Sunday, September 20, 2009

Summer Sundae 2009 belated review: Friday

tonsilitus again. this time they're coming out
Mike Skinner via Twitter, Friday 10:06

This year almost felt like a good one for our home town festival. Given a bigger area to spread out in might have diluted its famed family friendly but still knowledgeable fan attracting atmosphere but the whole team always seem to be across everything. Besides, we're (not the royal we) Leicester. We don't stand for low thresholds of quality.

I will be doing summer sundae this evening and you hopefully won't notice the difference. I may be a bit more psychedelic
Mike Skinner via Twitter, Friday 10:23

Then again, fate always knows when to slip the lead into the boxing glove. Regular readers, and god knows why you would, will know that we always mention the number of pullouts from the festival, a ratio uncommon in an event of this size with a history and reliability. The same happened this year, with major sales point the Noisettes deciding to go to America instead, while out of this first day bill two of our must sees fell by the wayside in the preceding fortnight. Dananananaykroyd's John Baillie Jnr did in his arm stagediving - in fairness, something that was always bound to happen - and then Cathy from Fanfarlo contracting swine flu three days in advance. The fates dealing a poor hand, then, but this time, with uniformly fine weather forecasts and more people at the festival than ever before, they, having done their duty, would now keep well away.

Weren't they?

and just as i get the all clear, my bass player wayney is diagnosed with swine flu
Mike Skinner via Twitter, Friday 11:39

Of course not.

waiting to hear from management but i suspect this weekend is not going to happen. i want to cry for socialist and capitalist reasons
Mike Skinner via Twitter, Friday 12:15

Although there've been times when you might imagine the headliners were chosen because a lot of alternate options failed to happen, never had such a high profile act made their apologies.

it is with sincere regret that we've had to cancel this weekends shows. i think my previous messages have demonstrated my frustration but there is nothing we've been able to do at such short notice.
Mike Skinner via Twitter, Friday 16:59

The news broke so late even the rumour mill, previously only entertained by the whisper Nikki, the 'princess' off Big Brother 7, had turned up (camped next to a friend of a friend, in fact), had only just caught up when the announcement was made. Fair to say not everyone was upset - the first two letters of 'Unfortunately...' were scribbled out on at least two official notices - but it seemed to put a crick in the day to an extent. We weren't really planning to watch him, but something of that magnitude can't help but shake you up. We hear that day ticketers were given refunds on demand but there were less than half a dozen of those recouped, which says something. (Possibly that nobody really thought to ask, but never mind) Even so, there seemed something a little off about the atmosphere all day that we don't think was just due to the news, whether through the younger than usual crowd or the increased amount of commercialisation in the market or just the new site map, which we'll come to.

In any case, it dissipated comfortably early into Saturday. Even the hot-panted Pringles girls seemed decoration (well, obviously in that sense, but...) rather than hard sell, and it seems the Bulmers area was turning into some sort of cider-fuelled activity centre. Besides which, the milkshake stall we ordered a drink from only to see a carton of milk brought out on which a two months gone use by date was clearly legible seemed indepedent. Besides all that, Summer Sundae remains what it is - an oasis of music and fun for all the family semi-relaxation in the middle of a city. Seeing fortysomethings, excitable children and members of the Leicester music scene everywhere you looked as well as the usual festival crowd seemed somewhat heartening. It's as if they've managed to punch above their weight effortlessly once again.

Now, if you've ever read one of our extensive festival reviews before you'll know that it carries on for bloody ages, paragraph after paragraph of expostulation. None of that any more. None of you have the time to unpick all that stuff, so from now on it's artist name, description, bang, onto the next one and assume that as we're writing this we didn't get stabbed or drown in sewage. Fine? Fine. Friday.

What they've done this year is changed the site layout around, which means everything I've always told people about how compact the main arena and stages are was for nothing. They've taken up a little more of neighbouring Victoria Park, I believe, but also decided that rather than rip up all the floral arrangements at the front every year they'd make that into a kids' Garden area and move the Rising Stage right out to next to the campsite. It's slightly bigger as a result, but at times, especially on Friday, it felt somewhat less populated too. Or perhaps people just didn't know what to make of Johannesburg's BLK JKS, the first pick by the again curating the stage on the opening day Drowned In Sound. It's very world music-y, with a lot of longeurs and jazziness especially from relentlessly grinning drummer Tshepang Ramoba, but also odd solos, time changes and marvelling syncopated crossover into dense sem-psychedelic grooves. Too often, though, they show off their versatility and dexterity at the expense of getting a song together.

