Summer Sundae Weekender, De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Some pretty sharp flavours
Wednesday 19 August 2009
There probably isn't one festival this summer that has managed to escape all swine flu-related drama, but unfortunately for Summer Sundae Weekender it meant the cancellation of their first headline act, The Streets. Mike Skinner may have overcome his bout of the flu, but his bassist's infection left Idlewild to take up the mantle.
The Scottish indie-rock band rose to the challenge, though you couldn't help thinking that this band, who have been compared to REM during their decade-long career, have been somewhat overlooked. Songs like "You Held the World in Your Arms" and "American English" befit stadiums, two gems of melodious pop songwriting which helped them to a No 3 album in 2002.
Older indie fans swarmed around the main stage for The Charlatans' baggy indie-pop and Britpop pin-up Tim Burgess. The early-Eighties influenced synth grooves of their 2008 album You Cross My Path, were trumped by hits from the Nineties: "The Only One I Know", "North Country Boy" and "One to Another".
Meanwhile, the younger fans piled indoors to see Kanye West's protégée Mr Hudson. The singer's self-confident stage manner outweighs his corporate material – not that it bothered the fans, who sang along adoringly to "Supernova". Next on, grime's fastest-rising star, the Mobo-winning Chipmunk, commanded the crowd, despite being yet to complete his A-Levels. Dizzee Rascal levels of fame beckon.
SSW itself is a success story: in nine years it has grown from a 14-band one-dayer to a three-day event with more than 100 bands. With 6000 tickets a day it still retains the boutique vibe with which it started. Despite this, Bon Iver's intimate psych-folk songs of heartbreak, one of the most anticipated sets of the festival, did not benefit from an outdoor crowd merry from an afternoon of drinking in the sun. They concluded a stunning set with the announcement that it will be a year before England next sees them.
The headliners were not as current as they could have been – The Zutons were, after all, dropped by their record label for poor sales of their last album. Still, they have in their frontman Dave McCabe a powerful blues rock singer and the hits ("Valerie", "Pressure Point") were suited to closing a festival's main stage. And headliners are just a small slice of what a festival like SSW has to offer. On the smaller stages, Beth Jeans Houghton's magical psych-folk entranced a crowd braving 40 minutes under sun-drenched black canvas, while Brooklyn's Wild Beasts played from their acclaimed new album.
One of the largest crowds was drawn by the Lightning Seeds. Ian Broudie's oft-fragile voice is not as it was, and the newer songs in the first half of the set lacked the pop energy of the band's Nineties hits. "Marvellous" is thrown away, but dullness is soon forgotten with the string of catchy hits that ensue, starting with "The Life of Riley" and ending on "Sugar Coated Iceberg". And to his credit he skipped the football one.
It was a triumphant festival for the stars of the future and for the old-timers.
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