Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sundae Whirl

Summer Sundae Festival, DeMontford Hall and Gardens, Leicester, 11-13 August 2006.

Given the delay in putting this together Dead Kenny has decided to give you the digest version of this month's Summer Sundae. First up, rollcall, as the crew included Alison; Ben; Jenni; Prykemeister; Jo; Raimundo; Deborah; Kirsten; Jim; Miriam and Claire. We also met up from time to time with Simon Sweeping The Nation but failed to do the same with Tim from The Daily Growl for no other reason than yours truly totally fucked up.


Friday's bill was dull. All the better then for meeting up; sampling ales; talking rubbish and general recce. Richard Hawley on the main stage was first act to register, made me want to check out Mercury Music Prize-nominated 'Cole's Corner', or perhaps I'll wait for the follow-up, tentatively-titled 'Carrick's Free Kick'. Folkie Seth Lakeman was OK but not particularly inspirational. Delays vacillated between the mundane and the scintillating and back again, much how I remember their debut album. As for DJ Format, how do you review a disco? Let's just say people were having fun. Then went to see Psapp in the Rising Tent but they'd swapped places with Plaid who supplied neat visuals to their lovely electronic fuzz. Elbow headlined the Main Stage, committed Guy Garvey fans loved 'em, everyone else seemed to drift off elsewhere halfway through, including your correspondent who wandered off to sample the much superior atmosphere of Michael Franti's Spearhead in the indoor hall. People say the lyrical bite is still there, but I still find it sad how Franti has degenerated from his Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy days to the Bob Marley-lite of his feelgood 'roots' manoeuvres. Angry music should *sound* angry, surely?


Saturday's bill was full. Local rap/rock fusion outfit Just Norris started things off on the Rising Stage. The young rapper sounded nervous but was definitely talented and they had some good tunes, particularly the closer that was called something like 'Brain Dead', quite appropriate at this hangover hour. More fusion on the main stage with Kissmet conjoining banghra with stadium rock, singing in four different languages (including sanskrit) and getting the booty shakin' to a punjabi makeover of 'Whole Lotta Love'. Howling Bells were slightly more predictable to owners of their self-titled debut album, but it's a stirring show nonetheless that builds to a mesmerising climax. There's Tunng on the Main Stage but little action, they call on the audience to stand up and listen while they sit down and play, and seem oblivious to the contradiction. The Young Knives were a sharper proposition altogether, and one of the festival highlights, 'She's Attracted To' and 'Loughborough Suicide' particularly standing out in a fine display of controlled, melodic aggression. Isobel Campbell was minus Mark Lanegan, but still brought the tunes from sterling 'Ballad Of The Broken Seas', as well as a fetching cover of Nazareth's 'Love Hurts', in a mid-afternoon set which glowed warmly without ever quite catching fire. Forward, Russia! can't be accused of lacking energy in a set which sees Steve Lamacq joining in the stagediving, but their show's a little hit-and-miss and it's all just a bit try-hard for my tastes.

Nouvelle Vague are promoted to the main stage to compensate for Martha Wainwright's absence, and they prove to have a sufficiently broad appeal with their bossa nova covers of alternative classics delivered in a burlesque style which was just a bunch of bananas and some squirty cream away from an Amsterdam live show, but I didn't see anyone complaining. Calexico were on next, didn't do a lot for me at first, but steadily charmed as the show progressed to become one of the weekend's highlights. Nice cover of Love's 'Alone Again Or' as well. Over on the Jim Beam Rising Stage, The Voom Blooms do a good job of getting on Ben and Jenni's nerves with the lead singer's bare-chested antics, but close your eyes and listen to their music and they make a decent racket, I reckon. Worth keeping your eye out for, or not, as the case may be. Phill Jupitus tries manfully to fill Ian Dury's boots for The Blockheads' set on the Indoor Stage, and, in the live arena at least, some of those old songs really stand the test of time, particularly when you've had a few drinks down you.


Sunday's bill contains no Jethro Tull. But it does have William Hut, a sweet-voiced Norwegian accompanied by a big balding bloke on cello. Could appeal to fans of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy but it was a bit early in the day to stare into the black heart of the soul, so nip off to see New Cassettes unspool their shiny batch of tunes with pleasingly shouty bits contained therein. Redcarsgofaster have lots of go-getting energy but their tunes are of variable quality and they'll need to improve this to really earn their stripes. The Long Blondes are much nearer the finished article, just as well as their debut album is due in October. They have a distinctive look, a clutch of stellar tunes and intriguing lyrics - only a cruel and heartless world can see them fail. M Craft are an altogether less assuming outfit with their gentle, ruminative guitar pop recalling The House Of Love and Elliot Smith, with intriguing arrangements and use of unusual instrumentation helping to charge the atmosphere.