Kid British
It should have worked on paper, given not a drop of rain fell on the site all weekend for once, but given a mostly unconcentrating audience the Mancunian collective's attempt at summery hip hop that attempts to be urban and pop all at the same time just led to a lot of songs that drifted past without making any impact, no matter how much the four MCs jumped about. Of course the kids at the front loved it, but you couldn't help feeling the fates were offering up their own version of events when, after an unneccessarily convoluted fully explanatory introduction to Our House Is Dadless, they made fully four attempts at cueing up Madness sample and band together before abandoning it.

Jeremy Warmsley
Playing a solo set (in Leicester? Hmm, that's a good idea) in Phrased & Confused's spoken word and songsmithery tent, he covers That Old Devil Called Love and, to request, True Love Will Find You In The End, and reveals the secret sixth verse to 5 Verses. The fact he can barely keep a straight face when introducing it gives the game up that it may not be strictly straightforward; that it's the chorus of Dry Your Eyes confirms it.

Oi Va Voi
We can never quite make out what Oi Va Voi are essentially for, and it seems neither can they. They're quite appealling when they go all Klezmer dance, but there seems to be very little of it in their set here. They have a tremendous violinist, but blow far too hot and cold from moment to moment.

Gold Panda
A late replacement for swine-struck Fanfarlo (they'll never come back to this city, you watch), the spectacle of one man behind a table of wires producing minimal glitch electronica isn't a crowd pulling one. 25, we counted. Including, it later turned out, Katie Harkin off of Sky Larkin.

Elevated to fill a gap in the main stage, the beatboxer's beatboxer is a fascinating experience, looping, varispeeding and adding decks work to his own ultra-complex expostulations that occasionally break out into well known riffs. Exhilerating stuff, but one that gets a little wearying over time, especially when a guitarist joins him, and it doesn't really fill the main stage space.

Wild Beasts
Back for a third straight year, and relegated back to Rising from last year's main stage appearance as cover for Dananananaykroyd's enforced absence (see Fanfarlo - it's alright, just bitter experience talking) Luckily they're getting better as a live band all the time - the songs from Two Dancers inhabit their own world far away from guitar mores, breathing life into their syncopated splendour. All The King's Men sounds almost post-punk pagan, We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues some sort of worryingly intimate confessional dredged from the Associates' darker corners, Hooting And Howling positively otherworldly. The closing Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants is virtually a dance track by now. How lucky we are to have a band with this ambition and intricacy.

Mystery Jets
Blaine's hospitalisation forced them to pull out last year, and without a release in the meantime they've been promoted well up the bill in comparison. We see. Actually, it was notable that whenever arms were being raised skywards during the set just about everyone had an under-18 (16?) fluorescent wristband on, which we suppose might account for some of the day's different atmosphere. Actually, it feels like they're going through the motions at the end of more than a year's touring, precious little spark for all the newly blonde Will's efforts even with a crowd urging them on. Two new songs are unveiled, Lady Grey and The Girl Is Gone, the former flecked with New Wave influences, the latter starting where Flakes from 21 left off, both unfortunately tapering away into something more... well... normal than we've ever come to expect from the band. Disappointing.

Before seeing múm you kind of expect something austere, overtly studied perhaps. Little of that in actuality, as the fivesome go through a treasure trove of instruments, their own sparkling take on avant-folk dances and their unbridled excitability. It feels a little like daylight in on magic, but it's a thing of mild wonderment all the same.

So Idlewild got the call to newly headline, as they did in 2006. That night they seemed to be going through the motions; on this night, though they might well be under-rehearsed and Roddy Woomble seems distracted, they better that set. That said, any Idlewild set that starts with Everyone Says You're So Fragile and When I Argue I See Shapes has to have something going for it, and most of the newer songs slip easily into the flow. Not a lot of people watching, though, and it's not like it's bursting inside...

The Beat
...which we repair to for a little while, for the 'official' version of The Beat with Everett Morton and Ranking Roger from the original line-up, plus Ranking Junior. The former is still an energetic presence and there's no doubt, as shown by several years of packed Musician tents, that ska goes down brilliantly at the festival, as much as we're made to wait for most of the back catalogue's best moments and there's a reversioning of Rock The Casbah that seems most uncalled for. Still, the pair made a passable end to a nearly difficult day, the first of three, and about to really take off...

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