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SoundsXP Presents
Next show:

BAD FRIDAY!
Peluché,
Dead Coast,
Les Sueques,
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Flights of Helios,
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Dirty Blondes
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The Windmill, Brixton
Good Friday, 14th April 2017
3pm till late

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Gig Review

Mumford and Sons / Dirty Projectors / David Thomas Broughton / Vetiver / The Duke and the King / Herman Dune / Shearwater / The Sliding Rule / Loney Dear / Low Anthem
End of the Road - Friday Larmer Tree Gardens, North Dorset

Article written by Various Writers - Sep 23, 2009

David Thomas Broughton
David Thomas Broughton
I lose count of the number of times this weekend that artists describe End of the Road as the best festival they’ve attended. British or American, they think that Simon and Sofia have got the format right: beautiful setting, good bands on a variety of stages and no corporations, just music (well, music and comedy but I didn’t get as far as the Pavilion this weekend and anyway I got my biggest laugh seeing Charlie Higson dressed like a spat-out Starburst on Sunday). We have a few gripes this year: the festival has quality acts but is more homogenous than ever. Only the dependable Local tent springs surprises but it would have been good to mix it up like last year when there were bands like Screaming Tea Party and Billy Childish (the Horrors might have helped this year but pulled out through illness). The Tipi Tent continues to be too small for most of the artists that the organisers put on there, requiring the intervention of security to thin out the crowd. Food prices have shot up and there just seem to be more people this year (all wanting to see Fleet Foxes, of which more later). But End of the Road is still a huge success and my fourth visit is full of highlights. (GM)

No rain. That’s one thing the first day of this 2009’s End of the Road already has over last year. The ticket price may have risen by over 10% and the line-up was never going to match the staggering roster of 2008 BUT it’s dry, and there’s excitement in the air as we await the first act on the Garden Stage. The band is Mumford & Sons, with their subtle mix of sweet folk pop and swaggering bluegrass consisting of the occasional four-way harmony and the constant catchy chorus. The London four-piece may have an affiliation with the likes of Laura Marling and Noah & the Whale but with Singer / Drummer Marcus Mumford’s growling vocals bolstering an already beefy sound, their songs contain the grit that these associates sorely lack. The band is on top form today and takes full advantage of the perfect weather, beautiful environment, and fresh & eager audience. Their set peaks with the foot-stomping brilliance of single “Little Lion Man”, and with the crowd beginning to join in with the vocal duties, it provides the first “moment” of this year’s festival. The only (minor) concern is the band may be eschewing some of their charm by adopting a more conventional set-up. For a “new” song, the keyboardist goes behind a full drum kit and Ted Dwane plays a standard bass guitar; it’s also tailor-made for festival sing-along’s and the large venues they’ll inevitably fill in 12 months time. Still a fine tune granted, but let’s hopes it’s a mere visit to the obvious rather than a permanent resettlement. Worrying aside, the set is flawless in both delivery and content. You couldn’t ask for a better start to proceedings.

A quick visit to the Noodle stall at the expense of the opening few minutes of Loney Dear creates a bit of confusion. Upon returning to the Garden Stage I see that Mr Dear, aka Emil Svanängen, is trying to apologise for comments he’s just made about Tony Blair; considering the sweet nature of Svanangen, you couldn’t imagine him making a disparaging remark at someone even if they’d just taken a dump on his guitar. Maybe he accidentally paid the former PM a compliment? Unlikely, but that’s surely the only reason to be sorry. Music-wise, there’s plenty of Jens Lekman style Indie-pop performed with ample gusto but for every flash of pop magic there’s several excessively earnest, or just plain annoying, moments. He still draws a respectable and adoring crowd however.

End of the Road 09
End of the Road 09
Next stop is the Tipi Tent for a bit of acoustic misery from The Sliding Rule. Last year’s Bimble Inn was tiny but at least if you made it into the place, you could hear the actual performer. This latest incarnation is just ridiculous – a silly design making it nigh-on impossible to see or hear anyone on stage, even if you’re halfway into the damn thing. For this act however, it’s exacerbated by the singer-songwriter’s decision to “unplug” and walk around a section of the audience; this attempt at being more intimate only works if you happen to be within 6 feet of the mumbling strummer, otherwise the only audible sound is the restless crowd’s bar orders.

