Apple Cart Festival, Victoria Park, London

The Apple Cart Festival was a welcome respite from a bleak week

If I made it up, it would be corny: a hackneyed attempt to crowbar some meteorology-based pathetic fallacy into my review. But, the moment that The Magic Numbers take to the stage at the Apple Cart Festival, the torrential downpour genuinely ceases and the sun comes out.

With every passing year, proclaiming love for this band feels more like a faith to be maintained in the face of indifference, and the general perception that the Gannons and Stodarts are "so 2005". If heart-melting, emotionally restorative melodic pop-rock is an anachronism, then just call me H G Wells. The rain recommences the moment they leave, prompting quick-thinking Guilty Pleasures DJ Sean Rowley to play "Gimme Shelter" as the entire festival runs for the trees and the tents. I see what he did there.

Apple Cart is a newcomer to an already crowded calendar, and at first glance it's difficult to discern exactly what it's about, other than an excuse to fill unused capacity: the marquees and fences are already up, so something has to be done with them. Roughly speaking, if Underage Festival, held in Victoria Park on the Friday, is for the tweenagers, and Saturday's Field Day is for the students, then Apple Cart – "a new London festival for music, comedy, art, cabaret and magic" which "aims to create a kaleidoscopic, colourful playground for adults and kids alike" – is a Sunday stroll for the mums and dads, who can leave the toddlers at the sandpit while they watch some indie folk. Hardly a unique selling point, in the Bestival and Latitude era, but at least you can do this one without the horrors of camping. Which, in today's monsoon weather, is an incalculable bonus.

It's all a little self-congratulatingly bourgeois, as though a little bit of Crouch End has been scooped up and plonked down in the East End. The hog roast-heavy food court is full of chalked-up signs reassuring us that all the flaming flesh comes from beasts which were hand reared on organic meadows. It feels like Borough Market with music programmed by the Heavenly Social.

Which is, as it happens, not necessarily a bad thing. I'd say Patrick Wolf was a revelation, were it not for the fact that I've watched him countless times and I'd be more surprised if he didn't single-handedly put all other singer-songwriters to shame. The outlandishly talented androgyne, hooded and caped, steps out in measured, monastic paces, blowing something that looks like a fusion of a hand-held church organ and a weapon out of Flash Gordon. He whips off the cowl to reveal a splendid suit as scarlet as the dye in his hair, which runs in red rivulets of perspiration down his cheeks in a set which runs from the folk-pop of his early material through to the pansexual Springsteen of his current Lupercalia album, culminating in the storming "This City", which inexplicably didn't become an enormous hit. There's a touching moment when he dedicates "Black is the Colour" for his friend Amy Winehouse and a butterly, a red admiral, dances around his head. For the second time today, I wonder if nature is trying to write my column for me.

There's an uncomfortable stand-off when Chilly demands an apology from a stage manager who has cut him short by signalling for a beret-wearing Brummie to play a CD. Gonzales might not have been so dismissive of "the next musician ... I mean DJ" had he realised that the DJ concerned was a living legend.

Kevin Rowland is, to the delight of Dexys fans, working on a new album with a team of former Midnight Runners (including Mick Talbot and Pete Williams). While we're waiting for that, his occasional DJ sets are a thing of absolute beauty. Spinning soul and disco classics, from Chairmen of the Board to Odyssey, he frequently grabs a microphone, steps out from behind the decks and croons his own handsome a capella codas to tracks such as AWB "Let's Go Round Again" and The O-Jays' "Love Train". At the end, the whole tent is chanting the "Jackie Wilson Said" refrain in tribute.

Soul II Soul's set is heralded by the unmistakable silhouette of Jazzie B behind the console. He once chased me down an alleyway for urinating on his back door, so I make a swift exit in case he recognises me.

Saint Etienne, arguably the most "London" band alive, are the perfect headliners. Reunited with former Dolly Mixture Debsy, whose rich tones dovetail exquisitely with Sarah Cracknell's higher register on "Who Do You Think You Are", they deliver a hits set which showcases their magpie-like, retro-futurist aesthetic. There's something about watching aeroplane lights rising against a darkening indigo sky to the sound of elegiac Europop which elevates the soul.

Like any good festival, the day has been an oasis from external reality. Over at the far corner of Victoria Park, Hackney is burning. But nothing upsets the Apple Cart.

Next Week:

Simon investigates Stetsoned, arena-filling phenomenon Brad Paisley

Rock Choice

Green Man Festival, the much-loved indie-folk gathering on the Welsh borders, this year welcomes Fleet Foxes, James Blake and Villagers to the hillsides of the Glanusk Park Estate, Powys, (Fri to Sun). Meanwhile, Death In Vegas, back after a seven-year break and with a new album imminent, play a warm-up for their December UK tour at The Wedgwood Rooms, Portsmouth (Thu).

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick