The Big One - Summer Sundae Weekender 2009

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Francis Whittaker | 10 August 2009

What is it?

In its ninth year, Summer Sundae has established itself as one of the country's top small festivals. Having started as a one-day event in 2001, its popularity had grown so much by 2003 that organisers expanded the event to three days, added the word 'Weekender' to the title and haven't looked back since.

Like that ice-cream dessert from which it takes its name, Summer Sundae is cool, popular among children and one heck of a tasty treat. There is more diversity in the bill than in the body-popping dance troupe that won Britain's Got Talent and it offers an intimate, family-friendly atmosphere in beautiful surroundings in the heart of Leicester.

Where and when?

The festival runs from 14-16 August this year, and takes place in De Montfort Hall and Gardens in the city. Camping is available in the adjacent Victoria Park.
Who to see?

Bon Iver (Main Stage, Sunday 19:30)

You'd think the almost universal critical praise and ever-increasing profile of lovelorn woodsman Justin Vernon would be enough to knock sax-wielding has-beens The Zutons off their perch as Sunday headliners. Evidently it isn't.

But on the plus side, it does mean that Vernon and band will be occupying the penultimate 'sunset' slot. So if the weather holds up you'll be able to experience the acoustic majesty of tracks from the excellent 'For Emma, Forever Ago' and 'Blood Bank EP' just as that big shiny orb in the sky gracefully touches the horizon. Lovely stuff.

Mystery Jets (Main Stage, Friday 19.45)
Last year's 'Twenty One' album is one of the most criminally overlooked records of recent years. Fortunately they're still a big live draw and their feel-good, catchy indie-pop should prove a treat on Friday night with plenty of potential sing-a-long moments.

Emmy The Great (Indoor Stage, Saturday 18.00)
Emma Lee Moss has been plying her wares on festival stages for over three years now and she consistently leaves crowds speechless with her bittersweet brand of folk-pop.

She’s lyrically adroit with heartbreaking stories of love, loss and car accidents and she’ll have many of the male crowd members wanting to marry her come the end of the set.

Easy Star All Stars (Main Stage, Sunday 17.30)
This has the potential to be ridiculously good fun. Made up of a selection of established reggae artists from the Easy Star record label, the collective have made a name for themselves with their madcap covers of classic albums, as well as shameless dub-based puns.

They've just released 'Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Dub Band' to follow their well-received 'Dub Side of the Moon' and 'Radiodread' collections, so expect to see some easy skankin' to covers of 'When I'm Sixty Four', 'Money' and 'Karma Police' in De Montfort Gardens late on Sunday afternoon.

Brendon Burns (Comedy Stage, Sunday 18.50)
Fancy a foul-mouthed Aussie who was once considered clinically mad launching a torrent of abuse in your face on a Sunday evening? No? Well you should.

Brendon Burns is one of the most gifted comedians on the circuit today and while he would usually be up in Edinburgh at this time of year gaining his usual clutch of awards and 5-star reviews, he's decided to spend part of his month in De Montfort Gardens entertaining the good people of Leicester. The Fringe's loss is well and truly Summer Sundae's gain...

One To Avoid

Kid British (Main Stage, Friday 16:00)
Bad ska-tinged pseudo-grime backed by sub-Kaiser Chiefs guitars, anyone? Didn't think so. Kid British have burst onto the scene this year to give the music world a dose of something it neither wants nor needs.

In the past they've appeared on light-hearted Sky TV football bonanza Soccer AM, performing Premier League-related raps featuring such pearls of wisdom as “Paul Jewell, can you manage?/Obviously not 'cos you bought Robbie Savage” following Derby County's relegation in 2008. If you want hear this and other such contrived rhyming couplets by all means head to the Main Stage on Friday afternoon, but don't say you weren't warned.

Playing a rare festival date

The New Beautiful South

Any right minded person would've thought that after the departure of frontman and principal songwriter Paul Heaton would leave The Beautiful South dead in the water. However, against all odds they're back and what's more they've become 'New' - making one of their first festival appearances under this admittedly unimaginative fresh guise at Summer Sundae.

Of course the added prefix to their name is largely to prevent any legal difficulties from arising as a handful of remaining members attempt to ride on the legacy of the leftover husk of the band, which now includes brass players Gary Birtles and Tony Robinson. We assume it won't actually be the former Nottingham Forest and England striker and the Time Team-hosting star of Blackadder who bear those names parping along in the background to 'Rotterdam', but we can only dream.

For all this cynicism however, it will be worth popping along to see if they can actually pull off their Saturday headline slot on the Indoor Stage, particularly as the band (new or old) should have enough well-known tunes in their arsenal to make for a highly enjoyable set.

Insider's tip

Woodpigeon (Phrased and Confused, Sunday 17:50
With the proliferation of hushed folky acts with lots of twee instrumentation hitting the festival scene these days it's surprising that a lot more people haven't heard of Woodpigeon, particularly as they do this genre so much better than most of their contemporaries.

Their 'Songbook' album is one of the most underrated of the last couple of years, and the Canadian collective went down a storm at End of The Road 2008 and Field Day earlier this month.

If there's any justice in the world The Phased and Confused stage will be thronging for their Sunday afternoon set.

Go to Summer Sundae Weekender if you like...

Keeping dry. The De Montfort Hall site is a rarity among outdoor festivals in that it incorporates a wholly indoor stage in a real life, bricks 'n' mortar building where you can to take shelter from the rain without mud, grass or other damp filth getting under your feet.

The festival is also good for those who like to take their kids with them with a special Kidzone area offering face painting, circus skills from the wonderfully mad Dr Colin and - for this year only - a special space theme, which promises to offer younger festival fans all manner of otherworldly fun.

Avoid if you like...

Big, soulless, corporate festivals over-saturated with branding, advertising and vacuous, arena-filling bands. Summer Sundae is steadfastly independent and prides itself on never selling out to 'the man'. You're more likely to find a stall offering the chance to sign up for a charity campaign than a new sim card.

Festival Tactics...

Don't get too wasted. It's not one of those festivals which just ends up being a big contest to see who can consume the most drink and drugs. By all means have a drink or two, but no-one's going to take kindly to you stumbling into the kids' field off your face on Jagerbombs and vomiting all over Dr Colin. Pace yourself, enjoy the relaxed vibe and you'll have a great time.

Fashionista or Folky?

Fashionista. For all its family-friendly posturing Summer Sundae remains highly hip and regularly attracts a lot of bands that are considered extremely 'now'. Alt-music online bible Drowned In Sound curate a stage on the Friday, which always attracts a good number of finger-on-the-pulse muso types.

Alcohol of Choice

Real ale please! There is a dedicated ale bar where beer enthusiasts can get a glass of the stuff to nurse while enjoying their favourite bands.

Take your mum score - 8/10

The family-friendly, relaxed nature of the festival ensures a high score and aside from the many edgy, uber-hip bands there's enough Radio 2 fodder to keep the old dear happy.

Can I still get tickets?

Yes. Adult weekend tickets cost £102 or £109 with camping.

Click here to buy Summer Sundae Weekender tickets.

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