Festival Frolics: The Apple Cart 2012.

Hedonists traded in for baby harnesses and yet more torrentials as the former most probably, despondently attempt to "sort their shit out" yesterday's Field Day and The Apple Cart are an odd couple; a Geldof and Cohen kinda pairing. Come Sunday it's bitterly cold: like a Bestival, or last year's Latitude and with the site discernibly downsized (the skeleton of the monstrous EYOE stage lingers ominously beyond a dense clog of drenched leaf) it'd all feel rather quaint were the weather not quite so crap. As the site becomes increasingly quagmire-like, an Apple Cart would certainly, coincidentally, be a preferable method of transport about the bog that Victoria Park gradually, slip by sludge becomes.
Revelling in melancholia and broadcast through a soundsystem muddier than the loose gunk underfoot are Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat. Straddling the realms of spoken word and erudite songsmithery, they are the ideal elder statesmen of this folksy multimedia love-in. Advocating the removal of young and untortured ears prior to the "18-rated" lo-fi funk of Glasgow Jubilee, as Moffat snarls of "handsome squaddies" and "bargain Playboy bunnies" he becomes the indecorous drunk spewing delicate home truths having polished off the last of the dust-encrusted port. If it's the sort of track to end a marriage of endless years then it's also one to inflict an ever greater adoration of and admiration for the boy once of the Arab Strap. This is potent hangover tonic and as apposite as a carousing rework of Bananarama's Cruel Summer may be beneath clouds laced with a sooty bleakness, as at last weekend's ATP it's the exquisite fragility of The Greatest Story Ever Told that arouses existential inquisitions as to the importance of absolutely everything as it simultaneously tickles the odd tear duct.
Lianne La Havas, in comparison, proves simple and straightforward and simply uninspiring. For even though her voice may be smokier than the condensed breath emanating from every agape gob (and a few jaws hit the muck below as she opens hers for the very first time this afternoon), her hackneyed songsmithery scratches out any vocal seduction. Whether it be Forget, a spunky ode to a now-detested ex or the jazzbar Bond theme that is Don't Wake Me Up these songs are nothing on the songstress from which they're exuded with an almost infuriating ease. Like a contemporary Simone positioned impeccably by Warner Bros., she's dislodged from a perfect prime by such crude sentimentality.
Ultimately eloquent meanwhile are Penguin Cafe who, led by the supremely deferential Arthur Jeffes, both commemorate and continue the spectacular compositions of his father Simon. Profusely apologetic over an inconsequential delay, theirs is a set sprinkled with beauty as any and every prose-less song is gilded with a quite prosaic quality. Shanty stomps (Swing The Cat) and searing orchestrations (Landau) sit beside one another, huddling tight for any form of warmth on this brisk afternoon as they resonate from within blizzards of whirring feedback. For as the work of Jeffes' contemporaries may wither with the inescapable elapsing of time, the likes of Music For A Found Harmonium and Telephone and Rubber Band resist such decay. They are of course here bereft of ballet and devoid of aspects original, and would therefore be found wanting were these songs not as strong as these reproductions are loyally impeccable: with the band comprising members of Suede and accomplices of Albarn it's somewhat inevitable although as Jeffes himself avows, it's a wonder worth beholding that they're "still out there" at all. That they perpetuate an opinion of Perpetuum Mobile as one of the finest pieces of music ever penned only attests to their craft, and heck is it wondrously honed.
Balls-out bluster then comes from the inimitable August Darnell's Kid Creole and the Coconuts: indubitably the suavest exec of east London this afternoon, although the original 'Coconuts may have fallen by the wayside, if the scantily clad exotics stage-right are anything to go by Darnell's certain things and rather more salacious feelings remain intact. With more creative vim in his 'Coconuts than anything from the preceding jour, innuendo aside he's an unfathomably effervescent chap in a bedazzling shade of mauve and yep, he's still got the tropically flavoured funk. And even if it may be flecked with modernity (drum pads and the like aid Bongo Eddy on the percussive lilt of things) it's entrenched in a carefree nostalgia. Never quite the "international superstar" Eddy enthusiastically proclaims him to be prior to his emphatic entrance, the recount of repentant snitch tinged with Mos Eisley Cantina horns that is Stool Pigeon is fucking superb, as is Annie (I'm Not Your Daddy). Given the fervent sexuality on show you sense he may well have sighed some relief at not being genetically entwined with developing but still vivacious young things more times than he's sung said song and an element of disregard for womanly welfare is demonstrated in the lack of clothing tendered to his voluptuous 'Coconuts given such pneumonic climes. But bugger it; his swagger is allure made flesh and whether inciting Eddy to break skin both bongo and bodily, or aligning 'Coconuts in conga line, or releasing moves silkier than the finest of zoot suits anyone able to incorporate the word "Onomatopoeia" into harmonised vocal breakdown is worthy of undying attention; now or back in 1982. Even if now may only be three songs long.
A variation on the theme of retrospective, nostalgia-spacked acts is Stuart Leslie Goddard who brings the relatively newfangled Adam Ant & The Good, The Mad and the Lovely Posse to swiftly diminishing proceedings. Whether tearing through an ever-rampant Kings of the Wild Frontier or tearing open his spanking white shirt to reveal his rather more presentable visage of the '80s, his is a set tinged with a depressive hopelessness. For where Creole merely evokes prismatic decades of yore, Ant attempts to emulate better times now blurred to an unrecognisable extent over veritable eras. That his face is smudged with stabs of Sharpie and he's adopted some Shoreditch frames only adds to the mortification of we and the rash blemishing on the career of he. Standing to entirely discontent yet never deliver, mercifully there are now enough Prince Charmings elsewhere even within this here glebe.

And with many a bedtime surpassed and the worst of the weather passed, those not desiring to be lulled into some soporific stupor by the lame FM-molesting strains of Noah and the Whale disperse. Homebound, hefty of mud-caked foot and gently merry of heart, an Apple Cart an annum keeps the headaches and hangovers of Field Day at bay.