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Gig Review

End of the Road Festival: Saturday
Mark Lanegan/ Tindersticks/ Alabama Shakes/ Anna Calvi/ Toy/ Driver Drive Faster…and much more Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

Article written by Various Writers - Sep 30, 2012

Alabama Shakes
Friday had its highlights, but handing a whole day to just one label did result in moments when the options seemed a little threadbare – it’s business as usual today however with a bucket load of wonderful acts and schedule clashes galore.

First up on the Garden Stage is banjo-playing, Mandarin Chinese-speaking Abigail Washburn who combines amiable folk numbers with recollections from her time in China. While there’s no stand-out track, Washburn’s relaxed, conversational persona makes this a perfect start to the day. A quick dash to the Big Top for Islet has mixed results however, as for every thrilling psychedelic experiment there’s a directionless, pompous trip.

Time for an ice-cream and a slow retreat back to the Garden Stage for Francois and the Atlas Mountains. It’s been quite a year for the Gallic charmer, Francois Marry, with his third album E Volo Love receiving some very positive reviews indeed. His tunes seamlessly blend folk-pop and afro-beat rhythms which has the large crowd partying in an instant, and although it falls on the wrong side of cheesy at times it’s always delivered with such good humour and panache you can’t help grinning like an idiot throughout.

Francois and the Atlas Mountains
Arriving at the Big Top for Alt-J, it’s a challenge to even get inside the tent, let alone secure a decent spot. Hotly tipped for a Mercury nomination and easily capable of playing in a venue twice this size, the Cambridge quartet arrive to a sweltering audience and a rapturous reception. Within the first twenty minutes they’ve already thrown in myriad, mid-song, genre switches and while the execution always impresses the actual songs don’t always work; that said, the folk harmonies and electro-beats of ‘Tessellate’ and ‘Something Good’ combine brilliantly and the synth-driven gem ‘Dissolve Me’ is simply the best tune of the day thus far.

Staying at the Big Top, it’s time for hype-splattered stoners Toy; ignore the fuss, they’re neither the next big thing nor an impending calamity, the quintet just belt out a mix of moody psychedelia and thumping krautrock. Tom Dougall & co are in fine form today too, with ‘Motoring’ and ‘Lose My Way’ particular high points; It’s not perfect – the crucial keyboard riff is lost in the mix for ‘Bright White Shimmering Sun’ and Dougall’s voice wilts occasionally – but when you’ve the motorik beast ‘Left Myself Behind’ in your arsenal no-one will leave disappointed.

Perfume Genius
Walking onto the Garden Stage donning a skirt and a fetching pair of pink wellies, Perfume Genius (a.k.a. Mike Hadreas) has an outfit almost as memorable as his voice. The song structure may not vary one jot but when they possess the bittersweet hooks of ‘Learning’, who cares? And if Hadreas’ own compositions fail to impress you then his gorgeous cover of CSN&Y’s ‘Helpless’ should at least result in quiet appreciation. Next up is Manchester’s Driver Drive Faster as they thrill a busy Tipi Tent with their otherworldly Americana; from the tragic tale of ‘Missing Out’ to the jittery ‘It’s All Over It’s Everywhere’ it’s an urgent, exciting and, at its peak, utterly entrancing performance that has more than a little hint of Summerteeth-era Wilco about it.

Anna Calvi
There’s no time to grab a hot cider as across the field at the Main Stage, Anna Calvi is already flexing her guitar-shredding muscles for ‘Rider To The Sea’. Having toured these songs for over 18 months, this is a tight-as-hell, flawless set; Calvi bellows and croons her way through the likes of ‘Blackout’ and ‘Desire’ and throws in a handful of covers too, including a sultry rendition of TV on the Radio’s ‘Wolf Like Me’. Special mention must go to multi-instrumentalist, Mally Harpaz, whose trickery ensures each tune just has that extra little flash of magic. There’s barely time to soak up the Calvi delights as Alabama Shakes take to the stage; another act that seem to have been touring continuously the past year or so, and are all the better for it; Brittany Howard is captivating as she struts and hollers across the stage – demonstrating a confidence that was missing earlier in the year – and the band’s mix of Garage and Southern Soul is lapped up as the evening draws in. Time to leave, however as the mighty Tindersticks are due on the Garden Stage.

