Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Summer Sundae 2011 - Review

Leicester’s Summer Sundae festival may not be a big hitter in terms of giant artists, riotous audiences, high budget aesthetically pleasing artistic direction or a line-up devised to appeal to one particular demographic, but what it does do it does incredibly well.

Summer Sundae appeals because it is an incredibly convenient festival to attend. If you’ve ever slogged your way around Glastonbury, or fought with Reading’s lack of sleep campsite-culture then Summer Sundae will come as a very pleasant easy-on-the-body surprise. Set in a park in a city centre location it still manages to convey a sense of being out in the countryside, even if the second stage is the permanent De Montford Hall and a ten minute stroll will bring you to a Costa Coffee shop with Wetherspoons pub five minutes further. But this city centre location provides many bonuses, none more so than a compact and well-designed site, a second campsite just across the road from the main festival for those who want a quiet night of sleep and excellent transport links which include a big on site cycle park, a train station nearby and car park and on street car parking within five minutes of the entrance. Top this off with excellent management and organisation where stages run on time, friendly and helpful security staff and you have something that Leicester can be really proud of.

Here’s our run down of all the good, with hardly any bad.


Early Bird 3 day tickets were £100 with full price tickets being £115. If you wanted to camp in the more spacious quiet Regents campsite there was an additional charge of £12 a person.

The Site

A tree lined park in Leicester. The main stage was set on a natural slope that gave excellent viewing opportunities whatever your height and included a Punch and Judy stall set to the left of the stage which housed a giant bird and a crocodile who appeared to occasionally mime along to the bands as they played. The second stage was indoors in the permanent De Montford Hall, which again gave excellent viewing opportunities with a seated balcony as well as the standing stalls area. Three other stages were more traditional tented festival venues (one of which was for comedy and spoken word). The smaller Musician stage could have benefitted from being a bit higher – those beyond the front rows had difficulty seeing anything on stage when the audience was standing. New for 2011 was the Victorian Bandstand Stage, whose PA was powered by enthusiastic cycling punters and featured oddities such as a penny farthing and bone-shaker display and talk by local cycling historian Roger Lovell and Harp For Hangovers – cover versions played with harp accompaniment. For those with children or for anyone that wanted to get away from the main areas The Garden provided kids entertainment, information stalls and the festival famous Mashed Tea Tent for all your non-alcoholic and cake needs.

The Punters

A varied mix of old, young and everyone in between, many of whom were local to the Leicester area, giving the event a relaxed and less full-on vibe than many other festivals.

The Toilets

The standard festival portaloos were well provided for, cleaned regularly and well located. However for those whose idea of any sort of non-permanent loo is a malicious nightmare, the De Montford Hall permanent toilets provided a welcome alternative.

The Weather

Generally cloudy with patches of sun. Friday saw a small smattering of rain but nothing of any consequence.

The Food

An excellent selection of festival favourites such as Pieminister, Simply Thai and Iechyd Da, with prices ranging between £ 5-7.50. The bars were run by Orange Tree Bars meaning that there was a huge range of real ales to sample as well as a number of cocktails. There was also the more standard range of lagers, ciders and spirits. Festival goers were also allowed to bring their own food and drink onto all parts of the site with no restrictions as long as it was for their own personal consumption, although we understand that next year these rules may change and there may be limits on what you can bring in.

The Music

Summer Sundae is sometimes too heavily judged on its often very average and inconsistent headliners and to a certain extent this year was no different with The Maccabees, Newton Faulkner and McFly topping the bill. The Maccabees may be a decent mid-level indie band, but with a large stage and PA to fill the bands surprisingly subdued performance found them lacking a little, with Orlando’s voice not being strong enough to give the songs weight and their choice of lots of new tunes testing the patience of anything but the most hardcore of fans. However where Summer Sundae wins hands down is with the other cards in the pack, bringing a whole host of new, diverse and talented musicians to the stage on the lower reaches of the bill.

Friday saw the debut UK performance of Other Lives, whose audience size was helped by a momentary rain shower outside the Rising Stage tent, their subtle yet majestic blend of orchestral folk and rock stirring the soul with its note perfect warm execution. More natural beauty was on display just a short while later when Admiral Fallow’s songs lifted spirits even further – with poetic tenderness that felt like your best friend. Yet it wasn’t all organic singer-songwriter traditionalism. For those of a sturdy constitution the intense pummelling electronics of Factory Floor (streaming below) were a ride to the future ghost (g)rave of Giorgio Moroder. Hard hitting, hypnotic and droning the three-piece managed to scare off a number of the small crowd who watched them play, but those who remained were challenged with repetitive beats and stabs that made some sort of glorious noise. On the main stage early on Saturday evening Bellowhead got bums off the grass and feet dancing with their brassy burlesque folk music that gave easy justification to a claim by the Independent that they were the best live act in the country. And as the festival began to wind down on the final night and McFly entertained the screaming girls who had camped out against the barrier all day to see their heroes, Kitty Daisy & Lewis brought a magically nostalgic take on old fashioned 50’s rock n roll, flavoured with ska, disco and the blues to a jiving and smiling crowd.

The Conclusion

Summer Sundae is one of the most under-rated festivals in the UK. Forget about the headliners and enjoy everything else it has to offer.

Lying by Factory Floor

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