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Gig Review

End of the Road Festival 2013, Sunday
Belle & Sebastian, Dinosaur Jr, The Walkmen, Public Service Broadcasting, Bo Ningen, Crocodiles and more Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

Article written by Various Writers - Oct 6, 2013

There is a decent chance this year’s final day will impress from start to finish. Far from the patchy line-up yesterday, Sunday’s schedule looks glorious, as does the weather forecast.

Alas, the festival bars are looking less glorious; a solitary keg of ale is all that remains on The Black Crow’s racks – maybe there were problems with supply, or revellers simply indulged in alcohol abuse during yesterday’s lulls; either way it prevents a celebratory pint after a wonderful opening display from Crocodiles in the Big Top. It’s hard to believe these San Diego rockers are already four albums old, and while the set is understandably focused on the new ‘Crimes of Passion’ LP they still (thankfully) find room for older gems such as ‘Hearts of Love’. The music never strays too far outside the Mary Chain ranch but there are enough hooks, and even the occasional big chorus, to prevent this from becoming a BRMC-style endurance test.

Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs
Up next is another band partial to a bit of skuzz, only this time accompanied by immaculate hair and a dapper wardrobe. One glance at the stage and it is clear Charlie Boyer & the Voyeurs adore the 1960s (singer Charlie Boyer’s look has more than a touch of Ray Davies about it) and a particular love for the rhythmic beats of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Sister Ray’. As the set progresses, the song’s influence is far too apparent in the Voyeurs’ own material; had the invention, experimentation, or even the sheer cavalierness, of that classic also been subsumed, rather than just its opening salvo, then the set would’ve undoubtedly been a thrill throughout. Instead we have flashes of promise like the urgent ‘I Watch You’ amidst a mainly frustrating and predictable collection of tunes.

Daniel Norgren serves up some upbeat folk, blues and even the odd splattering of stadium-rock over on the Woods Stage; whatever the genre or levels of cheesiness, the man cannot stop smiling and the quietly appreciative (hungover) crowd seem happy enough. These friendly vibes continue with Californian quartet Cayucas, whose easygoing demeanour suits the sunny afternoon. It’s a shame then, that the band has approached song-writing with an equally laissez-faire attitude. The music hardly ever diverges from a laidback, West Coast interpretation of Vampire Weekend at their most mundane. The catchiest song here, ‘High School Lover’, at least manages to vaguely resemble Beck’s ‘New Pollution’ but sadly with all the potency removed.

Bo Ningen
Luckily the next band gets Sunday back on track, and then some. It’s time for Bo Ningen in the Big Top. The Japanese four-piece arrive adorned in silk dresses and with their faces obscured by their almost Rapunzel-length locks - a look that’s both bewitching and witch-like. Opening with the epic, not to mention chaotic, ‘Soko’ from last year’s ‘Line the Wall’, the band hardly pause for breath as they hurtle out a cocktail of flailing guitars, unpredictable yelping and enthralling acid-rock. Feeling despondent or bored? Stick yourself in front of this band - Bo Ningen will not only enliven your weekend but invigorate your love for music. In short, it’s a frighteningly brilliant show.

Over in a packed Tipi Tent, Valerie June is halfway through a bluesy tale of hardship, and judging from the between-song chatter about her poverty-stricken upbringing, these lyrics could very well be autobiographical. The subsequent songs deal with murder, heartbreak and yet more poverty but the music, along with June’s dulcet Tennessee tones, ensure these often bleak stories arrive with a welcome tenderness.

Palma Violets
The congestion at the Big Top is crazy; Palma Violets arrive to a barrage of pubescent screams and a heaving, sweaty atmosphere. They display the kind of brotherly love that secures an immediate endorsement from the NME and, seeing as they have the requisite passable debut single too, ‘Best of Friends’, the Lambeth boys have sent the hype machine into overdrive. With a songbook that’s currently starved of significance or even melody it’s no surprise that the band would fail to live up to the mildest of musical expectations; but then again neither Palma Violets, nor their fans, seem to care. It’s just forty-five minutes of gushing self-belief, and they love it.

