Highlights: Splendour Festival 2009

Michael Shelton | Monday, 20 July 2009

Highlights: Splendour Festival 2009

Splendour takes place in the beautiful surroundings of Wollaton Park in Nottinghamshire. Last year's two day extravaganza has been streamlined into just the one, and the no camping and no BBQ rules seemed fitting with the austere surroundings. Safe and small with only three music stages, the venue was ideal for families with children with funfair rides and face painting. As the day drew on, plenty of adults also indulged in the latter.

With a line up containing Madness, the Pogues and the Rifles, it is the only festival where parents could attend with their teenagers without either party being embarrassed. The big success story of the day was the return of the Fun Lovin' Criminals. They may have been off the radar for a few years but Huey's cool factor still goes all the way to 11. Dressed in a relaxed lounge suit minus tie, he brought some fashion, class and smoothness to the East Midlands.

Playing the entire set with a sly grin on his face, it felt as if he was connecting with everyone in the audience singularly. They responded with the most frantic dancing of the day. The Criminals' longetivity was proved by the fact that most of the people at the front were teenagers who can hardly have been out of Pampers when 'Scooby Snacks' was first released.

In the year of pop comebacks, there is no reason to suggest that the FLC will not soon be hosing a sell out world tour and number one album. Songs like the laid back and charming 'Loco' have more than stood the test of time.

Imelda May has already been brewing up a storm in her native Ireland, having gone double platinum and knocking Bruce Springsteen off the number 1 spot. At this rate, her relative anonymity in the UK won't stay that way for long. Petite but with a massive stage presence, she has an amazingly husky and sultry voice and bears an uncanny resemblance to Amy Winehouse before she went off the rails.

Backed by a band featuring a double bass and trumpet, she also has an ear for a great tune and has tapped into a retro rock/pop style of music rarely explored by female artists. 'Better Be' flows with the spirit of Chuck Berry - her tunes have the majesty of a John Barry Bond song.

Also on the main stage, Kid British sent the rain clouds running for cover with an injection of surging modern British talent. This multi-cultural Mancunian outfit are the very epitome of new British culture, sourcing musical genres from their own cultural roots including ska, rap and hip hop and pop. A modern re-imagining of Madness' 'Our House' was relevant but still fun.

The smaller festivals are also a great place to discover new talent for the future. Splendour had these in spades. Alessi's Ark were a perfect fit for the ornate Courtyard Stage. The unbelievably young looking singer Alessi Laurent-Marke showed talent beyond her years. A full backing band gave her songs a rawer edge, although her vocal talents are strong enough for to prosper as a solo artist.

Another precocious talent to keep an eye on is 18-year-old Chichester native Leah Mason, who held the Courtyard stage nervelessly with just a classical guitar for company. Her song 'Waiting For A Good Day' has real single potential. Meanwhile, the circus-like Big Top stage provided a rockier edge to proceedings. Mature rockers Slinky Peach took advantage of an exclusive timeslot to recruit some new fans. Having something of the Hold Steady about them, they took advantage of their moment in the limelight with an enjoyably upbeat set.

The stage was then handed over to local talent Captain Dangerous and Love Ends Disaster. Both bands were chosen after filming live performances with the Nottingham Evening Post. However, Captain Dangerous seemed more East Coast America than East Midlands. Lead singer Mark grew up in New York and this influence surged through a set a set of raucous Irish-tinged rock. Add a female violinist who could have just stepped out of the pit with the London Symphony Orchestra and you have a band to keep an eye out for in the future.

Love Ends Disaster have already had some moments in the spotlight, having supported INXS and Scouting For Girls. It seemed fairly apt to open with a song with the chorus line "I've waited for son long for my chance to come along". Joined onstage by Gemma Fox, lead singer of the Greatest Fox, lead singer Matt Oakes created some catchy choruses and synchronicity reminiscent of Deacon Blue.

A real surprise came in the form of Malawian singer/poet Lucius Banda. Coming with a real political message but also bringing a lot of fun (Banda joked that the audience probably wouldn't have heard of Malawi because they hadn't had a war yet) the audience lapped up his funky beats and savoured the sight of his backing dancers, who had the most amazing bottoms. (Speaking objectively in terms of their dancing obviously!)