Left-field line-up perfect for Latitude

LATITUDE prides itself on being “more than a music festival” but its stellar line-up of bands and musicians is arguably the event's biggest crowd-puller.

Jonathan Barnes

LATITUDE prides itself on being “more than a music festival” but its stellar line-up of bands and musicians is arguably the event's biggest crowd-puller.

Performers in previous years have included Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire, Elbow, Antony and the Johnsons and Damien Rice.

The class of 2009 is topped by electro-pop legends Pet Shop Boys, disco diva Grace Jones and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.

“I'm very pleased with the line-up this year, it's a good blend,” says Jon Dunn, who books all the bands at the festival.

“There are some acts - such as Grace Jones - who we have been after for a while.”

Most Read

As Latitude's reputation has grown, the music promoter's job has become both easier and more difficult.

“When we started it was me approaching bands. Now we get offered a lot - it works both ways,” he says.

“There are some we have to turn down, and then you have the exercise in telling them why. We're quite an artistic festival, and it's quite difficult to tell a band we don't think they are quite right.

“There are a couple of bands who have asked who are so obviously not Latitude - it's really painfully obvious. You do think 'why are you asking?'”

Dunn, who works for concert promoter Live Nation, says securing Grace Jones was a highlight of this year's negotiations.

“Grace is very particular about what she does, it has to be the right event for her, and this is absolutely the right event for her,” he says. “She defines what we are doing here.”

Like many of this summer's festivals, Latitude has gone with “heritage” acts for headliners, but Dunn is not concerned by any criticism.

“It's a tricky one. We do strive to be artistic and that doesn't mean to say you can't be artistic after one album, but if you've performed for a number of years at that level, you are going to be a bigger name. Our headliners this year have long careers behind them - it takes a lot for an act to be that big,” he says.

The summer season is seen as critical for breaking new musical talent, and the promoter believes this year's bill has several contenders.

His tips include US electro pop band Passion Pit, Aussie rockers The Temper Trap (“they could be one of the bands of the festival season”) and British singer Paloma Faith (“she is going to be a big star before the year is out”).

For a festival known for its quirks, creating a new “essential slot” for performers must rate among them.

Last year, harpist Joanna Newson played on the Obelisk Arena at midday on Sunday and went down a storm, watched by a captivated audience of thousands. “That slot is now an essential ingredient of the weekend - and it came about by complete accident,” he says.

At last month's press day, Dunn was busily checking his BlackBerry for confirmation of the act that would fill that gap this year. “It's a fantastic artist, someone very special. I wish I could say who it was,” he said.

A week later, the news came through. That act was Thom Yorke, the Radiohead frontman, who will play a rare solo show. If ever there was confirmation that Latitude had arrived as a force in the music festival season, there it was.