Summer Sundae Weekender Festival Review - De Montford Hall, Leicester 11-13 August 2006

Summer Sundae Weekender Festival, De Montford Hall - Leicester 11-13 August 2006 - Day 1 - Festivals are commonly being seen as fair-game by sponsors and the corporate world in general, to promote their interests and ride upon the popularity of music, rodeo style. However, one event since the turn of the millennium has embraced the commercial side enough to stay afloat and grow as forum for some of the more understated and genuine acts out there, but has managed to retain integrity and patrons are free to roam without that constant feeling that you are attending an Advertising Convention. The set up is compact with the two campsites close to the festivities, meaning that even those arriving late have little more than a three minute walk to join the thick of the action.

Summer Sundae Weekender

The organisers deserve a Phil Jupitus sized pat on the back for the timings, largely ensuring that the acts on the four supporting stages do not clash with the Main Stage showdown. The latter forum is masterfully opened by the rising indie/soul purveyor James Morrison, whose `Undiscovered' debut album could slowly win him a reputation as the white Stevie Wonder. The crowd grows, as intrigued early arrivals are drawn into the rhythm whirlpool and emotive vocal stride given off in numbers like the plodding, previous single `You Give Me Something' and the bubbly soul/pop exposé of `Wonderful World'. This helps to lighten spirits and relax minds, with Morrison's calming presence receiving a friendly reception.

The former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer, Jeremy Barnes and his sidekick Heather Trost go under the guise of A Hawk And A Hacksaw, to provide some fiddle and accordion fuelled, musical diversity for the more discerning pallet. The only percussion around was delivered from the jangling court jester hat of Barnes, as an ambient vibe with freewheeling interludes provided by Trost, evokes intrigued expressions from gatherers. A chilling reworking of Derroll Adams' protest song, `Portlandtown' is the most vocal inclusive and it gives Barnes a chance to display his slightly coarse and blues based singing style. A festival needs some off-kilter variety and it is certainly provided here.

After this bluesy/ambient and folklore parade, some frivolous gyration is called for and who better than the groove master himself, DJ Format to provide it? Format's reputation for spectacular fun shaking, Ugly Duckling influenced hip-hop with MC Abdominal gave him a platform from which to launch his dance, hip/hop and blues funk gelling solo career. His hour long set at the indoor stage spanned his entire range and while the tempo built up a little too slowly for many, when the spin-star hit a groove he kept going and reluctantly had to end proceedings while he's still climbing.
This is done much to the chagrin of the crowd and himself.

Elbow must be the epitome of the indie artist ethos and this evening they surprisingly(?) have a spring in their step, as they headline their first Festival. Guy Garvey takes no time in settling into his laid back, reflective mood and vocal gait, something that is adeptly displayed in `Red'. The energy and dexterity of bassist Mark Potter livens up the stroll and political bemusement that is projected through songs from the third album, `Leaders Of The Free World'. Dry wit decorates the inter-song interludes, with the reformation of Cudd bearing the brunt of the Garvey sarcasm.
`Powder Blue' from the honest and troubled debut album,' Asleep In The Back' puts the lid on a journeying and musically compact set. However, after an Elbow set you feel in the mood for something more, you need to release some energy. Therefore, organisers should have put CUDD on to finish the night, perhaps?

David Adair

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