It's a new dawn, it's a new day... and after the opening day's (24 July) torrential rain threatened to engulf Somersault Festival 2015, punters were greeted with beautiful blue skies and a welcoming light breeze on Saturday (25). The atmosphere was transformed in an instant; the undeniable feeling was that Friday’s performers (and, as it would turn out, Sunday’s too) had very much picked the collective short straw.
Bath’s Laura Doggett, resplendent in diaphanous white dress, certainly made the most of the fine weather for her mid-afternoon set. Best known thus far for singing the trailer music to hit ITV drama Broadchurch, she belted out songs from her forthcoming debut album with gritty emotion to a small but rapt crowd at the main stage. Unsurprisingly, it was Old Faces with its “small town, small dreams, same old faces” hook that got the biggest cheer of recognition, but Doggett’s set in general fitted perfectly with the air of good vibes emanating across the site at this point.
Blackpool's Rae Morris is an engaging live presence, too. Part Kate Bush, part Tori Amos - with a voice to match both – Morris was all cascading hair and bright smiles as she ducked and dived behind her keyboards while effortlessly winning over the late-afternoon crowd with flawless renditions of tracks from her Top 10 debut album Unguarded. Highlights included her Running Up That Hill-soundalike Under The Shadows, which thundered ominously (a portent for Sunday’s cloudburst, perhaps), and a glacial Cold. Morris is still only 22, but rapidly finding her niche among the current crop of excellent female singer-songwriters; special mention, too, should also go out to Morris's drummer/backing singer Daisy Palmer, whose harmonies and playing were a delight.
The tiny Communion Presents stage, as curated by label co-owner Mumford & Sons' Ben Lovett and cohorts, is fast shaping up to be one of Somersault's key attractions, with its focus on new talent of varying hues. And things certainly stepped up a notch when Oxford foursome Pixel Fix mounted a breathless bid for band of the day – their twitchy indie-funk is akin to fellow Oxonians Foals, but their frenetic onstage energy makes for riveting viewing. Definitely ones to watch out for.
As the sun disappeared behind the trees, the scene was set for headliners Bombay Bicycle Club to round off what had been a great day’s entertainment in some style. Having sold out Earl’s Court and headlined East London’s Citadel Festival in the past 12 months, expectation was high that the North London band would do justice to their lofty billing here too. They did not disappoint.
Augmented by a brass section, keyboardist and a stunning light show, Bombay had an eager crowd (significantly larger than Laura Marling’s the night before, understandably considering the weather) in the palm of their hands from the off as the strains of Overdone, sounding significantly more muscular live than on record, emerged.
Jack Steadman is an arresting frontman, somehow embodying IT geek and rock god simultaneously, and confidently directed the crowd to a multitude of arms-aloft moments throughout their set of superior art-pop. Former band member Lucy Rose (herself a headliner on the Communion stage the previous night) joined them for a pristine version of Lights Out, Words Gone ending up on guitarist/man mountain Jamie MacColl’s shoulders before the song’s end much to the crowd’s delight. Later in the set, old favourite Evening/Morning, from 2008, sounded explosive, especially when Ed Nash’s distorted bass riff took off – they probably heard that all the way down to Penzance, later alone nearby Barnstaple.
As BBC signed off with confetti and streamers, and Steadman’s declaration that “this will be our last gig for a very long time”, Somersault 2015’s punters, tipsy and sun-kissed, staggered off to their tents with big smiles on their faces, the rain that dogged Friday’s events a distant memory. For now, at least… Matthew Yates @MatthewYates1
For more information head to Somersaultfestival.com, plus listen to an interview with Bombay Bicycle Club below.