Summer Sundae 2006 Reviews
Summer Sundae explodes with its best line-up to date and smashes the myth that real-ale and hip-hop don't go well together. When dismal weather fails to dampen spirits, you know there's magic in the air ...
Inner-city festivals can be hit and miss, most trying too hard to create a festival atmosphere and failing to disguise what usually amounts to little more than a gig in the park. However, with five tents, real ale bars and cabaret, Summer Sundae, despite being in the middle Leicester, feels like you could be in a field in Devon or on the Isle of Skye.
Whilst the line-up provides you with many headaches and difficult decisions, there’s never any point over the whole weekend where there isn’t at least two quality acts on. Friday kicks off with Local Heroes (VF's recent unsigned bands contest) winning band Merla on the indoor stage, and due to the inclusion of chart topper James Morrison on the Main Stage, their set is moved forward by half an hour. They kick off the festival proper on the Indoor Stage playing to three people, but as the atmospheric vibe of first song 'Monkey' drifts outside, more than 400 people have filled the space in front of the stage by the time they launch into their second song. Band and audience grow as the set speeds on and by the end of last song 'Rise', Merla have arrived and opened the festival in true style winning the hearts of now nearly full De Montfort Hall.
James Morrison gets main stage proceedings off to a fantastic start, winning over a reluctant crowd with tracks from his debut album 'Undiscovered'. With the skies promising rain we head to the Indoor Stage for the poster boy of folk, Seth Lakeman, who wows a packed crowd with his ambidextrous talents of guitar, fiddle and vocals with tracks from 'Kitty Jay' and 'Freedom Fields'.
The Blockheads are next up on The Musician Stage, fronted by none other than lifelong fan Phill Jupitus, whose joy is etched across his face while bouncing around to 'Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll'. While not quite carrying off the enigma, which was Ian Dury, he does, to be fair, know all the words and keeps the party spirit alive.
By now the crowd in front of the Main Stage is full for the coming of Elbow. It’s their first festival headline slot and they take to it as if it’s their god-given right. Guy Garvey owns the stage and his soaring vocals, combined with his genial stage presence, help whip the crowd into a frenzy. Fans are treated to the previously unheard song 'Brambles', which played alongside crowd pleasers 'Forget Myself' and 'Leaders Of the Free World' demonstrates how Elbow have always been destined for headline slots as Garvey throws himself into the crowd to be swamped by 1000’s of women wishing he were their’s.
Instead of shouts for an encore, Garvey instructs the crowd to shout “lasting peace in the middle east”, which they promptly do when the band exit and return for the closing of the first day of Summer Sundae. The only down side to the festival is that the onsite bars close at midnight, but being a stones throw from Leicester city centre the parties continue across the city as festival goers descend upon pubs and clubs until the early hours.
It’s great when a quality festival starts up in your home town and although the first one-dayer back in 2000 somehow managed to slip by under my radar I’ve lapped up having the Summer Sundae Weekender on my doorstep for the last 5 years. It’s even better when the festival goes from strength to strength, growing from a one-day city centre outdoor gig into an established 3-day festival with camping.
This year another quality line-up across four music stages beckoned and with the reputation of the festival clearly spreading to distant quarters the ticket sales breached a high watermark by selling out for the first time (catching out many a local who thought they could wander up after breakfast and pay on the gate, as usual) and the festival site has once again expanded and improved – more of which later.
The first live music of the weekend could be found of at the Musician stage with a series of acoustic sets from local musicians such as David Wyatt and Storm Theives setting the standard for the whole weekend in fine style. Mid-afternoon and the soulful James Morrison, returning to SSW for the second time, opened the mainstage and the festival was finally well underway. The timings on the various stages are such that it’s easy to take it in a lot of what’s on offer on the four stages – if you have the energy.
