Latitude 2014 preview: Not Just a Thinking Person’s Festival…

Latitude 2014

Latitude 2014

The line up at Latitude last year was possibly the strongest and most eclectic to date. We wore 3-D specs and were taken on a visual and sonic journey by Kraftwerk. The late, great Bobby Womack massaged our souls back into consciousness on Sunday lunchtime. Finally we sold our souls back to the devil with Disclosure and Rudimental then Roy Davis Jnr in the Woods.

Latest Latitude Festival line up, venue and ticket details here »

This won Latitude the best line up award at the prestigious UK Festival Awards last year – an accolade definitely not to be sniffed at. But with the bar set high, have they managed to nail it again in 2014? All eyes and ears were eagerly peeled and pricked ready for this year’s announcement, and while it hasn’t been met with the same gasps of astonishment as the 2013 line-up, it has enough exclusives to be on the right side of impressive.

Continuing the festival’s tradition of giving bands their first headline appearance, this year Latitude is giving Northern Indie Rockers Two Door Cinema Club a try out on Friday night. If they enjoy themselves as much as Foals did at the festival last year during their inaugural festival headline performance, we should be in for a real treat to kick off the weekend.

Damon Albarn headlines on the Saturday in what will be his first ever festival performance as a solo artist and a UK exclusive. Of course he’s got a huge back catalogue, but he’ll mostly be performing his new solo album Everyday Robots. Worthy of a headline slot? It doesn’t pack the punch of Blur’s power pop or the psychedelic appeal of his opiate-influenced Gorillaz work, however it is Damon Albarn and we suspect he was hardly likely to settle for anything less.

If you’re looking for something a little less melancholy then head over to the 6 Music marquee where new Northern European collaboration Royksopp & Robyn will be belting out some pretty interesting Electro Tech sounds in another exclusive. American rock duo The Black Keys close the festival Sunday night. They’ve been headlining US festivals for some time, but this will be their first UK headline performance. Their gritty Garage and Blues laced Indie Rock should be the perfect tonic for a flagging Sunday night crowd.

As always there’s sterling support from the likes of Mogwai, The War on Drugs, Ghostpoet, First Aid Kit, Bombay Bicycle ClubThe Afghan Whigs and James for a Saturday afternoon sing-along. Alongside this there is a ton of new music and emerging talent from Fat White Family, Circa Waves, East India Youth, Jungle, The Acid, Bondax, Elliphant and many more.

The usual heritage headliners are absent this year, but the golden oldies are still represented by the likes of Chrissie Hynde. She will be performing tracks from her new album Stockholm on Sunday afternoon – and hopefully a few old favourites. Booker T takes to the stage Saturday afternoon, with everyone no doubt expecting to see some Mod moves and dance mayhem to the sound of Green Onions. Daryl Hall and John Oates return to the 6 Music Marquee on Saturday early evening, which has got me off the hook somewhat with the missus. I allowed her to oversleep last time they played the festival and I’ve been promising her ever since we’ll see them again – thanks Latitude.

The traditional Sunday lunch slot this year has been filled by the Atomic Bomb: Who is William Onyeabor? show, which features an ever-evolving collective of internationally acclaimed musicians. To date it includes Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip,  Pat Mahoney from the LCD Soundsystem, Money Mark from Beastie Boys, Sinkane, Scritti Politti, Mahotella Queens and is headed up by David Byrne of Talking Heads and X-Press 2 fame. Who exactly is William Onyeabor? He’s a Nigerian born Funk musician and producer whose work is heavily rhythmic and synthesised and occasionally epic. Sounds like the perfect start to Sunday for the festival fatigued party masses.

In addition to the music, Latitude is also known for having one of the best comedy line ups at any UK festival and this year there should be plenty of chortles from the likes of Dara O’Brian, Kevin Bridges and the absurdly barmy Milton Jones amongst many others.

However there is still one more big comedy name to come according to a press launch from  the organisers earlier this year. Apparently this is a name so big that they said they may not be able to announce until the weekend of the festival.

So who this mystery man or woman be? Well, this year’s arts theme is Secrets and Lies, which explores the tricky relationship between the private and public worlds of individuals, communities and wider society. The festival’s new media partner is the political and cultural magazine New Statesmen.

Now call me Miss Marple, but I think this means that New Statesmen guest editor and new-age revolutionary Russell Brand will be putting in an appearance? They’ve even introduced Yoga for the first time in 2014, which is the new favourite pastime of Brand’s latest meta-physical media incarnation. Maybe he insisted it was there so we can all be in tune ready for his performance?

We’ll have to wait and see if my assertions that the Keith Richards aspirant errant turning up are unfounded. If so, then we still have plenty of others to tickle our activist tendencies in the form of Mark Thomas, Billy Bragg and Punk poet Attila the Stockbroker.

Its acts like these alongside the wealth of cultural offerings that sets Latitude apart from other festivals. Those of you who’ve read my previous Latitude coverage may have noticed that I frequently promise to check out some of the more high-brow entertainment, but  then usually end up to caught up in the high spirits end of the festival’s activities and thus missing it all.

Well this year I’ve been doing my research and will definitely be checking out some of these more leftfield acts. This will include a definite detour to investigate interesting looking cabaret performers, including postmodernist Meow Meow, Club Sol – a wry look at all-inclusive holiday resorts on the Costa del Sol – and Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho. This is a drag comedy musical about the Iron Lady taking a night off  and getting  lost in Soho, only to find that she accidentally becomes a cabaret superstar.

Of course it’s not just a thinking person’s festival and there’ll be plenty of opportunity for mindless hedonism after dark. Music company Transgressive are celebrating their tenth birthday with a late night takeover of the Film and Music arena. This will feature exclusive sets from Simian Mobile Disco, Snakehips, Two Inch Punch and the Transgressive and Bless teams, together with the promise of some special guest appearances.

House legend DJ Dave Seaman will be headlining a special late night set In The Woods on Saturday – Dave Seaman & Friends present The Naughty Forest. Joined by Pete Gooding and Steve Parry, this Ibiza themed night should offer some good Balearic beats. And party starting soul-boy and Latitude regular Craig Charles is joined by Xpress-2 to wrap things up In The Woods Sunday night.

One last thing, although I’m not particularly a fan of day trippers turning up all pristine and fresh faced, whilst I’m still in the same cargo shorts I arrived in and nursing a three day hangover, the festival is again laying on free camping for day ticket holders. This is the only festival I know of that’s put such a scheme in place – a real plus point for those who can’t make the whole weekend. So if you’re a bit pushed for time, cash or just want to dip your toe in the Latitude lake of live music, laughs and literary lavishness then you really have no excuse. Come on down, it’ll be a blast.

For more information and tickets see our guide to Latitude Festival.