Tuesday, 22 September 2009

End of The Road Festival Review.

"...although we've come to the END OF THE ROAD/still I can't let goooo." - Boyz II Men

First of all, apologies. I don't know why I've been procrastinating on writing this post so much. I went to this festival ten days ago and since then I've had ample time to write it up but I just haven't. I've been to work, I suppose, but what else? Oh, I went to look at some really cool funny weird little horses at this local place at the weekend (see below). Either way, I think I'll put my laziness down to my computer. It's just so slow now it really laughs in the face of things like 'super fast broadband' and 'Quick Start' on Championship Manager. A little example for you - I saw some dweeb on facebook I went to school with and thought "Oh. I'll find out what he's up to/whether he is doing worse/better than me since I last saw him," and clicked on his profile. By the time it had loaded (I had to leave the PC for a while) his profile picture was his own gravestone. THAT much time had passed. True story.

So funny. Like the size of a dog. Imagine seeing this thang tied up outside the bookies.

So, End of The Road. It's a great little festival for sure. It's getting bigger each year like.. erm, a teenager or the hole in the Ozone (*clang!*) but still, I'm not convinced that's a bad thing. I'd like to think more people = more festival revenue = better future festival but either way, it's not exactly getting like Reading (as in 'and Leeds' in contrast to 'and writing') or anything. The organisers seem to be in it for the right reasons and they genuinely dig the music yadda yadda so it's definitely one to keep an eye on. God this is boring. I'll talk about my individual experience.

En route. End of the Road by name and nature.

We got there on Friday afternoon and somehow assembled the tent. Which pole for which hole? Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Immense relief. It was like losing your virginity. Before long the tent was semi erect and we headed to see our first band of the festival, otherwise known as 'Shearwater'. Shearwater were a little dissapointing for me. I think it was mainly the mix of the vocal. It was really prominent and forward yet it still sounded a little lost in the midst of the songs. Yeah that's a contradiction I know, I know. I love the environment yet often fly tip in quiet lay-bys, I AM contradiction.

'First Band of The Festival' aka Shearwater

Up next were the much vaunted Dirty Projectors who I really enjoyed actually. Thankfully they sound as unpredictable live as they do on record. Things that shouldn't work, do. The harmonies were just fantastic. I'd say 'starkly melodic' but yeah, really great. After that we had our headliners; Explosions In The Sky. Post Rock then? what's the deal with that? I mean, I kinda dig it and I'd love to stand there watching/nodding and saying it was epic and everything but it's boring isn't it. Yeah, I said it. I thought the same when I saw them before. I tried, I really did but it's boring. It's like my education. Yeah, maybe now I can't read and write too well but I was never bored. Incidentally, I don't remember anymore of that night because I accidentally got really drunk. Someone played a Silver Jews cover in the tipi tent at some point. Herman Dune perhaps. You know 'Suffering Jukebox'? Yeah, that song.

Can somebody wipe the dust off that OHP please?

Saturday was different. The weather was real kind and the main stage certainly looked inviting as we made our way in to catch The Low Anthem who had drawn a big crowd on the back of this year's 'Oh My God Charlie Darwin'. To my cloth ears, they sounded pitch perfect to record and OMGCD IS a lovely warm record so good on those guys. Some songs perhaps hung around a little too long but I think that might have been my fault for not sitting and/or laying down like everyone else was. Everyone was all taking-in-the-moment and all that. I'm guessing wearing a stupid hat and smoking a prison thin roll up wasn't mandatory but from looking at the crowd then, I wasn't sure.

We then tried to get to J.Tillman at the The Local Stage and like the night before when we had attempted to do the same for The Low Anthem's acoustic set, we couldn't get anywhere near it/them. The layout of this tent was absolutely abysmal. Just terrible. Sack the blind guy who designed this thing! Ok, Shape wise it was like a casket with a single entrance at the thin end. This also housed the bar and obviously, its queue. I shall do a drawing for you dear reader:
I am queueing outside. Hear me roar.

God, I'm pleased I did graphics at skool. Anyway, naturally I'm the aggrieved dinosaur outside spouting various internetisms. The rectangle in front of the entrance is the bar and the orange mass is just loads of people. They weren't all ginger but they can be in your mind's eye if you like. The circles are damn tables. TABLES! Whilst the brown is millions more people watching the band whilst I am not. J Tillman packed this tent out like he was The Beatles with Jenna Jameson on the tambourine. Not that I saw him of course. I was outside. Repeat. Outside, not inside.

