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Good Friday, 14th April 2017
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Gig Review

End of the Road Festival: Friday
Beach House/ Dirty Three/ I Break Horses/ Still Corners/ John Grant and more Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

Article written by Various Writers - Sep 27, 2012

Van Dyke Parks
The End of the Road Festival #7 is upon us; last year saw a substantial increase in capacity and a new, larger Main Stage – not to mention a damn fine line-up – thankfully this year’s roster is looking pretty tasty too and the organisers have wisely opted not to further expand the site. Ticket sales were markedly slower this year (it only sold out 24 hours prior to the gates opening) - could be the recession, the rotten weather, or even the launch of a sister Festival (No Direction Home) that’s altered loyal fans’ summer plans. Who knows?

This year also sees Bella Union’s 15th birthday and to celebrate, the organisers have handed the label the first day of the Festival to showcase almost their entire portfolio of artists.

Still Corners
Our festival begins at the Big Top with Still Corners and the London quartet don’t disappoint, especially when Leon Dufficy’s guitar dominates proceedings - stripping away a few murky layers of their dream pop template, the likes of ‘Into the Trees’ & ‘I Wrote in Blood’ instead gallop their way into spooky, Spaghetti-Western territory. Elsewhere the throbbing bass of ‘Submarine’ pounds the eardrums magnificently, thanks in part to the tent’s redesigned, tunnel-like exits which maximise reverberation and minimise natural light.

Emerging satisfied if blinking-eyed, there’s just enough time to grab a Lamb pie and a House Ale before the first visit to the Garden Stage.

He’s probably best known for his collaboration with Brian Wilson on the aborted Smile project, but as a producer, arranger, lyricist, children’s author, occasional actor, plus singer, Van Dyke Parks is an entertainment polymath. He’s also very charming and chatty while his music consists mainly of sweet-sounding fragments or easy-listening ditties – it’s all akin to spending an hour with a benevolent Randy Newman. Certainly not for everyone, but the majority of the crowd seem more than satisfied.

My Sad Captains
Meanwhile, in the Tipi Tent, My Sad Captains are offering up an assured display, with songs old and new gliding along beautifully to create an atmosphere awash with gentle keyboard flourishes, chiming guitars and a tight, motoring rhythm section. It’s only the vocalist’s continuous, unenthused delivery that lets down an otherwise engaging set of decent tunes. Thirty minutes pass, the Tipi Tent is again the place to be as Peggy Sue belt out their bluesy folk; the performance is packed full of perfectly-executed harmonies and an infectious sense of fun, with even the slower numbers failing to snuff out the party mood. Splendid stuff.

Now for some noise; I Break Horses duo Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck have recruited some extra bodies to flesh out and crank up their live show and the result is simply astounding. Lindén’s soaring vocals somehow maintain their emotional pull as they pierce through the layers of fuzzy electronics and thunderous drumming, and once you’re immersed in this deafening but tuneful onslaught you’d be hard-pressed to find more a rewarding dose of shoegaze all weekend, with ‘Winter Beats’ and ‘Empty Bottles’ being particular stand-outs. Time for a delicious Tibetan curry and a pint.

Dirty Three
The next few hours appear to be No Direction Home revisited – the main draws all played at Welbeck Abbey in June - so while the sight of Dirty Three hammering, picking, and kicking their way through an hour of post-rock madness remains a must-see, there’s not much more to report on their performance that wasn’t captured three months ago; Warren Ellis is just as intense and hilarious, Mick Turner the silent professional, and Jim White offers up the finest drumming of the day; the only disappointment being no dedication this time to the portaloo attendants. On the Garden Stage, The Low Anthem pull a huge crowd as they pay tribute to a vintage organ that’s apparently beyond repair and invite everyone to witness its destruction at the camp fire later on. The Rhode Islanders remain firm favourites of the EOTR faithful and this performance wouldn’t have harmed the relationship at all.

Beach House
En route to the Main Stage, there’s enough time to catch a few tunes from Veronica Falls in the Big Top and ensure this déjà-vu ends with an indie-pop rush; but now it’s time for a festival newcomer in the form of dream-pop behemoths Beach House. For some, the Baltimore duo’s output is full of subtle variation and beautiful song-writing while others struggle to distinguish one tune from another, whatever your opinion there’s no doubting the quality of Victoria Legrand’s voice and tonight is no exception. Aided by Scally’s lush guitar flourishes and the steady beat of touring drummer, Daniel Franz, Legrand leaves the crowd entranced during the likes of ‘Zebra’, ‘Norway’, ‘Myth’ and ‘Lazuli’, with only ’10 Mile Stereo’ sounding strangely disjointed. It’s doubtful the band’s detractors would’ve found anything here worth warming to, and there are times when the lack of a tempo change tests the patience somewhat, but on the whole this is a successful end to the first day’s proceedings. (by Pete W)

John Grant
John Grant is one of Bella Union’s more acclaimed artists and his performance is one of the day’s highlights. He can be characterised as dark and emotionally introspective, after a history of addiction and sexual doubt, but he’s smiley and chatty this evening, spending his first five minutes on stage chatting easily about recording his new album in Iceland before treating us to a mixture of songs from the new record and also the excellent Queen of Denmark. He’s in an expansive mood even when the subject matter of his songs are at their most testing, happily responding to audience requests. The cherry on the cake is the moment he ends the set with the wonderful ‘Paint the Moon’ by his previous band The Czars, when he’s joined on stage by old buddies Midlake – they’re one of the less interesting live groups but here, backing Grant’s stupendous voice, they’re superb.

Earlier, we’ve been mildly moved by Cashier No 9’s Madchester-meets-West Coast rock but it’s a little too generic and rock-revivalist. It’s only on two pounding motorik monsters that they step out of the niche marked “nice”. And although Poor Moon feature two of Fleet Foxes, their music is pleasant harmony-strewn Americana, and not a lot more. Fine for a sleepy afternoon in front of the Woods stage but it doesn’t travel much further. (by Ged M)

For more pictures of the festival, go here.


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Foxtails Brigade "Far Away and Long Ago"
North By North "Pistoletta"
Die Liga der gewöhnlichen Gentlemen "Nach dem Spiel"
Theatre Royal "The Days Grow Hotter"
Oliver Gottwald "Freunde fürs Leben"
Heart/Dancer "Outro"
Clowwns "Idiot Bouncing"
Double Denim "Wide Open"
Flout "Rainchecks"
The Scenes "City Of White Blankets"


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