Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Summer Sundae 2009 belated review: Sunday

Did we mention... well, no, we know we didn't mention our lovely photo set. It's all here.

Free Control
Bit of a mixed bag, all told. With apparent soul, trip-hop and avant-rock influences, at times their post-Massive Attack forcefulness recalls UNKLE's best moments; too often, though, when they slow it down they fall into the sphere of Morcheeba and Zero 7. And not the couple of good songs they had, the wishy-washy not-even-chillout stuff.

Shortwave Fade
Especially as they nearly played our SSW warm-up gig we wish we could have liked this set more, but... The main name that comes to mind is Editors, which isn't entirely fair as they have ideas well away from their pat grab-bag, but the mixing of widescreen modern guitar rock (we trust you know what we mean by this) with an electronic undertow aims at something much more than it can manage, and while there's nothing wrong with ambition we're not sure it entirely gels. More intensity and thinking outside the box may be required, but while they're not a band to write off they're not yet the saviours either.

You Fellows of All Souls
Assorted members of longstanding Leicester nearly men dabble in classic rock, then fall into Lemonheads/Shins-ish quirkiness-attesting classic pop shapes. Not bad for now. Apparently they covered They Don't Know. That we'd have liked to have seen. The reason we didn't is because we'd already decided we had to catch half of...

Kevin Hewick
Now here's a man with a three decade heavily storied history, not least that as a Factory alumni he recorded with Sumner, Hook and Morris post-Curtis suicide but before they'd settled on New Order. Now sporting a Manics T-shirt and playing what he describes at one point as "grunge for the over-50s", a serratedly electrifying power trio at some volume and intensity that nods to Neil Young, the Who and Led Zep and features a good deal of showmanship soloing. Hewick seems genuinely proud to be playing the hall, and it shows in how much he's giving it.

From one vulgar display of power to quite another. Pretty much the whole rest of the local scene is on the barrier where once (even for Minnaars) there were seventeen year olds. We haven't written about them as much as we should have out of some notion that we write about Leicester bands too much on here, but Maybeshewill, once trailing behind Kyte and Her Name Is Calla in the local post-rock explosion, have elbowed their way to the front by our reckoning with two superb albums of instrumental fear, from heavy riffage to airy piano inserts, all non-guitar/drums on laptop. Being on the big stage doesn't phase them either, although we think they had some technical issues early on, as their elegantly aggressive drama fills the spaces. John claimed to me, after a Fringe warm-up set where they copied a trick we'd both seen Blakfish and Colour pull off at one of his gigs a couple of months earlier and swapped places with Death Of London after every song, that this would be their laid-back set. It wasn't.

But this was, not that Woodpigeon really know any other way. Their chamber folk is beefed up very slightly from on record, slowly building from fragile openings to full blooded choral swells, textured gorgeously topped by Mark Hamilton's sumptuous vocal. Many are genuinely rapt well before they finish by bringing on Beth Jeans Houghton, in her excellent blonde afro wig, to co-cover Lay All Your Love On Me.

Now then.

Let us tell you about this.

No, actually, let's not tell all, because words and sentences cannot convey anything like a chain of events, stretching over an hour in a half hour slot, that defied all logic, descriptive capability and quite a bit of physics to boot. Some of us were dimly aware of the Israeli trio's live reputation, and it was unusual enough to see a band set up on the floor of the hall. The music, garagey, sludgy, slightly Sabbath-y heavy rock, seemed out of keeping with everything else. And then they emerged, chiefly leader Levi "Ha Haziz" (Yomtov) Elvis - or, more prosaically, Ami Shalev - in his small trunks. People are jumped on, drinks are summarily redistributed and a large plastic bin is brought into play.

Then they started properly.

'Pon their musical signal, unleash hell.

We can't work out whether the image at 40 seconds or the last one there is the more disturbing.

And then there was some more messing about with the drums. Note the sage advice which we hope readers will bear in mind for their next home soiree.

Imagine being in the middle of all this. Actually, partly in fear, we were up in the balcony taking photos for most of it, but when the cast made for one of the exits, drum kit in various hands, we had to follow. We raced down the stairs, ran back round the building and through the bar just as the procession passed (surprising the life out of one esteemed frontman who'd been enjoying a quiet drink and chat until his peripheral vision distracted him) and followed the Pied Piper of nightmares into the stalls, where they set up and started again:

But how to get back down? Ami, with some mild encouragement, had an idea.

