Sunday at Summer Sundae 10
Posted by Kuang on Wed, 18 Aug 2010.
Sunday lives up to its name, with a pleasant turnaround from the previous rainstorms and enough warmth to dry out the majority of the mud. When I arrive I hear a buzz that Pete Molinari and The Besnard Lakes have played superb sets, perfectly suited to the chilled out vibe that’s an intrinsic part of the Summer Sundae experience.
The Low Anthem are about to hit the main stage, which appears to be an odd choice for a band more commonly found in intimate venues, but it’s one that pays off brilliantly - read the writeup for more.
Next it’s over to see Los Campesinos! on the indoor stage, and there’s a decent crowd gathering already. I can’t get near enough to take decent photos so settle for relaxing on the balcony to see what they’re about. Three songs in and I’m still not sure - I don’t know how it’s possible to have eight people on stage and still not create an interesting sound. It’s not really possible to tell what anyone’s doing, and the singers faux-punk vocal affectations really start to irritate me. Given the good things I’d read about them I’m thoroughly underwhelmed and wander over to the Rising stage in time to see Ellen and the Escapades.
This is more like it - breezy acoustic ballads, reminiscent of the mellow 1960s West Coast vibe of the Byrds, with the harmonies of The Mamas and The Papas. Ellen and her band are unpretentious, understated and incredibly easy to warm to, and the tunes sink gently into your consciousness while you relax and take it all in. Ellen herself is charming and engaging without being twee, and it all made for a genuinely pleasant half hour.
Heading back across the main field I notice that Local Natives are about to start so decide to have a listen. A lot of people I’ve spoken to are quite excited about this set so I’m intrigued, and initial impressions are good - they play a strange indie-funk-rock hybrid with serious pace and rhythmic complexity, layering drums on top of other drums until your head is vibrating with the force of it all. There are hints of ska bubbling to the surface and the odd scatter of Adam and the Ants-esque Burundi drumming. As the set progresses though I can’t help thinking there’s something missing - they’re playing well and it sounds good, but it’s hard to find anything genuinely exciting to latch onto and the overall effect is strangely unaffecting.
It’s back to the indoor stage for Frightened Rabbit now, one of the current wave of superb guitar bands (including Flood of Red and Twin Atlantic) coming out of Scotland all of a sudden. These guys are no exception with a perfect balance of aggression and subtlety, and friendly personalities to take the sting out of the songs. The crowd are well behind them, sharing in the stark emotional lyrical themes and throwing enough energy back at the stage to match that of the band. By the time they bring the set to a crashing close with a heartbreakingly intense version of ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ I’m won over. See you again soon lads…
Even though it’s nearly half nine, it’s still lovely and warm outside as the sun heads for the horizon directly over the main stage. The main field is packed for Mumford & Sons, and a band that seem to have come into most conversations throughout the weekend. I’m not that bothered though because, truth be told, I can’t stand them. Yes, I’m the one. I decide that I’m going to take a look at the Futureheads instead, so trundle back indoors.
By their third track I’m heading back from the railing and allowing someone more enthusiastic to take my place. On paper the Futureheads do everything right - they look the part, they write hooky songs that lodge in your head, they play as tight as a duck’s bum and they know how to work a crowd. The problem, as I think I’ve just discovered, is that I’ve heard it before; It’s a young crowd, many of whom won’t remember Oi and New Wave as genres and consequently must hear something new in the set that I don’t. From the moment they start with the title track of their latest album The Chaos, with its rallying call of ‘Five, four, three, two, one... GO!’ its as if they’re playing covers of songs I vaguely heard years ago. I’d really like to be more positive because I think they’ve created some interesting music over the last few years, but I’m afraid that, unlike the happy mob pogoing at the front, I just didn’t click with them this time around.
So it’s back to see if Mumford & Sons are doing anything interesting, to which the answer seems to be not really. The huge crowd is well into it so they’re doing something right, but it just sounds po-faced and joyless to me. I love s lot of modern folk and I should really get on well with them, but it’s just not happening. I tried, but I think the rest of the world and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this one.
So overall Sunday didn’t seem to have the kick of the previous two days, and contained a couple of disappointments, but the awesome set by the Low Anthem and the happy discoveries of Ellen and the Escapades and Frightened Rabbit more than made up for them.
Overall I’d say the tenth Summer Sundae has been a resounding success, aided in no small part by the hard work of the De Montfort Hall team and all of the people who kept the whole show running. It’s a precious little gem in the festival calendar for open minded people who genuinely love their music, and long may it continue!