Before this palaver we had seen The Broken Family Band on the main stage and they were thoroughly entertaining. TBFB (who are to split, sadly) always are. Stephen Adams is an entertainer. Funny guy, good songwriter. Double thumbs up from me for those two reasons. They even played 'John Belushi' which is more than an ode to the great man, it's a beautiful song in its own right.

The Broken Fam.., erm, Band Band

Next up was Alela Diane. "...vocal cords were made of gold" Jeff Tweedy once sang and it that line sure applies here. Alela's Stunning, stunning voice aptly romanced by her Dad (eek, shouldn't have used 'romanced' there) on guitar and Alina Hardin on backing vocals. Sounded like two little angels. If one of the angels had brought her dad along. And that dad was really good at soft yet intricate guitar interplay.

Daddy, Daddy cool just in shot. Lover boy.

Okkervil played next and everyone knows that I sure love these guys. They were really really good again. gush gush gush. I know, I know. Seriously though, if you wanna depend on something in life; forget about your family and friends. Forget about your pension or your pacemaker. Okkervil putting on a good live show. You can depend on that shit. The crowd seemed to really dig the hand clap assisted 'Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe' and Sheff went a bit Bono on 'Unless It's Kicks' with his crowd participation but all was entirely justified. By this time, I was one of those laid down roll up smoking buffoons. I was in the moment, maaaannn.

"Packed and all eyes turned in..."

After this our festival went downhill and no, it wasn't Fleet Foxes fault. A member of our party mysteriously (read as stress fracture) injured himself and we had to get the on site medics to 'assist' us. Now, I'm all for people looking the part when they are at work, let me get that straight. The Royal Guards should have those furry hats on, ballerinas should wear tutus. These guys in the medic tent really oughta've looked the part too. By that I'm thinking over sized shoes, heavy upside down smiling makeup and a squirting flower atop a colourful waistcoat. Serious: you have NO idea. After leaving our guy with them overnight we returned to find him in excruciating agony only to be refused an ambulance to get him to A&E because his injury wasn't deemed an 'emergency'. Anyway, after being inspected at the hospital (by doctors who had the proper uniform on and everything) it turns out he has a broken leg. Like a real life broken leg. Sheeit. Pretty serious I reckon. The rest of that night was pretty unmemorable. We caught a bit of Jarvis Cocker's DJ set after that I think. He was playing a whole loada tunes I didn't know or care for. It reminded me of pretty much every nightclub I've ever attended.

After spending the first half of Sunday in the hospital with our broken friend who was less Fleet Foxes and more The Horrors, a couple of the MMD crew made it back in time for Magnolia Electric Co. who I think work a lot better in a small venue (or at least in darkness) than on a big stage in the open air. It's something to do with the subject matter I think. Owls, loneliness, the empty road, the North star. Don't really match no sunny day in Durset dunnit? Either way, our fatigue had caught up with us by now and we needed refuelling so we went to get some food. Big plus point of EoTR; good food! yeah yeah it's all hideously expensive but this is a festival. Pie Minster (they sell pies dumbass) did a roaring trade and a big shout out to the mexican food van. That was good stuff. Straight Outta Tijuana mayne! Only misstep taken (excuse the pun) foodwise was our then-yet-to-be-injured friend buying this stuff on a plate:

We never worked out what it was.

Back to Sunday. Steve Earle had the whole crowd utterly captivated. Anecdotes from the wrong side of the tracks and the blues being the main interests. For me it was amazing to witness someone talking about Townes Van Zandt so candidly. Scratch that. Talking about and playing TVZ's wonderful songs at the same time. Earle is the real deal. Always was, always will be. I'm sure he'd be delighted when I say that I very much suspect he was cut from the same cloth as the great man himself. You could say they are men of fault, sure. More importantly though, they are men of heart. Real heart. After Earle I wanted to do little but get out of my tree on a truckload of contraband whiskey or something but a close second was watching The Hold Steady and lo and behold the headliner of the night - The Hold Steady!

