Tuesday, August 15, 2006

That Summer Sundae review in full

Well, where to start!?

You've already had the brief versions (Friday review, Saturday review, Sunday review) , where I've indicated most of my favourite moments by the lists of highlights, and Cloudy Neil's version, but what's missing is the true flavour of the festival. So here goes, in no particular order and with length of comment not necessarily indicating value, just recollections at this moment.

There was a lot of good strings at the festival. I fell totally in love with the magnificent violinist/fiddler Sophie Solomon who throws herself into her playing with such enthusiasm it is hard not to be swept along. Seth Lakeman - long since a recommendation by friends - was equally revelatory and I'm definitely getting hold of his stuff (we bought the Sophie album from her hands directly after the gig!).

The girls of the weekend were definitely a highlight and there were lots to get excited about. Nouvelle Vague - French sexy!! Camera Obscura - Scottish sexy! Becky from Tunng, Juanita Stein (PJ Harvey-esque) from Howling Bells: sexy every one! And the girls would have had my heart completely had not delectable Stuart Murdoch stolen in at the last with the audience participatory performance of the festival (of which more later).

Richard Hawley was great - very droll and with a much rockier feel to the performance than is possible on his lushly-orchestrated album Coles Corner. He asked the audience how far they'd come - a fair few had come down from Sheffield ("we could have all stayed at home!") and some wag declared they were from Workshop which drew the retort "my dad was a dustbin-man: he used to make deliveries there": Worksop you may gather is a bit of an arse-end of the region. Anyway, he was excellent and seeing him live solo reinforced my memories of him as being a great asset to the Pulp ensemble from many years back.

We were thrilled to be part of the magnificent Friday night tent-fest that was The Blockheads with Phill Jupitus. Yes, yes, they did a second set at the Indoor stage on the Saturday, but Friday was where it was at man. A delirious crowd yelling “Sex! Drugs! Rock! And Roll!” was a grin-inspiring moment, despite the obvious numbers of teenage daughters there despairing at their fathers’ wigging out! Equally hysterical was watching two middle aged guys in front of us in the tent so stoned already it took them three songs to make one small spliff. Since Dury was always more a 'performer' than a singer - though lord knows he was a great one - it somehow seemed apt to have le Jupitus stepping in. A fan-boy's dream come true. Pleasure all round, and though The Buzzcocks were packed out and suitably thrashy, they lacked the heart that the Blockheads created. It was all a bit, well, forced. Still, it was good to see the Buzzcocks belting through “Ever Fallen in love” and “Orgasm Addict” even if Shelley now looks as if someone should get him a chair for his little pudgy body to sit down on. [I also thought it was pretty funny when Mitch Benn muttered that he quite fancied breaking his fatherly curfew to see the Buzzcocks as “you never know if they’ll still be together next week: ‘Ever formed a band with someone you shouldn’t have formed a band with’…”]

In other ecstatic music, Michael Franti and Spearhead were incredibly bouncy: that guy can seriously jump! They were an excellent culmination to the first day. And we had a similar amount of rockingly dancy good fun with Kissmet, especially when they did a Punjabi cover 'Whole Lotta Love' (had to be seen and heard to be believed!). And someone should PLEASE sign up the wonderful Leicester band El Mahico who were just infectious. Despite hefty hangovers, the guitar playing was faster than a bumble-bee's wings. And they seemed majorly chuffed with the queue / horde that greeted them for free CDs after their set: slipper-shod singer Shayela Khan was rather worried her feet would get trampled in the crush!

The Proclaimers were brilliantly fabulous and full of sing-a-long joy from start to finish. 'Restless Soul', 'Sunshine on Leith', 'I'm on My Way', 'I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)', 'Lets get married', and plenty more. Spine-tingling especially to hear them start up 'Letter from America' as Neil recalled seeing them in Wolves just a couple of days before he saw them at Glasto many moons back. For me, the line that always gets me from that is "But you know our sense of timing, We always wait too long": just shivery. Neil was actually rather surprised at their popularity - a one in, one out was in place for the indoor stage - and we were glad to have staked our mid-arena claim. Hmm. Yes, they ARE popular. And I am sure that none of the women there were at all pursuing an emotional bond with their number one fan. And please note, I am a well-established Proclaimers fan having long worn the cassette tape of Sunshine on Leith to death from its initial purchase back on its 1980s release. Just so you know.

