Nuts about Fairtrade Sundae

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ben and jerrys 2010

Ben & Jerry's Sundae on the Common

Ben & Jerry's 'Sundae' festival on Clapham Common was nothing if not punctual. OK, I was late, but seriously – half way through the bill?!
I got there for 2! Well, almost...

Midday seems mighty early to me for a festival start, but what do I know. And besides, it felt more like a family-fun-day, complete with Helter-Skelter, farm animals for the kids to stroke, and pantomime cows. Cows are somewhat of a theme for Ben & Jerry's, you see.

It didn't feel like I was late, in truth. There was a fair crowd there, milling about the various stalls and amusements – among them the fortune telling cow, Mystic Moo. In front of the stage, though – the only stage, unless you count the tiny acoustic stage hidden among the various (rather tasty-looking) food stalls – the crowd was fairly threadbare. And having to listen to that compère, who could blame them.

Headliners Doves were still to come, plus local London legend Billy Bragg and up-coming Glasgow band Frightened Rabbit. I'd just missed Exit Calm, which was a shame – I haven't seen them before, but bands from South Yorkshire are basically OK in my book. This lot cite 'early Verve' as their biggest influence, and Brit-Pop nostalgia was somewhat the order of the day.

Next up was Cherry Ghost, from Bolton, protégés of headline band Doves who have been not unfairly compared with Embrace. After a fairly plodding start they upped the pace with some more festival-friendly fare. They announced 'Kissing Strangers', one of their better-known tracks, but of the (now slightly enlarged) crowd watching them, not many seemed to know it. I drifted off, observing the crowd, but they got my attention again with a song I knew I knew, but couldn't place.
It turned out to be a cover of Ce Ce Peniston's 'Finally', sung in the style of Edwin Collins.

The breaks between bands provide a chance to enjoy what must be for a lot of the crowd the biggest attraction of the day – free ice cream. I made my way through four of the theatre-interval pots over the afternoon, but surely someone out there beat last year's record of 19.

Frightened Rabbit's appearance on stage coincided with the first proper appearance of the sun. It was hot. In a nod to the family-friendly nature of the event, the Rabbits' lead singer Scott Hutchison warned the crowd ahead of time of the sweary nature of some of his lyrics – but told parents not to worry, he'd teach their kids to swear properly. F**king right.

The amicable Hutchison put on a good show, bonding with the crowd over beer and ice cream. Their set was a highlight of the day, and they clearly had fans in the audience – one letting off a pretty serious party popper at the climax of one of the songs, after the whole audience had joined in clapping along.

The festival's title this year was 'Nuts About Fairtrade', but alongside that charitable cause the Ben & Jerry's merchandise tent was also selling underwear with the slogan 'Pants to Poverty'.

Billy Bragg, as you might imagine, couldn't resist this opportunity to combine a bit of a larf with a lefty political point – and came out on stage with a pair of the aforementioned Y-fronts over his jeans, a superhero of poverty-fighting.

He combined his songs with various anecdotes about his son, women he had known, and other tales of London life in a patter that sounded well-rehearsed. He would have done well to rehearse his lyrics a bit more – the crowd had to correct him on occasion, but it was all part of the fun.

He introduced some new material, too – a song about a banker who's 'on the last flight to Abu Dhabi, the richest city in the world'. An economic migrant, though he called himself an expat. The song was about as subtle as a kick in the Billies – and I don't know, but my Clapham stereotypes made me feel he might have picked slightly the wrong crowd...

I went and got fed when he finished, while we waited for the headliners, Doves, to come on. Queuing for my paella (awesome, since you ask) I met a guy clutching a brand new pair of Pants to Poverty.
He explained he'd spent all day in his Mystic Moo costume, and had got rather sweaty down there...

I'd been denied an interview with Doves, on the grounds that “one of them's not feeling too good”. Unfortunately, when they hit the stage you could tell it was lead singer Jimi Goodwin. It wasn't enough to keep a good man down, though, and though he adapted some melodies to go down, instead of up, when they got to the high notes, the band pulled a fine set out of the bag as dusk fell on south west London.

The big, wholesome tunes chimed with the wholesome feel of the day, and 'Caught by the River' among other hits gave this long-time fan a warm feeling inside. The opposite of a Ben & Jerry's, then – but thanks go to the ice cream makers from Vermont for putting a fun and great value festival. Moooooooo!

Published on 29 July 2010 by TomBowker

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