After a rough day, THS were just perfect. I've seen a fair few bands now but I can safely say that these guys seemed the most genuine of the lot. It's not just because they look like they've been plucked straight from the accountancy department of a midsized business, no, it's more because they sounded and looked like they really meant it. No posturing or posing. Just a truly great bar band (and I mean that as a big compliment, not an insult) playing fun songs about fun times. That's what festivals are all about, aren't they? Craig Finn spoke about how he was still working in an office at the age of 33 and so to be headlining anything was genuinely a big deal for him. He seemed as pleased to be up there on that stage as we were to be dancing below him. The geezer (only word for him) on the keys looked like a mix between Ron Jeremy and Tony Montana and I nearly ruined my lungs trying to match him on those 'wooh-a-wooh-a-woohs' from 'Chips Ahoy!'. 'Massive Nights' was apt, 'Your Little Hoodrat Friend' had a fantastically more refined chugging menace live than on record and 'Stuck between Stations' sounded anything but static. "We gotta stay positive..." they sang, "We're gonna build somethin' this summer.." we roared back. Band of the weekend for me.

This is a jig! Who else does jigs?!

Taking the tent down on the Monday morning wasn't amazing, naturally.It was then that a member of the crew got some bad news. After the legscapades of the day before, we were kinda pleased to get back to the real world and leave all this bad luck behind on the The End of the Road fields. Strange weekend really because although the sun shone steady and bright throughout the festival we also couldn't help feeling that sometimes when it doesn't rain, it pours.

Friday, 11 September 2009

End of The Road Festival Preview.

I am literally just about to stomp to this mother to watch some good shit and drink some things that my body will vehemently dislike me for. Pretty good lineup this year if you like this sort of thing. That's what I've been saying to people recently because there is nothing worse than someone saying "Who's playing?" and you having to reply, with a straight face, "Stardeath and The White Dwarfs, Motel Motel and Explosions In The Sky" like they aren't going to respond with a face that sort of resembles the essence of this guy below:

So yeah. Great if you like this sort of thing. I did start making up the lineup but that get me in more problems than it was worth. "Coldplay, Kasabian AND Kings of Leon?! In Dorset?! That sounds amazing! I might get a ticket!" Luckily for me, I do like this sort of thing. In no order, a list of End of The Road related cool shit:

Dirty Projectors (the band, not a dusty OHP)
Hold Steady
Okkervil River obv.
Steve Earle
Time off work (literal. Not a new band)
Broken Family Band :'(
Blitzen Trapper
The Week That Was
Seriously loads of alcohol.
Alela Diane
Magnolia Electric Co.
Arsenal owning Man City (occurs during the event)

This list could be as long as my arm. I've gotta leave to get to this thang. Review coming next week. As comprehensive and incomprehensible as ever.

Official site here.

The Hold Steady - Massive Nights

"We had some massive nights..."

Dinotour : Okkervil River - Birmingham - 05.09.09

Before this gig, I hadn't seen anyone on dinotour for far too long but when OR tour: I always go. Simple reason for that being that they're the best band going today. Big plaudit to get from an esteemed site like this one, I know. Congratulations Okkervil River.

I hadn't seen a show in Birmingham since Ryan Adams & The Sedatives were in town a while back slowly jamming everyone to slezzzzzzzzzz. For this reason I was pleased for the city of Birmingham to have another opportunity to leave me with pleasant, nay, more awake memories of a gig in their fine city. The people of Birmingham are, of course, spoilt for choice when it comes to live shows and the like as reflected in the picture below. This is just who is in town in the coming weeks in one venue! L-U-C-K-Y!
Have you ever seen what Bring Me The Horizon look like?! Holy shit.

Editors! The Twang! Bowling For Soup! Calvin Harris! What company OR are in! God, it's like arriving on the LOST island only to find the only other inhabitants are Robert Mugabe, Nikki From Big Brother and well, that really fat one is who actually is on it. Also, I'd like to draw attention to the event occurring on the 27th August - 'New Found Glory vs International Superheroes of Hardcore'. Now, maybe it's just me but how can *that* be on in a mainstream and relatively well lit venue on a (probably) rainy Thursday night?! Sounds like some Amsterdam side street 10 euro entry shit. Jokes of course. I'm fully aware that New Found Glory are a dreadful punk pop band that probably now spend most of their time forlornly tracing the lines of their dated tattoos and thinking about what once was, what could've been and what will never be again.

Down with this sort of thing.