Tunng were quietly awesome and I was well chuffed to have chance to congratulate them on their performance and recommend the gourmet fish and chip stall (they were in the queue!). Buy their album "Comments of the Inner Chorus" because it is just delightful. The harmonies were breath-taking and the musicianship delightful to see up close (we bagged a barrier stand directly in front their lovely female vocalist Becky who also sings with her brother Ben of Max Tundra).

Quirky find of the festival was probably the weird and wonderful world of Mr Hudson & the Library. Hard to describe, musically eclectic, frontman Mr Hudson was a real showman. He acknowledges Chet Baker as an influence - vocally - and he definitely has an appealing style. One to watch! In other quirky news, Now were pretty off-the-wall but great fun and with some wicked percussion moves. We also saw Misterlee again having first caught him in a solo more lo-fi performance supporting David Thomas a couple of years ago. He was with the other members of the band at Summer Sundae and in full-on Beefheart mode. They're more of a performance troupe than a band as such: no label, they play seem to play pretty much for drinks and home-made CD sales, but they did have a very nice case from which they flogged their CDs and other merchandise.

Troopers of the festival award probably has to go to Camera Obscura: they had been in Copenhagen and their gear was still stuck at the airport there. They'd had two hours kip and had had to borrow equipment from local music suppliers Sheehan’s (who handily had a tent on-site!). Bless 'em. They STILL looked and sounded gorgeous. They may have joked that "Lloyd, Are You Ready to be Heartbroken" sounded like the Raw Sex version from French and Saunders, but truly they were admirable. Brilliant stuff just slightly marred by the slut-a-rama-tastic blonde woman who barged in next to me, spent the next song and a bit texting and then was joined by her boyfriend who barged me further. Grrr...

Apropos of nothing, I wonder how young Toby is getting on? This 16-month baby with his parents was the centre of attention in the comedy tent for all three performers on the Sunday show as his non-heckle crying was responded to and integrated into the swearing humour. Overall it was a very good comedic selection. The class reports bit from MC Markus Birdman - who used to be a teacher - will have parents worriedly checking exactly what was said ("she's lovely" / "She's enthusiastic": read between the lines...) And James Dowdeswell made the most of his flaws by a good amount of self-deprecation and some excellent Eminem-style rapping. Looking as he did and coming from the Bristol area ("A little place called Inbredbury - only three people live in the village: me dad, Brian May and Screech from 'Saved by the Bell'...") he quickly had the audience on-side. And his remarks against Mansfield ("they thought I was from the future: 1972") certainly had me in fits [NB that's another local joke]. But it was Mitch Benn who we'd mostly come to see. A big presence in every sense - "the biggest leather trousers in all the world: it's my mid-life crisis and I'll do it how I want to, thank you!" - not helped by the smallest guitar you could find ("people standing outside the tent must be looking in thinking 'He's enormous!'...") he drew much hysteria from the audience from the start. Well, how could he fail when he does his song about a certain well-known ex-military ballad singer. Mind, as he notes "always goes down well, haven't yet found anyone who admits to liking him. And yet, eleven times platinum sales and rising: someone's lying to me..." okay, so his song about male expressions of love was by his own admission probably not being fully appreciated as ironic by much of the audience and his song about Coldplay had a somewhat muted response (except from me and Neil who know all the words and heartily sang along!). On the latter point, he reported his concerns that as he and his band The Attractions released the track as a single - complete with video - the long-awaited Coldplay album was released and there were minor panics that Coldplay might ruin the joke by having changed their style: "but thankfully, no, it was 'Clocks' again!" And I wish I had the Paramount Comedy channel to check out whether they really do play the video for the song at 3am with no explanation ("you just imagine someone waking up with the TV still on thinking 'blimey, that Chris Martin's let himself go'..."). Benn ended a good length set with a request from the audience, despite his reservations that it may have become outdated. Now some of you may remember the multi-musical artistes BBC Children in Need / promotional campaign from a few years back that (no irony at all) used that classic drug-related song Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day'. Well, Benn did the whole thing, performing all the voices. And you know what? It was STILL hysterically funny. Comedy genius.

