A series of surprises and delights
Public Image Ltd - Summer Sundae Weekender 2012

Festivals are dropping off like flies. With bad weather, low ticket sales and poor security and organisation it’s tough for a small independent festival. Summer Sundae, now in its eleventh year has no such problems. Despite the abundance of other local festivals Summer Sundae remains a premier event in the East Midlands region. With a reputation for mainstream headliners and a family orientated atmosphere supported this year by a safari theme for children and adults alike. There’s much more to the festival, however, than simply a place for parents to dump their children in the nearest play pen while they join the road to nostalgia, and the parental veneer is cut with a credible underbelly of alternative music.

True to form, the festival begins without a hitch and it’s the bands rather than the organisers who are having issues. Clock Opera begin without keyboard player Dan who we are told is racing down the M1 and, despite name calls from the band and the crowd, the group are resolved to playing as a three piece. Moreover, Francois’ Atlas Mountains are on holiday and in great tradition the Brits are recruited. Francois seems happy enough and applauds his Anglo brethren on a chilled and laid-back performance that finishes with a fantastically tranquil version of Jamelia’s ‘Superstar’. Willy Mason has no such issues though, performing with charm and gusto to the latecomers on the first night while Ghostpoet plays the pied piper luring the teenagers into the indoor stage, a highlight of the weekend for many.

The festival also has a great reputation for its support of local music both through the fringe events and the leading role it gives the bands at the main festival. Leicester upstarts Little Night Terrors are one, opening the main stage on Saturday to glorious sunshine where they indulge the crowd with little pop gems that clearly demonstrate why they are making noises in the region and can count Edwyn Collins as a fan. Other local bands delighting the crowds are Nottingham’s Dog Is Dead playing their blend of jangling anthems as well as rising star Jake Bugg who plays the tiny Watering Hole stage in sweltering heat which, by this point, is in severe drought and the tent is resorted to a one-in-one-out system.

Meanwhile, on the indoor stage, Savages are testing their competencies to a relatively new audience who are shunning the sun to catch London’s best offering. They do not disappoint. A spell-bounding performance with Jehnny Beth commanding the stage, glaring into the distance while psychotic guitar rhythms and palpitating bass lines pepper the audience along with heavy strobe lighting. The crowd have been flummoxed and return to the sunny outdoors staggered and starry-eyed. Micachu and the Shapes perform a similar stunt with the audience feverishly dancing away as Mica Levi, small in stature but full of punk and attitude, sneers her way away through the experimental pop numbers.

The buzz on the final day of the festival is about two equally passionate and political men; Billy Bragg and John Lydon. The former, offering a glimpse of the small tour he is curating and performing to celebrate Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday. The performance is the hot topic of the day with many of the acts inspired to join in with the celebrations, including local girl Grace Petrie who will be touring with Bragg for the other dates. Beth Rowley also offers her own interpretation of Guthrie’s music in her set earlier in the day, while Rachel Rose Reid opens proceedings with a stirring poem. Bragg takes his time to discuss Guthrie’s career and is clearly passionate on the subject as he plays through some of his seminal works highlighting the clear synergies and influences on his own work.

PiL are saved for post-watershed and blow away any nostalgia that featured in Adam Ant’s performance the previous day. Lydon’s energy and anger is a joy to behold and is a tribute to those staying until the end despite the dread of Monday impending and bringing a heady climax to an all-embracing festival. Once again Summer Sundae offers a series of surprises and delights that cater for all.

Words by Andrew Darby
Photo by Giles Smith

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival.

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