Summer Sundae has gone from strength to strength over the last 11 years, developing from a single day event to the three day festival that it is today. Lauded by critics as “The grandson of Glastonbury”, Summer Sundae has become a firm fixture in many festival goers’ summer diaries, and is attracting more and more punters every year.
Set over the gardens of Leicester’s De Montfort Hall, and overflowing into the historic Victoria park, festival goers were treated to an eclectic range of music over the weekend, from the likes of jangly indie rock band The Maccabees, ska legends Toots and the Maytals, Leicester’s very own Showaddywaddy, and acoustic guitar virtuoso Newton Faulkner, among many others. Even if none of the music on offer stoked your appetite (which I would imagine to be impossible, but stranger things have happened), the amount of other attractions available was remarkable for such a small festival. The comedy tent was consistently entertaining, both when it was home to shows by poetry and music collective Phrased and Confused, and when it was showcasing some of the best up and coming talent in standup comedy. The newly-added-for-this-year “curiosity corner” also proved to be a huge success, offering a vintage fair, sand art that was constantly being added to over the weekend, and a bandstand showcasing various poets and ensembles over the course of the three days. As an added incentive to reduce the carbon footprint of the festival, as well as a bit of fun, many of the electric appliances in the corner, from mobile phone chargers to smoothie makers to the PA system, were powered by hopping on a nearby bicycle and pedaling away. Around the corner from the curiosity corner lay the Garden area, featuring a “create-your-own” Victorian top hat workshop, and a kid’s zone where children (and big kids...) could engage in all sorts of races, challenges and other activities. These attractions, coupled with the three Orange Tree run bars, the various food vans (boasting home-made burgers, falafel and Indian food, not just your typical festival fodder) and the inclusion of a Sailor Jerry’s rum bus meant that even if there was no music over any of the stages, there was still plenty to see and do.
The music, however, was the definite focal point of the weekend. Main stage highlights over the weekend included Blurs Graham Coxon, Friday closers the Macabbees stunning the crowd with a show of melodic indie. Relative newcomers Iaminlove opened up a hazy Saturday morning, paving the way for Leicester’s own Shoowaddywaddy to firmly blow away the cobwebs from the previous night. Grunge heroes Reef showed that they were still capable of owning the stage after 18 years of playing, with the slappy guitar genius of Newton Faulkner following to end the night with a set of both sing-along classics and unheard material. Sunday saw, among others, an incredibly memorable set from funk-hip-hop-soul-reggae revolutionaries The Cuban Brothers, full of gymnastics and innuendo, Example whipping the crowd into a frenzy with his hip hop/dance crossover styling’s that have propelled him from a relatively unknown MC to a global megastar in just 18 months, and, to close, teenage favourites McFly, putting on a lively and energetic show that not only more than satisfied the almost rabid hunger of their diehard fans, but even managed to convert a few non-believers.
While this was all happening, the Main Hall within the De Montfort Hall was transformed into the Indoor Stage, showcasing some of the best up and coming bands, as well as a few firm favourites. Highlights included recent Mercury Prize nominees King Creosote, the raw rock n’ roll of the Jim Jones Revue, Toots and the Maytals causing possibly the most frenzied crowd over the entire weekend with their infectious ska and reggae crossover, I Am Kloots captivating melancholy, and explosive duo Blood Red Shoes closing the stage for another year, among many others.
Despite all of the bigger name bands on offer, Summer Sundae is also passionate about exposure for smaller bands, and some of the gems over the weekend on the Last.FM rising stage and in the Musician tent give the impression that in the future, when they have risen up the ranks to become possible headliners, the festival will reap the rewards of investing in them so young. Highlights included the quintessentially English acoustic rap of The Austin Francis Connection, complete with an exceptionally talented beatboxer, local ska heroes By The Rivers, and funky full band hip hop act Dizraeli and the Small Gods. It wasn’t over once the bands were finished either. After sundown the silent disco consistently drew capacity crowds, while the onside Wagamama Lounge restaurant transformed into a full blown night club.
Summer Sundae may not be the biggest festival of the summer, or have the most well known bands, but when the weekend is as enjoyable and friendly as it is, the music as eclectic as it is, and the entire atmosphere as welcoming as it is, does that even matter? Make sure that you are there next year.