Festivals aren’t actually supposed to be fun…

Something isn’t quite right here. Yes I’m outdoors. Yes I’m stood in front of a stage. And yes I’m loaded up on booze. But, but, but… What’s that odd warming sensation tickling the skin? It’s only fucking sunshine innit. And who’s that creasing the speakers nice and proper? Sophie Ellis Bextor mate, that’s who. And what am I lobbing down my thrapple? Pimms. You heard; Pimms! Somebody needs to tell the organisers of this year’s Summer Sundae to book their ideas up for 2008 – the British public will not stand for such pleasant conditions. We expect drizzle, anonymous indie bollocks and warm fucking lager!

Festivals aren’t actually supposed to be fun…

Six years old and with a line-up that doesn’t inspire much in the way of excitement (think Glastonbury’s second stage and you’re in the right enclosure), Leicester’s Summer Sundae could readily be overlooked amongst the blanket festival scene that seems to have befallen the UK recently. Honestly, you can’t stroll across an expanse of grass these days without some cunt in a porkpie hat whining in the corner whilst a load of Guardian readers sit on the grass smoking shitty weed. Lob in a couple of precocious kids eating Fair Trade paella at ten quid a plate and you’ve created your own little corner of hell.

Bearing this in mind Summer Sundae doesn’t initially inspire much hope. Rocking up to the inner-city site you’re confronted by hampers, families, smiling security guards and the usual retinue of hippy-wank market stalls. Arghhhh! But get inside, have a wander around and suddenly it all becomes clear; yes there may be the usual glut of knobs infiltrating your head-space, but you’re far enough from the M25 for it not to be utterly insufferable. Leicester is evidently a Midland Mainline journey too far for the Islington pariahs and Camden cocks.

Somewhere between Glastonbury (c.1995 – before the 30-something cultural vampires reduced it to a lifeless draw full of porridge…) and The Big Chill, Summer Sundae succeeds in being a relaxed three days of music which doesn’t neglect, nor pander to, the various minorities which stalk its fields. A fusion of pill heads, bong boys, picnic-blanket families, Mojo men, and young types who seem to have wandered straight out of Skins, the traditionally warring tribes all get along without spilling any humus. The fact that the sun dons its hat for the entire weekend can’t have dented the breezy mood either…

Civilised without seeming too safe, Summer Sundae really represents a bijou festival done right – with Pimms on tap happily co-existing next to the crusty chap selling Morrisons Value Cider by the gallon. Small enough to circumnavigate numerous times within the hour, the various stages provide a pleasing mix of middle-weight fare from the likes of !!!, Maps, Martha Wainwright, Divine Comedy, The Magic Numbers, Simple Kids and Pole. However it’s the inclusion of Sophie Ellis Bextor on the bill that tells you everything you need to know about this particular shin-dig’s ethos. She isn’t there as a novelty. She isn’t there so twats in day-glo accessories can dance along ironically. She’s there because the organisers realised that on a sunny day, full of booze she’d make a darn good addition to the line up. And she does. Rattling through a set that features a disgraceful number of hits, there isn’t a static pair of feet in the field for ‘Groovejet’ or ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ – with the Blue Peter-sprog keeping it graceful throughout. Apart from when she nearly nose-dived off the stage of course.

Elsewhere real highlights included the ethereal drizzle of the Maps (surely a good bet for the Mercury this year?), who’s electronic grandeur converts perfectly to the tarnished grandeur of the De Monfort Hall indoor stage. !!! succeeded in bringing a sweaty slice of cow-bell New York to the Midlands through there post-punk ruckus, whilst Polytechnic cast off the mantle of ‘the new Bloc Party’ and played clean out of their skins. With Vetiver, Low and Spiritulized all invoking a smile or two, the truth is that Summer Sundae is much more than the sum of its parts – wherein a modest line-up, compact surroundings and diverse crowd conjure up a genuinely unique experience. If festival fatigue is setting in, this could be the pill which revitalises you. Add to the mix a couple of bigger names (someone like Daft Punk for next year maybe? Please?) and Summer Sundae could become a much treasured jewel in the British calendar.

Now pass me the Pimms, I’ve got a posh bird to dance to…
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