Two things changed on Sunday. The weather was the most welcome, instantly hardening almost all the ground and bringing out the tradition of people seated all the way up De Montfort Hall Gardens' natural amphitheatre. The second was that, while all weekend tickets had been sold in advance, it was the only day where the day tickets had likewise all been snapped up. The areas that got crowded, especially the walk through the village to the Rising tent and campsite, got even more crowded, but there didn't seem to be great problems getting in anywhere. And in any case, most were there for our headliners, a spectacular early gambit by the organisers given what's happened to their profile in the last two or three months...
As we say, Leicester seems to be overrun with post-hardcore bands these days. While not strictly our favourites there's a deal of hope of some sort of wider acceptance around their twisted riffola, a more Brit-rock sided take on Tubelord's intricate broken down angularities which nods at math structure and more full-on anthemry put through a grater. Not entirely sure what the saxophone on two songs added, and the new single seemed to be the weakest song in the set, but much promise is afoot from a band not overawed at position or time.
Red Shoe Diaries
Good, this, having seen two songs of theirs at Indietracks before having to catch a train. They're quite a bit more Belle & Sebastian than we recalled - we recalled them being quite a bit Hefner-like - but these songs of hidden hope and ease seem to chime with the conditions and the atmosphere.
Retro rock'n'roll taking place somewhere in the background, leaving little trace.
Into the hall for the first time on this day, curated by Drowned In Sound for their own impending tenth birthday, to catch a lovely moment during the soundcheck when Jeremy Warmsley observed that Perfume Genius on the PA went well with the keyboard line test. On demo/record Summer Camp come across as very sleek and shiny, indebted to the imagined sound of 80s high school films and synths therein. The live incarnation - Warmsley on guitar and keys, Elizabeth Sankey already an easygoing frontwoman, two other people on synths and bass - is a little more roughed up, still sepia tinted and electronically enabled but not quite as sweetly lovesick. Still sounds like enigmatic parallel universe pop (and not chillwave), though, a distorted post-Abba. Call us cynical, though, but we're not sure Sankey really is waiting for her A-level results as claimed.
Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit
It's quite good for the festival that the weather behaved on this Sunday, really. A modern folk leaning crowd, reflected broadly in the post-These Furrows main stage bill, was always going to be out in some force for a fellow traveller, so Flynn gets a great reception for his weatherbeaten morality tales in a set that leans interestingly heavy on first album A Larum. At once his songs fit the mood and reveal something darker and more literate while remaining on the surface perfectly good tunes to either chill or awkwardly dance to. Most people take the former option.
The Besnard Lakes
Never got into the Besnards, it has to be said, their melding of shimmering swells and classic rock power chordage never quite convincing. Aren't there better ways without the histrionics of producing soaring grandeur? Well, yes, clearly.
Soaring grandeur has never been Jose Gonzalez's thing, but he keeps getting main stage invites from Summer Sundae. Having failed to translate in the wide open arena twice before he does little better with his band project, essentially Jose Gonzalez songs with a steady rhythmic drummer and some synths somewhere in the background, making it sound even more like background painting.
Fervent supporter Steve Lamacq is in the crowd for the Sheffield outfit whose star is affixed to the slow revival of proper jangle-pop, very much of a Housemartins hue with lyrical ideals of romance and small town stories. Like a lower-fi Frankie & The Heartstrings they're a rock'n'roll band transplanted out of time, only juddering to a halt on the realisation that George Waite has picked up the same vocal phrasing as the central wave of landfill indie irritants from Borrell to Lean.
Live electronics, eh? When done wrongly they're actively offputting. When done correctly they're usually Errors. At times during this stupendous, uniquely almost fitting set their punishing, throbbing pulse feels like it may never give up, pitching into offbeat electronic grooves, washes of acid pop melody and something rhythmically beyond mere instrumental sequenced synth-pop into irresistable music for heart as much as feet, finishing with two noise freakouts. Another stormer, even if people didn't seem that keen to move to it.
