For those of you whose ears have been elsewhere other than to the ground, listening for the next big noise in festivals, then prick them up right now; Latitude festival has landed. With its fifth year on earth being an unmitigated success, the claims of the Suffolk-based festival being, ‘the new Glastonbury’, may not seem as naïve or high-hoped as they once were.

No festival is complete without its wild card entry, the ace-in-the-hole that can be whipped out on the last day to restore the levels of serotonin to the weathered revelers on whom the weekends’ festivities have taken their toll. Well, so strong was the Latitude organizers’ confidence that their mystery guest actually inaugurated the festival for them as the first official act. That’s right ladies, Mr. Sex Bomb himself, Tom Jones provided a raunchy recounting of ‘Praise and Blame’ at Midnight in the Woods, with old fans and newcomers alike clamouring over each other to get into the cordoned off area in the not-so-secret forest. Decked out in a crimson jacket and tight black trousers, Jones resembled a rock’n’roll preacher of old, his trademark blues man’s howl echoing amongst the ears of an eager and welcoming audience. Given his reputation for what is often thrown at him onstage, perhaps opening the festival as opposed to closing it was a canny move by Jones; a well-aimed, five-day old pair of knickers could put even the most seasoned of professionals off his stride. However, Jones did agree to a brief return to the main stage at midday on Sunday, where he tore through his classics as most partiers were tearing into their reserve sets of underwear…

Friday morning saw discussions of Mr. Jones’s set interspersed with rumours that a festival guest had been raped the night before, rumours that were later confirmed to be true, as well as another rape to occur the following evening. The levels of shock and rage amongst the guests were insurmountable, and the uniform response seemed to be, “this just doesn’t happen at Latitude.” The idea that somebody could do that to another human being, especially young girls who are at a communal event to celebrate the life and love of the arts and entertainment world is simply anathematic to anyone who possesses any kind of heart or soul. These people are a waste of life, oxygen thieves who must be handed over to the authorities as soon as possible. The bigger a festival gets, the more need there is for security, however it is impossible to thoroughly police a music festival while retaining any element of joy and freedom. As these events show, evil can occur in the purest of situations, therefore the Latitude organizers should not be facing the backlash that some armchair commentators were throwing at them.

Into the afternoon we fell, heads heavy with contraband spirits mixing with discomforting news, and it was up to a young folk songstress to lift weary spirits; and lift them she did. Laura Marling entertained the crowd of thousands with a set packed full of lilting ballads and gentle shanties, delivered through a voice whose world-weariness never belied her tender years. Marling is famous for being a talent so prodigious that she was once thrown out of her own gig for being under-age; well, now she has reached the grand, old milestone of 20 and shows no signs of ‘doing a Rimbaud’, she can look forward to regaling us for times with heart-rendering tales of all the boys that have fallen at their knees for her, (and with her new blonde makeover, the lads will be queuing round the next field!) However, if Marling is going to become a regular semi-headliner at festivals, she could do a lot worse than fleshing out her sound with more innovative instruments, or at least something that we can’t hear on the album. Still, a solid performance from a girl who should by all rights grow into a folk legend over years to come.

If there is one band that can be counted on to pull something different out of the bag, it’s Empire of the Sun. These Aussie electro-rockers are deemed by some to be a diet-MGMT, however anyone watching their opening numbers, complete with back flipping dancers and headdresses that would put the most flamboyant of Indian chiefs to shame. Their electro-tinged summer shore anthems couldn’t have been more perfectly placed as front man Luke Steele’s reverb-soaked vocals drifted across the field, layering delicate harmonies upon pounding synths; the perfect good time band for a crowd who were out to enjoy themselves.

Headlining the main stage on Friday night was pop-songstress extraordinaire Florence and her trusty Machine. Her carefully honed act offered little in the way of change from what she peddled on last year’s festival circuit, however she has the saving grace of being a phenomenal singer and a natural born performer. Her ethereal vocals swirled around shaman-esque melodies, with ‘Rabbit Heart’ and ‘Dog Days Are Over’ serving as veritable call-to-arms for her adoring crowd beneath. Bringing her younger siblings out for the crowd to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to one of them may seem more than a little twee and could possibly trigger any gag-responses of the more cynical members of the audience; at any other festival this may be the case, however with a large proportion of the crowd being taken up by parents and children, this cutesy act was acquiesced by a forgiving crowd. A cattier music journalist may make remark on the fact that if it had been Florence’s birthday and she had to blow out all the candles, (representing her real age) not even her lungs would have enough puff to extinguish them. Ah, the high road…

