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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Sundae 2007 Reviews

eFestivals

In a year of festivals so badly effected by inclement weather and resulting mudbaths (from which I think I’m suffering a mild form of combat fatigue) the sight of a field full of people sat in the sun, on the dry green grass in front of an outdoor stage, brought a lump to the eye – I was beginning to forget what it looked like. The blue sky at Summer Sundae Weekender was a sight for sore eyes alright and and, pre-festival talk of a lack-lustre line-up notwithstanding, also turned out to be in hindsight one of the best years for music.

This year the party went underway on Thursday with what was a warm-up party last year, developed further this year into a regular mini fringe festival with a dozen acts performing in three city venues (The Charlotte, Firebug and The Musician) as well as an evening of comedy in the eFestivals sponsored comedy tent, which provided a light hearted alternative to the music throughout the weekend. This was all made easy to get to by open topped tour buses running continuously around the venues, and all for a grand total of two quid – genius!

And so naturally it was a fuzzy-headed hair-of-the-dog moment on Friday as we lolled on the grass for the first offering of the weekend; indie band Fazed, whose victory in Radio Leicester’s bands competition earned them the honour of opening the mainstage. Kate Nash followed and the crowd swelled around us as I slowly realise who she is, and though a relative newcomer not entirely at ease with where she is, Nash does a good job of entertaining the crowd. Exiting the set early we head up to the hill to the Musician stage for a close up look at The Dirty Backbeats – a Leicester band who’d impressed the previous night as one of the ‘fringe’ acts and were even more engaging the second time – definitely one of my highlights of the weekend.

Back on the mainstage I was keen to see The Aliens with their Beta Band heritage and the theme was pleasingly similar if not quite up to the same yore – yet. Soweto Kinch, like much of the bill is an unknown to me (as usual) but I soon warm to his jazz-based rap mix (ideally placed in the gloom of the indoor stage). It’s only early evening and I’ve already seen a wide variety of music - this is what Summer Sundae does so well and for such easy on the feet musical cramming it can’t be beat. So from Jazz-based hip-hop artistry, a short meander out of the dark hall across the drive and you’re immediately into another stage (the Rising stage) on which now a line of be-suited fellows stand solemnly Kraftwerk-like behind their keyboard stands, which turn out be holding not much more than a motley collection of modified toys (hence The Modified Toy Orchestra) and which they actually manage to make a quite decent go of making bleepy music (on hold?) with – but it’s hard to keep a straight face.

The excellent Orange Tree real ale tent next door calls to me again for the umpteenth time (damn it’s convenience and easy queues!) and a short hop and skip later and I’m standing - pint in hand - overlooking the outdoor stage waiting for the The Divine Comedy’s headline slot. Hannan and Co deliver the goods in fine easy style and as well as I’ve ever seen them do before, but they perhaps fall just short of winning over the whole crowd and claims on a ‘great headliner’ title. No short-change though – Friday has been class.

Another sunny day and another full English in the Pavillion Café on the park (empty as usual because nobody knows it’s there it seems. I’m sure if it were known that you could get a nice cooked breakfast for £3.50 just a short walk across the park the place would be heaving with hungry SSW goers of the morning – but then I might have to queue so *shhh* - mum’s the word) and we’re sorted for another blissfully mud-free day of musical cramming which gets underway with much tipped local young band The Displacements on the mainstage - cheered on by plenty of local support they’re a lively enough starter to get the party going. Despite their youth Kitty Daisy and Lewis are already a polished act and their headsdown attention to the business of putting out that old style rockabilly music wins lots of approval from the crowd. The site feels humming today but it’s never a chore getting around and getting served – scooping a pint from the real ale tent and we’re off up the small hill to the Musician Stage to catch a sample of the excellent Fatal Star before heading back out to the mainstage for Jazz Jamaica who proved to be, as I hoped they would, one of those perfect sunny afternoon bands – chilled and great grooves.

