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My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

Summer Sundae 2010 – festival review

Summer Sundae 2010 - crowds at the Main Stage

Reviewed for Gigwise

The story of Leicester’s Summer Sundae 2010 will always tell that it was a shrewd early move to book Mumford and Sons that ensured the safety of the much-loved festival’s tenth anniversary.

A lot of proverbial eggs were placed in one basket when the popular indie-folk act were boldly announced as Sunday’s headliners. Organisers must have been rubbing their hands together as the foursome notched up best Glastonbury performance, rubber stamping a sell-out for the festival based at De Montfort Hall and its leafy grounds and part of the city’s Victoria Park.

Friday’s headline was grabbed by a down-to-earth Seasick Steve’s eagerness to play longer than his allotted slot, and so, starting earlier than planned, the blues musician flaunted a long and raucous list of favourites from his five albums. The hobo-turned-music-star flirted with an array of busking instruments and silenced any naysayers in the process, even managing to woo an unexpecting female fan with a dedicated song.

Meanwhile, a luckily timed quick shifty indoors saw Roots Manuva calling all to raise their index finger and declare, ‘One hope one quest’, as he unveiled Witness. The British hip hop artist proved that like Seasick Steve, he was also a master of a polar opposite side of the musical spectrum.

Earlier that day, Kyte’s shoegaze indie kicked off the main stage weekend with an aplomb that belied their baby faces, no more so than during the cover of Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill. Erland and the Carnival, comprised of former Blur and The Verve’s Simon Tong, Paul McCartney’s Fireman’s David Nock, and the immaculately-voiced Erland Cooper, took to the increased-capacity Rising Stage with triumphantly revamped folk antiques.

That paved the way for a not-disappointing set from The Sunshine Underground back in the main arena, whose sing-a-long mid-noughties indie classics like Borders and Commercial Breakdown hit the mark and kept a bulky audience rooted to the spot during torrents of rain. Glaswegian alt-rockers, Teenage Fanclub followed, making a welcome comeback appearance to the festival breach.

Twenty-strong female choir, Gaggle, kicked off Saturday’s main stage lineup with woe-betide tales of men, debauchery, drugs and drunkenness. Their powerful acapella and drum beats were the perfect tonic to blow away the cobwebs. Dog Is Dead might have been all-male and a quarter of the size, but they continued the pitch-perfect harmonies indoors with refreshingly different jazz-infused indie with tongue-in-cheek shouted lyrics like, “This is a zoo, could you not feed the animals?”

We Show Up On Radar’s gentle electronic folk at the Rising Stage was child-friendly enough for toddlers to fall asleep in their parents’ arms and audience-friendly enough to induce a sway at the front, or some wellies-off time at the back. While popstrel, Diana Vickers, faired well with a young audience; her number one hit, Once, and a little-known aptitude for trumpet playing thanks to an instrument she named ‘Tommy’, got the best reactions.

Fun, mystical, folky poptronica from Tunng followed indoors, but it was Caribou that packed out the venue. Grouped at centre-stage, Dan Snaith’s foursome rolled out funky grooves, pulsating acid house, psychedelica and plenty of bleeps and tweeps, culminating in an extended version of the Mr Scruff-esque Sun from recent critically acclaimed album, Swim, to mark a festival highlight.

The Go! Team’s first performance in two years cranked up the evening pace at the damp Main Stage ready for Tinchy Stryder. But it was the return of Mark E Smith’s on-stage nonchalance that was the talk of the festival that night, as The Fall graced the alternative headline spot. It might not have been to everyone’s taste, but the performance was enigmatic and showed just why the band had been so influential to punk.

A closing late night live set from The Whip stirred the remaining partygoers into a soft peak as Saturday hit its climax.

For the most part it was the DrownedInSound Indoor Stage that harboured the anticipation for Sunday’s bands. Lo-fi tales of young love from Summer Camp were at times beautiful, at others, a little too sickly sweet. Errors’ angular electronic post rock went down a storm, before twee-indie favourites, Los Campesinos! justified the size of their crowd in De Montfort Hall. The ecstatic audience reactions to You! Me! Dancing! obviously delighted sharp-tongued lyricist, Gareth, as an impromptu stage dive during Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks resulted in a catalogue of injuries and mild concussion that somehow didn’t stop the remaining two minutes of the band’s set.

Frightened Rabbit’s rousing, gut-wrenching high points from across Winter Of Mixed Drinks and Midnight Organ Fight, delivered by Scott Hutchinson’s endearing Scottish twang showed the band as one of the most, if not the most exciting of their genre at the moment.

Earlier, at the main stage, the sun had finally hardened the mud and the crowds were happy to sit and listen to a day of stomping folk and acoustics, which would become both a theme and a slight criticism as the pace remained rather static. Nonetheless, it was easy to drink in the sounds of Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit, as well as Jose Gonzales’ Junip, who mixed a heady cocktail of the ambience of Air with lulling plucked guitars and effortless vocals.

But it was Mumford and Sons who won the heart of the weekend. An abashed Marcus declared how honoured the four were to play their inaugural headline spot at Summer Sundae, but admitted there had been a double-edged sword to their meteoric rise, as they had struggled to gather enough material to fill the hour-plus slot. The band needn’t have worried as every Sigh No More track was an audience favourite – The Cave moistening eyes and loosening even the most tired of feet.

Indoors, The Futureheads took their stiff competition a rival headliners with great humour and did not suffer painfully on numbers, as a busy crowd duly obeyed Barry Hyde’s request for them to do the ‘bouncey bounce’ dance during Skip To The End. The Mackem three’s loyal cohort were clearly determined not to be wooed outdoors, away from their dry wit, tongue twisting lyrics and catchy guitar riffs at breakneck speed.

One thing is for sure, having wavered on the brink of cancellation throughout the latter part of 2009, Summer Sundae came back fighting for its tenth anniversary and proved it has become a vital fixture of the British festival calendar, with a dexterity that allows it to span both generations and genres.

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