The Low Anthem
Last End Of The Road the Low Anthem played a main stage set so quiet you couldn't hear it from the top of the arena. The problem with a band most of whose songs are built on still, hymnal beauty and concentration is if you put them in the open air - as EOTR have done again this year, we note - the slightest wisp threatens to carry it away. It's good to admire what they do, but utilising it properly so people under clear skies will watch you for an hour in rapt attention is another thing.
There's a story to be told here. Entertainingly, if tellingly, Gareth's vocal check included his singing Little Lion Man, to which the gaggle of teenage girls in floaty fairy dresses next to us joined in. Then he tried Song For Whoever, and they looked on nonplussed. As regular readers will know critical faculties somewhat elude us when it comes to LC!, but even by their standards it's a spectacular effort. For one thing, they start with In Medias Res, only the second or third time they've played it. The live set (of which this was the setlist), full blast and more involved than the records ever hint at, is a fearsome beast, ecstatic and involved even as half the monitors briefly go down. And then...
Well, you might have heard what happened next. Those who've seen LC! live over the last couple of years will know Gareth often makes a gesture to clear a pathway through the centre of the crowd before leaping in and delivering a verse and chorus or so from among the throng. Here he had a barrier to contend with but a mini-speaker stack for extra height. From where we were, a couple of people between us and him, he got ready, made the leap, went down to much gasping, remained down while the band played on in a little disarray and Kim attempted to pick up the vocals, then recovered during the chorus, somewhat groggily at first, then on being helped back to the stage picked up where he left off with his full array of dance move (singular) and the traditional all-together ending.
Now, less than an hour later the whole band were hanging around on the punter side of the artist enclosure with Gareth glad-handing any number of wellwishers and Facebook photo requesters. In his words, it was a jump he thought he could make if he aimed to put one foot on the barrier and let momentum carry him in, but just as he got his foot on the metal someone grabbed his ankle and over he went left side of face first. Copious cans of Red Stripe seemed to be acting as a temporary pain reliever, but he was indicating he'd had stitches above his eye (there was a definite cut there when he deigned to turn back to the front on returning to the stage) and looked generally beaten but unbowed. After Monotonix last year, the hall is proving quite the place for crowd leaping.
This always seemed a strange piece of scheduling - a band with a little label muscle behind them but little true crossover second to last on the main stage on Sunday? They're hardly a band for big last night singalongs, even if they do have some potential in that area. There's no question they put on a dynamic show, the dual drummers and Fleet Foxes harmonic vocals chiming with the times. It's just that, having seen them storm the Sunrise Arena at Latitude last year, something didn't quite translate in this space and time to make it a marquee event.
Semi-stalking members of Los Campesinos! meant we missed most of the regularly Musician-filling ska collective, doubly unfortunate as we've since learned Neville Staples from the Specials joined them for a few songs from his back catalogue. Still, getting there for the encore means we get to see the joyous sight of an entire tent skanking (we were just standing outside it, obviously. And deliberately)
Mumford & Sons
How much do the headliners appeal to their new young constituency? The trumpet soundcheck gets a huge cheer. When the band emerge for their first headline set it's like a refined Party In The Park, the four part harmonies multiplied by a good thousand or so. You just had to watch for the sheer size of the thing that has been created here.
Although obviously you could actually end the festival watching someone else, like the headliner inside the hall. They perform creditably for audience, filling downstairs if leaving great swathes of empty seats upstairs, and in terms of sound they're revved up and ready to flatten everything in their path. As much as their last two albums have kept to one breakneck punk thrash pace, and when too many of those songs are put together mid-set it shows, they're still an engaging live band, pulling out Area and Barry Hyde suggesting the "bouncey bounce" dance to Skip To The End. People do. And then of course Hounds Of Love, with the traditional splitting the audience into two to join in with the opening call and response, and following that with a forceful Man Ray with extra long gap they're home and hosed. As, indeed, is Summer Sundae. Ten more years!