Now that 2011's festival season is in full swing, the time to take a trip up the A12 in towards rural Suffolk is almost upon us. Having first opened its doors in the summer of 2006, next weekend (Thursday 14th - Sunday 17th July) will see Latitude Festival open its doors for a sixth year, having firmly established itself as a highlight on the annual festival calendar. Situated in the picturesque confines of Henham Park, its woodland and lakeside settings combined with pristinely irrigated flatlands make this a world away from the hustle and bustle of Leeds & Reading, or the tortuous mudfest that often overshadows Glastonbury's otherwise flawless demeanour.
Over the years, Latitude has hosted the likes of Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros, Franz Ferdinand, Grace Jones, and last year's triple whammy of Florence & The Machine, Belle & Sebastian and Vampire Weekend. However, it is often down to some of the supporting cast to steal the show, many of whom were booked while still at their most embryonic stages of development such as Friendly Fires and Bat For Lashes in 2007, The xx and Villagers in 2009 or The Antlers last year.
Not that Latitude's main attractions are solely confined to music. Across over twenty different stages and areas of varying shapes and sizes expect to see all things from poetry and literary readings to comedy, theatre and film productions. And then of course there's the boat rides on the lake on a sunny afternoon, not forgetting the multi-coloured livestock roaming the site, painted in a variety of assorted colours for your enjoyment.
This year's headline acts throw up something of a diverse bunch. While Friday night's choice of The National is a popular one among music publications and blogs, it will be interesting to see how they cope with making the huge step up from last year's billing in The Word Arena. Saturday's choice of Paolo Nutini may seem like a bizarre one to some, not to mention those who see Latitude as being one of the few remaining major festivals that doesn't pander to the mainstream. Nevertheless, it is the Scottish crooner's second visit to Henham Park, having played the inaugural event in 2006. Let's hope his set is a tad better than his recent performance at Glastonbury a fortnight ago. Closing the main (Obelisk Arena) stage on Sunday night will be Suede, a band whose legacy needs no introductions, boasting the likes of 'Dog Man Star', 'Coming Up' and their eponymous debut among a near flawless back catalogue. While Bernard Butler has chosen not to participate in the current re-union, the five that have may just about conjure up one of the shows of the whole summer let alone Latitude if recent reports from their Roundhouse gigs are anything to go by.
Elsewhere, we've picked out a dozen of the best that have whetted our appetites to the point of starvation. However, with just over a week to go, that clock is ticking fast, so without further ado, here's 12 artists you really have to see next weekend: -
Adam Ant - Forget the mental breakdowns and remember the high prince of art school punk instead. Back with a new band in tow that features one Georgina Baillie (aka Andrew Sachs' grand-daughter) among its number, Ant's recent shows are said to be up there with his best from back in the day. Not to be missed at any cost. (The Word Arena - Saturday 16th).
OMD - Having had a string of hit singles in the 1980s, Liverpool's Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark can lay claim to having influenced nearly thirty years of electronically created pop music ever since. With founder members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys still on board, expect nothing less than a dazzling set of wall-to-wall smash hits. (The Word Arena - Sunday 17th).
Crocodiles - Fusing the wastrel shoegaze tendencies of a young Jesus & Mary Chain with the sassy energy of The Ramones, California's Crocodiles are a force to be reckoned with in more ways than one. Last year's 'Sleep Forever' long player was one of the underground's finest in 2010, and with new material said to be in the pipeline, this could be the perfect opportunity for Brandon Welch and Charles Rowell to re-launch themselves to a UK audience. (Sunrise Arena - Friday 15th).
The Heartbreaks - Hailing from Morecambe with a songbook full of kitchen sink dramas and a smidgeon of attitude, this four-piece can lay claim to having created two of the best home-grown 45s this past twelve months in the shape of 'Liar My Dear' and 'Jealous Don't You Know'. A certain gentleman by the name of Steven Patrick Morrissey thinks so too, having recently invited them on tour with him this summer. (Sunrise Arena - Sunday 17th).
Dog Is Dead - Straight out of Nottingham with smiles wider than the Trent, this quintet play a brand of melodic pop that's equally reminiscent of quintessential English bands like The Rumble Strips or Mystery Jets as it is preppy Yanks Vampire Weekend. With audience interaction a major part of their show, we guarantee there'll be stage diving aplenty throughout. (Sunrise Arena - Saturday 16th).
The Walkmen - Everyone knows 'The Rat', and thankfully the band have restored it to their live set this past year. However, The Walkmen are about so much more than one song, as last year's 'Lisbon', their sixth long player, evidently demonstrates. With arguably the coolest frontman around in Hamilton Leithauser also on board, what more could you possibly want? (The Word Arena - Saturday 16th).
Deerhunter - Heralded as a genius in some quarters, Bradford Cox may not quite have attained legendary status just yet, but there's little doubt the creative hub behind Deerhunter and Atlas Sound is one of the 21st Century's true musical innovators. In what is a rare live UK appearance, expect to be confounded at the very least. (The Word Arena - Friday 15th).
Still Corners - Despite having formed in 2008, little was known of Still Corners this time last year. Since then, thanks to a couple of excellent singles ('Don't Fall In Love' and 'Endless Summer') and a growing reputation as one of the most haunting live experiences around, expect their early evening show on Friday to be the "buzz" happening of the weekend. (The Lake Stage - Friday 15th).
Alexei Sayle - "Ullo John, Got A New Motor?" he may have once bellowed back in the early eighties, but looking back through Alexei Sayle's career his achievements far outweigh any novelty pop record. From 'The Young Ones' to 'Indiana Jones', Sayle has cropped up and always delivered the goods time after time. Having released his autobiography last year, expect a set full of humorous anecdotes and off the cuff satire. (Literary Arena - Sunday 17th).
Omid Djalili - London born of Persian origin, Omid Djalili is one of the most unique stand-up comedians to hit the boards in recent years, having cut his teeth on BBC's 'Live At The Apollo'. Since then, having had two series of his own commissioned, he's blossomed into a prestigious talent that should prove a welcome respite from all the musical goings on over the course of the weekend. (Comedy Arena - Saturday 16th).
Mazes - Although originating from Manchester, this lo-fi tinged outfit have more in common with Sub Pop's earliest forays into vinyl or the slacker underground idealism of K Records rather than the expected norm of the city they used to call home. Now based in London and signed to Fat Cat Records, their breezy pop will be the perfect lead-up to Suede's impending grand finale. (The Lake Stage - Sunday 17th).
They Might Be Giants - With thirty years worth of experience under their belts, the two Johns Flansburgh and Linnell that make up They Might Be Giants could be tagged as veterans when compared with the majority of acts on the bill here. However, that won't alter the youthful exuberance emanating from their performance one iota. Plus they have 'Birdhouse In Your Soul' up their sleeves. Bonus? You bet! (Obelisk Arena - Saturday 16th).
All that remains to be said is see you down the front!