Baxter Dury showed he’d inherited some of his fathers swagger on the indoor stage, and shortly after, Richard Hawley’s crooning with a rock n’ roll edge was well received by the mainstage crowd. Back to the Musician stage where Kingsize upped the tempo with their brass-driven ska and the mood was suitably set for The Blockheads featuring Phill Jupitus who did a storming set of old favourites to a predictably packed tent. As the Blockheads were taking their bows the evening headliners Elbow struck up on the outdoor stage, but it was to the indoor stage where I headed for festival favourites Michael Franti & Spearhead – playing mostly new material the songs were unfamiliar to me (in fact I don’t think I recognised a single song) but Franti’s music and heartfelt enthusiasm was as infectious as ever. A pretty fine start to the weekend, pleasant weather and a good vibe to the crowds – feeling the pace slightly (or was it the real ale and Jim Beam chasers?) I head for my tent for an early night.
After a quick home visit for a wash and fry up I arrive back on site just in time to watch Kissmet’s energy infused Banghra-rock get people on their feet and grooving. The newly expanded Rising Stage is rammed for Joan as Policewoman so I give up and dive inside the hall to grab some pictures of American alt-rock band Howling Bells – I’m reminded of Belly, a bit, but I forgive them and enjoy their set to the end. A late start by Derrin Nauendorf on the Musician stage meant a disappointingly brief set for the talented guitarist from oz, but local R&B legend Simon ‘Honeyboy’ Hickling (of The DT’s) squeezed as many notes out of his harmonica as his 30-minute slot would carry.
As mentioned the festival site has been expanded further into the adjacent public park with the addition of the ‘Village’ area providing a relaxing space to shop and eat in the shadow of the imposing war memorial. In contrast to the memorial the village was also home to the all new and cheerful eFestivals Cabaret tent – sponsored by eFestivals and programmed by the Leicester Comedy Club (organisers of the annual Leicester Comedy Festival) the new venue proved a popular addition, at times attracting more people than the tent could hold. Scanning the programme I spot Earl Okin is due on stage and knowing him to be good rib-tickler (and sex-god) I decide to amble along – just for a laugh – and I’m not disappointed. Genius.
Due to bad timing and blocked entrances I still haven’t seen much on the Rising Stage but on seeing a ‘TBA’ slot in the programme I figure I’m either sure to get in, or everyone will be more clued up than me and the tent will be rammed again – luckily it’s the former, and even better - Fionn Regan was rather good! On the main stage Nouvelle Vague took up the slack left by an absent Martha Wainwright. There will probably never be huge demand for eighties covers in bossa nova style and it took me until the ‘again an’ again an’ again an’ again..’ bit at the end of The Forest to realise they were singing a Cure song, but they were sweet, and this is a festival which is probably where they belong. Calexico played SSW in 2002 and won many converts, including me, so I was looking forward to seeing them return and it was a more self-assured Calexico that took to the stage this time round – the whole set was a pleasure. A quick visit to the indoor stage to grab a couple of photos of The Proclaimers (the things I do for this website!) and it was soon time to be back at the main stage for the Saturday headliner – Gomez. It was the performance I was hoping for with a good selection of songs from all of their albums and the new stuff sounding great live, BUT I’m too tired (and drunk!) to enjoy it properly, it’s raining, I realise I’ve lost my sunglasses and in a sulk I head for the campsite and listen to the end of their set from my tent.
