Fists at Summer Sundae - photo by Jared Wilson
Fists open up the main stage, the first of a clutch of Nottingham acts who will appear at the festival over the weekend. Recently their sound has taken on a aggressive, dirty and growling attitude and it suits the open space perfectly with their songs tumbling out from the stage like a bone-rattling force of nature.
Over on the Rising Stage Wolf People’s plodding take of early 70s psych rock starts off as interesting, but unfortunately they never really take it anywhere and I feel my interest starting to wain.
Back on the Main Stage and The Bees are determined to make sure that every song of theirs sounds like a bad cover version of somebody else’s song. Fortunately, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins are only a short walk away on the Indoor Stage playing songs from their recent Mercury Music Prize nominated album Diamond Mine. It’s a beautiful stripped back performance and has the audience are completely enraptured by the performance. It’s a sparse and heavy emotional set and inside the plush surroundings of De Montfort Hall it works perfectly.
Graham Coxon at Summer Sundae - photo by Jared Wilson
Outside and Graham Coxon is rattling through a set of spiky post punk having returned to his Telecaster after a couple of albums of mellow folk; and despite some tedious sound issues he battles through it with gritted teeth like a true pro. Unlike when he swans around the world headlining festivals and arenas with his other band, his barbed solo songs certainly aren’t crowd pleasers, but his dogged enthusiasm make up for any lack of sing-a-longs.
Toots & The Maytals are the headliners on the Indoor Stage and it starts off in bizarre fashion when the band are introduced only to find them fronted by a young female women leading them through a Tina Turner cover. Fortunately this soon finishes and it’s time for Toots to make his grand entrance replete in full leather get-up and they launch into a version of Pressure Drop that is every bit as impressive as it was when it was released in 1970. They continue on in this vain with the band laying down an array of funk and reggae jams as Toots shuffles, holla’s and dances like a man possessed.
Hhymn at Summer Sundae - photo by Jared Wilson
Hhymn are first on the Main Stage on Saturday morning and as anticipated they play with all the grace we’ve come to know from the Nottingham band. They gently caress the festival from it's slumber with a majestic performance. Showcasing tracks from their debut album In The Deep, Hhymn’s combination of European folk and quintessentially English lyricism showcase a band of songwriters of great craft.
Another local Notts performer, Gallery 47 is up on The Musician Stage. He weaves his magic with his Dylan-esq wordplay and spellbinding finger-picked acoustic guitar. It’s a confident performance from such a young man, but as a gigging regular, he’s become a performer who packs an emotional clout. It’s no surprise then to a see a queue form at the end of his set of people wanting to buy his CD and get his autograph.
Gallery 47 at Summer Sundae - photo by Jared Wilson
Wilko Johnson struts around the Indoor Stage like a wisened version of the angry young man who was at the heart of Dr Feelgood. He may look less threatening nowadays, but his jerky RnB and the look of wide eyed mischief still remain, and he gives what is arguably the most spirited performance of the weekend. He plays his guitar with machine gun urgency, whilst his band create a tight base allowing for Wilko’s trademark rhythmic guitar playing to explode in to life.
The Jim Jones Revue follow on the same stage and are flamboyant and so over the top in their energy that they often feel like a caricature of a 50s Rock n’ Roll band. But there’s no doubting their cause, especially as the flailing leather, greased quiffs and brimstone guitar riffs make for an exhilarating pedal the metal performance, even if it does feel a little too self conscious at times.
A little bit of Reef on the main stage and the sound of Gary Stringer's once-iconic voice blaring through a suprisingly tinny PA system makes us seek immediate solace in the beer tent.
The Austin Francis Connection at Summer Sundae - photo by Rebecca Gove-Humphries
Sunday morning starts with The Austin Francis Connection on the Musician Stage. Their acoustic geek hiphop goes down a treat with a crowd just about waking up from the night before and makes this reviewer feel all happy inside.
The Swiines were up next on the Rising Stage who make the best of their early slot. They combine the twang of prime cuts The La’s and the urban urgency of early Arctic Monkey’s to deliver a set that is tight in all the right places, but when they loosen up, like they do on My Plasticine Bowl, their natural swagger is on show for all to see.
Maniere des Bohemiens make the Main Stage audience feel like they are patrons in a Parisian cafe and they are the house band. Rob Rosa leads his band through gypsy jazz improvisations and classic standards that serenade and rouse in equal measure. Rob and his violin are clearly in charge, but each instrument is given enough space to breath that the whole thing takes on a life of its own.
Maniere des Bohemians at Summer Sundae - photo by Jared Wilson
The Antlers are a full on heavy emotional juggernaut on the Indoor Stage. Their rather epic and glacial sound is so big that you sense it wrapping itself around the inside of the hall like vines made of ice. Their sound is perfectly suited to the cavernous room, and with each chiming guitar riff the band edge closer to dark 80s heaven - a place where you are met at the gates by Talk Talk and the Cocteau Twins. A truly spine tingling performance.
Next up is the Phantom Band who combine hypnotic motorik style rhythms with wide-screen weathered rock; if Neu! were from Glasgow they may have sounded a bit like this. Fuzzy guitars squeeze out of their amps as repetitive beats dance around them, creating a rather danceable type of indie-rock, but not the turgid type that happens when bands start to employ DJs. The band are clearly having fun on stage, perhaps because it is the late of their tour, but their obvious joy makes their music even more engaging.
Warpaint at Summer Sundae - photo by Jared Wilson
Bathed in a psychedelic glow of reds and greens Warpaint are magnificent from start to finish. They twist and groove as if intertwined with their own music and weave dreamlike webs of sound that are at once both woozy and hypnotic. The hint at shoegaze in their long drawn out sound, but their music is much more grounded and they execute it with deft perfection. With a fine EP and album under their belt, if they carry on like this they are poised for even further greatness.
To finish off I caught a couple of songs from Example on the main stage - he's interesting but perhaps aiming a bit too mainstream for my tastes. Then I caught a poem or too from the always interesting John Cooper-Clarke - who looks like Keith Richards' Spitting Image puppet - and stocked up on free yoghurt goodies from the Alpro Soya stall. Then we headed for the train before McFly came on. A tactical exit from an otherwise great weekend... roll on next year!
Summer Sundae 2011 website