Monday, August 15, 2005

Summer Sundae Sunday review : too much apple pie?

And of course we're going to have warm weather all next week. Not that the elements were holding some rain back for today, the odd shower aside for the last day of the very well run festival. Certainly the Dirty Backbeats were ready to wake people up with their feral Nuggets garage rock update, singer with Justin Hawkins-esque premature ageing and keyboard player with a remarkable head of hair we hope wasn't a wig. A slow morning followed, taking in Bellowhead's folk dance and songs about men trapped in gorse that led to spontaneous Irish jogs breaking out all over, The Have Nots' harmonic country nothingness, Owsley Sunshine, who claim in the programme to be equal parts Gomez and the Stone Roses which suggests they've managed to miss out on Starsailor for all these years, and staking out the 6 Music caravan broadcast area and winnebago. We can report Andrew Collins was wearing three quarter length trousers.

Sondre Lerche is worried. "This is my first festival on British soil and if I take too long it wouldn't be a great way to start my festival experience here for myself or my team" he tells the crowd, who appreciate the irony as he's playing solo. Going onto the main stage with nobody to back you up is a brave move as it throws the spotlight on your lyrics as much as anything, and this is where Lerche excels, occasionally wonky as is the wont of Scandinavians writing in English ("I'm optionless and turkey-free", sir!) but often full of florid ideas and imagery even if occasionally sounding like the result of online translation. Nice line in self-depreciation too, covering The Only Flame In Town by Elvis Costello, who he's supported, despite admitting to not knowing all the words "but I'll just repeat the words I do know again" and apologising for not having had time to do much with his hair. A filling field is his reward. Food follows, having ensured no massively successful sibling-based bands have been booked for the next hour.

Back in time for Patrick Wolf indoors, and really his cult following should be a lot bigger than it is. Firstly, he has a curious attitude to stage wear, perhaps making his song The Gypsy King more relevant by default. Secondly, he plays piano, ukelele and viola, and yes, you can sing at the same time as play viola. Mostly, however, he has spellbinding stage presence without having to make a show of himself, creating poetic worlds often as if viewed from a stagecoach or overlooking shorefront landscapes, covering Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill as if it were his own and, a rarity indoors, getting complete audience attention when starting The Shadowsea acapella. Remarkable.

Oddly, the Earlies seem to have got the best non-headliner daytime turnout of any band. It's probably no coincidence that their appearance coincides with the warmest part of the three days, as their psych-folk-prog-pop is perfect for kicking back in a field. Obviously we're far too hyper for this so off to Battle we head. Of course this art-rock explosion's going to have a fierce backlash eventually and this level of angular post-punks are going to be swept back in the surf, but they're trying their damnedst while they're still on the up, crafting heavy riffs onto spiralling frameworks that fit snugly between Bloc Party and Editors. Glorious early vinyl single Tendency turns stratospheric as the tent goes from a third full to start to rammed within four songs, although we never did quite establish whether the woman in front of us really was Edith Bowman (it's possible - she goes out with him out of Editors and might have fancied a weekend at a festival out of London after they'd played there on the Saturday and so blagged a BBC pass). We'd intended to flit between this and Alfie but forgot and ended up seeing the second half of their last song. Mind you, three of them had walked right past us earlier while the organiser was showing them round the field, Lee taking particular interest in the stall selling glowsticks, and then later while waiting for Patti Smith we nipped to the loo and washed our hands next to guitarist Ian before watching him turn the wrong way out and try to exit through a locked private room.

Average quality noodles were taken in to the accompaniment of the Duke Spirit giving the garage rock 'revolution' a pounding it still just manages to recover from, a later glance into the signing tent finally revealing who Liela looks like - 65% Sally Lindsay 35% Emma Bunton, before our appointment with a man of black heartedness. Longtime Sweeping The Nation readers - yeah, right - will know we're big fans of Luke Haines, if not his new look which with receding hairline and nascent handlebar moustache reminds us of nobody so much as David Crosby. Oddly, a man right at the front had a young baby on his shoulders, possibly the same one Devendra Banhart spotted, which began crying on cue at the end of The Death Of Sarah Lucas, to which Haines remarked "are you sure he should be here?", this having followed new song Bad Reputation, about "popular 70s sex criminal Gary Glitter" and the guilt by association he imagines has befallen The Glitter Band (not to be confused with The Walton Hop, about "unpopular 70s sex criminal Jonathan King".) Haines was on top badinage form, remarking on the way acts enter the stage from behind a curtain at the back by suggesting he was actually the Stars In Their Eyes Luke Haines and pausing at the "weren't the 90s great" line in The Rubetts to ponder "actually, I have a theory that the 90s weren't bad - I made a lot of records in the 90s." That got a cheer. What passes for family favourites in the Auteurs back catalogue got a runout, New French Girlfriend even segueing into Black Box Recorder's Child Psychology, while after Unsolved Child Murder he notes "about fifty people left the tent during that. Fuck 'em, it sorts the wheat from the chaff". He even got an encore, which lasted one song.

The best thing about there only being four stages was that there was less likely to be a clash between, say, Yo La Tengo and the Wedding Present, both bands who know how to treat a guitar. In the end we got to see half an hour of YLT, who compere Jane Gazzo claimed were the most popular band of the festival based on band T-shirts she'd seen. Actually, we'd only seen one, and presumably she can't have been on site on Friday when the BSP battalions descended. YLT themselves were on top form, comfortable playing intuitively while allowing Ira Kaplan to go off on one in the middle of their awkwardly melodic songs. They hadn't done Sugarcube by the time the Weddoes started, but it's their loss, especially as ver Present were on similarly decibel level-flouting form, full of fire as if Albini's spirit was still among David Gedge and co, pulling out tracks from across their history - who knew we'd hear The Queen Of Outer Space again? Kennedy got the weekend's biggest mosh pit going, narrowly edging out Dalliance and closer Flying Saucer. Worryingly, Gedge appears to be getting younger in the face as time progresses.

That finished comfortably early so the festival could impose a three line whip for Patti Smith and a band featuring Lenny Kaye and, it's said, Tom Verlaine sitting in the corner behind several crib sheets. Frankly, it wasn't going to go wrong. Smith, who would praise Leicester as "I've always been a big fan of bricks" and suggested we all club together and buy a city centre tower block for nefarious purposes, prophesised, prosthletized and when all else failed rocked out, shimmying across the stage, attempting to asphyxiate her guitar or attempting to sing from under a towel. Like A Rolling Stone and Not Fade Away made appearances before Gloria threatened to bring not just the festival but the entire grounds down.

Summer Sundae 2005, then. Excellently organised, great venue, top sound system, constantly intriguing bill. That was, purely, a real event.

4 comments:

Ant said...

Cheers for the reports!

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