Heavy rainfall in the night made the site a tad soggy by morning but there’s plenty of cover at Summer Sundae and after another dash home for a wash and change of footwear I was ready to make the most of the last day, rain or shine. Youthful rockers The Displacements attracted an equally youthful audience at the packed Musician Stage but for me it was the New Cassettes in the hall that got things off to a rocking start. Redcarsgofaster were in a very similar vein on the main stage but they didn’t quite hit the same spot. I’d been introduced to the quirky anti-song mind melt act that is MisterLee at the warm-up party the previous Thursday and decided to give them a second try – strangely engaging is all I can say! Time for some comedy and to check out how the cabaret tent is fairing - it’s quiet when I arrive, but fills as Dan Atopolski does a turn – I’m enjoying the laughter and decide to keep popping back to see some more. Captain were completely new to me (I know – I’m crap) but I enjoyed them nonetheless. Jose Gonzalez was engaging for a few songs but would have been so much better on a sunny day and I head back to the Cabaret where MC Markus Birdman is being a lot less charitable about Jose’s music, before introducing ex-Leicester stand up comedian James Branch to an enthusiastic audience. Jamie T drew a large and expectant crowd on the Rising Stage, however he was late coming on by a good 15 minutes so I only saw the first couple songs before heading back to the cabaret tent to see the last act - comedy singer Mitch Benn - perform to the biggest crowd of the weekend. Earl Okins words from the previous day came back to me – comedy isn’t all about stand up (but I think I already knew that). A photo visit to the Buzzcocks followed by a pint in the hall bar and sooner than seemed possible it was time for the last band of the weekend on the main stage and Belle & Sebastian crowned the day and the weekend very well indeed. They referred to themselves as ‘just an old indie band’ but this was a polished performance from a band on top form (despite the messed up setlist) that kept my attention and my feet moving right to the end.
As the crowds melted away the party continued for a while up in the Village for a few revellers (music supplied by the coffee-bug stall) but soon the plug was pulled and it was all over for another year (apart from the conga in the campsite of course). So, approx 30 bands watched, half a dozen comedy acts, 1000+ photographs taken, 400 eFestivals promo lighters given away, 2 tired feet and a feel-good ending – marvellous.
It’s probably unlikely Summer Sundae could grow much more but the organisers have made full use of the space available and created a very nicely formatted and friendly festival that will continue to appeal just as it is. Many thanks, and of course – roll on next year.
Thousands of music fans have poured in for a three-day music festival. More than 16,000 people began arriving in Leicester yesterday for the first evening of Summer Sundae Weekender at De Montfort Hall.
The festival, now in its sixth year, includes five stages set up to cater for more than 130 acts, including headliners Belle and Sebastian. The threat of heavy rain did nothing to dampen spirits as chart-topper James Morrison kicked off the festival. Festival goers from all over the country were still making their way into the grounds yesterday evening.
Many made for the campsites in Victoria Park or at Regent College, in Regent Road. Kate Haigh and Simon Price had travelled from London to spend the full three days. Miss Haigh, 31, said: “We’ve not been before, but we booked the tickets in March before any of the bands were announced, which was a bit of a gamble.”
Cat Turnell - 11th August
The sixth Summer Sundae will be remembered for a few things – the music, the discovery that Phill Jupitus looks three stone lighter in the flesh and the fact it sold all its weekend tickets for the first time in its short history.
This year also proved to be something of a first for Friday’s headliners, Elbow. Playing songs from their three albums, they did Newborn for their encore after being drawn back on stage by the crowd chanting “Lasting peace in the Middle East.”
Also on the Friday, new soul wonderboy James Morrison had a good following. A welcome addition for the kids and easy-listening pop fans, he was a confident performer, buoyed by his debut LP topping the album charts.
Folkie – heart-throb Seth Lakeman attracted a full crowd on the indoor stage, but a lot of people seemed more interested in talking to each other than listening to him.
Despite the chat, a highlight was Jupitus and The Blockheads banging out a stonking version of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. All in all, a good day for music.
Nick Jones - 12th August
For me, the thing about outdoor festivals is that the sheer scale and noise of those big stages militates against music. The continuous boom and rumble becomes claustrophobic. Which is where Summer Sundae wins out: you have outdoor, indoor and dinky tent stages, and if one makes you grouchy maybe the others will deliver the goods.
Critics darling Joan as Policewoman offered a sophisticated take on Dory Previn, and Mr Hudson and the Library presented literate mutant ska, Indoors, Isobel Campbell went all Scottish gothic and Vashti Bunyan was so diffident you wanted to shake her.
I risk the main stage for Calexico, one of the more musical of the outdoor acts, then back to the Musician stage for immaculate honky-tonk from BR459. Indoors again and The blockheads play their second set; looser than they might be, but still the kings of cockney funk.
