Live reviews

One Summer Sundae, 2004

One barmy weekend in August, with rain clouds present and threatening to spoil events, the organisers at De Montfort Hall, in Leicester set up several stages, both in the Hall and the serene gardens, to stage the forth ‘Summer Sundae’ musical event. Featuring a list of artists and performers, the event that has become as much a part of the national music calendar, as it has become the focus in Leicester itself, is always sure to put on a good show and even raise the odd eyebrow. So with the aim more than just to chase away those rain clouds, Friday night, as always, was a club night of sorts and our dance editor braved the fury to bring his report. Nic, it’s over to you;

Summer Sundae Weekender; De Montfort Hall & Gardens, Friday August 13th

I had never been to the opening night of Summer Sundae before, so I was unsure as to what to expect. What I found, to my pleasure, was a genuine buzz of excitement and an extremely friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Even the security staff were helpful which is a rare treat for us dance fans used to being grunted at in most clubs!!

I have to say that it was the atmosphere, more than anything else, made the night memorable. That’s not to say the musical content wasn’t superb but, as is the case too often these days, the type of atmosphere at a venue or festival is what leaves a lasting imprint.

Musically all was well! The New Mastersounds were superb playing the indoor stage and rocking it substantially! Their set was varied and super-funky, at points I expected James Brown himself to walk on at any point. What was an added and unexpected bonus was that vinyl copies of the tracks were available to buy. Unfortunately, despite promising myself I would buy a copy, I left far too drunk to honour that promise!

Then Mr Scruff took to the stage. By this time most people I am sure would have sampled a pint or two at least and most were in the mood for a good session! Well Mr Scruff did not disappoint! His set was masterfully controlled and the track selection kept you guessing all the time. A superb example of how music should be dj-ed - variety and quality above flash mixology and posing!!

Other stages were offering different musical gems but the tents were sooo rammed at the time I tried to get in, I thought it safer for my ‘pint’ if I sampled its delights from just outside the door. Again great variety with the musicians stage full of live bands and performers and the rising stage a more electronic experience hosted by Deep Water Records.

All in all a very good night, well managed, plenty of facilities a great atmosphere and a superb group of people there to enjoy it with. I never made it to the Sunday to see Air and Amy Winehouse but I am sure of one thing the atmosphere would have been special. That’s the best way for me to explain the Summer Sundae experience - special!

Nic Caesar

And so with Friday night’s proceedings now behind us (some might say “thankfully” - eh Bill?) it was left to our contributor Joel Pearson to take up the story.

Summer Sundae Weekender; De Montfort Hall & Gardens, Saturday August 14th

Walking out into De Montfort gardens and smelling the freshly-cut grass, sun-tan lotion and cigarettes of ‘questionable’ content, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was Glastonbury itself. Described as ‘the grandson of Glastonbury’ by compere Steve Lamacq, Leicester’s very own music festival is now in its fourth year and this year boasts its best line-up ever, spread over four stages. A large number of people simply sit in the sun overlooking the main stage all day, creating a laid-back vibe. The side-effect of this is that, at least for the early bands, the dense crowd in front of the stage is quite small, although grows for the headliners. However, the close proximity of the two main stages, coupled with some clever scheduling, means that it is possible for the dedicated music fan to watch eleven hours of continuous music (or nine hours for a latecomer like myself)...

In the late 90’s, it was obligatory for an indie band to cite Radiohead as one of their influences. Cord, a recently-signed four piece from Norwich, are one such band, and it’s easy to spot their influence from the very first song. Singer James Leeds is one part Thom Yorke, two parts Matt Bellamy, and is clearly a talented vocalist. Many of the band’s songs sound like they could have been studio tracks by Muse themselves, and while this is an impressive position to be in it’s also their downfall, as at times Cord sound so much like Muse they have little original identity of their own. As a result, the band’s stronger moments are when they stop trying to be another band and produce a more original, if slightly generic sound, such as on standout track Sea Of Trouble. This is a talented band who have the potential to take the indie scene by storm in the coming year.