The fact that Latitude has such a ‘come one, come all’ approach to its guests is one of its major drawing points for the new generation of festival-goers; with celebrities fully endorsing the ‘family festival’ experience, the public are following suit and soon you won’t be able to move for ankle-biters in the mosh pit. The fact that Latitude has been seen as family friendly from its inception will only help it grow from strength to strength in the coming years. However, one downside to all of these different age groups merging within the communal areas of the festival is how strict the bars have to be with ID-checking. Greying hipsters were denied an over-priced paper cup of cider for failing to bring their passport with them to Suffolk, bribing a group of teenagers to sneak contraband booze back to their group as they grumbled about the glory days of pre-Under 25 alcohol checks.

Whether Eleanour Lou’s crowd were inebriated or not, they certainly seemed to enjoy her laid-back set of bluesy, ‘Ani DiFranco goes electric’ numbers, her nimble fingers cutting a nifty groove over the strings of her fuzzed up guitar, her husky voice crooning and careening over the heads of the seated audience. Whether she will make it in the big time remains to be seen, but if record deals were based primarily on musical talent and stage appeal, (what an idea?!), then she would be signing a six-figure contract sometime in the near future.

Latitude is billed as, ‘so much more than just a music festival’, and this year the event certainly lived up to this tagline, offering a daily performance of Wind in the Willows on the lake, fashionistas displaying their wares in the Faraway Forest and a fantastic selection of fresh food for the hungry guests to fill up on, before dancing their socks, sandals or combination of the two off, (told you that there were Dads there). The Comedy Tent was a highlight for many people who wanted to chill out and have a giggle in between their favourite bands, with a plethora of new faces joining the older comics, trading banter and obscenities with the hysterical crowd. One new face went a little far, however, when picking on a child in the audience; maybe my tastes are a little conservative, but calling an eight-year-old a, “fucking prick,” and ordering him to collect rubbish from around the tent to atone for the sin of being born seemed a little cruel. Still, the tent was cleaner after his act, so, swings and roundabouts…

The Literary arena boasted some fairly huge names, with none drawing such a crowd than former enfant terrible of the L.A. writing scene, Bret Easton Ellis. You know how people tell you to never meet your heroes? They may have a point. Stumbling on to stage to greet his thousand-or-so fans, Ellis proceeded to interrupt his interviewer at every turn, refusing to answer any questions about his books or writing, preferring instead to complain about his three-day hangover that had been caused by excess consumption of tequila and various substances that had required his PA to fetch him a ‘nasal decongestant’. We get it Bret, you do coke. Bravo. You’re middle-aged, it’s not the 80’s anymore, and quite frankly cocaine is a little boring, not least when you are just talking about it. From the writer who once had his character Patrick Bateman remove the tongue from a decapitated model’s head so as to provide him with a more gratifying experience of oral sex, whining about a coke-comedown instead of discussing the literary phenomena that you have created is a bit of a let down. Oh well, there’s always one way you can lift your spirits…winner.

If Ellis’s crowd were expecting something a little more rock and/or roll, hopefully they made their way over to watch Crystal Castles kick the shit out of a set that left a resounding ‘thump’ of jaws on the floor; whether the mouth in question was hung open at the sight of such a spectacle or kicked off by the singer’s violent crowd-surfing was dependant upon one’s proximity to the stage. The band’s music was something of an irrelevance, with grumpy techno-wizard Ethan Kath stood hunched over his programming equipment for the entire set, providing a purely electronic musical background for front woman Alice Glass to shriek, shrill and scream against, all the while hurling her skinny frame around the stage with no regard for bruises, broken bones or keeping her immaculate hair in place. It’s incredible how one woman can captivate an entire audience’s attention simply through a visceral, high-octane performance, whereas bands with almost a dozen members on stage can leave a crowd cold with a stale rendition of their back catalogue…naming no names, of course, (Midlake). Glass kicked and screamed her way through the techno-electro rock of their earlier numbers, before repeatedly launching herself into the front row of the surging crowd. Apparently one member of the audience got a little too friendly when, er, supporting her, so the entire crowd was treated to the sight of Glass bashing a young man’s face in with her microphone as security guards tried in vain to pull her off; when they finally did save her, (or him, more likely), she stated, “If you grab my tits, I’ll kick you in the fucking head.” Fair enough. The set continued in this ramshackle, wonderfully debauched fashion, with the beautiful, vocoder-heavy ‘Untrust Us’ providing brief respite from the spitting anger of the rest of Crystal Castles’ raging electro-tunes. A true rock star in the making, just mind Alice’s personal space in the mosh pit.

