Summer Sundae turned ten this year, sealing its place as the most delightful of the small scale festivals. At the risk of going over ground long covered after STN's annual visits, with its wonky booking policy, bijou existence, often likeable family friendly atmosphere, handy indoor stage and reasonable prices its foibles are almost strengths and its strengths are what makes it so unmissable year on year.
Now, as previously stated, the desire not to spend hours looking blankly at the document without further ideas forming leads on to another piecemeal capsule festival review. We'll try and sling daily reviews up for ease of use this time. So...
About halfway through their set, just as their soaring, glacial cover of Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill gets underway, Nick Moon captures the thoughts of the small but keen early day audience with two well chosen words: "oh shit!" It's begun raining, see. Heavy showers will be the order of most of the day, with one sustained downpour later on, turning parts of the ground into unpleasant stickiness by nightfall. None of the subsequent running for cover is to Kyte's detriment, although the moments when they lurch towards Temper Trap-esque electro anthemry are. Much more of the time, though, they harness the electronic retrogressive suggestions towards something stratospheric and overpowering, demonstrating that even in these conditions they fit the wide expanse with no little ease. Just one thing - Kyte were everyone's idea of next big things two to three years ago. What are they doing getting on the bill only via a local radio contest?
There's a lot of shoegazing around these days, but it seems few bands take to it with the attention to detail of Nottingham's Spotlight Kid. One of their guitarists even employs the same same technique as Kevin Shields with the permanently gripped whammy bar, and one song delves into a mini-Holocaust section. For all that the three guitar wall of sound is unbreakable, Katty Heath's vocals sweetly somewhere in the mix as everything else swirls around with buried melodies in the best tradition of the sound.
The Megaphonic Thrift
From one band whose influences aren't so much not hidden as pasted front and centre to another. This time it's Sonic Youth - the feedback, the leading bassline throb, the extraordinary guitar throttling noises (and tunings), the songs that seem to be progressing in a linear path until swerving off full throttle into a hedge, even a frontman who does the guitar above head then swooping across ground level thing that Thurston does. Again, for all that a band capable of taking on that prominent but difficult an influence and putting their own stamp on it leaves a lasting impression. In the same way that staring into a strobe light would, perhaps.
Charlie & The Martyrs
And then we step back out of the world of pedals and into a soggy field becoming increasingly so to watch a jaunty pop band whose bass amp dies immediately as they take the stage. These probably aren't the right circumstances for cogent critical thought.
And it still hadn't recovered by the time Nottingham's sometime most wanted took to the indoor stage, because apart from that they didn't seem anywhere near as impressive as their recorded output we can't remember anything about them worth writing in a blog review.
Erland & The Carnival
One of the year's great disappointments was seeing their cracker of a support set to Wild Beasts in March and then finding their album comparatively underpowered. At the second time of live asking they seemed equally sluggish, far from the initial impressions of whirling psych-folk greatness. So near and all that.
The woodland reared (possibly) blues-folk duo were on fine form in the Musician tent, though, entwined in their spectral harmonies and brittle, dark awry craftsmanship. Shame that most people just chose to talk over them instead, as in better circumstances they would have soared.
Just to take a moment to explain a time gap here - Fanfarlo were due to be next on the main stage. This was pleasing to us, as as well as being fans of theirs, evidently, they'd pulled out late last year due to swine flu and were, in truth, probably the one real must-see of the day that we hadn't already seen. And yet... wandering over to the Hall for Swimming we noticed a single notice up on the noticeboard of gig posters announcing, with no elucidation, that Fionn Regan had been moved from indoors to take their place on the main stage. Several things flashed through our mind at this point. The first was, obviously, THE BASTARDS. (It subsequently turned out they'd somehow got stuck on the M1 and with gigs in Belgium over the weekend had decided they couldn't make it) The next was that they'd pulled out last year with days to go as one of them had swine flu, and they'd withdrawn from this year's Indietracks too. And hadn't they briefly listed a gig in Leicester some time last year, or were we feverishly making that up? Anyway, what with the Wave Pictures pulling out through illness the previous day we weren't best pleased with fate, or with the offhand way that the information seemed to be got out - we know people who hadn't heard until Regan came on, or who were in the hall waiting for Regan.
We therefore decided to make use of the city centre down the road.
Danny & The Champions of the World
Back to the Musician tent, and a sadly cut down to eight travelling show for Danny George Wilson and friends, compared to the fourteen on stage two years ago. Well, there is a recession on. They still sound like a perennial Last Waltz, giving off the air of communal joy as much as the songs are carefully crafted, slipping effortlessly into My Girl at one point.
Imagine what this would have been like under the last remnants of a blazing sun. Under leaden skies it still worked out pretty well, though, only a couple of representations from the current album slipping into a set spanning most of their career full of glorious melody and harmonies that don't seem quite as sharp as they used to be but still sound like the most natural development. And just when it all starts sounding a little samey for a bit, the keyboardist straps on a rhythm guitar and we're off into a politely raging Star Sign. The only disappointment is missing a cracking final three of Everything Flows, Sparky's Dream and The Concept because the set slightly overlaps with...
Their last gig before they lock themselves away in a room to write and record. Promisingly, for all their talk about needing to broaden out their sound the new songs sound like they fit effortlessly into the set and easily fill the space in the big hall. The old songs work well enough too, the ballads heartaching, the faster songs provoking sporadic outbreaks of movement. After the slightly ramshackle nature of the Indietracks appearance and Rebecca's tweeted disenchantment after a bad gig the night before, it was a triumph and a tremendous recovery for temporary send-off.
Some sacrifice had to be made to catch Slow Club, but rushing straight over to the Rising tent at the far end of the grounds meant we arrived just in time for his closer. And if you're going to extemporise with extended grooves and a percussive bit over anything, it might as well be the still glorious I Walk The Earth from his King Biscuit Time incarnation. Wish we'd seen more.
Coming on early just for the hell of it, it's pretty much undeniable that Steve Wold is a tremendous slide/bottleneck blues man who can hold a rapt audience at hand. What seems to be a puzzling sideline is the rapture people feed off from him. His changes of guitar get roars of approval. When he embarks on some glad handling of the front row it's like a red carpet premiere. Earlier, wandering upfield, he's stopped every couple of strides by people brandishing cameraphones. How we arrived at this juncture would take more than a few lines on a blog to explain.
See, here's the pop at cross purposes idea of Summer Sundae in excelsis. While all that's filling the field outside, in the hall Roots was firing out dedications between each song to "Leicester city!" to Pavlovian response. Backed by a female singer and band - bass, drums, decks, synth, Macbook - while some of the usual gripes about live hip hop presentation remained (yeah, we've come to see you, not your hypeman) the energy levels were high, the sub-bass quaking, the live sound spot on, and when Witness (1 Hope) hit plenty of the balcony was joining in the exultant collective movement. A great finish to day one.