Summer Sundae 2012 not only lived up to but exceeded all expectations leading up to the event. With more bands and stages than ever before the festival really did offer something for everyone. With headline acts Katy B, Ocean Colour Scene and Public Image Limited this year’s event featured the most eclectic line-up in the festival’s history. Here are just some of the highlights…
Welsh band Y Niwl kicked things off on Friday with their own brand of instrumental surf rock. During their 30 minute set the trio relentlessly plugged away with one infectious tune after another. Stand out track ‘Deg’ is a joyous musical merry-go-round of melodic bass featuring high flying keyboards reminiscent of The Doors at their most pop. Whilst ‘Wyth’ morphs the twang of The Shadows’ Apache into something slightly more menacing that would not be out of place on a Tarantino soundtrack.
Leicester based singer/songwriter Elizabeth Cornish showcased some of the new material from her forthcoming debut album in the Watering Hole venue. Elizabeth’s new backing band seem to have added a further intensity to many of the songs clearly heard on ‘Above Ground’ which builds into a glorious crescendo of high vocals and shimmering guitar.
New Yorker Willy Mason was arguably the best performer to receive the least amount of hype prior to his set. Aside from coming across as the coolest man on earth, Mason’s gift for combining excellent lyrics with sparse emotional musical arrangements shone through, none more so on the incredible Oxygen: “I wanna speak louder than Ritalin for all the children/Who think that they’ve got a disease.”
You don’t often hear a tabla drum solo at British music festival but then again you don’t often hear a band like the genre-defying Asian Dub Foundation who took to the main stage on Friday night. Although they have been around since 1993 ADF show no signs of slowing down launching into a non-stop high energy performance. Managing to get a good 70 percent of the crowd dancing their blistering set came to an end with the ever so slightly political Fortress Europe.
Could Katy B adequately follow that? Not a chance but the Peckham born singer did give a spirited performance of the material from her album ‘On a Mission’ even when the rain started to fall.
The completely loopy Micachu and the Shapes were a surprise highlight of day two with their demonic keyboard playing, furious drumming and spiky punk guitar. Lead singer Micachu already has two albums out on Rough Trade Records – better check those out then!
Jonathan Richman seemed to be having a whale of a time during his packed set playing Spanish guitar along with his drummer Tommy. Far from being a alienating the audience Richman had them in the palm of his hand with his zany lyrics and comical dancing.
The kookiness continued as Tune Yards aka Merrill Garbus appeared to channel some ancient forbearer with her powerful tribal drumming and incanted lyrics. Using vocal loops and accompanied on bass and saxophone Garbus created a wild cacophony of noise which brought adoration from the masses.
Local favourite Grace Petrie had an impressive turn out for her set in the Watering hole tent. Grace didn’t disappoint either with her mixture of heartfelt love songs and political calls to action. The audience participation on closing track ‘Farewell to Welfare’ left everyone with smiles on their faces.
Up next Billy Bragg celebrated the centenary of Woody Guthrie’s birth with a selection of the singer/songwriter’s material. Bragg talked the audience through his experience of putting music to a treasure trove of previously unheard lyrics by the folk legend. The songs, which later appeared on 1998’s ‘Mermaid Avenue’, show a very different side to the Guthrie’s songwriting: lusting after Hollywood Starlet Ingrid Bergman and imagining taking a trip in a UFO in ‘My Flying Saucer’. With his trademark good humour and left-wings politics Bragg charmed the assembled with various anecdotes before finishing with a barnstorming performance of one of his own songs ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards’.
The reformed Public Image Limited took to the stage to cap off the packed weekend. Reality TV show appearances and butter adverts certainly haven’t taken stunted John Lydon’s stage presence or his sneering operatic vocals. Although the crowd took some time to get into the performance Lydon had them in a frenzy by the time the band burst into the visceral ‘Chant’. Skilfully mixing new tracks from the recently released ‘This is PIL’ with classic songs from the band’s back catalogue PIL delivered the goods: heavy dub bass, sinewy guitar and Johnny’s caterwauling screeches. The intensity of ‘Religion,’ and ‘Death Disco’ was undeniable as Lydon gave everything he had. Stealing the show on Sunday night PIL rightly deserved their place at headline act.