Talking of genius, Belle and Sebastian swept all-comers away with a great culminating performance on the main outdoor stage. You knew it would be good when they were so enthusiastic in their well-established stage antics like getting a lass up from the front (note to self: wish I had been there!) and had her dancing on stage with Stuart and Stevie Jackson to 'Jonathan David' - such a great track! Stuart then got another audience member to apply mascara to him for 'Lord Anthony' from the 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress' [NB I got a lot of schtick at the time of that album that the sullen girl who has put the dinner on the customer resembled me in a bad mood]. And the crowd sang along with gusto whilst many - including children - dancing manically. Hmmm, explain those lyrics some other time maybe?! It was a good mix of the old and new songs and the string section was brilliant. Welcome back!

After all that, with so many acts, it was inevitable some things were less good. There's much hype over James Morrison - you can't move for bloody posters of the guy everywhere - but he came across as just another white boy ballad-esque singer. Nothing to write home about. The new incarnation of Calexico equally didn't sail my boat: certainly not enough to dissaude me from seeing The Proclaimers. Vashti Bunyan I know has drawn a lot of fans, especially since her track 'Diamond Day' was picked up for the Tmobileadvert. And I know before THAT she was a cult figure amongst record collectors. But though she came across as a very sweet woman, self-effacing to the point of whispering her song introductions, it was all a little bit... underwhelming. Beautiful but maybe too light, too soft, too chilling in the midst of such an upbeat festival. When she expressed her shock at hearing "her little song being whistled in the street" you almost wondered if she was still so unworldly as to have not realised she was part of the commercial world of ring-tones and technology. Beautiful but frankly a little dull. I suspect my prejudice is mostly based on the context: in a candle-lit room with a bean-bag she may have garnered me more pleasure. And talking of underwhelming, perhaps my biggest disappointment was Isobel Campbell who, looking more like a hippy momma everyday, delivered an equally beautiful but somewhat soporific set. It wasn't helped by the fact that her co-vocalist, though clearly talented, was just no match for the grizzly vocals of Mark Lanegan and his vocals seemed to be much higher in the mix than hers. Again, as with Bunyan, perhaps the context was wrong. But as we took the chance to see her in the seated area of the indoor stage it was mostly a chance for Cloud to grab some intermittent shut-eye. Shame, because I really like her album Ballad of the Broken Seas.

So that's it folks, done and dusted.

That was my first festival. And very good it was too!


Neil said...

Grand summary.

So, who is the Proclaimer's number one fan?

Rob said...

The Proclaimers are ace: and nobody hereabouts would disagree (except Hearts fans, and who cares about them?) Though actually I did once ask a woman to dance at a work Christmas party and she refused because it was '500 Miles' and she insisted on waiting for something else. Maybe a Hearts fan there.

From your description I can just imagine the Vashti Bunyan set, but I would love to have seen her. I suspect she probably IS that unworldly. I mean, her first album became one of these cult albums that nobody actually owns, up until its eventual CD release. And I suspect nobody expected the follow-up to do as well as it has. I suspect she's totally shell-shocked, poor girl.

Anonymous said...

Hee oh so very hee! Yeah Neil, I want a reply to that question too!!
;) Rullsenberg????? We're waiting....ahem!

Anonymous said...

You should come to the Big Chill next year.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Neil / Chrissie: It may have helped if I had given the link!

Rob: yeah, sorry about Vashti, bless her. And yes, she really did come across as that unworldly!

Stu_N: Hmmm! Big Chill! Scritti Politti!

Anonymous said...

James Morrison. The posters are adverts placed by his record company or publicists or whatever. Having a big marketing budget says nothing baout artistic quality. It's not even a 'buzz' created by journos bribed to create hype. And it certainly isn't a hype coming by word of mouth from the people.

One might as say there is a lot of hype about Fairy Liquid or Andrex loo rolls :-)