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Gig Review

End of the Road Festival 2013, Saturday
Warpaint, The Leisure Society, Cass McCombs, Teleman, Pokey Lafarge and more Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

Article written by Various Writers - Sep 25, 2013

The Leisure Society
The Garden Stage at End of the Road is one of the most beautiful and atmospheric stages to be found on any festival map; when the festival’s capacity increased in 2011 there followed the inevitable shift of the headliners to a larger stage.

Unfortunately, this year has also seen variety and enchantment largely cleared from the area. This is due to the programming having an unhealthy pattern to it; the final two acts of the day aside, the Garden Stage features almost nothing but singer-songwriters and their often sterile nu-folk, which in turn encourages the domination of picnic chairs and a demand for the undemanding. Even fans of the genre should be yearning for an injection of merriment, a change of tempo, or even a decent place to stand, after a few hours or so.

Pokey Lafarge
Pokey Lafarge would’ve been a welcome addition with his upbeat blend of Americana, roots & bluegrass; instead he’s on the Woods Stage. Dressed like he’s arrived from a Chicago speakeasy and swigging a suspect substance from a hip flask (thrown from the crowd). Those in attendance are most certainly enjoying the show – the enormous queue for his autograph afterwards says it all - but both the location and sheer size of the Woods Stage reduces the impact of Lafarge’s routine; it’s still early in the day and people continue to pour into the site, and the continuous influx of the loud and the notionally curious cannot help but curtail the atmosphere.

Time for a quick snack and no review of End of the Road would be complete without congratulating Shepherds for their insanely delicious ice-cream.

However, the quick snack need not have been so speedy; San Francisco duo Seventeen Evergreen arrive onstage in The Big Top and the cod-psychedelic slop they offer would turn the sturdiest of stomachs - jarring electronic squeals, directionless tunes, and lyrics which are simply appalling. Thankfully, over on the Garden Stage, Angel Olsen dazzles the crowd with her soaring voice, and the more captivating tunes from last year’s impressive ‘Half Way Home’ LP work splendidly. Indeed when Olsen treats us to ‘The Waiting’ and all its melodic glory, it’s the first magical Garden Stage moment of 2013 (at last).

Back in 2008, Pete & the Pirates were one of the highlights of the festival; five years and a break-up later, Tommy Sanders (with two other ex-Pirates and a new drummer) gives us Teleman. Musically, they take a leaner approach to the Pirates’ template – pop tunes stuffed with great, simple hooks and usually wrapped up in under four minutes - with slightly more keyboard trickery and fewer guitar rushes. The lyrics also take a lighter turn compared to their previous incarnation, with ‘Cristina’, ‘Steam Train Girl’ and ‘In Your Fur’ all hinting towards a happier, more playful, Mr Sanders - he now even smiles occasionally – and that has to be the biggest surprise of the day.

Next up on the Woods Stage, it’s the ever-reliable Leisure Society. The set is understandably slanted towards the new and delightful album, ‘Alone Above the Ark’, but it’s ‘We Were Wasted’ from their debut that’s the real highlight today - although since its featuring in the formidable film ‘Tyrannosaur’, it’s difficult to not think of heartache, loneliness, and dog-slaying as the strings reach their pinnacle. The band must also be credited with the lamest (but most addictive) pun challenge of the weekend; it all gets a bit Tim Vine when they begin suggesting names for “historical bands” and the results vary from the terrible (War of the Stone Roses) to the just-about-acceptable (Tudor Cinema Club). Sadly there wasn’t time for The FourTet Offensive, Magna Carter USM, or even Lennongrad.

Cass McCombs
Back to the Garden Stage for stories laced with death and despair; Cass McCombs, a Californian who allegedly endures a rather nomadic existence - sleeping in cars, staying at campsites, etc – and recalls his experiences and of those he meets via his mainly brooding songs. If you managed to somehow negotiate your way through the wall of aforementioned picnic chairs, you would have found that McCombs cuts a serious, slightly grouchy, figure but one who possesses an undeniable charm. The music essentially treads a predictable, strumming path but his voice and witty phrasing ensure each tune leaves more than a smack of satisfaction. Not the case for everyone, it seems, as one audience member is overheard expressing his disappointment at not hearing “any of his Supergrass songs” – let’s hope he was joking.

It isn’t the liveliest of evenings on Day Two; over on the Woods Stage, Warpaint treat the audience to a flurry of new songs, all of which highlight how vital and impressive the band’s rhythm section is; nonetheless there’s a certain spark missing from their strain of dreamy, indie rock. Much like their recorded output, Warpaint’s live show is accomplished but they rarely warrant your love or undivided attention; there are too many occasions when the band seems content to drift along, rather than challenge themselves or audience expectations. In short, they can look a bit bored. It’s a real shame, as the likes of ‘Undertow’ and ‘Bees’ demonstrate how good the setlist could / should be.

Tonight’s penultimate act in the Big Top, Dutch Uncles, are always a welcome punch of positivity and tonight they are in fine form; be it the synth-heavy ‘Flexxin’ or the dancey-guitars of ‘Fragrant’, everything bounces along nicely with an early 80s sheen. The jittery vocals (and moves) of singer Duncan Wallis only adds to the New-Wave vibe, and in ‘Fester’, as the melancholic synth cuts through the indie-disco chorus, they deliver a tune that enlivens the heart as well as the feet. It’s nothing short of a glorious, and very much-needed, sixty-minute party.

A huge crowd has already gathered at the Woods Stage for tonight’s headliner, Sigur Ros, and it proves difficult to secure a spot that’s within proper earshot of Jonsi & co. While the light show is mightily impressive, from this distance it’s difficult to fully appreciate how well the Icelanders sound. Never mind; time to bring this rather patchy day to a close.(by Pete W)

Julianna Barwick
Saturday is terrible, and that’s not just traffic around Larmer Tree Gardens, where the Steam Fair has left the roads more compacted than Elvis’ colon. There are plenty of competent bands today (Dawes are identikit Americana), and one incompetent one in Seventeen Evergreen (note to self: bands named after King Crimson tracks are to be given a wide berth), but nothing to get excited about. Pokey Lafarge’s sweet old timey music entertains to a degree while Leisure Society are a reliably entertaining live act and Warpaint’s rhythm section are impressive. But Teleman are probably the best band I see all day. Daughter are much-hyped but their Garden Stage set is mightily dull, as if people had constructed a model of the perfect 4AD band without endowing it with any sort of life. Julianna Barwick came to EOTR with a growing rep after the Nepenthe album but the music just doesn’t work on a bright Saturday afternoon. She’s clearly talented, and it’s clever to see how she loops her voice and contorts her whole body to create those wordless sounds, but I’d much rather have the record playing late at night with a couple of beers inside me than watch her live performing the songs. To bastardise Andy Williams, it’s like “making music to watch paint dry”. Similarly, I like the Eyes & No Eyes album but their awkward stage presence makes listening to their folkatronica a bit painful; I become very excited by one atmospheric, experimental number that seems to break the mould, only to discover that it’s a time-filling jam while the bass-player sorts out his pedals. Leaving early is the best decision we make all day. (by Ged M)

More photos here: or click here: Flickr page


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