Another electro band that stood out from the folk/rock genres that the other performers fell into was Teeth. These guys may be the only band ever to start a circle pit at Latitude and good luck to them for trying. Front woman Veronica So was joined by a drummer that channeled furious rhythm sections to match the beats that were emanating from the other band member whose hips gyrated faster than a certain Welsh crooner, (who may or may not have been backstage, taking notes) who held a laptop like a guitar and programmed all of the band’s music directly from it. Whether this is the future of rock and roll or simply an innovative reaction to the recession, (instruments ain’t cheap, you know), remains to be seen, however, Teeth put on an enthusiastic and well-rounded performance; not quite as wild as Crystal Castles, but there is only so much tit-grabbing, face-smashing antics one can have in an afternoon.

Going up against Belle and Sebastian for Saturday’s headliners was The XX, another success story to come out of Putney’s Elliott school over recent years. The problem with only having one album out when you headline a festival is that you don’t really have enough material to surprise the crowd with, you can just rearrange the album’s playing order. The fact that their album sounds like one long song, (albeit a really good song), didn’t help matters and one couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed with the echoed reverbs that drenched the familiar riffs and arpeggios. Vocally, however, they impressed, with Romy Croft’s seductive croon providing a perfect blanket for Oliver Sim’s deep baritone to sway over. The minimalist aspect of their music is what brings them such wide fan base, as their keen sense of rhythm and melody shines through without being drowned out in the bombast of a full band. Being at such a tender age, their naivety and shyness is actually quite charming as they work their way through their sultry, hormone-charged numbers; whether this well-tapped well of teenage angst will continue into their next album is anyone’s guess, but for know it is what is it and that is sex music, played by virgins.

Sunday rolled around and a personal highlight was on the bill for the afternoon; The Antlers are a Brooklyn based band????, (who isn’t nowadays?!) and since I first heard them last year, my life, at least musically, has not been the same. Luckily I am not alone in this obsession as anyone who hears the band’s second album, ‘Hospice’, a concept album based around the protagonist and his dying girlfriend set to a soundtrack of swirling electric orchestras, virtuoso guitar effects and haunting piano riffs, is quite often an instant convert to the thought that this band are our generation’s musical saviour. Performing judiciously selected songs from ‘Hospice’, the three young musicians offered a master class in musical showmanship, front man Peter Silberman’s skinny frame tearing echoed melodies from his guitar while he shrieked his desolate pleas and ghostly whispers in a fragile falsetto. Altering the song structures and harmonies allowed followers of the album an alternative take on what has been one of the past decade’s most life-affirming albums, Silberman’s dark monologue of his inner-most thoughts offering solace and empathy for anyone who is living through Hell. On ‘Atrophy’s’ climactic hook, Silberman’s haunting voice cried out, “I’d happily take all those bullets inside you and put them inside of myself.” Anyone who was not in tears at the beginning of the song was drowning in them now, even if it was in the flood streaming from my own stage-fixated eyes. Jaded by my experience with Bret Easton Ellis, I decided not to go backstage for an interview; there was no way that I was going to risk tainting what I consider to be the finest piece of art produced in recent years by discovering that its creator was actually a bit of a dick…I’m sure Silberman’s actually a nice guy, but this time I was playing it safe as I stumbled off in a mute, emotional haze, silenced by music.