This is a homecoming for Kasabian, who return to Leicester after gaining nation-wide attention in the past few months. As a local band, they gain one of the largest crowds of the afternoon for their set of guitar-funk, and are clearly loving every minute. Kasabian are a confident bunch of lads, personified by singer Tom’s assured swagger, but never cross the line to arrogance. Guitarist Serge effortlessly swaps between killer guitar hooks and synthesiser knob-twiddling within a song, although the crowd is more captivated by Tom’s bags of personality and laps up the big songs Reason Is Treason and LSF. The band clearly feels at home, and interacts with the crowd, even trying to find out the latest football scores from the front row! Kasabian have grown in stature as a band over the summer, and surely chart domination awaits now.

For some reason, until this year I always thought Adem was a metal band. This actually couldn’t be further from the truth, as Adem is actually an acoustic-folk singer-songwriter, who takes to the Indoor Stage with a four-piece band containing a dazzling array of instruments, including at least one I can’t even recognise. His recent album ‘Homesongs’ was touted as a possible Mercury Prize nomination, and it is primarily songs from this album played today. Adem’s songwriting seems quite unpredictable, and a number of songs such as opener Statutes seem to lack substance and are less of a song and more of a whimper. However, this soon picks up, and the more up-tempo songs such as Everything You Want and single These Are Your Friends have much more of a complete feel to them, and are actually quite pleasant to listen to. Adem is clearly nervous in front of such a large crowd, symbolised by his breathless rambling in between songs, but this doesn’t appear to affect the performance too much. To summarise, it’s a variable set, but when it works, it works OK.

Die In Hot Cars have attracted quite a bit of attention in the past six months, largely for their name than anything else. The band are talented enough, although lack the originality needed to make a commercial breakthrough. That’s not to say there’s nothing there; the ska-lite of I Love You Cause I Have To is one of the better songs I’ve heard this year, although they don’t really have much to back it up. They do boast one of the most energetic keyboard players I’ve seen in Ruth Quigley, who constantly bounces up and down and at least takes the audience’s attention away from singer Craig, who is cursed with one of the most ridiculous singing faces I’ve seen in a long time. After a while I felt one song merged into the next and the set began to drag, a feeling a number of people around me shared as they drifted away. What this band really need to do is write a couple more catchy hooks that they’ve shown they’re capable of, and maybe then they’ll have the attention on the music, rather than the name.

Singer-songwriters are generally a quiet bunch, and therefore I’m surprised to walk past the indoor stage and be greeted with quite a loud, crunchy guitar riff. Ian McNabb is a veteran of the Madchester scene, and the influence remains in his work today. The set, while showcasing his own work, also contains a number of covers, notably Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower, that go down very well with the crowd. Both McNabb and his band seem to enjoy the occasion, interspersing the music with tongue-in-cheek comments such as “are you ready to rock?” This is how singer songwriters should be, none of this David Gray rubbish.

of the great mysteries of indie is why Easyworld have never made it big. They have a dedicated fanbase (most of whom seem to be here today), powerful songs and three very talented musicians, yet have never broken through into the public consciousness. This is a shame, as from the very first song Easyworld are simply exceptional. Guitarist and singer Dav puts everything into his performance, leaping around the stage, which contrasts well with foxy bassist Jo, who simply stands there looking cool. Last year’s singles Bleach and in particular Junkies & Whores fill the arena instantly with such a big, powerful sound, and the new tracks such as How Did It Come To This are just as good. It’s criminal how talentless guitar-slappers such as Razorlight can make the top ten, while a band as good as Easyworld struggles to even dent the chart. Although on the basis of this set, it really shouldn’t be long before they do.