Keeping with loyal fans, the Garden Stage is beginning to fill up nicely in anticipation for The Walkmen. It’s the band’s second appearance at the festival in three years. They impressed in 2011, but they’re even better this time around. Hamilton Leithauser is in throat-scorching form tonight as he growls his way through the likes of ‘On The Water’ and ‘The Rat’ but it’s during ‘Angela Surf City’ that his vocal power is most potent; such is the anger and passion of the delivery, when he cries out “Take up the cause just once more” every soul in the moshpit would gladly establish a new Paris commune or stage another Kronstadt rebellion (Leithauser probably had something more personal in mind). There’s still time for gentler, more crooning, gems such as ‘Blue as Your Blood’ and ‘We’ve Been Had’ in what is ultimately a magnificent, career-spanning set.

Dinosaur Jr follow and bring proceedings on the Garden Stage to a loud, raucous close – it’s a fine performance but as the brilliance of The Walkmen is still being digested, it’s hard to engage at a level the band deserve. Nevertheless, they ensure Sunday ends with the highs certainly outnumbering the lows and, on the whole, that’s exactly how EOTR 2013 should be remembered. (by Pete W)

Sunday: day of sun, day of sounds. Like the best EOTRs of old, there's so much to listen to - just look at how much Pete W has left me to review. We spend lots of time in the Big Top listening to the suitably crepuscular sounds of Crocodiles and Charlie Boyer before heading to the Tipi Tent to see El Perro Del Mar. Not a good call; she's tried to go all sunny Balearic pop but her delivery and songs are still Scandinavian miserytunes. It's a long way from her excellent self-titled debut in 2005, with some unremarkable laptop-pusher on stage with her mixing beats. The overall theme of the set seems to be: "it's my party and I'll cry if I want to".

Caitlin Rose
The programme describes Heartless Bastards as “garage rock” but that shows the characteristic sloppiness of programme writers. They’re a bar band but a superior one with a suite of references that range from college rock to classic rock, discovered in Ohio by a Black Key and now plying their trade in Texas. The unique selling point of the band is Erika Wennerstrom, powerful and purposeful, whose dynamic voice really shines out. The band are good too, although Mark Nathan adopts the “guitar hero" pose a little too often. This is a band sure to be a hit with Uncut magazine. They’re followed by Caitlin Rose, who’s probably won the title of Sweetheart of the Festival for her past performances (certainly the queue for signings indicates her popularity). She mixes her full band country-pop with more soulful and intimate songs and throws in some sassy observations. It’s not transcendental as in past years, more the sort of “mature” performance (but maybe not the beer blagging) that now marks her out as an established feature of the circuit. I wish I’d seen more of Jens Lekman as the last three songs of his set that I catch are killer romantic pop tunes with a good dash of tongue-in-cheek wit (including the lovely ‘The Opposite of Hallelujah’). I do catch rather more of the sweariest band of the festival, Frightened Rabbit, who have the charm of a Buckie-addicted tramp demanding money for drink, and who are heavy and inelegant like a deep fried pizza, but they sate the appetite for a time.

Public Sector Broadcasting
Public Service Broadcasting know how to put on a show. The stage is decked with TV sets and they have a heavily choreographed set, including pre-programmed responses to audience heckles. There’s a healthy intelligence behind the concept but the novelty of images and lightshow pales after about half an hour when you tire of the beats. In small doses the music is fine and I haven’t seen such showmanship since the last time that British Sea Power played here, branches, bear and all. A packed tent suggests that the boffins behind PSB are doing the right thing, at least for now. Belle and Sebastian are the festival closers on the Woods Stage and do so in fine style with what’s effectively their greatest hits set. And what a set of hits! Stuart Murdoch may come across as arrogant and occasionally bullies an adoring crowd, but he’s written some brilliant songs, ‘The Stars of Track and Field’ and ‘Piazza, New York Catcher’ among them, while Stevie Jackson gets to perform his brilliant Northern Soul/ Free Design pastiche ‘To Be Myself Completely’. They’re a Marmite band (one of our party is bunching her fists in pure hatred when forced to watch the end of the set), and milking the encore is a little tawdry on their part, but the overall quality of their performance (and quality of the band) compensated for the many faults.

Belle & Sebastian
And that was EOTR over for another year. Still a great festival but increasing the size and broadening the appeal (I notice it’s in the “medium” category now) has potentially damaged the brand. Here’s hoping they’ll tighten up the programming next year to preserve the ethos without weakening the quality of the music. (by Ged M)

More photos here: or click here: Flickr page


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