Ben & Jerry's Sundae On The Common: Rated!
Clapham Common, London - 24-25 July
27 July 2010
Overall - 8/10
Ben & Jerry’s Sundae On The Common is where ice cream tents replace the usual beer tents (it’s okay there is one beer tent). As the name suggests, there’s ice cream, there’s live music and there’s LOTS of ice cream. In a small corner of urban London, a home-counties village fete takes over where folk aged 0-90 come to chill out and have fun, whether it is listening to live music or taking part in one of the numerous family activities. At the end of each day families, friends and staff working the festival all have big smiles on their faces, and that is not because they are hyper with sugar following the mass consumption of ice cream!
Getting there and back - 7/10
Summer weekend London transport can be defined by tourists, heat and line closures. Fortunately, the Northern line to Clapham Common tube is running and the site is just a short walk away. There are buses (No. 88 and 155) serving the Clapham High Road and mainline Clapham Junction is a ten minute bus ride (No. 35 and 37).
The site - 8/10
There are five tents on site, which serve all flavours of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. It’s free! It’s unlimited! It’s available to all! The novelty does not wear off either.
To burn off the calories, fans can participate in sack races, crazy golf, air guitar competitions, coconut shy or hunting the golden pork pie in the box of peat (appreciated that the latter is not normal village fete frivolities). Children have their own exclusive play area with face painting, hoopla and bouncy castle. If that is not enough you can feed cows, sheep, goats and alpacas, who also want to get in on the fun, with their handlers from Vauxhall City Farm.
The site has wide range of fair trade food huts, which are fairly priced. One word of warning, you need to consult your bank manager before purchasing the £4 cans of beer. The bijou portaloos, equipped with soap, running water and toilet paper, are a welcome festival change.
Atmosphere - 9/10
It’s a strong indicator that upon entering the arena, when you are hugged by a man dressed up in a monkey costume to entertain the kids, that there is going to be no drunken beer lairiness but a great family day out. The crowd are friendly and up for wholesome fun.
Music - 7/10
In Saturday’s scorching early afternoon sun, Alice Gold’s octave defying voice, followed by Little Fish belting out garage rock is left for a few punters cowering beneath the shade of the tree near the main stage. The ice cream sugar rush hits just in time for Kitty, Daisy and Lewis’ rock and roll jaunt, with ska and beat-boxing for good measure, getting the crowd on their feet and shimmying around. Slow Club’s, northern folk-twee is the perfect soundtrack for the crowd’s sugar come down, before the late afternoon heavy weights.
Idlewild are the surprise family hit of the afternoon, as small children air drum with their parents who were probably doing the same 10 years ago when ‘Roseability’ first came out. Conversely Scouting for Girls, turns the crowd into a dodgy Essex girls only karaoke night, whilst the men dutifully tap their toes throughout until the encore of ‘She’s so Lovely’.
Sunday’s line-up reads like Marc Riley’s 6 Music radio show playlist. Those who ditch the early morning lie in were rewarded with Exit Calm’s, ethereal guitars and northern swagger followed by Goldheart Assembly’s Beach Boys-like harmonies against a country music backdrop. Cherry Ghost, with their yuppie dad-rock anthems, unlike their predecessors, pass the crowd by until their cover of dance classic Ce Ce Peniston’s ‘Finally’.
As it’s a family show, Frightened Rabbit (8/10), do their bit for sex and “cursing” education acknowledging to the crowd that if the band were to sing any of their songs which don’t include the aforementioned non family-friendly topics, their set would only last three songs. Ditching this philosophy, the ten-song gig not only teaches the kids some new words but also educates their parents to the band’s mix of alternative folk tunes from the latest album ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’.
Failing to get Billy Bragg (10/10) at a festival which promotes Fair Trade and an end to Third World Debt, would be like hearing a George Bush speech without any gaff, it just isn’t going to happen. Wearing pants over his custom checked shirt and jeans ensemble (to promote Pants for Poverty Campaign), hits ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’ and ‘A New England’ are belted out, but it’s his version of Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’, with the lyrics changed to ‘One love, one heart, lets drop the debt and it will be alright’, with dance moves from ‘Pants People’ (a bunch of buff models posing around in just underwear on stage) to accompany, gets the crowd singing along with Billy doing what he does best in passing the righteous messages on.
Doves (9/10) are seasoned veterans of the festival circuit and you can guarantee that whatever happens ‘There Goes There Fear’ will end the set. So it is just a case of guessing what will be placed in between. The set comprises of a mix of b-sides; the northern guitar stomp of ‘Push Me On’, the obvious hits: ‘Caught by The River’ and ‘Pounding’, and seldom played live tune ‘Catch the Sun’. It’s the anthemic ‘The Cedar Room’, dedicated to the late Alex Higgins, which sees the crowd serenading their friends and family.
The hour long queue to get into the site through the one entrance is not the greatest way to begin the festival on the Saturday, especially with kids in the queue getting hot and restless in the midday sun – parents in that queue you deserve a medal for your patience!
The two-man Jamaican, steel drum band panging out hip-hop tunes in the late Saturday afternoon. 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P has never sounded so rhythmic!