Last weekend (14-16 August), DiS made its now traditional annual visit to Leicester's Summer Sundae Weekender, curated the Rising Stage on the Friday and even had founder Sean Adams and former editor Mike Diver spin a few tunes along the way (anyone else notice that the intros from Refused's 'New Noise' and Earl Brutus' 'Navyhead' are pretty much the same? No, OK then...).
With possibly the most eclectic line-up on the British Isles bar Latitude and a family friendly atmosphere to match, Summer Sundae Weekender has firmly established itself as possibly the UK's leading festival of its size, combining four music stages with spoken word, poetry and comedy tents aplenty, not to mention a tinnitus awareness marquee too! Oh, and did we mention the glorious sunshine that engulfed us for three days solid. Who says its grim in the midlands? Not us, that's for sure...
Among many, many highlights, DiS has selected a handful of artists both old and new that set our pulses racing round the grounds of De Montfort and back to the Asian Grub Foundation for a late night curry or three...
At precisely 3:29pm on Sunday afternoon, Monotonix were just another of those bands loved by beardy elitists with no ear for a tune. Fast forward a full five minutes and word is already spreading like wildfire that their performance on the indoor stage is THE place to be this weekend. Stripped down to little more than a pair of underpants each bar fully clothed guitarist Yonatan Gat, the Tel Aviv based trio conspire to turn their allocated half hour slot into a 65-minute showcase of shambolic mayhem and destruction. Drumkits are moved around the dancefloor with random abandon, culminating in a raucous procession not too dissimilar to the Pied Piper of Hamlin except leading the way is a sweaty lank-haired pantwearing beast called Ami Shalev. One minute he's on the bass drum being held aloft by half-a-dozen punters, the next he's standing on the barrier of the balcony, a good twenty feet or so above ground level. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to guess what happens next. In fact, there were so many uncoordinated, spontaneous moments of abject silliness and showmanship within Monotonix set that most bands wouldn't have the imagination to even watch let alone incorporate into their live set. Nevertheless, my everlasting memory will be the sight of eighteen security guards (we counted 'em) and a bemused Micachu & The Shapes looking nonplussed on the stage as all hell breaks out around them wondering how Monotonix are going to be removed in time for them to start their set. You really did have to be there.
Video:Monotonix (live at Summer Sundae 2009)
Undoubtedly the musical highlight of this weekend's festivities belonged to Leeds current finest foursome Wild Beasts. Their step up into major league territories for 2010 already pretty much assured courtesy of (possibly) this year's finest album Two Dancers, their live show has also developed into a more accomplished beast along the way. While the set is expectedly heavy with their more recent material, sparkling versions of 'The Devil's Crayon' and 'Brave Buoyant Bulging Clairvoyants' even made this first album cynic dig out his dusty, rarely played copy of Limbo Panto upon returning home Monday morning. Nevertheless, if 'We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues' isn't a top five single by the time Big Ben chimes out 2009, I'm a one-legged Chinaman. Simply phenomenal.
My Latest Novel
Its almost inevitable that we're here in festival territories talking about the undeniable impact of a band from Glasgow, but that's exactly how essential My Latest Novel's set proved to be. With the sun beating down on Friday afternoon and Kid British making Katy Perry songs sound even worse than the originals, it was left to this Greenock five-piece to unleash the first mesmerising performance of the day, and they succeeded to great effect. Although recent album Deaths And Entrances may have divided opinion somewhat in its recorded form, here the likes of 'I Declare A Ceasefire' and 'Hopelessly Endlessly' made perfect sense, even drawing a rare smile from both Deveney brothers at the end, no doubt taken aback by the overly enthusiastic reaction afforded their way.
The Domino State
Playing the Rising Stage in the early part of Saturday afternoon, London five-piece The Domino State serve as musical guinea pigs for a soundman still obviously under the influence of one too many free Bulmers from the night before. However, despite the first part of their set being hampered by technical problems, everything comes together by the time current 45 'Firefly' (think Verve with wings or Snow Patrol with balls) literally tears the roof off the tent, while the closing reverbfest that is 'Safe Now' hammers home just what an underrated outfit The Domino State are, recalling the likes of Echo & The Bunnymen, Ride and Catherine Wheel in equal measure.