Back at the Musician Stage and I regret not being there for all of the Acoustic Vibronics set because the last 15 minites were great, and as per last year this smallest stage is proving to have some of best content of the fest. From the bright sunlight outside to the perma-darkness of the indoor stage is a jolt to the senses but the right place for viewing Maps – the dark and space-themed stage set well suited to the psychadelic shoegazing tunes – I’m impressed.

The musical variations keep on coming and The Rumble Strips on the main stage are the next new (to me) band to impress, bouncy and Dexy’s-like and good to watch – I’ll be sure to watch them again next week on their hometurf in Devon. Similarly, after a good stomp in the mud at the Glade Festival I made sure to see The Whip again and so for the first visit of the day (which is surprising seeing as it’s right next door to the real ale tent!) to the Rising Stage. They’re just as good again, and down at the front it’s a good mash up as the dance vibe takes over, but it’s a generally less lively response from the crowd this time around. Back at the mainstage Sophie Ellis-Bextor in the twilight slot put her newly put together band to the test in front of a uncommitted crowd (including me) but by the end I was on my feet and dancing - so that’s a NOT bad then. As`ever, in the 40 minute gap between bands on the main stage there’s a band timed to play on the intimate Musician Stage at the back of the field and this time it’s Dr Robert and PP Arnold showing a bit of class before the headliners – a slow draw at first, the tent is packed by an enthusiastic audience by the end.

As the Magic Numbers take to the stage for the Saturday outdoor headliner we’re still filling our glasses at the bar but we catch a few numbers from the happy bunch before (slightly reluctantly) leaving to watch what for me was the best headliner of the weekend – Chk Chk Chk (!!!) – who cooked up a storm on the indoor stage living up to their growing reputation as a rollicking good live act. The crowds pour out in all directions but there’s an hour to chill in the grounds and bars before shutdown and a chance to reflect, and count em up – 12 varied acts seen today (much more than I’d normally see in a day at a festival) and I didn’t regret bothering for a single one of them.

Feeling the pace a little from three (very good) nights out, Sunday proves still to be another good day but definitely no hurrying about today - the early bands are just background music taking second place to coffee, breakfast (today – samosa!) and the sports pages. A proper effort is finally made for The Strange Death of Liberal England who are gaining a reputation for Arcade Fire-like performance, but it’s perhaps a bad choice for the recovering fuzzy -headed and the post-rock style jangled and failed to connect – another time maybe. Things got better though, with the help of the Orange Tree bar and El Pussycat’s ska – who were a rocksteady recovery tonic, spurring the entire audience in the musician stage tent into a skankin frenzy in the middle of Sunday afternoon – quite an achievement! The sun still shining we lazily stuck around for the next act - home-made bluesman and overnight festival-legend Seasick Steve who’s been winning over audiences all year, and Summer Sundae was no different.

The Pigeon Detectives on the other hand fail to make an impression on me or much of the mainstage crowd it seems from our viewpoint. Echo and `the Bunnymen did better with a more practiced performance and a few classics (and some borrowed Doors) followed in the ‘gap’ by a fine performance from local blues prodigy Aynsley Lister at the Musician Stage, and then before we knew it the last bands of the weekend were taking to their respective stages for the finale sets. Having no preference for any of them I decide to end the fest with a tour. Spiritualized in their acoustic incarnation are quietly engaging enough for a couple of songs but I soon get itchy feet and head indoors for Duke Special who are also charming for a while and then off on a search for one more beer I find the Rising Stage is truly packed for Seasick Steve’s second performance of the day ...and it turns out, my last of the weekend.

And what a weekend it’s been – one of the best Summer Sundaes for all round enjoyment I think there’s been, it lived up to and enhanced it’s reputation as an extremely enjoyable festival lovingly put together and ran by the De Montfort Hall’s friendly staff, with great facilities, high production values, and a talent for putting together a great line-up of acts - all made for another little gem of a festival (complete with fringe!). Can’t wait for next year.

Phil Bull