A review of the Indian Summer festival in Victoria Park, Glasgow. Not as strong as a line up as last year, but a great, convivial event nonetheless:
As the festival market has become increasingly saturated (in both senses) this summer, it is surely time to consider both the aesthetic and environmental impact of the huge events that dominate and then clutter t.v. schedules for the remainder of the summer with different angles of Kasabian and the Fratellis.
As a consequence, Indian Summer and its like would appear to have many advantages. No wasted campers fueled by fortified wine, no fourteen mile traffic jams, no attempts to sell lifestyle products every few metres and very little in the way of festival tourism with the majority of the audience from within a forty mile radius of the site.
There is also a unique feel to the line up, with the majority of the acts in questions not hawking themselves around every festival that will take them, and the potential to cover a reasonable variety of genres, even if white, male guitar bands dominate the main arena and 6 Music Hub tent this year.
Of Saturday’s main stage acts, it takes Midlake, with their pristine melodic rock that seems to draw on seventies’ acts like Bread and Fleetwood Mac, to raise both the quality threshold and interest level from the attentive but subdued audience. If ‘Roscoe’ and ‘Van Occupanther’ are the songs of the day, then credit also to The Rapture for being one of the few outdoor acts of the weekend to get feet moving thanks to ‘House of Jealous Lovers’ and ‘Olio.’
Between the two, Idlewild appear incongruously bombastic, a problem of context rather than content, while the often concurrent running times mean only snatches of activity in the tents can be caught. Andrew Bird and Au Revoir Simone would have graced the larger arena, while Daniel Johnston clashed with headliners, Wilco.
The latter are far from typical festival headliner fare, but their low-key excellence seems perfect for Indian Summer. With songs of the calibre of ‘Shot in the Arm,’ ‘Via Chicago’ and ‘Impossible Germany’ their career has been one of quiet investigation, and though sometimes meandering, they always seem to return to the point – Jeff Tweedy’s excellent writing.
Sunday’s headliner, The Flaming Lips, could hardly be more of a contrast. Extroverted and theatrical compared to Wilco’s inward, non-flamboyant approach. There are troops of dancers in Santa outfits, lasers, balloons and ticker tape to augment what is effectively a crowd-pleasing revisiting of their best known songs.
As a result, ‘Race for the Prize,’ ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,’ and ‘Free Radicals’ are as memorable for the spectacle as the tunes, yet Wayne Coyne seems to fully, and verbosely, embrace the concept of the festival. Such is their appeal that both Mouse on Mars and Wheat have to play to tiny audiences in the tents.
They also make for another welcome contrast with their immediate predecessors. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were also disappointingly underwhelming and Spiritualized make for the most tedious and unappealing hour of the weekend. With no audience interaction, Jason Pierce’s accompanying strings and singers, drown the songs under the weight of their self-importance. Seriousness does not have to equate to joylessness, and along with the headliners, I’m From Barcelona and Loney, Dear both injected some welcome colour and levity to the proceedings.
It all leaves Indian Summer at something of a crossroads. With a fine location, an audience and infrastructure in place, it needs to both grow enough to increase the range and quality of what is on offer while retaining the local,friendly and considered dimensions so lacking in most of its competitors – but to have reached such a stage in two years is a sizeable achievement in itself.