A soggy wet Sunday morning meant an escape from the campsite to seek refuge in a dodgy city centre caff (the only thing open at 10:30am). But it gave us the chance to linger over breakfast and read the papers. The musical action re-started for me halfway through The Long Blondes' set – actually with their ace single Weekend Without Makeup, which is particularly appealing Pulp-esque number (how appropriate for a band from Sheffield). But that's about as good as they get really. They're a band who probably look better than they actually are, though set closer Separated by Motorways is a good 'un too.
Next, it was into the Hall for M. Craft. Despite me touting the talents of the East London-based Aussie on this blog before, I've failed to get to any of his London gigs this year. But it's oddly appropriate that I'm seeing him at Summer Sundae since this is the last place I saw him, two years ago. This time he was on a bigger stage, and I can only hope that his bigger-than-usual audience warmed to his music. Despite some ropey sound he played a decent set. Although You are the Music wasn't as funky as it should have been, Emily Snow sounded fantastic and Love Knows How to Fight is surely a hit-in-waiting in a more just world.
Download: M. Craft – Love Knows How to Fight
Goodness knows why Camera Obscura were playing so far down the bill in the Rising Stage. I expected it to be rammed, and sure enough, it was, even on the normally spare right side of the tent. But they had a problem – the airport closures of the previous couple of days meant all their gear was stranded in Copenhagen, so they had to borrow instruments from a local music shop. Traceyanne Campbell was profusely apologetic throughout, no doubt expecting a disaster. But she needn't have worried. Apart from a strangely muted keyboard intro on the normally euphoric intro to Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken, everything else sounded fantastic. If this is how they play when they're off form, they're potential world-beaters when they're on fire! Their set, almost exclusively from Let's Get Out of This Country, was one of the best of the festival.
Download: Camera Obscura – Tears For Affairs
I remained at the Rising Stage for Absentee. I've been quite keen on them ever since catching them in the Rough Trade Shop earlier in the year, and getting their full-length debut Schmotime. I think I like them because they remind me of an early Teenage Fanclub, and with my former Scottish heroes not really cutting the mustard these days, I welcome their fuzzy riffs and rough-hewn charms. In the tent, some initially dodgy sound minimised the full effect of Dan Michaelson's gloriously wasted vocals, but it's a minor glitch in an otherwise fine display from Bethnal Green's finest, especially as they were augmented by a two man horn section which helped them to sound that little bit more special.
Download: Absentee – You Try Sober
Absentee's short set meant that I made it back into the Hall for the last three songs from Adem. I was quite surprised, as was Mrs Growl who witnessed his whole set, to see him rocking out. Well, that's relatively speaking. Last time we saw him, a couple of years ago on the same stage, we were quietly blown away by his delicate lo-fi songs, with quirky but minimal instrumentation. This time he had a full band, and although he didn't quite go electric, there was an urgency and a beefed-up sound that wasn't there before. Not that I entirely disapprove of this new direction though – it was particularly effective on recent single Launch Yourself. But apparently he did some quiet ones as well, so hopefully pleased old fans and won a few new ones.
Download: Adem – Launch Yourself
I had an inkling that the Rising Stage tent would be rammed for Jamie T as well. "The kids are into him" I told my friends, as if I know what the kids are into. But it looks like I was right (though I had a heads up after reading Neil’s post on Jamie). Mr T is inexplicably 15 minutes late, which is weird, since his only accompaniment was an acoustic bass. Whilst they waited, a section of the crowd right in front of the stage kept up the chants and screams for "Jamie T, Jamie T, Jamie T!". You can imagine the reaction when he finally took to the stage. However, I’m still puzzled over what all the fuss is about. Sure enough, the lad is talented, his lyrics are interesting, and he was clearly enjoying himself, but I couldn’t help thinking that a full band might have added that extra something that seemed to be missing. Although I began to tire of his high-pitched vocals after a while, his delivery, almost rapping, is very impressive, and makes his songs more compelling. He’s another of the young urban poets in the same school of the likes of Mike Skinner (though I think JT is better) and his mate Lily Allen (who does have better tunes), providing a soundtrack to youthful escapades and (sub)urban life in the noughties. According to my friend Dan, Jamie was mobbed by teenage fans as he was waiting for Larrakin Love to come on stage. Maybe he better get used to this stardom thing then, though unlike a lot of our other current starlets, he’s definitely worth a listen.
Download: Jamie T – Sheila
A different demographic entirely was waiting for The Buzzcocks. We waited too – about ten minutes before we were allowed into the packed Hall to see the punk veterans play. But once inside I struggled even more than with Jamie T to see what the fuss was about. Maybe it’s oldies’ nostalgia, or just my unfamiliarity with all the songs we witnessed, but Mrs Growl and I only lasted about five songs before we decided it was time to leave. Maybe we were too hasty – as we left the Hall, we heard them strike up Ever Fallen in Love, but by then it was too late and we would have had to re-join to queue. Maybe if we had heard classics like that and What Do I Get, I would have got into it more, but I was put off by all the rock posturing, which would have been bad enough if it was a young band. But with old men, it’s undignified. And was that a devil sign that Pete Shelley flashed? Urgh, that’s just embarrassing.
Download: The Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen in Love
The end of the festival presented me with the worst clash of the weekend. After two nights of headliners I didn’t care much about, the two bands I most wanted to see were on at the same time! OK, Coldcut and Belle and Sebastian don’t make very similar music, but surely there are loads of people who love both. I had decided to stay for about half of B&S’s set on the main stage, then head back inside to catch the end of Coldcut’s. But a combination of being stuck in a packed crowd near the front, and Belle and Sebastian being really good, meant that I stayed there till the end. In a way I’m glad I did. Stuart Murdoch and co get better every time I see them. Their tightness and togetherness as a band seems a world away from the late, awkward indie shamblers of Shepherds Bush Empire 1998. They don’t even use their set as an excercise in over-promotion of The Life Pursuit, choosing to spend a lot of time on their excellent, ever-expanding back catalogue. Apart from Funny Little Frog, they even stick to just the good songs from their latest album. One element of the classic B&S live set remains – the messing about with the audience, though these days Murdoch does it with more aplomb. This time he invited a girl to dance with him on stage and made his way into the audience twice – once to get mascara applied during Lord Anthony. The encore brought a storming version of La Pastie de la Bourgouisie and the inevitable Boy With the Arab Strap. So a brilliant end to Summer Sundae, but one tinged with sadness that I didn’t get to see Coldcut.
Oh go on, since I missed them – one more track, from Jon and Matt.
Download: Coldcut – True Skool
Check my Flickr festival photos.