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"

  • "One of Britain's Premier Music Events"

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

  • "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 2005 Reviews

The Guardian

A Summer Sundae virgin, I fell instantly in love – and I speak as a reformed festivalholic, who in 1998 foreswore the temptations of damp grass, wristbands and paper plates in favour of enjoying the TV and radio coverage. Radio 1 has stylishly colonised Glastonbury, Radio 2 makes Cambridge and Guilfest its own, Virgin has V, XFM has Wireless. Meanwhile, 6 Music is proud to have been twinned with Leicester since 2003, during which time Summer Sundae has grown into an impressive bill (this year the Magic Numbers, Patti Smith, KT Tunstall, Mylo, Lemon Jelly) while retaining the feel of a fete in someone’s back garden. Set in the grounds of De Montfort Hall, when it rains – and it did – everybody just pops indoors.


Summer Sundae has now been an established part of the festival circuit for five years, and has grown from a one day, two stage event, to four stages over three days. Held at De Montfort Hall in Cental Leicester, the festival itself is set in the grounds of the hall, with camping in two separate areas a short walk from the main arena. Leicester town centre is also a few minutes away, a fact that's very handy when running short cash, cigarettes or beer!

The main arena opens on the Friday from 2pm, with the first bands taking the stage around 5, although campsites are open from the Thursday. The site itself feels compact, with all four of the stages within a few minutes walk. That said, while the arena is full, it never feels oppressively busy, there's always plenty of space to sit down and chill out.

The four stages are the "outdoor stage", which alternates the main headline acts with the "Indoor" stage, De Montfort hall's main auditorium. Two smaller stages, the "Musician acoustic", and "Rising" are set in tents within the arena itself.

One of things that you can't help but notice is just how well put together this event is. The team that makes this festival happen really know their stuff; the bands start bang on time, there are enough easily enough toilets to keep the blood poisoning at bay, security are efficient, friendly and completely unobtrusive. All the people working the festival we saw were friendly, and couldn't do enough to help if you needed it. It was also nice to see a festival where recycling was taken so seriously, with facilities for cans and plastic, and even empty plastic glasses.

Due to an unforeseen detour, I didn't get to site till quite late on Friday, meaning the only act we caught were the Scratch Perverts featuring Dynamite MC. The Scratch Perverts have built up quite a reputation for blinding hip-hop, and battle DJing, and on the basis of tonight's performance, it's a reputation richly deserved. These guys are awesome, and play to a packed indoor stage that is literally jumping. Their set featured everything from hip hop, through to Smells like Teen Spirit. If you haven't seen them yet, then go...go now!

Saturday morning saw grey skies turned to rain, and lots of it. Regardless, the bands started on time, and were led off by The Traces on the Outdoor Stage. A new act to me, the Traces deliver a tight set of well written, soaring guitar songs of high intensity.

Next up were Editors, a four piece hailing from Birmingham. They seem to draw on a very disparate range on influences - at times they seem to fit neatly into the post Gang of Four mould occupied by bands like the Kaiser Chiefs, and yet the next song sees the singer move to a . vocal style almost identical to Dave Gahan's. Later they move yet again to a sound so close to Joy Division, close your eyes, and you'd believe that you were listening to Ian Curtis. And yet somehow, it works. They are a superb live act, putting so much energy and soul into what they do, it's impossible not to be impressed.

I've never seen opinion so deeply split on any act as the set played on the indoor stage played by Emiliana Torrini. For some, she was the most consummate chillout act, playing lilting songs that soothed the soul. To others, it was a saccharine act so sweet you could have made jam with it! No one I met seemed to have anything but an extreme opinion.

Sally Barker, former singer with all-girl folk band the Poozies, played to a packed Musician Stage. Sally has a very unique guitar style, that's almost percussive in nature, that seems to complement her voice perfectly. The set she delivers is very folky in quality, with no real surprises, other than maybe the inclusion of "Love on a Farmboy's Wages" by XTC.

It's late afternoon, and suddenly we've been transported back to the Summer of Love by Mercury nominated The Magic Numbers. For this band, even the weather changes, with grey skies and rain chased away by brilliant sunshine in true California style. The band deliver a sound that hails direct from the late 60's US West Coast via Ealing. Their songs are light, happy and cheerful, though possibly a little insubstantial, and the crowd loves them. Within minutes, a cloud of steam is visible rising from the dancing crowd.

The Bays take to the Indoor Stage around 7pm, and blow every cobweb out of every head within a fifty mile radius! These guys are brilliant, marrying drums, keyboards, decks and bass into a rollercoaster ride of jammed trance and drum and bass. Every gig they play is unique - played without setlist or rehearsal, and while that should be a recipe for disaster, what you get is a vibrant sound packed with energy. For me, this was the act of the weekend - no one else even came close.

If the Bays were the biggest nice surprise of the event, then Thirteen Senses on the Outdoor stage were probably the biggest disappointment, playing a rambling set that seemed to drift on for weeks, without actually getting anywhere.

KT Tunstall took to the Indoor stage around 8.30, though the auditorium was packed with eager punters long before that. I personally find KT Tunstall a quandary. That she is a talented songwriter is beyond doubt. Her guitar playing, using loops and delays is original and genuinely inventive. She has the voice of an angel, and delivers songs that shine like polished jewels, and yet somehow, it doesn't work for me. It should, she is fabulously talented, and yet somehow, the parts seem greater than the whole. Still, the set is well delivered, and the audience absolutely love her for it.

Mylo takes to the stage as a bass/synth guitar trio, and deliver a soaring set that seems to range from ambience to raging intensity, and within minutes, the crowd are going insane.

Sunday sees Bellowhead up first. Winner's of Radio 2's best live act Folk Award, there seem to be so many members of this band that the stage at times seems to be more packed than the audience. In terms of sheer energy, Bellowhead are hard to beat, playing punchy folk songs at high octane.

Bellowhead are followed by Sondre Lerche from Norway, with a set that contrasts starkly against Bellowhead. He plays light airy songs that are eloquent and bright. Very acoustic, and extremely mellow, he is the act you need to soothe minds frayed by hangovers on a Sunday afternoon.

So overall? Summer Sundae is a great event. With strong lineups over the past few years, held at a great venue, with stunning organisation this festival is well worth a visit. Even the fact that entertainment ends before midnight, and the bars shut at eleven owing to licensing restrictions, the fact that you're effectively in a city centre means it's easy to keep going when the music stops. As for atmosphere, it's a happy, friendly event that even two days of rain couldn't shift. I've thought hard of something to criticise it for, but to be honest, I'm struggling. Maybe though, in view of the almost biblical rain over the weekend, the organisers ought to think about changing the name - using the word 'Summer' for a British outdoor festival could be construed as asking for trouble!

Simon Butler