Australian vocalist Sia Furler is better known as the voice of chill-out kings Zero 7, although today appears with her own band. Listening to Sia as a solo artist is quite different to her work with Zero 7, as her songs are not only more up-tempo but also more expressive, illustrated well by her opener Taken For Granted. Sia has a great, soulful voice, something you wouldn’t expect hearing her whiny South Australian accent when she speaks. She’s confident in front of such a large crowd, although I have a suspicion this may be because she’s drunk, what with all the giggling and mumbling about garlic bread (I swear that’s what she said) in between songs. Her set’s a pleasingly varied bunch, and contains a great cover of the Pretenders’ I Go To Sleep is thrown in for good measure. She may be slightly pedestrian in places, but on the whole she’s a very talented singer who’s solo work is vastly superior to Zero 7, and its a shame we don’t hear it more often.

The Ordinary Boys are the latest big name off the garage-rock conveyor belt this year, and due to the sheer influx of identity-kit bands like this I didn’t really have high hopes for them. However, the lads from London try hard to make an impression. Singer Preston is a talented songwriter and musician, and tries hard to whip up the crowd with an energetic performance, culminating in him leaping off the bass drum. The crowd really go for this, especially when the band launch into one of their singles, which are going some way to achieving anthem status in indie circles. Talk Talk Talk is the first of these, and while the band ruin the moment slightly by following it with the dreaded words “this one’s a B-side”, the reaction is still a positive one. The set admittedly gets bogged down in the middle part, and a number of the songs are, well, ordinary, although the set is rescued by a rousing Maybe Someday to finish. The Ordinary Boys are clearly a popular band, and while I don’t think they’re the saviours of rock or anything like that, they’ll do for now.

Three years ago, Kings of Convenience were touted as the frontrunners in the ill-fated ‘new acoustic movement’. Since the realisation, however, that the public didn’t really want to listen to someone whispering over an acoustic guitar, the scene has vanished, leaving Kings of Convenience somewhat abandoned. However, they’ve soldiered on, and today take to the indoor stage at De Montfort Hall. Their stage show is simply the two of them on stage with a semi-acoustic guitar each, and is as interesting as that sounds. The pair’s first album was called ‘Quiet Is The New Loud’, and are in fact so quiet that whenever a group of people enter the hall they’re greeted with a chorus of “sshhh”. In fact, this gets very grating after a while, and their set contained nothing to sustain my interest at all.

This is one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, as it will be the penultimate performance ever from the Beta Band, who have just announced their retirement. The announcement struck me to be another in a line of typically bizarre antics from the band, who cite the lack of commercial success as the reason for their split, despite the fact they’ve made a career out of making deliberately alternative pseudo-pop. Tonight’s set, like everything else the Beta Band have done, is a typically variable set. They’re capable of writing a good song, as second song Squares or new single Outside shows, but they seem to alternate these with uninspired dirges, such as Space. The material goes down well with the reasonably-sized crowd, although this may be more to do with the sense of occasion than anything else. An variable end to a variable career, overall.

Super Furry Animals have been in the industry for eight years now, and command huge respect. Singer Gruff Rhys demonstrates his eccentricity by taking to the stage in a huge poncho and Power Rangers helmet, and launches into a lively opening few songs, with Rings Around The World getting the best reaction of the day. A couple more singles follow, plus a rare outing from a track from welsh-language album Mwng, and the crowd are getting very excited about what appears to be a greatest hits set. Then... something happens. Suddenly the big songs stop, and in their place are SIX slow, uninspired tracks in a row, consisting of what mainly seems to be album filler. This seems to annoy the crowd, and I heard one or two heckles. It’s not until Juxtaposed With U is played, nearly twenty-five minutes later, that the band seem to win the crowd over again, and they finish with a couple of classics, including Ice Hockey Hair. Super Furry Animals are undoubtedly a great band, but I really want to know whose idea the crazy setlist was.

Joel Pearson

Sunday sadly missed our clutches, but with another year over we now have to look forward to 2005’s fifth anniversary event and I have a feeling this will be even better than this years event, with more great artists and more great sounds to revel in. See you next year.

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