Well, after a trip on that emotional rollercoaster it was time for some straight up fun, so what better band to provide that than banjo-twiddling nu-folkies Mumford and Sons?! Taking the main stage at the Obelisk Arena mid-afternoon, when the sun was at its fullest strength, beating down on the festival guests who, by this time, were in need of some revitalizing; well, between the sun’s rays and the glorious pomp of Mumford et al’s folk rock, spirits were raised up through the roof that was the summer sky. Now, a side point; if you are going to be one of those people who inanely clap your hands along to songs at live gigs, it would be best if you choose a band that doesn’t alter time signatures and song structures as much as Mumford and Sons. It was hilarious to watch the thousands of pairs of hands falter and false start over the opening number, ‘Sigh No More’ as the band cut into the a cappella intro with a double-time waltz, confusing every member of the crowd that didn’t happen to have attended music school. It is clear that these boys have talent and enthusiasm to spare, not least the over-excited keyboard player, who gamely spun and bounced around the stage when the songs did not require his hands to be rooted to the keys on his chosen instrument, (you just can’t rock out with a keyboard like you can with a guitar…). As the complex strumming pattern introduced ‘Little Lion Man’, the more relaxed parents opted not to shield their children’s ears at the naughty line in the chorus, (“Hey man, I still remember my wild days! Frick yeah!”). An impressive, well-rounded set by a group that have a long future ahead of them; not bad for a bunch of lads who could of ended up as Laura Marling’s backing band, hey?!

Temper Trap were up next, providing the crowd with a solid set of pop-rock numbers, winning over an audience that at first seemed only to be waiting for, ‘that song from that film.’ Front man Dougy Mandagi’s rocking falsetto led the band through numbers which incorporated elements of indie, funk, ambience and pop, treading the line between opposing genres without sounding contrived. However the real treat was not for the ears but for the eyes; the bassist seemed to take Dad-dancing to a whole new level and up on stage in front of thousands of fans, swaying to the beats clad in a bright polka-dot shirt, he resembled a drunk accordionist with crabs. Predictably, ‘Sweet Disposition’ was the set closer, and it unified the crowd in one joyous harmony, four minutes of pop perfection with everybody trying and happily failing to hit the high notes.

A tough couple of acts to follow, one may think, especially if you are a brother and sister duo armed only with a pair of acoustic guitars, in charge of entertaining a festival crowd who had slept only a hand full of hours over the last few days. Well, Rodrigo y Gabriela proved that they were more than up to the task, thrashing their guitars to within an inch of their lives as they tore through flamenco tinged melodies, trading licks and riffs with relaxed cool, as if they were the house band at a local Spanish restaurant. The furious strumming and lightening-quick arpeggios were accompanied by a rhythm section tapped and bashed out from every area of the bruised and battered guitars, transforming the chosen instrument of the traditional busker into a veritable instrumental beatbox. To command the focus and attention of thousands of music lovers for so long, simply by jamming on songs that 99% of the crowd will never of heard before takes more than talent, it takes pure showmanship and that is something that these two have in spades.

Headlining the closing day of a festival seems like something of a Godsend to any band, seeing as everybody is desperate to have one last hurrah, a sheer rush of musical exuberance before returning to the monotony of the daily grind. So, a cushy number for Vampire Weekend then, who jilted and jived their way through their ‘intellectual indie’ rockers, in an effort to make everybody move their dancing feet. Now, there was nothing particularly wrong with their set; new single ‘Cousins’ was particularly special, with the singer’s urgent howl marrying perfectly with the jaunty strumming of the rhythm section. However, it just all seemed a little too ‘nice’ and ‘friendly’ for the last night of a rock festival. They’re called ‘Vampire Weekend’ for God’s sake, possibly the coolest band name since ‘Jane’s Addiction’; is it too much to ask for a flame-lit guitar solo, or a spandex-clad front man spiraling into the crowd after a drunken stage dive?! No, what we had to blow our minds were four preppy young men who had listened to a few samba LPs and African beats back in college and, after a few puffs on the old wacky backy, had decided that they should incorporate this new influence with slowed down Bloc Party riffs and take over the indie world with songs about grammar. This new genre could be labeled ‘polite rock’; even when asking the crowd to dance for a particularly rocking number, the front man offered reason and compromise, requesting, “Now, as it’s the last night of the festival, and it’s our last night of tour, would it be OK if you all danced a bit? Just a bit, you don’t have to go crazy…” Somewhere Perry Farrell was turning in his feathered jumpsuit.

So, Latitude is over for another year. There have been exorbitant highs and unpleasant lows, not to mention a couple of flat out mediums, but over all the standard of the festival was fantastic. The line up rivaled, if not bettered, any other UK festival and the general mood of the guests was one of joy, elation and tranquility all weekend long. If indeed this festival does become the ‘new Glastonbury’ and triples in size and guest numbers over the next few years, then I for one am happy that I was allowed to enjoy it when a few fields in Suffolk were transformed into a world of our own, guests and musicians alike sharing a common bond in the celebration of sheer entertainment. And I don’t think that I will be alone.