Highlights: Summer Sundae Weekender 2009

Michael Shelton | Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Highlights: Summer Sundae Weekender 2009

The Summer Sundae Weekender has continued to grow and create an eclectic experience that really can be for all the family. Mixing a line-up that catered for all generations from the slightly older (Charlatans, Lightning Seeds) to the young (The Heroes, Airborne Toxic Event), it really was an all-round weekend treat for everyone to enjoy.

Set in the picturesque surroundings of Leicester's De Montfort Hall, it is a city centre festival with a rural feel. With four stages, a comedy and film tent, the site was small enough to move around easily and leave children safely. Add in tasty and relatively inexpensive food stalls and it's easy to see why the so many families return year on year. The disappointment of The Streets having to cancel on Friday night did nothing to dampen the spirit of event.

The festival also prides itself on promoting East Midlands talent which helped build up the atmosphere during the daytime. A perfect example of this was Mr. Plow, who opened the main stage on Saturday. Writing murder ballads and disaster songs with a sense of humour is no mean feat. The Deep South sounding drawl and female drummer seemed a far cry from Middle England.

Yunioshi kicked off proceedings on a darkened indoor stage which attracted a good crowd despite glorious sunny weather outside. Highlighted by BBC Introducing as a band to watch out for in 2008, their use of sonic manipulation was certainly different but felt somewhat overproduced. After their laptop failed and they had to fall back on actual tunes, the set improved immeasurably.

In the tented surroundings of the Rising Stage Londoners Domino State crashed the Midlands party using three guitars to laden their sound with impressive power. Yet it was all kept in check and well marshalled by the excellent voice of Matt Forder.

Minnaars were an utter joy, dressed up like Wham circa 1983 and tearing up the stage with catchy dark disco rock. They were all over the place but in a brilliant way. It was choreographed madness with lead singer Adam Pickering even managing to make the robot dance look cool. They certainly hold a niche in writing seven minute songs about essay writing.

Local favourites The Heroes built on their success from opening last year's festival with a packed out session on the Musician's Stage. Proving that initial success had not gone to their heads, they produced a sophomore set that was more polished but still equally raucous.

Mention Saint Etienne to most teenagers and they may only know it as the place where England went out of the World Cup. Their brand of electronica-led pop set the mould for a decade of Euro pop. Hearing 'He's On The Phone' and 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' again brought back great memories. The only negative was that the music failed to ignite the crowd into a dancing frenzy.

From LA to LE1, Californian rockers Airborne Toxic Event raised the roof of the Indoor Stage. At their best, they compare favourably to The Arcade Fire, The Killers and Sigur Ros. A riotous instrumental opening was especially reminiscent of the Icelandic etherists. A multi-talented band mixed between guitars, violins and keyboards, and while the lead guitarist has the long hair and ragged look of a rock star, the rest of the band could pass as regular customers of a high street coffee chain.

Their on stage chemistry and bravado helped convert an audience - many of whom would never have seem them before. Their most well-known hit 'Sometime Around Midnight' was spectacular with its mournful violin opening and gentle lyrics exploding into a mosh-friendly masterpiece.

Emmy The Great played an intimate set on the indoor stage that felt like a private concert only special fans had been invited to. Speaking to the Daily Music Guide before the performance, she told us how she liked the uniqueness of playing indoors at a music festival and yet was surprised by how beautiful the city and venue was. Not just a girl with a guitar, she has created full band numbers that develop her sound. Her most recognisable single 'First Love' was given a plugged-up makeover. However, her tendency to chat to fans only in the first few rows must be curbed if she is to play larger venues.

As the younger children were sent to sleep by the chemicals in their well-grilled junk food, the slightly more mature crowd took a trip down memory lane with a set from The Charlatans. The North West band may have been more prominent in the 1990s but have kept up with the musical evolution in the industry, being one of the first UK bands to release an album completely free to download. This was a retro set though, and Tim Burgess and co really rolled back the years. On hearing songs like 'North Country Boy', 'Tellin' Stories' and 'One To Another', how they remained popular for so long is not a mystery.

All in all, the festival was a very enjoyable and relaxed experience. Definitely one worth considering for those who think a Glastonbury or V sounds like too much hard work.