Vintage Festival, Southbank Centre, London
Ed Sheeran, The Duchess, York
Music festivals aren't what they were – except when they are better
Sunday 07 August 2011
In its second year, Wayne Hemingway's Vintage Festival has decamped from green Goodwood to the most urban setting possible, the Southbank Centre in London. And the post-war optimism of the Festival of Britain, of whose 60th anniversary celebrations it forms part, and the brutalist utopianism of the centre's architecture, are mirrored by the joyous spirit of Vintage itself.
The first trick is to dress the part. Black and white crepe-soled brogues? Check. Velvet zoot suit inherited from Fifties rocker dad? Check. And when you walk into the Torch Club ballroom just as all-female big band The Bombshellettes are playing The Andrews Sisters' thinly veiled prostitution metaphor "Rum and Coca Cola", it's difficult to do it without a swing in your step. Up in the Leisure Lounge, Graham Gouldman plays an intimate set of Sixties hits – a repertoire including "Heart Full of Soul", "No Milk Today" and "For Your Love" – which has you marvelling, "I never knew he wrote this. Or this."
It isn't just live music. Sought-after DJ team The Shellac Sisters provide an inspired mix of ancient and modern, their customised wind-up gramophones hooked up to electrical audio outputs so they can spin 78s of a Rosemary Clooney knees-up, a foxtrot by Wingy Manone or the wonderfully titled "She's a Latin from Manhattan" by the Mound City Blue Blowers, at 21st-century volume.
In the Soul Casino, you can dance to Chris Hill's selections one minute, then buy the song. I spend £30 on a bootleg pressing of Wigan anthem "I Really Love You" by The Tomangoes. An original would be £2,000. There's the interactive Charity Shop DJ project, where the public can rummage through boxes of rescued K-Tel compilations and submit them for play, or the more restful Classic Album Living Room where you can sit and contemplate Kate Bush's Hounds of Love on audiophile-grade gear.
The main event, though, is the Hit Parade in the Royal Festival Hall, curated by Bob Stanley and backed by a full orchestra. "I do like being curated," says David McAlmont, sparkling at the waist, wrist, knuckles and neck. "It has a ring to it of suddenly becoming a museum piece." But there's nothing reliquary about hearing his falsetto in full flight on Bernard Butler collaboration "Yes". The best revenge, it reminds us, is living well.
Adam Ant, whose lead singer swagger is back in spades, brings the hall to its feet with "Stand and Deliver" and Bolan's "Get It On". Then Sandie Shaw, barefoot – of course – steals the show, leaping in the air and falling to her knees through "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" and a slowed-down "Puppet on a String". It's only the idea of a working-class Dagenham girl becoming a pop star which makes you realise we're living in a lesser age.
Speaking of which ... Ed Sheeran says "chilled" six times in one sentence about hanging around York with fellow acoustic troubadour Benjamin Francis Leftwich. It's narrowly ahead of "vibe" and "dude". I can tell we're not going to get along.
Sheeran's Newquay-friendly folk-pop, strummed on a tiny guitar and backed by an invisible beatbox, has clearly struck a chord. "The A Team", his Crisis at Christmas-inspired tale of homelessness, is still in the top five. The way he wheedles "Hello, I'm Ed!" reminds me of Harry Enfield's "only meee" character. But, judging by the girls who scream and the boys who chant "Ed! Ed! Ed!", it's working.
Simon changes his gear for the Apple Cart Festival in south London
This year's Summer Sundae features C W Stoneking, Warpaint, Shonen Knife, Toots And The Maytals, The Agitator, Wilko Johnson, and The Jim Jones Revue at the De Montfort Hall and Gardens, Leicester (Fri-Sun). Meanwhile, relative newcomer LeeFest, a non-profit, boutique music festival at Highams Hill Farm, Warlingham, Kent, will be headlined by electro-pop band Fenech-Soler (Fri) and British Sea Power (Sat).
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