Leicester’s shot at the summer festival pie, Summer Sundae, had its two pence worth on the 12th-14th August for its 11th birthday. First impressions of the festival is that its on brilliant site - nestled just out of the Leicester city centre, the complex includes Leicester’s steeped-in-history De Montfort Hall - the home of Leicestershire theatre for years. With access to the stage in the hall, itself, and a number of other stages a stone’s throw away in the surrounding botanical gardens, it is certainly an attractive locale.
Perhaps it is this location that is part of the festival’s appeal as a family-favourite. The most popular demographic was most definitely families and with loads to keep kids occupied, it really was a great place for parents with kids in tow. As a single, twenty-two year old, there were times when walking through these areas, I felt a bit confused and, probably looked even more so confused. However, the music on offer was, mostly, not aimed at the youth market (minus the inclusion of Sunday’s headliners McFly) and this is where I hoped to feel less out of place.
With an atmospheric indoor stage, covered tents and the open air main stage, Summer Sundae had the opportunity to present a range of performances that you would struggle to find elsewhere. This was summed up most impressively by King Creosote and John Hopkins’ performance indoors, in the hall. With grand piano, soaring vocals and soft guitar, the majesty of their work would feel lost outdoors but, insider De Montfort Hall, you could hear a pin drop and the atmosphere created was like nothing I have ever felt at a festival, with the audience responding with one of the warmest applause of the weekend. It was beyond doubt that King Creosote and John Hopkins killed it and, part of this was due to the unique venue at Summer Sundae’s disposal.
Conversely, when the Maccabees and Example were taking to the main stage they had the vast crowds in the palm of their hand, enjoying the welcome opportunities that come with festivals to enjoy music out in the elements.
The line-up, however, was a confusing one. At some points the stages were the home to ‘alternative’ music sat awkwardly next to past-it-pop acts. Never was this more pronounced when Bellowhead, the 11-piece art-folk band, were followed by Reef, that band who that one song in 1996 and haven’t released an album since 2000. I mean, come on. What is the crowd meant to do when the line-up is so juxtaposed?
With other brilliant performances from Admiral Fallow, Warpaint and Elliott Morris, the festival, to me, seemed to be doing a better job at serving the alternative fans, of which there were many. As a city that doesn’t see much off the beaten track, the ‘alternative’ population of Leicester were out in hat-wearing-force and this is where the festival succeeded the most. The Maccabees headlining, not Newton Faulkner. Everything Everything, not Showaddywaddy.
Overall, Summer Sundae is a festival that is brilliant for the festival family-goers and that I think would be the perfect first festival for a 14-year old experimenting with daytime drinking and wearing hats, but for the young-adult audience such as myself, Summer Sundae will live and die by its line-up. And, for me, this year, the festival just fell short. Next year, with the addition of a few more credible, rising, non-sweary artists, the festival can continue the growing name it is gathering to both young music fans and families.