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17-18-19 August 2012 / De Montfort Hall & Gardens, Leicester

  • "You can genuinely say that there is something for everybody"
    The Guardian

  • "Anyone half awake knows that Summer Sundae is hitting the musical spot better than ever"
    NME.com

  • "The Grandson of Glastonbury"
    Steve Lamacq, BBC 6Music

  • "One of Britain's Premier Music Events"
    Clash

  • "The finest weekend out that Leicester has to offer... Not to be missed"
    The Mirror

Summer Sundae 2004 Reviews

eFestivals

Arriving, I was struck by the difference of this to ‘normal’ festivals – whereas most are outdoor and/or tented, this was outdoor, tented, and indoor, in the De Montfort Hall. With this part-fixed set-up, I didn’t think it would amount to much of a festival atmosphere: I was wrong.

Wandering around the outdoors parts of the site, set in the gardens of the hall, the finishing touches were being made to the Outdoor Stage, which wasn’t in use until Saturday. The stage was positioned at the bottom of the slope of the gardens, which meant that wherever someone might be stood, they’d get a great view of the stage.

A too small number of food stalls failed to excite my rumbling tummy; there were a small number of traders and campaigning stalls too. The camping was split over two locations, one at the top of the site, the other across the road. A heavy downpour earlier in the afternoon meant that the ground was already soft underfoot, but luckily, with wood chippings scattered on the worst spots, and even with Sunday’s further rain – it didn’t really turn muddy.

The Friday was a little light ‘on paper’ for entertainment, partly due to nothing starting until 6pm. But there was more than enough that was worth seeing.

In the small Rising Stage tent, Chin Chin delivered a chilled and soothing set. As it started I nearly left, wanting something a bit more full-on to start my weekend. But having given them a few minutes, I was hooked, and it was a very enjoyable start.

The larger tent for the Musician Acoustic Stage had a bar at the back (another bar was located inside the hall), and picnic tables outside. In the warm evening and with the bar conveniently close, this was a great place to sit and listen to the music from inside. Tandy wafted around my ears, but the seat and beer remained my priority, but later the rock/blues sounds of Leicester’s Diesel Park West did get me inside the tent, and very enjoyable they were too.

Indoors was AJ (who I didn’t see), followed by New Mastersounds – which reminded me of a school disco, with the few inside stood around the edge of the hall – and finishing with 3 hours of Mr Scruff. Scruff packed the dancefloor to the jazzy beats, proving that the right sort of dance music can still excite a crowd.

Starting Saturday inside, Pig Iron Joe delivered heavy blues in a shiny suit, and eFestivals favourites BlackBud gave a typically good performance, making new fans with their first Leicester show.

Outside, the grass was covered in bodies, soaking up the sunshine. Conveniently, our bums didn’t have to soak up the moisture from the ground, as the organisers had thoughtfully provided personal plastic sheets for sitting on.

Local boys Kasabian were always going to be a hit with a hometown show. But to me, they were simply a pastiche of Manchester bands circa 1990, with a quick trip south to add the occasional Pop Will Eat Itself feel. What they do, they do well – in fact better than many of the bands that are their obvious inspirations – but they offer nothing new.

Dogs Die in Hot Cars were next. The early part of their set was uninspiring, but they got better as they went on. Inside for a bit of the excellent Ian McNabb, he treated us to a version of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”. Back outside again for Easyworld and thousands of bubbles, they were followed by a blistering set from The Ordinary Boys.

The Beta Band – who from past experience can vary from fantastic to poor – gave their last festival show before they split, and managed the “fantastic”. Perhaps more consistency would have extended the life of this band with their own very distinctive sound and style.

A quick walk around before the Furry’s hit the stage took us to the Rising Stage, where the superb reggae of T & La Touche was drawing in anyone within audio range. Why is reggae normally absent from festival stages? This proved the instant appeal and dancability.

Last up were Super Furry Animals. I’d never have thought of them as headline material, but this proved to me that they’re capable of headlining even the biggest stage. They were a fantastic way to end a great day!

Unfortunately, the sunshine of yesterday is gone, and the clouds hang dark and heavy. The showers through the afternoon do though ensure better crowds for the bands playing indoors. Both new to me, Jim Moray was particularly good, and Blue States were enjoyable too.

Dipping into the Rising Stage tent, I caught a bit of Headway who were well worth seeing - I’ll make sure I catch the whole set at V this weekend, and a little of Solar Flare. In the Musician Acoustic Tent later on, Nick Harper is playing his folk-based songs in a style remarkably similar to his father Roy (I bet he hates that comparison). Afterwards comes Ezio, to close this stage.

On the main outdoor stage, the earlier bands bring a very Sunday feel. Magnet – whose front man has been voted the “third most handsome man in Norway” he tells us – give an entertaining show, and he isn’t scared to talk to the rather scattered crowd. The audience is proven attentive by the reaction he (eventually) gets from us, even tho no one is rushing the stage barrier. Songs include a cheesed-up version of Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’ – which works surprisingly well – and at the end the crowd show their appreciation.

Having missed some of Tom Robinson, I was pleased to not have missed ‘Glad To Be Gay’, ‘War Baby’, and the classic ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’. A dodgy memory had me thinking that was the limit of my knowledge of his songs, but then he played ‘Power In The Darkness’, just as relevant now as back in the 70’s. Tom proved he’s not mellowed with age either, having updated the lyrics to include mention of Iraq. I thought this set might have come across as an old past-it geezer on stage, but instead this proved to be one of the highlights.

Even though Amy Winehouse has been seen at quite a few festivals this summer, I’d not previously caught a whole set. So I decided to skip Ed Harcourt indoors and catch the full Amy experience, and was very glad I did. Not the most instantly accessible music you’ll hear - it was perhaps a bit too jazzy for some - I was completely lost in the sound by the end.

Finally, Air take the stage, as the last act of a great and varied mix of music at this festival. It turns out that as well as closing this festival, this performance closes their tour. The early part of the set was more downbeat, and almost Floyd-ish at times, but then they tell us it’s time to dance, and things get faster. They leave the stage after only around 50 minutes ... this can’t be it, surely? Nope, they return for more, seemingly pleased with the enthusiasm of the audience, play a few more songs and disappear again. But we haven’t had enough as yet, and chants from the crowd bring them back for two final songs, and send us all home exceedingly happy.

What a great festival – I’ll be back!

Neil Greenway