Summer Sundae Festival
Belle And Sebastian, Elbow, Richard Hawley, Young Knives, The Long Blondes, ¡Forward Russia!, and Howling BellsEdit this event
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- Howling Bells »
“The grandson of Glastonbury” according to the venerable Steve Lamacq, Leicester's Summer Sundae festival celebrated its sixth birthday this year and DiS was there to help cut the cake, as well as take in scores of great bands over the course of the weekend…
James Morrison kicks things off on the main stage, and from where we’re standing (sitting/sleeping) the songs he’s playing don’t sound like they’re from a number-one album. Either he’s ‘treating’ us to a set of rarities or popular music just lost another part of its soul to a Blunt-alike bore.
Far more interesting is Arena magazine's 'Man Of The Year' Richard Hawley, who showcases his Mercury Music Prize-nominated album Coles Corner during an eminently listenable early-evening set. Is he letting the plaudits go to his head? Not a chance. “It's refreshing to see that smaller artists can do well but some of these awards are just bizarre. Arena Man Of The Year? That's just fucking mental. My wife has mercilessly taken the piss out of me ever since”.
Not so long ago, Delays were riding the crest of a similarly acclaimed wave but seem to have disappeared from the radar since the release of second album You See Colours earlier this year. With a set drawing on the best moments from both their LPs to date, their main stage performance goes down a storm – quite literally, as it tips it down after about quarter of an hour.
Looking slightly out of place in the plush interior of De Montfort Hall, DJ Format lays down some funky beats and gets a damp DiS warmed up nicely before we venture into the Jim Beam Rising tent to catch Psapp making some peculiarly enchanting noises with a variety of instruments. Girls + violins + bleeps = good. Things are drying up nicely, but after half an hour of headliners Elbow we're bored and leave the main stage to catch Michael Franti & Spearhead, who almost take the roof off the 'Hall with an energising amalgam of polemical rap-rock.
Local boys (and girl) El Mahico pick up where Franti left off the following day, though what they lack in politics they more than make up for with funk. DiS favourites Howling Bells are next up on the DMH stage, though lord knows why they're on so early. Afterwards we catch up with frontwoman Juanita Stein for a quick chat...
Us: Gomez told us you were at their beach party in Bondai eight years ago... is that true?
Her: Yes! That's really random. I was living there at the time, they were hanging out.
Us: Do you remember much about it?
Her: Yeah, we ended up sitting on the beach playing music and talking about Tom Waits.
Us: Apart from Gomez, who else are you looking forward to seeing at Summer Sundae?
Her: Well, there's Calexico later today, Forward Russia in a few minutes and Martha Wainwright too...
Us: Umm, Martha Wainwright cancelled her set a few days ago.
Her: Really? Damn! I'm destined not to see her. Everywhere I go I miss her.
Likewise DiS and ¡Forward Russia!, whose righteous noise can be heard not only backstage but all over Leicester, so we feel like we've seen them just by being here. They say Summer Sundae is a family festival, and it really is for The Young Knives...
Henry (vocals/guitar): Mine and the House Of Lords' mum and dad are here, and Ollie's dad too.
Us: Seen any good new bands?
Henry: What, like The Proclaimers? Or The Blockheads and Phill Jupitus? He's got my tie, the bastard. He's borrowed it for their set.
House Of Lords (bass/vocals): He's wearing my cock ring!
Henry: Makes you wonder what else he's wearing.
House Of Lords: My mum's pants.
Henry: Is she still here?_
House Of Lords: Yeah. She's pashing with Jupitus in the BBC caravan. They've got a room. He's running his fingers through her hair, saying 'Ooh Margaret'.
Henry: You're a shithead, you are. That's horrible.
So too is the reception afforded by a minority of small-minded individuals to Vashti Bunyan. Booing anybody is low, but to pick on this revered elder stateswoman is bordering on the criminal. Regardless, warmer hearts are melted by the beauty of her songs. We hurry over to catch the end of Little Man Tate, and it's a battle getting into the oversubscribed Jim Beam Tent. Nobody is booing, everybody is cheering... the world is an unjust place sometimes.
