Preview: Music

Simon ParkinThough its billed as 'more than a music festival', for many the bands are inevitably the highlight of Latitude. SIMON PARKIN previews what to expect.Simon Parkin

Though its billed as 'more than a music festival', for many the bands are inevitably the highlight of Latitude. SIMON PARKIN previews what to expect.

While its true that Latitude is a bit different to most festivals, 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 plebe for preferring White Lies to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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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 Uncut, 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. The line-up is the most extensive, diverse and exciting yet, and in at least two of the main headliners Latitude 2009 boasts acts that genuinely challenge the audience's perceptions of what the festival is all about.

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It is a welcome broadening of the music on offer. Previously Latitude had risked looking as if its line-up had been compiled almost exclusively by readers of Mojo and Q.

While there was some initial muttering that The Pet Shop Boys were not right for this type of gathering, there now seems to be genuine excitement about the appearance of the art-pop duo.

They will be headlining the main Obelisk Arena on Friday night, and showcasing material from their new album Yes and a back catalogue that boasts 22 Top 10 hits and four number ones.

Closing the following night will be Grace Jones, who again doesn't seem an obvious Latitude choice. The iconic, hard-hitting, disco icon is currently enjoying a revival in popularity and mainstream success, her recent album Hurricane, her first in nearly 20-years, has positioned her on the frontline of popular culture once again. One thing is for certain, we can expect some spectacular outfits to get an airing as the sun sets over Henham Park.

Headlining Sunday night with their unique brand of dirty, elemental blues rock will be Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, a quick return for the singer after he appearance last year with his Grinderman offshoot.

This year, alongside such dad-friendly offerings as Pretenders (Fri, Obelisk), Doves (Sat, Obelisk), Squeeze (Fri, Uncut), you can take your pick from artists as diverse as ethereal Bat For Lashes (Fri, Uncut), electro-rockers White Lies (Sat, Obelisk), heavily hyped pop-stress Little Boots (Fri, Sunrise) and Beth Ditto cutting a striking figure with Gossip (Sun, Uncut).

There's also a smattering of bands registering a 10 on the style-bible coolometer, including 80s electro-pop singer Ladyhawke (Fri, Obelisk), Danish indie outfit Mew (Fri, Uncut), Sweden's Lykke Li (Fri, Uncut) and dance punks !!! (Sun, Sunrise), who you are just as liely to see in the pages of Kerrang as Mojo.

Others to look out for include a highly anticipated special Sunday midday solo appearance from Radiohead's Thom Yorke (Obelisk), the return of revered post-punk pioneers Magazine (Sun, Uncut) and an appearance by Editors (Sun, Obelisk), which seems to be a potential highlight for many.

The Lake Stage meanwhile will 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 2 Hot 2 Sweat (Sat).

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