At the beginning of September, for the last seven years, magic has manifested itself in a forest on the Dorset/Wiltshire border. It's called End of the Road, and it's quite unlike any other music festival I've attended. I'd say it's one of the best things humans have achieved. The organisers really go beyond the call of duty. This is a place where the food offered is not just a necessary evil, and is actually from the most quality caterers out there - I am always inspired to recreate it at home. It's where you can explore the woods and stumble upon art installations, little libraries, and a tiny stage made up to look like a old-timey living room with a piano so you can play your own songs in front of an audience. And there is a blue double decker bus selling local cider, and a red double decker bus selling tea, coffee and cakes. Recently, I was lucky enough to be here for the third time. It is a lovely transition from summer to autumn. I wish every day of my life could be this festival.
|Paper models featured in the animation used as a trailer for the festival, including a badger and the cider bus. Watch it here, it's only 1:37 and it's super cute!|
I'm not going to write in detail about every single band I saw, because that would take forever. But at the bottom of this post, you will find OTHER GOOD MUSIC STUFF, and, more importantly, FOOD HIGHLIGHTS.
The line-up for the day was entirely of artists from the Bella Union record label, to celebrate its 15th anniversary. What made me feel slightly startled about how quickly time has flown is remembering that I'd been to Bella Union's 10th anniversary show in London, too - it was my first ever date, actually...
My sister Flo and I started off the weekend by wandering into Horse Thief's set in the morning. They were pretty good - their live style reminded me of Frightened Rabbit, the sound was at times like early Death Cab For Cutie. I thought they might be fairly well-known and I just hadn't bothered to check them out before, but I looked on their Last.fm page and they have only 460 listeners. Curious.
Then to my first "planned" set - Leif Vollebekk. I discovered him two years ago at this very festival - I was spellbound by his soulful voice and delicate picking, streaked by harmonica, and immediately marched to the Rough Trade tent (that's right, there is a Rough Trade tent) and bought his album, Inland, which has been keeping me warm on chilly days ever since. Moreover, since he is from Montreal, his songs have meant even more to me since my visit there. He was playing on the smallest stage, again, and he played none of the songs I had heard the first time round. This was good, though - he hinted his new album would be out 'in, like, January'. I look forward to that.
Another cool thing about this festival was that I finally met up with my friend Alice, whom I'd been talking with via Twitter and Last.fm for a few months, and who'd come all the way from New Zealand! So that was exciting.
Beach House, who were headlining that night, were only okay. It was nice to hear some songs from their latest record, Bloom, but otherwise there was nothing really... personal about it. It probably wasn't entirely the band's fault, but perhaps their music just don't translate well to an audience that big. Also, there were some people in front of me chatting through the whole thing.
Seth Faergolzia, of the band Dufus, was a treat to watch. His performance incorporated bizarre guitar loops, songs made entirely of him nattering gibberish, and even gargling water at one point. If you're into all that New York anti-folk stuff, I would encourage you to check it out.
Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains were one of our most eagerly anticipated acts of the weekend. I like them well enough in the studio, with their sweet, tropical, groovy sound, switching between English and French lyrics; but live, they really exceeded my expectations. For one thing, I wasn't expecting them to dance so much! And I was dancing a lot myself. They were just perfect. Just see them if you get the chance, you won't regret it.
As the sun began to set, I went to see 2:54 on the Big Top stage. The sound in there really isn't the greatest, but I enjoyed their performance. Afterwards, they were doing a signing in Rough Trade, so I went along, bought their album, and had a chat with them. Hannah and Colette were really down-to-earth ladies. Listen to them if you're a fan of the Cocteau Twins!
Even though I am past my initial obsession with them a couple of years ago, Grizzly Bear are a band still very close to my heart. We got pretty close to the front and I was very excited. This was the second time I was seeing them. When they opened with a new song ('we know it's weird to start with a new one but sorry, we couldn't resist') I was just filled with joy. When they played some of my older favourites like 'Little Brother' and 'On A Neck, On A Spit' I may have seen heaven. They have a very compelling, transcendental effect. At the moment I'm exercising some self-restraint and waiting for their new album, Shields, to be released, even though it's being talked about everywhere on the internet!
When it's coming from the right person, I am fond of a southern US accent. Alynda Lee Segarra, singer/songwriter of the band Hurray For The Riff Raff, all the way from New Orleans (as she kept reminding us), is one of those people. The set beginning at 12pm sharp, she drawled, 'It's a little early for us', and from there I was hooked. I guess you could call it country - a genre that few people are keen to admit being a fan of - but with a latent punk attitude. I bought the self-titled album at the festival. I can easily say, after also listening to this year's Look Out Mama, as well as the earlier records, that this is my new favourite band.
|Inside the sleeve of Hurray For The Riff Raff. Check out the graffiti that says 'sexist shit = small penis'. Amen to that, Alynda.|
|A written piece on the back.|
Next on my must-see list was Willis Earl Beal. One word to describe him: performer. I was right at the front, and he came on wearing jeans, boots, a vest, a leather jacket, and sunglasses. A flag was draped over his tape machine. During the first song, he had already ripped off his jacket, flung it onto a chair, and put the flag over him like a cape. I can't verbally articulate the passion in this man's performance. The delivery of his songs is quite crude, but the actual content tugs you in all the right places. It's worth getting hold of his album Acousmatic Sorcery. The edition I own includes a small book that he wrote himself, which gives a lot more insight into the songs. (P.S. Damn, he's a sexy man.)
An obvious draw to the festival, although announced relatively late, was Patti Smith. We only stuck around for four or five songs, but - in case any kids are reading this - she had eaten a lot of sweets and was having a lot of fun.
Finally, Grandaddy. I was all on my own since the others had gone to see Villagers (what an annoying clash). It was just wonderful, despite the fact that their projection show apparently wasn't working. They recently got back together, so it was a very special performance, one that made me like them even more than I did before.
OTHER GOOD MUSIC STUFF:
My Sad Captains
Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard
FILMS WATCHED IN THE CINEMA TENT:
Pizza Tabun (now with the option to substitute cheese for tahini!)
Tibetan Kitchen (momo dumplings!)
Wide Awake Café (everything here is 100% vegetarian/vegan and delicious!)
Luardos (spicy burritos and nachos!)