Ben and Jerrys Manchester 2011

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ben and jerrys

Manchester’s Heaton Park plays host to it’s first ever double scoop Sundae, a two day musical extravaganza, running consecutively with the same line-up in another location. In this instance it has been twinned with Clapham Common in  London. This is the first time in the events 7 year history that this has transpired, having never previously ventured north of the Watford gap.

The festival itself is considerably smaller in scale than a lot of it’s more renowned contemporaries, with the main arena itself housing a small but fun selection of amusements and attractions. Noisy fairgrounds and Radio-station plugging second stages  were omitted, in favour of a good old fashioned carousel, helter-skelter, swing boats, and an acoustic stage for entertaining the masses, plus bungee running, toe wrestling and banana fighting for the more adventurous festival goer. Add into the equation as much free ice-cream as people could eat, and what you had was an event that looked and felt more like a family day out at a village fete or country fair as opposed to some major corporate sponsored showcase. the only real advertising of notice was the festivals love affair with Fairtrade rules and practices on the creation and distribution of it’s main cow based product.

The first band of the day who we were able to grace with our presence at the main stage were Sheffield band Starlings: who despite opening to a relatively sparse crowed were able to entertain the tiny throng with a big sounding amalgam of 80’s  synth pop, fused with a more contemporary indie feel (think early Depeche Mode, or Heaven 17 meets Snow Patrol or The Editors). Closing their set withe the soon to be released single Dark Arts, what you were left with was a band who seem to have the potential to be bigger, even if the audience wasn’t.

Next on to the main stage and shifting into an altogether  different musical gear was  alternative, hip hop, rapers Sound of Rum who were able to generate enough attention at the main stage from the crowed to be noticed, with front woman Katie Tempest having a particularly commanding stage presence, which  came in handy later in their set when after acknowledging that it was the bands first time on a festival main stage she began to hawk the bands cd’s. Tracks from said album such as Icarus And Give, were well received by the crowd and it is apparent that the band are beginning to develop a small but dedicated following. At one point in the band’s proceedings Tempest performed a self penned poem entitled Balance that told of how Pride,Envy,Talent and ambition needed to be understood and measured in order for each individual component to work as a successful whole. If the band themselves are able to heed their own fortuitous words, then their is no reason to suggest why Sound of Rum  will not be gracing more main stages in the future.

next out  guerrilla art rockers The Little Comets who renowned for doing impromptu gigs brought a sense of this spontaneity to the main stage, as well as a bigger crowd out front. A very interesting back drop that consisted of nothing more than a guy rope, off which hung a tambourine and a saucepan. However bizarre this didn’t deter the bands faithful from singing along to tracks such as Joanna and One Night in October.

walking out into what was now becoming a considerably hot and sunny afternoon Stephen Fretwell  began his set with Run, which for the uninitiated is a song he wrote that featured on the T.V. show Gavin and Stacy. His one man show went on to illustrate why he is a  singer songwriter that is held in high esteem by many of his luminaries. Though it could be suggested that the nature of his performance  may have been better suited to the acoustic rather than the main stage.

following on from this having been initially delayed by technical difficulties New York  glam soul folk ensemble The Duke And The king who went on to provide the crowed with a warm feel good vibe that was steeped in old school Americana. With their set culminating in a heartfelt medley of Crosby Stills Nash and Young’s Helpless and Bob Dylan’s knocking On Heavens Door it was cheers all round for this harmonious four piece.

The next act on the bill was the reason why a sizable crowed had made their way to the front of house with Gary Numan greeted to a heros welcome as he walked out on to the main stage.  looking like Peter Gabriel’s vampiric goth alter ego complete with Nine inch Nails t-shirt Numan proceeded to rip through a set that saw seminal favorites such as Cars and You Die I Die getting a full on industrial makeover which may have come as a surprise to those expecting a nostalgic trip back to the electronica fueled 80’s. This heavier sound was accentuated further by tracks such as Bleed and Prayer before his set finished with the classic  Are Friend’s Electric, leaving the crowd with a excellent energetic and instantly memorable performance  that showcased Gary Numan’s influence, talent and ability to re-invent.

Finally Saturday’s headliners Maximo park wasted no time getting the audience jumping with opener Girls Who Play guitars, with lead singer Paul Smith in his trademark suit and hat jumping around the stage like frank Sinatra with ADHD other tracks included The Coast Is Always Changing and High Velocity.  Smith had stated to  that he wanted to make the field into a dance floor judging by the crowd’s reaction job done.

Sundae (geddit) in the park saw a bigger crowd and clear blue skies from the offset
starting our day at the festival was Brighton Five piece Munich who were well on their way to  pleasing the crowd,with their highly praised cover of Roy Orbison’s I drove All Night being particularly well received.

The misdirectors were next to take the spotlight and despite the band being in their relative infancy at less than a year old, they none the less gave a dynamic subtle, performance and being no strangers to the festival circuit the certainly now how to keep a crowed engaged.

Following on from this, African music hero Rise Kagona, an artist who has been championed in the past by musical gurus such as John Peel and Andy Kershaw, went on to give the crowd a vibrant colourful upbeat infectious show that was underscored with his now trademark “Harare-Jit” guitar style and virtuoso support from his band that got the crowd up on their feet and dancing.

Paul Weller and Ocean colour Scene guitarist Steve Craddock was next up and proceeded to deliver a set that was every bit as blistering as the  sun overhead, with tracks taken from his album Peace City West, That included Only Look Up when Your Down and the excellent set closer, I Man.

Opening with Girl From Mars Northern irish rockers Ash were the first band of the day that were able to get a packed crowd up and really moving in the afternoon heat. A high energy performance ensued that included tracks Kung-Foo, Return Of The White Rabbit + a cover of The Undertones Teenage Kick’s = Crowd pleased.

Receiving the biggest crowd reaction of the day so far The Fun Lovin’ Criminals took to the stage and proceeded to delight and entertain the multitude with a seamless marrying of Jazz,Funk,Soul,Rap and Blues with the dangerously cool Hewey Morgan looking like music’s very own tony Soprano, whilst all the while being ably supported by his long time collaborator Brian ‘Fast’ Leiser on a selection of instruments.  All the major bases of the Crim’s catalogue were covered, Korean Bodega, King Of New York, Blues For Suckers and Scooby Snack’s. Morgan even found time to allow a fan to come on to the stage and ask his girlfriend to marry him (I’ve no idea what the outcome of that was?) before finishing the set with a cover of Louis Armstrong’s All The Time In The World and their signature tune Fun Lovin Criminal. The band left the stage to rapturous applause, cheers and chants of Huey, Huey, with Morgan still finding time to upstage the host by grabbing his microphone off him and walking of the stage whilst announcing the headliners. A showman to the end indeed.

 Ocean Colour Scene were the final band of the day, with lead singer Simon Fowler  walking out and possessing a swagger reminiscent of their Brit-pop days. Raising a glass to the crowd the band then went on to take the headlining slot by storm, launching into their classic The Riverboat Song, they quickly established that though 22 years have passed they have lost none of their appeal. Other tracks in their setlist included we Don’t Wanna Fight No More, Get Away, 100 Mile High City. before finishing with their anthemic singalong The Day we Caught The Train, closing their show, and the festival in grand style.

Ben & Jerry’s Sundae In The Park proved  to be (a lot like some of the lesser well known acts on the bill) a welcome addition to the festival scene. Everything that was necessary was were it needed to be, the staff were friendly and helpful, and with ticket prices at just £17 pound per day; What’s not to like, oh and did i mention the free ice cream.

Published on 27 July 2011 by iamchronos

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