Contactmusic.com 2006 Festivals are commonly being seen as fair game by sponsors and the corporate world in general, to promote their interests and ride upon the popularity of music, rodeo style. However, one event since the turn of the millennium has embraced the commercial side enough to stay afloat and grow as forum for some of the more understated and genuine acts out there, but has managed to retain integrity and patrons are free to roam without that constant feeling that you are attending an Advertising Convention. The set up is compact with the two campsites close to the festivities, meaning that even those arriving late have little more than a three minute walk to join the thick of the action.
The organisers deserve a Phil Jupitus sized pat on the back for the timings, largely ensuring that the acts on the four supporting stages do not clash with the Main Stage showdown. The latter forum is masterfully opened by the rising indie/soul purveyor James Morrison, whose `Undiscovered' debut album could slowly win him a reputation as the white Stevie Wonder. The crowd grows, as intrigued early arrivals are drawn into the rhythm whirlpool and emotive vocal stride given off in numbers like the plodding, previous single `You Give Me Something' and the bubbly soul/pop exposé of `Wonderful World'. This helps to lighten spirits and relax minds, with Morrison's calming presence receiving a friendly reception.
The former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer, Jeremy Barnes and his sidekick Heather Trost go under the guise of A Hawk And A Hacksaw, to provide some fiddle and accordion fuelled, musical diversity for the more discerning pallet. The only percussion around was delivered from the jangling court jester hat of Barnes, as an ambient vibe with freewheeling interludes provided by Trost, evokes intrigued expressions from gatherers. A chilling reworking of Derroll Adams' protest song, `Portlandtown' is the most vocal inclusive and it gives Barnes a chance to display his slightly coarse and blues based singing style. A festival needs some off-kilter variety and it is certainly provided here.
After this bluesy/ambient and folklore parade, some frivolous gyration is called for and who better than the groove master himself, DJ Format to provide it? Format's reputation for spectacular fun shaking, Ugly Duckling influenced hip-hop with MC Abdominal gave him a platform from which to launch his dance, hip/hop and blues funk gelling solo career. His hour long set at the indoor stage spanned his entire range and while the tempo built up a little too slowly for many, when the spin-star hit a groove he kept going and reluctantly had to end proceedings while he's still climbing. This is done much to the chagrin of the crowd and himself.
Elbow must be the epitome of the indie artist ethos and this evening they surprisingly(?) have a spring in their step, as they headline their first Festival. Guy Garvey takes no time in settling into his laid back, reflective mood and vocal gait, something that is adeptly displayed in `Red'. The energy and dexterity of bassist Mark Potter livens up the stroll and political bemusement that is projected through songs from the third album, `Leaders Of The Free World'. Dry wit decorates the inter-song interludes, with the reformation of Cudd bearing the brunt of the Garvey sarcasm. `Powder Blue' from the honest and troubled debut album,' Asleep In The Back' puts the lid on a journeying and musically compact set. However, after an Elbow set you feel in the mood for something more, you need to release some energy. Therefore, organisers should have put CUDD on to finish the night, perhaps?
The debut of the Cabaret Stage kicks the second day off at 10:30 and, it takes little time in filling up, as a dose of light-hearted entertainment is just what is needed. The lobbing Leicestershire quintet The Junipers perform an unspectacular, but searching set pitched betwixt The Beatles and The Byrds to an ornate backdrop inclusive of a scary ginger cat portrait with fiery devil eyes. The exuberant bhanga rockers, Kismet set the main stage alight and have the whole crowd bouncing frivolously to their Kula Shaker skirting sounds. The absence of Martha Wainwright due to personal reasons, was in someway, mitigated by the presence of the Regina Spektor and Martha merging Joan As A Policewoman. Joan is best known for her work with Rufus Wainwright, her endearing presence and life bearing indie/anti-folk with a touch of soul sound, has people stretching every sinew of the packed setting to get a glimpse of her. I have to pretend that I'm a young child who's lost his mum to get fully in. `The Ride' exemplifies Joan's worrisome and journeying song-writing ability.