That noise, by the way, is Micachu and the Shapes attempting to actually set up on the stage during all this, which had a little while to go yet - indeed, had the plugs not been pulled just as another riff started up, they might have been there now, Shalev now in full shamanic mode having already got everyone to sit down straight after his exertions. Everywhere you looked, whether middle aged day tripper or local scene type, there were people not quite believing all this could happen in the space of one set, not to mention stewards and officials watching from the stage. Passing a door steward, we heard perhaps the most deathless excuse ever: "we don't have the insurance to let them set the drumkit on fire". Throughout, apart from the becalmed bits, was an absolute tsunami of a dance party, and the rest of the day was spent overhearing people trying to explain it to those - somehow including every single newspaper reviewer, none of whom even referenced the buzz - who'd missed it. If you didn't miss it? Well... amazing.

Port O'Brien
Missed them. Damn. Well, we had our excuse, and we saw the last two songs at least, although to be honest Van and Cambria egging everyone on to join them on the shoutalong bits of I Woke Up Today as a finale somewhat palled in comparison for audience participation.

Micachu and the Shapes
"Oh, it's a girl!" said the bloke in front of us to his mate after the first song, and while Mica Levy now sports a blonde 'do it's not as if she's given up much more ground to rote femininity. Unfortunately she's had to give up ground to the preceding, more primal forces, as she admits early on with "wow, where do you start?" Not that she's a slouch by any means, it's just her extraordinary falling apart songs, static solos, shifting time signatures, odd found sounds and broken structures aren't those that automatically win over the curious. For us it's somewhat captivating, though, watching these disprite elements joined somewhere by the power of shards of melody come together.

Easy Star All Stars
This is more in keeping. We've since seen a review complaining that they played too many Beatles covers. We think someone needs to explain the basic concept to that reviewer. Still, an hour of Beatles, Radiohead and Pink Floyd covers in dub mode does tend to drag a bit once you've worked out what they're doing - Paranoid Android is particularly entertaining. Deeply talented collective, but one that on a very warm day on the main stage tends to wash over you.

First Aid Kit
16 and 18, you say? God, it won't be long now until we're listening to music made by people we could legally have fathered. It is for this reason that we deliberately shy away from Tiny Masters Of Today. No such leeway given to First Aid Kit, whose gorgeous harmonies and deceptively simple songs hit you right there with the emotional pull that belies their years. They cover Fleet Foxes' Tiger Mountain Peasant Song in fine style and then pull out an updated version of Buffy Saint Marie's Universal Soldier, holding everyone's attention throughout. Great voices, immense futures.

First Aid Kit finishing early means we get to catch some of the Faroes' finest's set. Odd type, Teitur, capable of going from poppy melodies to introspective slow motion darkness, noise into light, from song to song. Somehow it all hangs together well, although you get the impression that there's a little too much self-consciousness in the mix.

Bon Iver
Most people's headliners - only the Zutons to follow outdoors - but at the end of a year's spreading the word about his personal travails at what Justin Vernon says will be his last English gig for a good year, it can't really hope to match his already celebrated End Of The Road 2008 set, a perfect confluence of time, location and reception. Still, the slightly sparse and not totally attentive crowd here are still largely willing to have their heartstrings tugged by the carefully beefed up full band sound. Guitarist Mike Noyce can do it too, taking vocals on a stunning cover of Graham Nash’s Simple Man, but Vernon's voice still soars into the early evening air it’s Re:Stacks solo and the now traditional singalong The Wolves (Act I & II) climax that really steal the show.

Imelda May
Absolutely packed out the Musician Stage, which meant after a couple of songs and an increasing number of people deep outside the tent we had to disperse, although an overrun meant we caught her closing rockabilly take on Tainted Love, more attuned to the Gloria Jones version. Clearly something's afoot.

Lightning Seeds
Should have been Jenny Lewis, but we hear she couldn't get support for her one proper gig amid a couple of weeks' festivals across Europe and so scrapped the lot. Instead Ian Broudie and whoever his current hired hands are pack the hall out. Everyone says they're a great singles band, and the differing quality between the hits and the lesser known tracks and new songs he pulls out is marked. Still, it's difficult to argue with the precision craftsmanship behind the likes of Change, Life Of Riley and Lucky You, even if the blokes chanting for Three Lions will wisely go unrewarded.

We called it a festival there. Back next year for the tenth event? Of course.

1 comment:

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Great review Simon - I've enjoyed reading all three days worth. Better late than never :) What took you so long ? I saw some of the same acts as you and some different (and (gentle ribbing coming.....) managed to blog them all within a day or so of the Festival ;) ) and likewise agree with what you thought about some (particularly Bon Ivers EOTR gig - that was very very special)and not about others. Still gutted about missing Monotonix, especially as we were in the hall when they announced the band would be setting up on the floor and though 'Hmmm, sounds interesting.' But then decided to go and see Flashguns instead. Damn. Oh well, at least there is You Tube....