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.

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