Not when The Proclaimers are playing the song everyone's been waiting for it isn't, and even those who can't fit into DMH are singing along in the aisles. Magic, just like Calexico's main stage set, one that reaches its peak just as the sun goes down – the festival's defining moment for DiS. After that, Gomez could only disappoint and, sure enough, they do.
A new day, and New Cassettes are first up for us. They've obviously listened to The Futureheads' first LP a lot, and are all the more average for it. Similarly derivative are Redcarsgofaster, who pitch themselves somewhere between Bloc Party and ¡Forward Russia!. Great in theory, but in practice the Leicester sextet's display soon leaves our minds (and legs) wandering to catch Ego Armalades, who've have been swaggering around the festival all weekend looking every inch the rock stars, at least in their own minds. Sure enough, their ideas onstage are as unoriginal as their demeanour.
Local nutjob Misterlee more than makes up for it with the most inventive set of the weekend. Beefheart with Tourette's? Lovely jubbly. We can't stay for long, though, because The Long Blondes are on the main stage and we love The Long Blondes. They're far from indifferent to us, and we take them to see Camera Obscura, “the best Scottish pop band of the weekend” according to the MC, who've unfortunately left their instruments in Copenhagen but play on regardless with borrowed equipment. Stuart Murdoch, who tries in vain to get inside the packed tent to see for himself, might just disagree. In the meantime, we chat with Kate and Dorian LBs about life on the road, lost luggage and signing with Rough Trade.
Us: So, the deal...
Kate (vocals): Yes! We've finally been able to make a record. It's changed everything.
Dorian (guitar): Just joining the roster of Rough Trade bands... I think it's what any band worth their salt would want to do. They know exactly what we're about, they've got the same attitude. Everything we do is up to us, and that's a great position to be in.
Us: What does the rest of 2006 have in store for The Long Blondes?
Dorian: No time off! We've just finished recording the album and, hopefully, it'll be out in November and we've got a tour in October. We're also trying to set up our fan club at the moment but we don't have time to do it. So if anyone actually likes us enough to run our fan club, get in touch.
Kate: There's only so much Myspace can give you. It's no substitute for getting a postcard from the band or something like that.
Us: You'll be sending a few of those in October no doubt... your first proper headline tour.
Kate: 23 dates, the most we've ever done.
Dorian: When we used to work, there were places we couldn't get to.
Kate: We haven't really done the South West, or Wales, and we're trying to correct that.
Dorian: It's going to be great, though, isn't it? Doing the NME tour was so much fun, just getting to meet people who know the songs and are genuinely interested in you.
Us: What's been your worst experience on the road so far?
Kate: I lost my luggage recently when we were playing the Summercase festival. I lost it on the first night and we had two more shows to play.
Dorian: I lost mine in Ibiza and had to play a show in trainers. For me, it was an absolute disaster. You've got to be dressed properly... you can't play a gig in trainers!
Kate: I turned into a regressed feral child. I didn't wash for about three days, had no change of knickers or socks and no makeup either.
As Sophie Soloman wanders past, we consider congratulating her on a brilliant mid-afternoon set (think a Russian cossack descendant of the Arcade Fire violinist playing Gogol Bordello instrumentals and you're almost there) before realising we're about to miss Guillemots. Arriving just in time to hear them dispatch a glorious version of 'Made-Up Lovesong #43', we wonder whether we might have just heard the tune of the weekend. It's a close-run thing, but they just about pip Buzzcocks' 'Ever Fallen In Love...' to the post for that title, but the Manc legends can content themselves with being easily the loudest band we hear. All that remains before we head home happy is for Murdoch to “completely fuck up” the Belle & Sebastian setlist and take them off stage 20 minutes early. But, hey, it just means a longer (and, quite frankly, brilliant) encore for us when they return. Bonus.
Conclusion? Lamacq speaks the truth: Summer Sundae is one of the most chilled-out festivals around. The vibes are friendly, the venue is intimate (even the main stage) and the line-up gets better and better every year. This is one of the few festivals yet to sell its soul to the devil (drinks are cheaper than the normal DMH bar prices!) and for that alone it should be applauded. Roll on SS7!
Thanks to: Kate @ De Montfort Hall, Julie @ 9PR, Claire Jackson and Richard Gatward.
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