Festival Reviews

Festival Review: Summer Sundae 2010

By | Published on Wednesday 25 August 2010

Summer Sundae 2010

Summer Sundae sits quite comfortably in its city shell, hidden behind the buildings of Regent College and De Monfort Hall. Unsurprisingly then, the clientele of this Leicester festival are mainly made up of the middle class, urban families ready for a weekend of soothing music with the children. It seems to bypass many in their adventurous early twenties who seek the thrills of the countryside festivals with their anything-goes atmosphere and psychoactive drugs. At Summer Sundae we get young daughters, drunk in their floral design dresses, old cooing mothers knocking back (plastic) bottles of red wine and middle-aged men in sun caps, reliving their youth. However, for all the safety of the family atmosphere it still holds its secrets, and it still continues to keep the line-up fresh and exciting year on year.

Arriving late on Friday evening, we got there just as the sun was beginning to set. A perfect time then to catch Steve Mason play his quirky brand of idiosyncratic pop. The Beta Band star performed songs from his latest album ‘Boys Outside’, including the singles ‘Am I Just A Man’ and ‘Lost And Found’. ‘Lost And Found’ resonated particularly well with the Friday crowd who were only just beginning to loosen up. However, his final words, “bomb the parliament”, did fall somewhat flat on the more conservative crowd.

Roots Manuva played at the top of the bill in the indoor arena. Making the De Monfort Hall stage his home for the night, Roots played a storming set, cutting up the floor with his home-spun dancehall-influenced hip hop. ‘Awfully Deep’ was a highlight and boomed from the speakers producing a monolithic sound. Equally his infectious character held the crowd and left us all remembering why his was at the top of the pile.

On Saturday, the rain dropped down sporadically covering the festival site in cool showers that would break up the intermittent sunshine. I got to the main arena early to see the bizarre and cultish Gaggle – a twenty-piece female choir. I was slightly disappointed that they weren’t quite as far out there as they were purported to be. Each song appeared slightly more formulaic than the last, simply droning, mindless chants.

Liam Frost proved to be a remarkable find in a mid-afternoon slot in the indoor arena. The whole hall felt the weight of every word uttered by Frost as he carefully seduced all with his soft, aching tones, played longingly over an electric guitar. For me electric guitars have always produced a fond, sentimental feeling when accompanied simply by vocals, and Liam Frost managed to find the sweet spot that afternoon. I hadn’t heard of him before his set so it came as a real surprise to find him so enjoyably heart-wrenching.

Tunng performed later that afternoon, also in the indoor arena, and again I was greeted with an incredibly high standard of performance. Tunng play the kind of experimental folk that works well in indoor intimate environments. With such a vast array of voices and the curious way in which Mike Lindsay and his bandmates moved around the stage the show they put on found a loving reception within these four walls. Tunng finished on ‘Bullets’ which gave us a resounding end to their set, they were of course applauded rapturously for their efforts.

After Tunng came Caribou, once more on the indoor arena. Their latest album ‘Swim’ has been one of my favourite releases this year and so accordingly my review might contain slight bias. Lining up two drum kits bass drum to bass drum, Dan Snaith and his band played mostly from their newest album relenting only at the beginning with a couple of tracks from their previous work. Highlights for me included the confusion-inducing ‘Found Out’, which includes a poly-rhythmic 3/4 guitar riff over a jangly 4/4 dance beat, and their first single from ‘Swim’, ‘Odessa’. The interplay between the two drummers created an added theatrical element to the show and flaunted Snaith’s multi-instrumental abilities. The audience danced and moved along with every rhythm, it was obvious that the indoor arena was the place to be that afternoon.

The Fall headlined the indoor arena that evening, bringing out of the crowd and that darkly lit room a certain atmosphere all of its own. Starting with ‘OFYC Showcase’ each band member came on one by one, starting of course with the drums. Six or seven minutes in with the opening riff rolling round and round on came Mark E Smith, the conjurer extraordinaire, whipping up the crowd into a frenzy with every twist off his tongue and flick of his wrist. Naturally, as is Mark E Smith’s wont, The Fall only played tracks from their latest album, ceding their vast back catalogue to the annals of time, however ‘Your Future, Our Clutter’ provided an excellent evenings performance and they worked the crowd easily into their favour.

Sunday was another damp day but the sun pushed through towards the evening leaving us with a warm and enjoyable night. The morning’s entertainment was a mixed affair, starting with These Furrows and Red Shoe Diaries, two bands who exist on opposite ends of the sonic spectrum. However, both are small, local bands with only a slightly noticeable difference in crowd size leaning towards These Furrows. Both were fitting starts to the morning and while These Furrows’ sound might seem a little alt-rock/emo from the early-2000s they are great representatives of the local scene.

Glasgow’s Errors played indoors at around 5pm. Perfect time then for an electronica/dance heavy experimental rock set. Inside the indoor arena the dark lighting and the intense shine of the stage lights gave off of an incredibly intimate atmosphere, and although the arena wasn’t full the floor was vibrating with the movement of the audience. They played through both their previous albums and treated us to loud and abrasive versions of ‘A Rumour In Africa’, ‘Pump’ and ‘Supertribe’.

Later that evening we moved to the main stage and waited in anticipation for Mumford & Sons. They appeared and the multiple-thousand strong crowd responded, singing back every hit to them in chorus. It’s amazing to see the transformation the band have made and how far they have come over the last year. Their headline show does not disappoint and they play through the big hitters – ‘The Cave’, ‘Little Lion Man’, ‘Winter Winds’ – as if they’ve played them for an eternity. The crowd gave them a fantastic reception as they wrapped things up and they appeared genuinely humbled by the moment.

Honest affection is what this festival has in spades; what it lacks in size or visibility it makes up for in the affection given up from every artist to their responding audience, and in this, Summer Sundae’s tenth year, the organisers have done incredibly well to collect such giving artists for the very welcoming audience. SJS