Another 16 pictures from the Saturday added to our Flickr folder
The thing about living relatively close to a festival site is, apart from getting all the nasty camping details out of the way, you can just swan in any time you want, so we decided that on this day half twelve would be a decent time for meeting people and generally soaking in the atmosphere.
Two hours later...
In fact, it seems Joan As Policewoman is running late too, as an apologetic Joan Wasser and rhythm section are still doing final soundchecking up to their stage time. It's worth the extra effort. Coming out of the tent our thoughts turned back to Patrick Wolf here last year, not for both their violin prowess - Wasser is Antony & The Johnsons' string arranger but here switches between guitar and organ - but for how that set saw us go in as someone vaguely aware of and intrigued by the set-up of their work and come out converted. Astute, melodically charged and topped off by a dramatic swooping voice that's played up best on Real Life, which she plays without the other two, Joan has an endearing line in banter, comparing playing at 2.30pm to showing off at a family reunion, and a personality that far outstrips most of what we'll see this weekend, transfixing pretty much everyone in the immediate radius. Better, minutes later she seemingly gets the signing tent opened off-schedule - we can report she's very nice and signs herself 'Joan JAPW' - and we see her hanging around outside much later.
Despite dire weather warnings the rain holds off until after nightfall, which means Tunng get a very decent audience for their folktronica, which is amiable enough with some nice touches but would probably work better inside. Meanwhile, a band who'd work really well outdoors are, yes, indoors. We've just realised that of the bands we really wanted to see today three we've already seen full sets by at Truck three weeks ago. At least it means easy comparisons can be drawn, although in the case of Brakes the question "what were they like?" can be answered "they're Brakes, how can they be anything other than tremendous?" A blistering opening of Ring A Ding Ding, Hi How Are You, Heard About Your Band and Pick Up The Phone - four songs in about five minutes - ensures the hall is packed out for a set that understandably leans heavier on the album than that at Truck but is completely unstinting in every other way, from Tom White's power leaps to the traditional casual attendee-confuser of Cheney, which they play twice, after the bloke behind us had asked "was that everything? Was that it?" after the first one.
Straight back out for another rendezvous with the Young Knives, although something's not quite clicking with them today. The famed banter between Henry and House Of Lords isn't showing up today, although House is giving it the occasional barely received go revealing before Loughborough Suicide that he'd had to explain the title to the Loughborough Echo in the week, and there's an odd number of B-sides for a band who are about to release an album. The energy remains, though, and Weekends And Bleak Days gets the weekend's first really big singalong. With a full Rising tent being treated to Gravenhurst's fairly uninspired live attempt to meld alt-rock shapes with their previous folk-Tortoise sound, we make for Isobel Campbell coaxing the country-noir influences out of her Mercury-nominated album. Dormouse-quiet and with the obvious handicap of no Mark Lanegan, she filled the hall but it sounded like her songs' nuances could have done with something more intimate.
"We're not really a sitting down band, so if all of you at the back want to stand up while we're on you'll enjoy it more...No?" Summer Sundae is often categorised as a laidback, almost city-gentrified festival. Well, here's where all that comes to a sudden stop, as ¡Forward Russia! appear on the main stage. As far as we can remember we've never seen a proper mosh pit in front of the main stage before, and we've certainly never been informed of Leicester City's final score by anyone on stage either, although why Whiskas should care about Leicester-Ipswich we're not sure, Tom ending the badinage with "we're going to play another song, because football is shit", which gets him a telling off from Katie of all people. They're clearly enjoying it in any case, Whiskas spotting someone wearing a one-off bootleg T-shirt at the front and being alone among the acts in enquiring what the bizarre human torso-esque structure at the top of the stage. The music? As full-on as ever, as befits a band who know completely what they're doing, and that is to shatter your preconceptions about post-hardcore and then try and rebuild it with a flimsy but workable glue. Or something. Anyway, during Nine a big cheer goes up as Steve Lamacq himself gets hoisted up and over everyone's heads, which about sums it up, and Tom ends up in the front row, returning to the stage with blood streaming from his nose. Rob later told us he reckoned the response at the front made it a better set than at Truck. We'd agree.
Nouvelle Vague, it's fair to say, have some stylistic ground to make up. This new range of bands straight out of something akin to cabaret who do covers in other styles - we're looking at you here, Hayseed Dixie - have always struck us as being better to watch live at a festival than actually sit down and listen to at home. There's no doubt Nouvelle Vague do indeed put on a show, what with plenty of percussion at hand and both singers indulging in dancing and exotic shape throwing both interpretative and otherwise. All the favourites get an airing - Blue Monday, Killing Moon, Bela Lugosi's Dead, Love Will Tear Us Apart, a call and response version of Too Drunk To Fuck - plus a surprisingly moody version of Madness' Grey Day. A bit warmer and they'd have been putty in everyone's hands.
Are brooding skies going to help or hinder Calexico? It doesn't particularly matter, as despite their reputation being forged under the Tex-Mex sun Joey Burns and John Convertino have always proved adept at stylistic shifting under a wide range of influences. It does seem, though, that while both we and they like the countrified/Latin folk-pop songs like Will Oldham with greater ambition, the ones where they stick a groove under their alt-Americana, with mariachi trumpets if possible, are better. Their cover of Alone Again Or is dedicated to both Arthur Lee and early champion John Peel and is played with a swing that wouldn't shame the original, while we're glad they end with the great Crystal Frontier which gets everyone going.
Somehow Loughborough's Voom Blooms have ended up headlining the Rising stage for the evening after having released one single, the admittedly spectacular Politics And Cigarettes. Time will tell whether they can match it, three songs here introduced as having just been written while on tour, but they've got plenty of near-local support already and there's a spark and room for studio development from the impression at the moment of a more lively Editors facing off The Rakes via Carl Barat. With nothing better to do we get in for the Blockheads, playing again inside after X-Press 2 pulled out through illness. Mickey Gallagher has disappeared due to prior commitments so Chas Jankel has to multitask which invariably affects the band's sound and tightness, and frankly once you've seen them in a cramped marquee it's not going to be the same sitting in a vast concert hall, but just in case we get Wake Up And Make Love With Me as an opener and Billericay Dickie is added to the setlist too. Whatever set they put out, however, it was going to be superior to Gomez playing extended middle eights of tracks not off the first album. And there goes day two...