Former British Sea Power keyboardist, Eamon Hamilton and his band Brakes (incorporating Tom and Alex White from Electric Soft Parade and Marc Beatty from Tenderfoot) blast through a plethora of sharp sub 90 second, 70s rock propelled sizzlers. Their whizzing nature is epitomised by `Pick Up The Phone' that whizzes by the ears of eager listeners and disappears again in the blink of an eye. The punk spiked new song `Porcupine or Pineapple' shows the band's new direction, as they utilise hounding guitars to propel Eamon's hoarse vocals, delivering mystical and eccentric lyrics.
The prize for the heaviest outfit of the Festival goes to. Isobel Campbell, only joking, although her slow and tear inducing rendition of `Love Hurts' is captivating, the winner has to be Forward Russia! A blazing set startles the chilled out crowd initially, prompting front man Tom Woodhead to bait the audience by exclaiming that there is a break in the Festival for church on Sunday morning. `Twelve' ignites the younger members toward the front to form a mini mosh-pit that picks up pace with the frantic vocal onslaught and enveloping guitar riffs, aiding this youthful release. Most of the songs are driven by the pelting and relentless drum beats of Katie Nicholls, who throws in a wandering vocal performance of the VV Kills ilk on `Sixteen'. A notable spectator is the new John Peel; Mr Steve Lamacq, who is so excited by this set that he majestically crowd surfs towards the end.
The Sheffield born, indie Larrikins of Little Man Tate set up some Saturday night high jinx. While their material, based on stuff that happens to them is nothing spectacular they make a show out of it. The rhythmically biting lash out at modern celebrities `Who Invented These Lists' is delivered with irreverent defiance. Front man Joe Windle goes arse over tit midway through proceedings, much to the delight of onlookers and his band-mates, facilitating the fun atmosphere. Little Man Tate are a true festival band and they effortlessly break down the audience/artist barrier, with their down to earth nature. The non-stop rain does not perturb headliners Gomez showing renewed enthusiasm and delighting with a set spanning their ten year career, with the mystical love-out `Girlshapedlovedrug' taking on new life in a live setting. A communal dance to set ender `Whipping Piccadilly' defies the dreary weather and sends campers off in a fulfilled and happy mood.
Much of the Sunday morning campsite chit-chat involves meticulous planning of how to get the most out of the promising and intriguing final day line up. Caffeine and energy drinks are consumed in abundance, as there is certainly a lot to try and take in. The surprise package of the event is The Former Poor Little Rich Ones singer, William Hut's set. The Bergan born songster's soul/folk voice surrounds you with warmth and his songs come straight from the heart. The calming pop song, `Take It Easy' stands out for its masterful nature. M.Craft sets the scene for some breezy Sunday afternoon contemplation, providing for a wistful half hour. Serenity is sprinkled around like snowdrops in the heart-warming ode `Silver And Fire' that is the title track from the London-based artist's second album.
The biggest disappointment of the weekend is the failure of the flighty The Guillemots to take off; people stand perplexed at the lack of cohesion and energy. The rejuvenated Buzzcocks blast out classics such as `Ever Fallen in Love with Someone (You Shouldn't've Fallen In Love With)? and `Orgasm Addict' to a rambunctious crowd. Flying fists mar a set that recaptures the potency of these punk legends.
It is fitting that the wispy, Glaswegian indie/folkers Belle and Sebastian close proceedings. They show that their summery song building ability has not left them, by utilising a number of offerings from their latest album, `The Life Pursuit' that has been hailed as a sweeping success and is a celebration of the B & S way. `Another Sunny Day' helps to cast off any lingering dullness created by the typical English weather.
Stuart Murdoch is the original gentleman, constantly taking time to draw the crowd into the set. The poetic `The Fox In The Snow' is a particular highlight of a colourful finale. It is a pleasing end to an engaging weekend of fun spirited, musical appreciation.