Live Reviews

Ben & Jerry’s Summer Sundae @ Clapham Common, London

30 July 2006


After last year’s inaugural Summer Sundae, the event has spawned aSaturdae twin promising twice as much ice cream, twice the music andwith any luck some decent weather over a sunburnt weekend on ClaphamCommon in South London.

Most people seemed to approach the event with the intention ofconsuming at least 5 worth of free ice cream to match the veryreasonable ticket price, a simple challenge in theory but after thethird or fourth tub of rich, goodie-laden Chunky Monkey orGlastonberry it doesn’t seem so easy. Time to concentrate on themusic…

Saturday

Liam Frost is the first notable act on the stage and his easy charmand sunny melodies are perfect mid-afternoon festival fodder. IfTonight We Could Only Sleep and Painting Pictures are two verypleasant tracks and his backing band, the Slowdown Family, areobviously extremely accomplished but its a shame the mid-afternoonaudience is sparse with most families understandably concentrating onthe myriad of free ice cream on offer.

Current festival perennials The Pipettes are next on but their musicseems soulless, throwaway even, after the more impassioned performanceof Liam Frost and his band. When Hate To See You Dance So Well isplayed out the irony of the awkward Dad dancing on display from someaudience members adds an interesting twist to an otherwise dull set.

Luckily for the flagging, overfed festival-goers dozing in the sunLarrikin Love kick start the afternoon with some excellent tracksincluding Meet Me By The Gateway which captures the essence ofsummer in the city in a way nobody else manages all weekend: “Send mylove to the city/Cause I’ll be having an affair this summer/And thistown’s very gritty/So I’ll be living off the life of another.”

Echo And The Bunnymen have been together in various guises for over aquarter of a century and the post-punk legends are one of the bigdraws over the weekend, a justifiable tag as their music brings a moregrown-up feel to the evening after everyone has over-indulged.Classics such as Seven Seas and Killing Moon rouse the earlyevening revelers and it’s almost a shame that the band wasn’t giventhe headline slot, such is their universal appeal and depth ofmaterial available to perform.

Instead Badly Drawn Boy tops the evening set list and Damon Gough,with his new backing band, does an excellent job of balancing theaudience’s hunger for classic material (chiefly from the debut albumThe Hour Of The Bewilderbeast) with several new tracks. A To B is onesuch song and its engaging lyrics and meaningful performance make itone of the best musical moments of the day, the helter skelter maycome top of the list for many others.

Alternating between having afull backing band and using only an acoustic guitar, Gough makes anappreciable effort to engage the crowd packed round the small stageand Silent Sigh is performed brilliantly, much to the appreciationof a now eager audience. Gough signs off with Fall In A River anddespite the comparatively early finish everyone wanders off homehappily fed and almost completely dry – a state not unlike some of themusic on offer but thankfully the final two acts make up for aslightly drab start.

Sunday

Breaks Co-op are a musical mystery. Does Zane Lowe turn up when hefeels like it? Is the rap a joke or a serious piece of lyrical poetry?Either way they are a million miles from being a decent addition toany festival line-up which is in direct contrast to Vincent Vincentand the Villains who perform a fantastic set of energetic rock ‘n’ roll.

Another festival fixture this summer is Captain, a rather somber yetaccomplished indie group who sit somewhere between the Editors, Smithsand Nick Cave in the grand scheme of things. In direct contrast toVincent Vincent And The Villains they don’t exude energy andexcitement but they do give off an air of comfortable elegance whichis demonstrated by tracks such as Wax and their new singleGlorious – a sweeping ’80s-influenced summer single that should dowell.

Nerina Pallot is local to Clapham Common and her set, next up afterCaptain, is awash with pretty melodies and acoustic tracks that suitthe mood of the day perfectly. Heart Attack is probably herbest-known work but each song is performed with appreciableenthusiasm.

“Size Of A Cow” probably sums up how most people feel towards the endof a day mostly fueled by ice cream and warm lager; The Wonder Stufffit right in with a lacklustre display of ’90s nostalgia punctuated bynews of a new album. Nobody really takes much notice. Maybe their erasits somewhere between that of the mums and dads accompanyingsugar-hungry children to the event and the younger music fans goingfor their fivers’ worth of dairy products.

Finally the weekend draws to a close, the ice cream no longer seemsthat appealing and Jos Gonzlez begins his set in a worryinglynon-descript fashion. The unlikely Swede strums his way through somelesser-known opening numbers before picking the opening bars ofHeartbeats to great applause.

Crosses is another similar butnonetheless engrossing piece of acoustic music but throughout the setthe three people on stage (Gonzlez plus two others coveringadditional instruments and vocals when required) are so static anduninvolved in the evening’s proceedings that its very easy to loseinterest altogether. Some of the more interesting moments come withtwo covers including a humdrum version of Teardrops by MassiveAttack that ends the evening.

As the event is heavily geared towards family fun the appeal for themore discerning music fan is limited, most of the bands produce amusic-by-numbers performance with only Badly Drawn Boy making aconcerted effort to entertain and involve the audience. That said, therest of the attractions provided hours of amusement and with afraction more thought to the musical side of the weekend it would’vehave been a highly agreeable meeting of mankind’s two favourite things- food and music.


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