If there was one artist playing this weekend that was on everybody's "Must See" list it would have to be Wisconsin born Justin Vernon, not least because his appearances on foreign soils are becoming increasingly sporadic over time. While his For Emma, Forever Ago opus may have been recorded over two years ago, the sea of bodies waiting at the main stage pretty much engulfs the entire site suggests his imminent arrival to be the most anticipated of the weekend, and when he finally appears along with the three members of his band, the deafening cheers can probably be heard in Loughborough. Although the more experimental Blood Bank material suggests Bon Iver are a little less predictable than say fellow alt-folkers like Fleet Foxes, its unsurprisingly the For Emma... material such as 'Re:Stacks' and 'The Wolves' that receive the warmest receptions.
With an average age of eighteen and a drummer still awaiting his GCSE results, Frontiers handle their twenty-five minutes in the spotlight of the main stage with the poise of veterans. With a guitar sound that is starkly reminiscent of Seventeen Seconds era Cure or a less poppified Psychedelic Furs, this teenage quartet take the first flurries of post-punk to a new audience impeccably. 'Alibi', with its chiming guitars and insatiable chorus, and the closing 'In Pursuit' in particular highlight their potential. Watch this space.
Having experienced the calamitous high of Monotonix earlier in the day, it seems only appropriate that the chilled out musings of Faroe Islands native Teitur Lassen provide the Sunday teatime soundtrack. Cracking jokes in broken English in between songs, his shy stage presence proves somewhat alluring, and even when the heartbreak songs such as 'Josephine' and 'Don't Let Me Fall In Love With You' come to the fore, there's a perversely overwhelming feeling of joviality around the tiny Musician Stage tent. Glorious.
Her Name Is Calla
The last time DiS set eyes on Her Name Is Calla, we were transfixed by their attention to detail that didn't merely strive for perfection, but demanded a word in Mr Collins ear regarding a re-alignment of the word itself in dictionary terms. Now expanded to a six-piece, HNIC are nothing short of astounding throughout their four-song set. Singer/guitarist Tom Morris, having overcome serious illness this past year seems to have gained a new lease of life, tearing into 'New England' like some possessed spirit while the addition of accordion player Sophie Barnes and violinist Sophie Green turns their already discordant pieces into dramatic bursts of organic noise fit for a Tony Kushner screenplay.
As the local lads done good, Minnaars manage to create a flurry of excitement that for thirty minutes on Saturday afternoon, turns Victoria Park into one sun-drenched dancefloor. Their poly-rhythmic, post-punk skits declare an infectious supply of love for the defunct-but-not-forgotten likes of Q And Not U or Washington's Dismemberment Plan, except seen through the eyes of five clubs-for-guitars geeks from Leicester. Set centre piece 'Are Lovers' stands out like a beacon of delight amidst the sinewy sweat and beers. Just don't mention the "F" word.
The Airborne Toxic Event
Although the jury is still out on Silver Lake quintet The Airborne Toxic Event, as far as their recorded output is concerned at least, their accomplished live spectacle holds no such worries. While last month's Latitude performance may have seemed muted in places, here, in an indoor venue at 8pm on a Saturday evening, TATE happily engage in what they do best, providing forty-five minutes worth of entertaining left-field pop that may owe as much to Bruce Springsteen as it does The National, but for the most part never fails to lose sight or indeed pace from start to finish. Sure, there are still reservations that they don't have anything in their armoury to match mid-set showstopper 'Sometime Around Midnight', but its still early days yet, and if their second album can live up to the promise of their live shows, a great record is in prospect.
Having been the subjects of much derision for the past two decades, I can now, wholeheartedly reveal that The Charlatans are in actual fact one of the most underrated live acts around. There, I've said it, and while that may seem as an open invitation for said derision to be aimed in the direction of yours truly instead, consider this: How many of your favourite indier-than-thou artists can boast a back catalogue containing the likes of 'The Only One I Know', 'One To Another', 'How High', 'Weirdo' and 'Sproston Green'? Exactly, and we haven't even got on to the likes of 'North Country Boy' or 'Just When You're Thinking Things Over', both delivered with impeccable panache and grace here that see every single word sung back at Tim Burgess by a throng of 5000+. We also think it appropriate to mention that the ever youthful looking frontman to could pass uncannily as the sixth member of The Horrors, were they ever looking to increase their numbers.
Of course there were many other fine performances we really should mention before signing off. Idlewild's last minute elevation to Friday night headline status in place of swine flu stricken Mike Skinner proved to be something of a revelation, likewise The Joy Formidable's mid-afternoon performance on Saturday. Elsewhere, Broken Records managed to conjure up an almighty storm that at least justified some of the hype cast in their direction (even if their recorded output to date hasn't so far) while The Yellow Moon Band's instrumental jollifications may have been neither post-rock nor math-dance but were quaintly enjoyable all the same. Here's to next year...