Okkervil have been playing similar set lists for a while now. Usually, when bands do this it gets kinda boring but when a band are largely drawing songs from albums like 'Black Sheep Boy', 'The Stage Names' and 'The Stand Ins' you really can't complain can you. A fair few of the song arrangements (and the band lineup!) have been changed from the last time I caught them so for me, it was no issue at all. I say 'for me' there. I probably mean '...so for silly little fan boys like myself who would be happy if the band came out, farted in the mic and left".

Will Sheff: Not the lady killing sort.

Kicking off with the pop culture reference laden 'Plus Ones' the band kept a solid pace going through the entirety of the show. Both in tempo and time, the concert seemed to be over a long time before the usual "I'm quite liking this but I wouldn't mind them finishing because I would love a little sit down" protestations set in. Drawing more on the rockier side of their sound 'The Latest Toughs', 'Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe' and 'Unless It's Kicks' ensured that the people who had turned up just to watch a band they hadn't heard of on a Saturday night (and there seemed to be a fair few) remained interested and more importantly at an indie rock concert; got involved on some hardcore arm crossing and subtle head nodding action. I couldn't write this review without singling out 'A Stone'. It's always been a special song to me but live, it's just beautiful. Also, I'm yet to hear song with a better closing verse (copied and pasted from songmeanings.net - expect special spelling and grammar).*

And when that Queen's daughter
came of age,
I think she'd be lovely
and stubborn and brave,
and suitors would journey
from Kingdoms away
just to make themselves known.

And I think that I know the bitter dismay of a lover who brought
fresh bouquets every day
when she turned him away
to remember some knave
who once gave
just one rose, one day, years ago.

Sheff has started singing this last verse acapella. It works pretty well but I do have my suspicions that he's actually just trying to highlight how well written it is. His face had "Do you dorks even hear what I'm singing up here? Put your damn iPhone down!" written all over it. What else? The newish lineup seem to get on well and for me, a touring Okkervil and a touring Shearwater is better than just one or the other. The guitar interplay on 'For Real' is now more visceral than I can recall ever seeing it before and OR now seem to have finally nailed the power of that song live. So much so that you now don't miss the brilliant "...and real life really fills my mind" calm before the storm that works so so well on record. 'Lost Coastlines' ran a little flat this time out which was dissapointing and the no show of 'On Tour With Zykos' made me want to cry but other than that, I really couldn't have any compliants. Will Sheff had a little (controlled, natch) rant about the venue saying that it was too new and 'had no soul' and how big companies were now"drip feeding" us our music at their own leisure. It all felt a bit 'Rage Against The Machine fan wearing a "Fuck Mcdonalds" t-shirt' but in essence, he does have a point. Still good spirits were shared by both band and crowd and more importantly: Man, Meet Dinosaur. For the rest of the night. Loads of spirits in fact. Spirits of all colours and quantities until we didn't know our own names anymore but went to the bed smiling none the less whilst trying to sing 'Girl In Port' and get the girls names in the right order.

"Hoist up the John B. sail..."

Some roadie guy came up to me as the gig was finishing and handed me a setlist which you can see below. I'd like to think that a couple of the band members write this list out on a few paper plates pre show and then completely load them up with food before giving them to the rest of the band. Just for fun like. "Yo Will! what are we playing first tonight?" "Ah...eat those sausage rolls and cheese and pineapple on a stick and you will find out." Kinda mix things up a bit. Must get boring out on the road, right? ANYWAY:

1. Plus Ones
2. Pop Lie
3. A Hand to Take Hold of The Scene
4. The Latest Toughs
5. Girl In Port
6. John Allyn Smith Sails
7. A Stone
8. For Real
9. Lost Coastlines
10. Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe
11. Unless It's Kicks
12. Black
13. Westfall

God, that plate looks grim and boring there. I should've taken it to Disney to photograph it or something. Somewhere fun. I don't live in a prison or anything.

*when I say 'A Stone' has the best closing verse I have ever heard. I obviously don't include Just Jack's 'The Day I Died' in it because I, for one, never saw that coming. Just like the protaganist never saw that taxi. Thanks for exposing me to this song Radio 1! Legends! Random good times! etzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

God. Radio 1 DJs. Gotta hate 'em all!

Okkervil River - Unless It's Kicks

"...When I've been fixed I'm convinced that I will not get so broke up again"