Summer Sundae's 10th anniversary bash at De Montfort Hall reviewed by Liam Haynes, all images for Summer Sundae 2010 by Steve Baker
So, this year Summer Sundae - arguably Leicester’s best music festival, set amongst the grounds of De Montfort Hall near the city centre – entered its tenth year. Having previously played host to headliners such as Belle & Sebastian, Air, Simian Mobile Disco, and The Streets, one could see this year’s headline acts as a bit weak. Tinchy Stryder? Seasick Steve? Mumford & Sons? In a year when another slightly more established festival down in the southern counties also celebrated a birthday, I was intrigued to see what stops the folks at Summer Sundae would have pulled out to make this year particularly special.
First things first, if you’re heading to Summer Sundae in the future, don’t expect good parking. After what felt like a treck across most of Leicester city centre from the NCP car park we were advised to park at to the grounds of De Montfort Hall, I was left wondering why on earth the vast expanse of open parkland next to the festival site hadn’t been utilised. Worst of all, was struggling to believe that expecting people to park like this for a weekend was somehow acceptable on top of an above-£100 ticket price, when plenty of other festivals offer adequate parking. However, one pop-up tent and a couple of premium lagers later, the problem seemed a hazy, if slightly unnecessary, issue. And frankly, that’s the end of Friday. Not wanting to listen to Eliza Doolittle cover Justin Beiber, and after catching a snippet of a less than enthralling start to Teenage Fanclub’s set – it all seemed a bit flat. Soggy early-30-something’s trudging around an equally soggy and dejected corner of Leicester that was, contrary to previous years, failing to throw anything exciting out of the woodwork. Saturday had better improve on this...
Sunshine. If there was a magic festival word, this would be it.
Sunshine. If there was a magic festival word, this would be it. As the time came for the absolutely glorious spectacle that is Gaggle to grace and christen the main stage for the weekend proper, a slight glimmer of sunshine broke through the midland’s sky. Glistening bright on 23 young females cowering under the shadow of eerie banners – the equally eerie chant of recent single ‘I Hear Flies’ stunning a midday crowd into confusion. Brilliant, and an easy early highlight – despite the fact that Gaggle’s convulsive performance may well have been better suited to the indoor stage, or even a tent.
Despite a furore of buzz, Nottingham’s Dog Is Dead failed to impress on the indoor stage with their brit-pop take on Vampire Weekend.
I then caught my second show this year from the brilliant Tunng, emerging onto the stage from a post-Jethro Tull timewarp, they enchanted the indoor stage with a deliciously laid-back take on quintessential “folk”, coming across very similar to the equally brilliant Memory Band. Next up inside Caribou impressed with their back-to-back double drumkit, performing the fuck out of their latest LP Swim as well as a healthy dose of back catalogue. Outside, The Go Team! Basically made every PE lesson you’ve ever been to look like an Anglican church service – bounding across the stage (two drumkits two, I hasten to add) while wisely focusing on material from their debut album Thunder, Lightening, Strike. Back on the indoor stage, the drunken stage antics of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith failed to live up to expectations.Despite being a seminal part of the post-punk movement, and despite being incredible when I saw them a couple of years ago at Offset Festival, this time round the tomfoolery just detracted from the experience. Sometimes, it’s better not to meet your heroes.
Sunday is greeted with the constant throbbing that only a 3-day festival (or Annabelle Moore) can bring. With that in mind, Little Night Terrors (otherwise known as The Displacements) prove exactly why renaming your band and then becoming more like Leicester’s main successful musical output – Kasabian – isn’t always the best idea. Hold that, it’s never the best idea. Given, the frontman was positively boiling over with charisma, but charisma alone can’t carry a set that feels decidedly mid-last-decade. On the flipside, the beautiful Catherine A.D. soothed an entire indoor stage worth of hangovers with her gorgeous multi-instrumental cascades. Her most recent EP is one of my most treasured releases of the year, and she didn’t fail to disappoint.
Outside, Transgressive Records’ Johnny Flynn cooked up an absolute storm, proving to all intensive purposes that Mumford & Sons are decidedly at the pop end of the nu-folk bandwagon – this is where the real action is. To everyone that stuggled through crowds to see the aforementioned later in the night, you missed out on the real star while you were all still asleep.
Back indoors, the charming Elizabeth Sankey – editor of teen youth bible Platform – paired up with her boyfriend and Summer Sundae veteran Jeremy Warmsley in the guise of Summer Camp. Perhaps most glaringly obvious when compared to there recorded material was how much – in a live setting – these songs seemed led by Jeremy, whereas on record the same material could hardly be recognised as involving him at all.
The Futureheads haven’t really moved on convincingly live since debuting all those years ago.
I wandered inside the indoor stage just in time to see an absolutely incredible set from Los Campesinos!, culminating in their overt lead singer managing to smash his face open on the crowd barrier following a disasterous attempt at a stage dive. Hazy from the spectacle I’d just witnessed, I made an attempt to understand grime courtesy of Riz MC, Devlin, and Skepta, before deciding that actually, it was probably a better idea to wrap things up for the weekend courtesy of Sunderland’s finest, The Futureheads. Unfortunately, just as they’ve failed to do on record, The Futureheads haven’t really moved on convincingly live since debuting all those years ago. When your biggest hit and most enthusiastically received song is still “that Kate Bush cover”, you know that you’ve really got to up your game. Where as Los Campesinos! earlier in the day proved that they’ve maintained and grown both their audience and their body of work, The Futureheads seem content to keep stomping familiar ground – while relying on fans that are still waiting for the next great canonical chant.
As a 10th birthday, Summer Sundae was disappointing. Small festivals survive and thrive on “vibe; that indiscernible click of the fingers that makes an atmosphere feel just right. This year, of all years, Summer Sundae lacked vibe. It’s worth pointing out that this is the first year that festival founder and absolute dynamo of energy Richard Hasswell hasn’t been involved in running the festival. It’s hard to tell how much of that vibe over the previous 9 years was down to Richard, but I’d wager a round of drinks in Firebug that it was a healthy amount.Note: A review written by anyone other than Safeconcerts does not necessarily reflect or represent the opinion of Safeconcerts and are the personal opinion of the reviewer.