Back to the Garden Stage for Shearwater, who promise a set packed with new songs from their forthcoming album, The Golden Archipelago. They don’t disappoint. They tear through over half a dozen new tunes, all sticking fairly close to what you’d expect from Austin’s finest, one in particular contains a delightful glockenspiel duet between bassist Kimberly Burk and drummer / Beastmaster Thor Harris. Jonathan Meiburg's voice is as powerful and dominating as ever, but whether it be a sudden burst of piano (“Seventy Four / Seventy-Five”), thrash of guitar (“Century Eyes”), or brass solo (“Rook”) there’s always something going on to keep you enthralled. Glorious.

It’s a reluctant return to the now sweaty and nightmarishly congested Tipi Tent for The Low Anthem, with the already jittery crowd having to squeeze into one particular quarter of this hellish canvas to have any hope of seeing or hearing what should be an ideal, intimate performance. This would’ve been a set to remember, but not only is it cruelly let down by the pisspoor tent design, but also some quieter moments are spoilt by the noise emitting from the (very) Local Tent. Amazingly the three-piece still manage to retain their instrument-swapping antics in a space seemingly akin to an amoeba’s yoga mat; and the quality of the songs still come through - a jazz-flavoured Double-bass intro followed by a bit of bluesy brass one minute, then delicate folksy guitars the next, all accompanied by lyrics peppered with references to history, identity and American romanticism. Any Tom Waits or Neil Young fans able to tolerate the crush should have loved every second.

Dirty Projectors
Dirty Projectors
I see sparks of genius today. Dirty Projectors sometimes runs dangerously close to being an exam performance in musical composition but win out in their brilliant combination of indie-rock seamlessly matched with African rhythms and modern r’n’b sounds; when Amber Coffman gets her moment on lead vocals, she even starts to move like Mariah. The tight harmonies of Amber and Angel Deradoorian are part of the warp and weft of the Dirty Projectors sound, surrounding David Longstreth’s soaring lead vocals but no way just “backing”. Most of the set is from Bitter Orca but ‘Rise Above’ from the brilliant Black Flag reworking gets an airing. Their songs can be a bit difficult to love but the sense of awe in the voice of Motel Motel’s singer the following day when he describes them is felt by everyone who sees them. Second genius de jour is David Thomas Broughton, who’s been coming to EOTR as long as I have. Promoted to the main stage, his folky songs - deconstructed then massively looped - have a hypnotic magic that reminds of the psychedelic ritual sounds produced by some of the freak folk family while his lugubrious Yorkshire baritone fits the outré subject matter (Gregg’s pasties and taxis from Otley to Leeds). There’s even physical comedy, which sets broad smiles on the faces of everyone around me. And when I first saw him in a little tent, I thought he was shy… (GM)

Vetiver are almost easy listening, the honeyed West Coast sounds calming and comforting us as we go into Friday night. This is real 70s styled Americana, a little bit country, a little bit folk with some lovely noodling guitar. Covers of Loudon Wainwright III and Canada’s Great Speckled Bird reinforce those connections but the real highlight is the simple, gorgeous pop of ‘Everyday’. The big disappointment of the day is The Duke and the King. Simone Felice’s new band mixes folk, gospel and Southern soul in a gospelly, testifying style, especially when Robert ‘Chicken’ Burke sings. Laura Barton’s hagiography in the Guardian has swelled the crowd but you rapidly realise that the band are more of a boon to the mythologizing writer than they are to the music fan; a song about New York is overladen with cliché and clumsy poetry while their cover of ‘Helpless’ is a staple of the average. (GM)

Headlining over in the Big Top is Herman Dune, who begin with a couple of acoustic numbers; the sparse set-up unfortunately exposes the grating rhyming couplets and rather inane subject matters; fortunately the dodgy song selection ends swiftly with the appearance of the full band. It was probably just a joke, for these guys are in an uncannily good mood tonight. Singer David-Ivar's vocals usually coat the songs with irresistible melancholy but with the band in full party mode, their gloriously upbeat performance leaves the songs dripping with an added sense of joy and, opening tunes aside, the inventive and playful lyrics are dispensed with heartening clarity. Musically too, the boys are having a blast; “No Home Without You” arrives with an extended, Latino-tinged guitar picking intro before Drummer Neman (who is simply amazing tonight) kicks off the kind of infectious beat only a corpse wouldn’t take to. A number of bands have struggled to fill their 45 minute slots today, but Herman Dune’s 75 min allowance could’ve easily been extended into the wee small hours. The cold night air may have subjected a few to some early Autumnal blues, but the Dune ensure everyone in this packed tent returns to the chill with a warm, beaming smile. It’s a triumphant climax to the first day.

Authors: Ged M and Pete W / Annalisa T

Links:
http://www.endoftheroadfestival.com

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