With The Fall still ringing in our ears from the night before, we woke on Sunday morning knowing that this was the day that Summer Sundae would take off. Better weather was finally expected, no bands had dropped out, and the lineup was the superior of the three days. Looking at the programme, Joe and I soon realised that we’d be back and forth between the main and indoor stages like pinballs all day; but it was an exciting feeling, as there were some superb bands to be seen.
The first swing of the flipper had us on the main stage for These Furrows. More local boys, these guys fulfilled a similar role to the one Autohype had done on Saturday, warming up the main stage for the bands visiting from further afield. Furrows had a rockier sound, though, although they weren’t as brave as Autohype, replacing stage antics with more pedestrian repeated pleas to buy their EP… next up on the same stage was Pete Molinari, whose retro late 50s/early 60s rock n’ roll vibe was a refreshing one. Big acclaim must go to him for some of the best stage banter all festival, gently mocking his own band members and then checking with them that he’d announced the right song. As an aside, the funniest thing we saw all weekend happened right in front of the stage mid-set; the sun had really come out by 2pm, and one DeMontfort Hall security man threw a water bottle to a relieved comrade. He opens it eagerly, the shaken-up carbonated water explodes in his face. Right in front of the crowd – immaculate comic theatre, right there.
We had to get a move on to bounce over to the indoor stage for Catherine A.D. who quickly became a favourite. Somewhat jeg-lagged after returning from Los Angeles, she still wooed everyone with her delicate songs and keyboard playing, supported by a two-woman string section. It was a fantastic set, completed by the presence of some saw-playing and especially her funny, surreal and much-improved cover of Gaga’s “Telephone” which which she closed the set. “They like their hits in LA” she explained, “and I don’t have any.” Summer Camp don’t either, but they have a stratospheric amount of hype which I still don’t feel is justified after seeing them a second time, on this occasion keeping us indoors for the second set in a row. There’s something so deliberate about everything they do, it seems far too much like a calculated “project” than an actual band which doesn’t sit well with me, especially given how Jeremy Walmsley and Elizabeth Sankey barely interact with each other at all on stage. It’s mildly creepy.
Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit drew us back to the main stage, but personally I found his folk a little too sobering, a little too lacking in spark for my tastes. After the set Steve Lamacq appeared on stage, reminding me that he was on MC duties for Sunday. It was at this point, I think, that he announced that the knobbly knees competition was to start at 4pm. Summer Sundae eh? You couldn’t make it up. Rebounding once again to the lovely indoor stage, it was time for The Besnard Lakes. They wasted little time and got straight down to business, plowing on with their throbbing and sometimes slightly bewildering psychdelic rock atmospheres, Jace Lasek apparently wearing the same shirt that he has for the last few years. The Canadians were great fun though, although I was glad I was seated upstairs rather than right in front of their sonic onslaught.
At this point Joe and I diverged, he saw the gloriously-named Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three on the Musician’s stage and I did not. He has assured me, though, that their “riverboat soul sound” was “awesome”. So there! At 5:30 though, we did both see The Low Anthem, which turned out to be a slightly curious set. The Providence, Rhode Island band were authentically ragged, Jeff Prystowsky wearing a waistcoat and hat made out of a sack, no less, and most of the band taking turns on their pre-WWI antique pump organ. The oddness turned up when the amplification apparently cut out mid-song; the band carried on unamplified, getting a huge cheer from the crowd, and then preceded to do another song also wholly unamplified. Great for those of us at the front, but it will have been totally inaudible for 75% of the people present, and to add insult to injury the band soon went further back up the stage and demonstrated that the other mics did indeed work. All in all, it was a wonderfully played but somewhat sleepy set.
We needed waking up and Los Campesinos! were helpful there. Playing indoors, that’s not to say that they were good as such; I still feel they’re a band with far too many members left not doing anything far too much of the time and that Gareth can be an intensely annoying singer, but they were the subject of the definitive Summer Sundae incident. During their last song, Gareth decided to jump from one of the monitors into the crowd and do a little crowd-surfing; this didn’t go entirely to plan. He landed on the barrier on his feet, slid off it, hit it with his arm and stomach, and fell forwards into the crowd and onto the floor. It looked unbelievably painful, everyone but the band falling silent, the DMH security people floundering around. Shocking stuff; he got back up on stage and finished the song, but now he looks like this.
I’d seen Local Natives on the NME Radar Tour last year and was excited to see them again as they’ve moved so far up in the world since then. On the main stage they wereslightly underwhelming but still a big improvement on Los Camp’s frequently incoherent clatter, playing a number of tracks from their debut Gorilla Manor. I’m not strictly sure they’re ready to be so high up the bill at festivals, they seemed slightly dwarfed by the experience, but they put on a good show nonetheless, impressing especially with Matt Frazier’s drumming. Festival organiser Rob Challice showed up at the end and thanked everyone for being there; he sounded a little emotional at Sundae having reached its tenth birthday, and so he should.
For us the conclusion of the Natives’ set meant that only Mumford & Sons remained on the main stage for their first ever festival headliner set. After a bit of dinner we were ready for them at 9:30, and so was almost everyone else at the festival, crowding everywhere and climbing up onto bins and anything else from which they could glimpse Marcus Mumford’s men. They played a thrilling set interspersed with earnest banter, Mumford starting several renditions of “Happy Birthday” celebrate member Ted Dwane’s “56th” birthday. Whilst the crowd called out for the likes of “The Cave” and “Little Lion Man”, it was the quieter songs which I felt were the best, especially encore track “After the Storm”. We were also treated to no less than three new tracks, which were even more epic variations on the sound of Sigh No More, boding well for a second Mumford album.
Whilst what was to happen next was a bad night’s sleep and a hellish trip home, Summer Sundae 2010 proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable weekend which had the bands and the atmosphere to overcome its inclement weather. Everyone always seemed to be in good spirits, and seemed to share Rob Challice’s hopes that they’d be back next year; I know I do.
Photos courtesy of Joe Collins