As predicted by your correspondent, Camera Obscura provided the biggest crush on the Jim Beam Rising Stage, a ludicrous booking given their connections to main stage headliners Belle and Sebastian. Their equipment is still in Copenhagen so they played with instruments provided by the local music shop, but despite their repeated apologies this appeared to affect the quality of sound not one bit, although a foreshortened set that omits upcoming single 'Let's Get Out Of This Country' will surely be a source of regret. Nevertheless, it has to be said 'Razzle Dazzle Rose' provided a haunting finale to justify the cramped conditions. It was not quite as full for Absentee which is a shame for the band but at least there was space to bop along to their driven deadpan ditties from the fine 'Schmotime' album, with a couple of older tunes thrown in for full measure. On the main stage Guillemots deliver entertainment without really involving, impressive on a superficial level but ultimately a little shallow and showbiz for my tastes. They will, of course, be massive. Meanwhile, had to queue to get in to see Larrikin Love in the Jim Beam, but they were worth the wait, darker and druggier than expected, and much the better for it. Belle and Sebastian brightened things up at the end with a spirited and entertaining set that included a rendition of 'The Boy With The Arab Strap' which sent the enlightened home whistling in the dark, tired but happy.


Anonymous Alison said...

A small but perfectly formed review, which suits the 'pick it up and put it in your pocket' Summer Sundae. I really would like to see "POSTED BY DEAD KENNY AT.." changed to "POSTED BY DANCING KENNY AT .." just this once though. Thanks again for your fab company.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Ssh now, you're ruining my reputation ;-)

8:03 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Little disagreement with me, there, young Ken. Except for The Voom Blooms - who were shit, believe me.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Well, wise old Ben, while your aversion to the band (and Jenni's aversion to the lead singer's nipples) was bordering upon the comical in terms of its vehemence, Dead Kenny feels that on the night he was the more sober judge of events, and at times, they were voom bloomin' marvellous.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Ah, you may have been more sober (marginally), but have you never heard of the (drunken) idiot savant?

4:17 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

Ah yes, that's what I was going to do all week, leave a comment.

So... Elbow vs Spearhead was the great pain of a clash for me before the weekend, but I stopped to watch about half a minute through an open door after a toilet break and it sounded distressingly funk-rock, which Franti has erred on the side of in the past but this seemed to be the full-on wah-wah solo version. It's annoying that a lot of people are talking about Howling Bells as a highlight as I really wanted to catch half their set but Joan As Policewoman was proving too good to leave. The Voom Blooms' set did get less inspired as it went on, and their new single is helpfully shit, but I maintain in the face of Ben's vehemence that there's something there.

Oh, and nice to meet you, and that.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Ben, I don't think I *have* come across this drunken idiot Savant you refer to. Does he write for NME?

Simon, was good to meet you too. Howling Bells tour a *lot* more regularly than Joan As Police Woman so you might have made a clever move there in the long run.

As for Voom Blooms, they appear to have something about them to have provoked some divergence of opinion...

1:03 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Ooh, can't wait to see Camera Obscura in a few weeks time. Joan As Policewoman is much better on record than she is live, so I doubt you missed out. Would also love to see the Long Blondes - exactly HOW long have they been tipped as Band Most Likely To? At least 18 months. (Psst, next hot tip is allegedly From The Wreckage, but I have yet to investigate.)

11:14 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

I'm sure you'll have a great time seeing Camera Obscura, Mike. I'd been waiting for a chance to see them for quite a while and they didn't dissappoint, despite their last-minute equipment hitch.

As for Long Blondes, they've been touted even on this page since Jan 05, and again I was impressed with them at Summer Sundae - confident performers, nice people by all accounts (Ben snatched a few words after the Camera Obscura show), and a strong set of songs (debut album release date now pushed back to early Nov, I believe).

As for From The Wreckage, I know nothing as yet, but thanks for the tip.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Owen said...

Hello its the drummer from Just Norris, just wanted to say thanks for the little review, glad you enjoyed the festival.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

No problem, Owen. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Good luck with the band, you've definitely got somethin' going on there.

11:03 PM  

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