Monday, August 27, 2007

Owl 'n' Belles

Part Three of a Set of Three reviews from the Summer Sundae Weekender 2007.

Summer Sundae Weekender, DeMontfort Hall and Gardens, Leicester, Sunday August 12 2007.

Has the last day of the festival come round already? 'Fraid so, but your chipper correspondent is in surprisingly bouncy form this lunchtime, as are Leicester's Toy Heroes, their arrival marked by the drummer shouting 'YEAH!!!' and the singer/guitarist declaring their intention to 'burn this fucken house down'. Fortunately for the health and safety people the group deliver much more pop than they do the snap and crackle of burning canvas, pretty tunes containing rather lovely harmonies, diverting hooks and some pleasing rumbling rock touches. The band all wear shirts with the names of their favourite cartoon characters and for some obscure reason the one your hypnotised hack focuses on is the 'Danger Mouse' tee worn by the female keyboard player/singer, and we get to thinking if DM's sidekick joined up with them they could call themselves 'Penfold's Five'...

Toy Heroes are clearly doing something right as they hold our attention until the very end of their set, meaning we miss the first ten minutes of The Lea Shores over on the Indoor Stage. This London band are touted as being at the forefront of a shoegazing revival, but with their shamanic lead singer and dancey vibe they owe as much if not more to early Verve than they do the likes of Slowdive and Chapterhouse. They're none the worse for that, though, and there's no doubt the tambourine-shaking frontman is a real find, visually a cross between Mad Richard Ashcroft and the comedian/bon viveur Russell Brand. Musically there is perhaps a slight lack of variety to the sound (excusable at this early stage of their career) but there's enough melodies in there with the attitude and reverb to mark them out as ones to watch.

On record The Strange Death Of Liberal England find it difficult to escape comparisons with Arcade Fire, but playing live over on the Rising Stage they offer a more distinctive identity, interchanging instruments with brio and communicating with the audience between songs via placards only. The lead singer's high-pitched yelps are perhaps an acquired taste and the overcrowded tent sees a few folk leaving in a dazed fashion and scratching their heads as to what the fuss is about, the answer being some of the weekend's best moments in 'A Day Another Day' and 'An Old-Fashioned War' leading up to the chaotic climax and post-rock squall of 'Summer Gave Us Sweets But Autumn Wrought Division'. Good to see a band at Summer Sundae with such fire in their belly, and they also provide us with the most stunning band member of the weekend to date in Kelly Jones - no not that berk from Stereophonics but this one as well as the landmark visual prop of the fest in the 'Get Your Owl Out' banner that is purloined by a punter at some stage during the show.

Was looking forward to seeing Cherry Ghost on the main stage, but they are a bit deflating - pleasant enough in a radio-friendly fashion, with some good tunes but too much of their set is uncompelling middle-of-the-road mulch. Pop back in to the Rising Tent to check out the gorgeous Stephanie Dosen and her equally-stunning backing musicians. Dosen has an unusual voice and her ethereal tunes are in direct contrast to the earthy humour of her between-song banter. She's impressed with TSDOLE's placards and suggests they'd be a good idea for porno, before getting her own owl out - the feathered delight of 'Owl In The Dark', you doity birds!

Given that Koop's beats-culture jazz schtick is almost entirely sample-based, it's intriguing to see how they present it live. The two Swedish gentlemen are at the back of the stage twiddling their knobs in their trademark strappy dresses, but they are upstaged by the Norwegian chanteuse Hilde Louise Asbjornsen, who's like Doris Day infused with the va-va voom of Jessica Rabbit, wearing the most fantastic dress that accentuates every curve as she sashays and flirts while the trombonist frenetically extends his instrument. Retro glamour, musical improvisation and surreal visuals all combine for a pretty good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Decide to put my feet up in the seats of the Indoor Stage to watch a bit of Spoon whose rather formal take on indie-rock moves leaves me sadly unstirred. Much less clever but heaps more fun are The Pigeon Detectives on the main stage with their daft-but-definitely-loveable take on proto-Strokes pogo-pop. The lead singer spies the 'Get Your Owl Out' placard amongst the crowd, grabs hold of it and leads an audience chant. Watching on to our right are The Strange Death Of Liberal England themselves, your cuckoo correspondent finds himself gazing over at Miss Kelly Jones but Dead Kenny decides he'd be a twit to woo...

Catch a bit of the Gruss Rhys on the Indoor Stage, his impressive set design seeing him framed inside a giant TV set, but his cacophonous caterwauling isn't what we're looking for at this stage of proceedings. Echo and The Bunnymen running through their greatest hits back outside is much more in order, though nothing lasting forever sadly extends to Ian McCullough's voice which is more ragged than glorious these days. Over on the Rising Stage, Polytechnic start off bright and lively but as their set goes on the lack of an extra-curricular spark becomes ever more apparent.

And, finally, ladies and gentlemen, we have Spiritualized headlining the Outdoor Stage, with Jason Pierce given a fantastic platform to deliver his 'acoustic' take on old Spiritualized and Spacemen-3 numbers, albeit backed by a mischievous three-piece gospel choir and a mini-orchestra. Perhaps not the most rousing finale to a festival ever, but on the whole Dead Kenny endorses a chilled and enchanting endpiece although as ever with Spiritualized am left with a sensation of wanting that little bit more from them, not in terms of quantity or volume, but in terms of epiphany - a rapturous climax agonisingly just out of reach. Was it ever thus?

In summary, however, this year's Summer Sundae Weekender can be considered a resounding success - brilliant weather, good organisation, fine company and a more satisfying range of acts across the musical spectrum than in previous years all combining to impressive effect.

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Blogger Simon said...

I think I might have mentioned this in my own review, but 'Get Your Owl Out' was written by some girl on the back of a TSDOLE placard ('We are Bandini!', I think) rather than already being one of those. It's not, in all honesty, a message I can imagine fitting in with their usual approach.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Simon, 'We Are Bandini!' was definitely on the reverse of said placard.

Tut tut, such opportunistic behaviour merits owls of derision and I expect the offending madam to be up before the indie beak ere long.

9:59 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Oh! We must have been shadowing each other for most of the day, then. My highlight was Fujiya & Miyagi - well worth walking out on Spoon for.

There's a review of sorts over at my place, but it's just a collection of Twitter texts. Yours is much better!

9:39 AM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Thanks for the kind words, Mike! Didn't realise you were going to SS otherwise would have looked out for you. Sounds like Fujiya and Miyagi would have been much more up my street than Spoon - it was a close call but the chance to briefly put my feet up won the day (getting old, y'know).

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We did the GYOO card! It originates from the Latitude festival (we think, we were really drunk.), we had a word with the band afterwards, and I bought one of them a drink to say sorry for...erm.... well besmirching their good sign. There's a facebook group for it somewhere.

Ps. Summer Sundae is the greatest festival in existence.

9:28 AM  

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