Four years ago on this very stage, Stuart Staples & the boys left the audience choking back the tears in a blur of melancholy and romance; this year, three songs in, they have everyone laughing. Yes, laughing. Dave Boulter takes lead vocals for the nine-minute, spoken word tale of love, bedsits and unexpected discoveries that is ‘Chocolate’ and it goes down a storm, even with those who knew how it all ends; just brilliant. This warm, friendly atmosphere is maintained throughout and it’s obvious Staples is enjoying himself - the shy frontman even says so - as he throws himself into every tune with maximum zest. The set is built around new album, The Something Rain, and tracks such as ‘Frozen’ has the band even venturing into the surging-rhythms-and-drunk-jazz territory of Kid A. It’s all thrilling stuff; even Staples’ decision to opt for the Pablo Escobar look doesn’t spoil the show.

Mark Lanegan
Following Nottingham’s finest is a man who inhabits a world where there are mandatory baseball caps and a ban on smiling - Mark Lanegan – the former Screaming Tree may not be the talkative type but he’s a formidable and intense performer. With his mighty fine backing band Lanegan treats us to a couple of ‘Trees tunes and even a cover of Smoke Fairies’ ‘Devil In My Mind’; however it’s ‘Harborview Hospital’ that’s the stand-out track tonight as his gruff vocals cut through the spooky, cyclical guitars and keyboard rushes to create something almost hypnotic. An amazing climax for the Garden Stage tonight.

From the magic of the Garden Stage to the surreal antics of the Big Top – the sight of people dressed as giant bunny rabbits (Sleep Party People) cranking out catchy, dreamy shoegaze is enough to make you expect David Lynch to be at the sound desk. All very enjoyable but the tiredness is creeping in; time to call it a night.

(However, there was an additional treat to savour as Deep Dark Woods performed a secret gig in the Tipi Tent in the early hours; everyone lucky enough to be camped nearby would’ve been crooned to sleep courtesy of Ryan Boldt’s gorgeous voice). (by Pete W)

Driver Driver Faster
Saturday just has too much to see for one person so we split up to experience as much as we can. It’s a truism that writers should write about what they know but you want to scream “it’s over – move on” to Nona Marie Invie as Dark Dark Dark replay the end of her relationship with bandmate Marshall LaCount. It’s depressing misery tourism that sends us fleeing elsewhere for sunshine. Watching Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard, it’s easy to forget how good Jeffrey Lewis is. We still lump him in with the lo-fi anti-folkers, and he’s back to a simple three-piece set up today, but he’s a sharp and perceptive performer who entertains and amazes in equal measure (‘Shoot the Head Kill the Ghoul’ is an example of the former, the rap-tastic ‘Mosquito Mass Murderer’ the latter). A set of songs in their teatime slot and an unannounced late night multi-media performance, plus his new series of Sonic Youth-inspired sonnets, mark him as the renaissance man of indie-rock. While 2:54 aren’t that original, they make polished, highly animated goth rock. There’s some Cure, Smashing Pumpkins and Cult in the mix; I like them personally (they wear their enjoyment on their midnight-black sleeves) and admire the energy but am hard pressed to recall anything other than the scything ‘Creeping’.

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear’s ornate pop warrants the main stage, and Ed Droste is gracious in his appreciation of being at the festival, but the light show is more dynamic than the band. It’s clever, expansively arranged psych-folk but it can be dry and over-thought. This is a band that you’re meant to like and to work hard at understanding, like Radiohead, but that’s often an excuse for deliberate obtuseness and jazz noodling, which happens occasionally here. Even ‘Two Weeks’ lacks its usual soaring majesty and I’m left feeling slightly underwhelmed. In contrast, Sleep Party People’s soaring shoegaze in big bunny ears provides the sort of vivid images you don’t mind dreaming about once in a while, though bringing kids to the show, as one parent does, is a recipe for a pissy campbed and cries for mummy midway through the night. (by Ged M)

For more pictures of the festival, go here.


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A Spectre From The Past With Veruca Salt's New LP? Listen In Full!
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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