EDIT: First set of Summer Sundae photos have been uploaded
Back again, then, to De Montfort Hall And Gardens, three stages housed in surely the smallest area of any festival worth its salt plus the handiness of somewhere to go if it starts raining. Oh, and to watch a few bands in a nearly palatial setting, of course. We arrive on site just as James Morrison is onto his last song, and from our not yet trained ears he appears to be attempting to shake off the Blunt comparisons by edging towards sub-Kravitz funk-rock. It's not a good image, but a lot of people seem impressed. While we're all still warming up Zil inside are providing what the programme claims is "a raw mix of Roxy Music meeting the Clash". A very raw mix, as we can't detect either. Post-Franz/Killers there must be a band like this in every town with guitar stabs, well pressed shirts and a keyboard at the side of the stage, and none of them are amounting to much. For easy comparison, the Infadels played inside last year on the Friday and showed how to do post-punk-disco without sounding like the Bravery.
Liam Frost and the Slowdown Family has/have often been touted as a natural successor to Badly Drawn Boy in the Greater Manchester singer-songwriter stakes but throughout his set we're reminded more of Johnny Bramwell of long time acoustic contenders I Am Kloot, adding a cynical dash to lyrically adept melancholy and a surprising live power. Buoyed on by a strong contingent of fans if the cheers on every title announcement are anything to go by Frost is a hugely engaging frontman, thrashing at his acoustic guitar during songs and bantering with the front row and his mandolin player (mandolin player? Well, he plays violin as well, but still) between them, throwing his broken harmonica into the crowd at one stage before admitting later that that might have been a bad idea all told. An early highlight, and we got given a three-track CD of his songs later, which was nice.
We didn't get to see as much of Baxter Dury as we'd intended due to our breaking the habit of a lifetime and actually meeting the people we'd agreed to meet up with (chiefly Ben, Kenny, Jim, Jen and a couple of people whose names we've forgotten - sorry), but from the song and a half we did catch we get the impression that while he has the Cockney wideboy/seedy lyrical underbelly gene alright it probably comes across better on record. From what we largely only hear across the Gardens Richard Hawley, who for reasons that we've never quite been able to pin down has never totally appealed to us, is in fine sweeping form, his laconic stage presence contrasting neatly with the sometimes overpowering soar of his Lee Hazlewood post-nostalgia. If there is such a categorisation.
Jeremy Barnes of A Hawk And A Hacksaw reveals that he used to work in Leicester post office. He also used to drum for Neutral Milk Hotel and now plays gothic circus music on an accordion with a violinist accompanying while wearing a hat with bells on. You may wish to speculate that this is what working alongside Jeff Mangum does to someone. Meanwhile indoors we meet up for the third time in five months with Seth Lakeman. Just because we're approaching off by heart status with the songs doesn't mean the pastoral folk hoedowns are any less powerful or prone to getting people to dance, and Kitty Jay is more spectacular than ever.
Again, we've never quite got the Delays but a punchy sounding performance marred by the first sustained rain of the weekend - not the last by all accounts - draws plenty of interest. Not as much directly, we'd wager, as up at the Musician tent, where for the first time in our years of Summer Sundae attending there's security on the entrances to keep it to one in one out. The reason, as we'd guessed from the moment we saw who was playing where, is the Blockheads with Phill Jupitus guesting on vocals and - is this a post-Dury tradition, does anyone know? - decked out in the Barney Bubbles 'face' logo band T-shirt as the rest of the band are. Now, many bands with their sort of catalogue might ease the punters into a set before leaving the big guns until last. Or you could start with Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll followed by Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick followed by Clever Trever. That'd work. And it does in spades, although for most of the set we're restricted to being outside looking in, and it's twelve deep at times behind us. This is no Four Tops-style rebranding, luckily, Chaz Jankel, Norman Watt-Roy and Mickey Gallagher still playing with much of the tightness, vitality and indeed outright funkiness of thirty years ago while Jupitus, who just about steers clear of outright tribute to Dury, shares vocals with Ian's minder Derek The Draw, who presumably can't help taking his former associate's cadences on. Strangely there's plenty of room in the tent once Derek announces a song he's co-written with Chaz about how politicians live fulsome lives while other people have dirty one-room homes, and that's before the two minute drum solo, but that means everyone who really wants in gets in for a pulsating closer of Reasons To Be Cheerful. They're playing again on Saturday after X-Press 2 pulled out. Wonder how busy that will be.
For all the cheap comparisons, anyone who really knows them knows Elbow could never be Coldplay. Guy Garvey deals in sublime lyrical evocations and pinpoints rather than universal feelings and his band are far more intricate and dynamic. That sort of thing doesn't sell in Wal-Mart. Added to which is that Garvey is the genial mine host of legend, introducing Leaders Of The Free World as a song about the people who "cause bad things in the world...and I don't mean Cud reforming". So there's no Powder Blue, no big closing Grace Under Pressure and the big showpieces Garvey promised in an interview about this headline slot are not much in evidence, but with a band this up for the event it barely registers. There's what sounds like new songs too, including one (unless it's an existing song we've forgotten about) that channels Tom Waits and involves Garvey on kettle drums. It's not quite the spectacular triumph we'd hoped for, but still when those at the top of the field spot a shooting star over the stage as Fallen Angel begins it ties in nicely. It's the last song in the set, "but it isn't really, you know it isn't" Garvey admits before encouraging those watching to not chant for an encore but get going a unison chorus of "lasting peace in the Middle East!" ("and maybe some fucker will listen"). Brilliantly the plan works and we're treated to a spectacular climax consisting of a hypnotic Any Day Now, a heartbreaking The Stops and a Newborn that finally matches their overpowering ambitions. They may not be the household name predicted of them yet, but it's moments like that that prove they're a headline act all the same.