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Gig Review

End of the Road 2012: Sunday
Patti Smith / Savages / Cold Specks / Woods / Porcelain Raft / Grandaddy / First Aid Kit / Dirty Beaches and more Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

Article written by Various Writers - Oct 7, 2012

The final day is upon us, and what better way to begin than a kedgeree curry breakfast and a moody trip to Hype Town. We had Toy & Alt-J yesterday and now it’s Savages; the black-clad, Post-Punk four piece only started gigging in January and have been doused in media gush from the off. To be fair, while no mortal could ever live up to this level of hype, Savages try their damndest and are most definitely a band to get excited about; very excited indeed. The musicianship is flawless – visceral guitars, punchy rhythm section - and all finished off with a singer (Jehnny Beth) who’s as funny between the songs as she is captivating during them. They’ve only one single to their name so a forty-five minute set is a bit of a stretch to say the least; however the thrashy ‘Husbands’ and the highly danceable ‘Flying To Berlin’ are certainly worth hanging around for.

Cold Specks
A few months back Cold Specks dazzled the pants off the No Direction Home crowd, and today they dish out an equally powerful performance that includes a surprising cover of Swans’ ‘Reeling The Liars In’ and the now less surprising airing of the ‘Fresh Prince’ theme tune. Meanwhile the Big Top is awash with shoegaze romance courtesy of Mauro Remiddi, aka Porcelain Raft; with Yuck’s Johnny Rogoff helping out on drums, the Italian’s lush debut album is given a wonderfully pumped up, reverb-heavy outing that ensures the dreamy hooks of ‘Shapeless & Gone’ and ‘Put Me To Sleep’ remain in your head for the rest of the day. Lovely stuff.

Alas, all the on-stage assistance cannot rescue the aimless dirge that is the Dirty Beaches performance. Accompanied by laptop dwellers and bored-looking guitarists, Alex Zhang Hungtai simply mumbles his way through one unrecognisable tune after another; whereas his album supplies creepy noise and lo-fi Elvis crooning, here is only lumpen clatter and low-grade Chris Isaak groaning. One of the big disappointments of the festival; here’s hoping it was just an off-day.

Porcelain Raft
Over at the Garden Stage, First Aid Kit have attracted an enormous crowd as well as the sunshine, and the Swedish duo’s harmony-heavy folk and charming personalities are very warmly received. The only criticism is a sixty-minute set perhaps being too long for something this polished and polite. A quick walk over to the Big Top however and events are taking a turn for the outrageous (and slightly unnerving) as Willis Earl Beal is busy climbing onto a chair and covering himself with a blanket emblazoned with the word “Nobody” while barking his vocals like a gravel-munching Lee Moses – all incredibly intense and pure theatre. Accompanied only by a sample-spewing reel-to-reel tape deck and the occasional guitar, Beal’s mixture of Soul, Folk, and DIY R&B is utterly enthralling from start to finish. Time for some air, an ale, and the legendary Patti Smith.

First Aid Kit
Grandaddy bring the Woods Stage to a close in splendid fashion with a career-spanning, ninety-minute set. Even the most casual fan would’ve been dizzy with space-rock joy once ‘AM. 180’ followed the beautiful ‘Crystal Lake’, and by the time they reached ‘He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot’ there was probably no such thing as a casual fan amongst the huge crowd.

While this year’s End of the Road has been packed full with the usual high quality music, the atmosphere has, from time to time, lacked the usual magic; maybe the Main Stage is the cause – it’s strange for the biggest stage to feel like a crude add-on to an otherwise perfectly designed festival site – surely nothing a little imagination wouldn’t solve. In saying that, the stage arrived last year and EOTR 2011 largely retained the wonder....maybe it was simply down to the scheduling that encouraged a more compartmentalised site at times, who knows? All things considered, it was still a fantastic weekend. (by Pete W)

Sweet Lights
Shai Halperin was previously The Capitol Years and now is Sweet Lights. Though alone on stage with just a guitar and pedals, his gentle humour and captivating pop songs – intriguingly sophisticated and catchily melodic at the same time – win over the crowd, especially a woozily gorgeous version of Daniel Johnson’s ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’, which boosts the crowd’s serotonin levels after the comedown of waking up to a rainy September morning. Richard Buckner at least has a band – he’s backed by Italian outfit Sacri Cuori – but he looks and sings like he has no home and no hope. He could be the classic American troubadour/drifter – huge man in workgear, greying beard and cigarette burning out between his fingers – but his songs have a sweet sensitivity and are set to glorious doomy melodies, despite the familiar tropes of loss and loneliness. Mistakenly lumped in with the movement, songs like ‘Straight’ have a poetic beauty easily the equal of Bon Iver’s first album.

Last year one of our party walked away from Woods’ set in protest at the number of jams they were indulging in. There’s no danger of that this year as the opening songs ‘Cali In A Cup’ and ‘Pushing Onlys’ (and what an opening!) signal that this time it’s all about the songs. As the new album Bend Beyond shows, the template for Woods songs these days are brief bursts of melodic folk-pop, with the odd psychedelic choogler for old times’ sake. Although the recordings are largely the work of Earl and Taveniere, the live band – with Kevin Morby on bass and Aaron Neveu on drums - are exceptionally tight, making this one of the must-see sets of the festival.

My enjoyment of a plate of nachos is reduced to almost zero by driving rain and the sound of Graham Coxon in the background. His mockney drone and mishmash of pilfered styles remain bizarrely popular but for me he’ll always be as palatable as a damp tortilla. So it’s good to head to the unpleasantly-smelling Big Top (part wet dog, part gorilla with BO) for Rhode Island’s Deer Tick who have the tricky early evening Sunday slot but fill it with raucous rock’n’roll. This warms our damp bones though it loses some of the subtleties of their folkier tunes, but John McCauley’s voice is as gravel-gargellingly memorable as ever.

Patti Smith
The highpoint of the festival is Patti Smith’s set. Priestess, shamen, community activist and cultural icon, she’s one of the only people to be both inducted into the Rock’n’roll Hall of Fame and also as a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. And if she was a UK citizen, she’d have qualified for her bus pass too (she was 65 last December). She needs a midset break but only because she’s worked so hard making a connection with the crowd; in between songs she talks about Occupy, the Arab Spring and small ‘p’ politics in a passionate and un-preachy way unlike, say, Bono. (Even the breather is memorable as it gives Lenny Kaye – another New York punk pensioner – the chance to play a great Nuggety/ punk medley, including the Strangeloves’ ‘Night Time is the Right Time’, the Seeds’ ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’ and the Heartbreakers’ ‘Born To Lose’.) The Patti Smith Band play a greatest hits set rather than showcase the latest album; most of the songs on her Land compilation feature here, from the pop (‘Because the Night’) to the poetic (‘Piss Factory’) to the punk (‘Babelogue/Rock ’n’ Roll Nigger’) and they close with a storming ‘Gloria’. It’s more than her music, though; the whole performance, her idealism and her belief in the power of culture to improve lives shows the way for more anaemic generations. [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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