival headliners are Kings of Leon (sigh), Kasabian (give me the gun), David Guetta (srsly) and, of all people, The Prodigy (incongruous!) – and given that sorry scene, we know we'd far rather pitch our tent in Suffolk than Essex/Staffordsire.]

Luckily, there's a whole lot more to Latitude than the main Obelisk stage. From its inception in 2006, the festival has deliberately and pointedly placed as much emphasis on its theatre, poetry, comedy, film and performance art content as it has on the musical fare. The result is the most varied and frequently surprising bill this side of Pilton – but watch out for the pop-up Florence, she doesn't half get around…

Ten unmissable Latitude 2010 curios

Riz MC presents MICroscope

Perhaps better known simply as Riz Ahmed, Riz MC creates a fully immersive son et lumière experience wherever he lays his cocked hat. An award-winning actor, you may recognise Riz from Road To Guantanamo or cult Britflick Shifty, but tonight he'll be masterminding a unique, interactive event that will appeal to fans of Coldcut, improv theatre and Cirque du Soleil alike.
11pm, Friday, Film & Music Arena

David Ford

Once the singer in long-forgotten indie never-weres Easyworld, since 2004 David Ford has been carving a strange, compelling niche for himself as a singer-songwriter. Wait, come back! His is an assuredly esoteric craft, as he darts between multiple instruments onstage, using a loop pedal to create a hypnotic cacophony over and through which his reedy voice alternately floats and battles. I've seen him make hard men cry, such is his emotional clout.
6.05pm, Saturday, The Word Arena

Four Lions screening/Chris Morris Q&A

A man who needs no introduction but we're going to give him one anyway, arch satirist Chris Morris is rightly revered among connoisseurs of comedy and troublemaking as the capo di tutti capi of winding people up who clearly deserve it. Yes, he's recently taken to paying the bills by popping up in arguably beneath-him fare such as The IT Crowd, but he's also made Four Lions – as accurate a filmic skewering of UK attitudes to Islamic fundamentalism as we're likely to see. Ask him about his troublesome hair tonight.
10pm (tbc), Saturday, Film & Music Arena


Four pretty, pretty stylish types from Bristol, Wilder are freshly-signed (if that has any real meaning any more) to Rough Trade, and they make a fine noise indeed. It's little surprise they're being lined up with the likes of Sleigh Bells to push on through 2010 in a flurry of danceworthy synths, 80s goth-rock dynamics and well-placed graffiti stencils. The jury's out as to whether they'll set the stage alight, but they've already proved they're in possession of a fistful of matches.
5.15pm, Sunday, Lake Stage

Daniel Kitson and Gavin Osborn present Stories for the Starlit Sky

TV-shy "comedians' comedian" – that is, you'd be hard pushed to find a stand-up who doesn't think he's among the world's finest – Daniel Kitson joins forces with gently funny tweecore-folk chap Gavin Osborn (think Frank Turner, only quieter and with punchlines) for some late-night tale-regaling. We're guessing this will pan out in a manner akin to Storytellers' Club, the self-explanatory monthly love-in run by Aussie comic Sarah Bennetto, who's part of Robin Ince's inestimable Book Club line-up in the Literary Arena this year. The stories intertwine over three nights, so for maximum joy you'd best turn up to all of ‘em…
Midnight, Friday/Saturday/Sunday, Waterfront Stage

Eddie Argos

The Art Brut singer, in the Poetry Arena? Shurely shome mishtake? Um, no. Anyone who's experienced the painfully shameless Argos performing with his band will know he's not afraid of a bit of soul-baring (and other things-baring, come to that), and this is where you get to see him in a different light. We're promised a stripped-down acoustic set, which rather gives the lie to the poetry tag, but all the same if you ever wondered what on earth he was singing in ‘Rusted Guns of Milan', for example, now's probably the time to find out.
Time tbc, day tbc, Poetry Arena

The Hundred In The Hands

Perhaps an unusual signing to Sheffield avant-electronica stalwarts Warp Records, The Hundred In The Hands' breezy electro-pop sounds like Kylie covering Mika compared to more oldie-scaring labelmates like PVT and Flying Lotus. That said, there's something playfully wonky about their shtick, as if they listened back to their first efforts and immediately decided to fuck ‘em up a bit, just for fun.
2pm, Saturday, Sunrise Arena

The Passion of Joan of Arc with live score from Adrian Utley and Will Gregory

You may already know the story of Jeanne d'Arc – looked a bit like Jane Wiedlin, liked keep-fit videos, burnt at the stake (only some of this was learnt from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure) – but you won't have seen her like this before. Sit back and marvel as Portishead's avuncular multi-instrumentalist Adrian Utley and Goldfrapp's premier button-pusher Will Gregory make use of an ensemble boasting guitars, synths, harp, brass, percussion and voices to create a live score to Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1928 silent classic. We've seen Utley and Gregory together onstage before, and it was fairly mind-blowing. Do not miss.
Time tbc, day tbc, Film & Music Arena

Duckie's Pop-Up Mask Workhop

You may have read about Duckie's Masked Ball, happening in The Faraway Forest on Saturday night. Well, now's the time to make that mask you "accidentally" forgot, with the help of Tim Spooner and Scottee. The workshop's open all day Friday and Saturday so you've got plenty of time to create the Louis Walsh/Louie Spence/Mark E Smith mask you've always wanted in time for the big shebang. Trust us, you don't want to be the only one wearing an inside-out cardboard beer crate with a face drawn on in biro…
All day, Friday/Saturday, Pandora's Playground


And one headliner, just to square the circle. Naturally, there are no girls in Girls: Girls are a five-piece revolving around the singular, magnetic presence of singer Christopher Owens. Having now escaped the confines of undeniably weird hippie cult Children of God, Christopher channelled his finally unfettered creativity into an album called Album that you need in your life. Veering from old-style Buddy Holly-esque rock'n'roll to beautiful surfer-boy harmonies a curious lyrical tone, it's a little like listening to Evan Dando having a nervous breakdown. See them before the boogie man get's ‘em.
8.30pm, Friday, Sunrise Arena

NB. Regrettably, we were unable to get hold of the stage times or even days of performance for some of our tips – but your lovingly crafted festival programme, available onsite and a snip at about 5% of the cost of the ticket you've already paid for, will tell you all you need to know

The Latitude Festival is happening 16-18 July in Southwold, Suffolk. This years' festival is long sold out, but tickets for 2011 will no doubt be on sale soon enough: hang around till then.

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