Summer Sundae Weekender 2011 – De Montfort Hall & Gardens, Leicester

August 17, 2011 by  

This weekend Summer Sundae Weekender returned to the grounds of Leicester’s De Montfort Hall for its 11th year. After the successes of the last few years SSW can certainly consider itself established in the festival calendar and this year promised to be the best yet.

It’s fair to call Friday the “cool band” day with The Maccabees , The Bees, and indie royalty in Graham Coxon all gracing the main stage. The Maccabees showcased their impressive new material as headliners whilst Coxons ‘Freakin Out’ gets the award for most awesome guitar riff of the weekend.

It’s worth noting that Summer Sundae is an especially family friendly festival. The Garden plays host to plenty of activities to keep the kids amused including face painting, the inspired Make Your Own Top Hat stall and even a tug of war! There’s plenty of weird and wonderful traders too. Punters can pick up a bargain or two at the charming vintage fair or even get a massage if the crowd surfing gets a little too strenuous.

Saturday has an excellent variety of musical treats on offer. The acoustic styling’s of Teddy Thompson positively lit up the Musicians Stage. The breezy ‘I’m Looking For A Girl’ being the highlight here. Next it’s a quick dash over to the Last FM Rising Stage to catch the end of Pete and The Pirates. The Reading quintet’s delightfully quirky guitar pop goes down well with a decent sized crowd. A special mention goes to vocalist Thomas Sanders’ hangover proof festival shades. All frontmen should wear sunglasses at festivals. It’s the law! Over on the main stage Reef blast through a solid set. The timeless ‘Place Your Hands’ has everyone buzzing and in the mood for headliner Newton Faulkner.

One would think it would be difficult for one man and an acoustic guitar to hold a festival crowd for the duration of a full headlining set. This would indeed be the case if the man in question wasn’t as absurdly talented as Newton Faulkner. There’s no fireworks here, no flashy light show, just devastatingly proficient guitar playing. ‘Badman’ and ‘To The Light’ are so technically brilliant that one could be forgiven for thinking there were two more secret guitar players hidden backstage! Faulkner has a great pop song in him too. He has the crowd firmly onside, singing along with the sublime ‘I Need Something’ taken from his No.1 album ‘Hand Built By Robots’. Some witty crowd banter from Newton reinforces his reputation as one of the nicest characters in music before ‘Dream Catch Me’ has the entire crowd singing as one. His version of ‘Teardrop’ is another great festival moment, but it’s a different cover that really steals the show. Everyone knows ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is the song you don’t cover – hell, even Queen didn’t ever play it 100% live. As the audience watches open mouthed Faulkner pulls it off – Galileo’s and all! A huge ovation ensues. This was as close to a flawless festival set as one is ever likely to see. As with Mumford and Sons last year, credit is due to the Summer Sundae organisers for making the booking and realising that the simplicity of great songs performed well can make a festival headliner truly memorable.
The third day festival blues are in abundance on the Sunday as the hangover from Saturday nights epic silent rave makes its presence felt. Fortunately there are enough coffee and food stalls to keep everyone energised.

The Cuban Brothers set certainly wakes everyone up. An enormous Tom Selleck tash and a tight funk/soul soundtrack is perfect Sunday afternoon entertainment! The most hilarious/memorable mid song banter and stage….ahem… choreography is X rated and wouldn’t be appropriate to recount on these pages. Let’s just say that The Cuban Brothers show is well worth seeing.

Next up its Example. The Fulham rapper draws a big crowd at the main stage. ‘Stay Awake’, ‘Watch the Sun Come Up’ and ‘Natural Disaster’ are huge crowd pleasers but it’s No.1 smash ‘Changed The Way You Kissed Me’ that really works the crowd into a frenzy.

Then it’s a quick dash indoors to catch Mercury nominated Everything Everything. They rattle through debut album ‘Man Alive’, the complex arrangements of ‘My Kz, Ur Bf’, ‘Tin (The Manhole)’ and ‘Leave The Engine Room’ delight and bewilder the audience in equal measure. If it’s possible to get a good idea of what a band is about from one song it has to be the incomparable ‘Suffragette, Suffragette’. The beautiful harmonies, the startlingly original lyrical content or it’s sudden shifts in styles.

“More, my arc light, my knees. When she casts off her clothes I don’t know what is reality…My death throes, this – indefinite pose, her flesh codes – inconceivable
Oh suffragette, suffragette I wanna be outlawed and AWOL”

It’s a bold statement but Everything Everything are arguably the most important band at the festival, at any festival for that matter. It has been said that their mantra is to avoid cliché at all costs. They certainly achieve this – whilst other acts can be entertaining or thought provoking, Everything Everything are all this and more. It genuinely feels as though they’re constantly moving things forward and pushing boundaries. An unpredictable and undeniably exciting future lies ahead.

11 years in and Summer Sundae Weekender continues to excel. The friendly atmosphere and eclectic line up always adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Whilst other festivals can feel bloated and too corporate at times Summer Sundae retains its sense of uniqueness and continues to go from strength to strength.


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