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Gig Review

Leisure Society / Low Anthem / Alela Diane / Broken Family Band / First Aid Kit / Blitzen Trappen / Okkervil River / Boy Least Likely To / Malcolm Middleton / Motel Motel / Zun Zun Egui
End of the Road - Saturday Larmer Tree Gardens, North Dorset

Article written by Various Writers - Sep 23, 2009

The sun continues to shine down on Saturday. Some of us catch The Leisure Society twice, once on the Garden Stage today and then the following day, a secret performance in the site grounds, crammed onto a tiny mock lounge stage. The latter sees a very enjoyable cover of Gary Numan’s Cars with strings replacing the jarring synth and a delicate rendition of Something by the Beatles but it’s their own soothing ballads that have us enthralled with highlights of Ivor Novello nominated first single Last of the Melting Snow and new single Save it For Someone Who Cares. (PM)

Motel Motel kick things off in the Big Top with their Americana-ish Indie Rock that’s been compared to the likes of Pavement (clearly an influence) and Calexico (can’t hear it). It’s an assured set of high quality, superbly executed songs from their debut album, New Denver. (PW/AT)

Low Anthem
Low Anthem
The Low Anthem’s main stage set is greeted with a reverential hush. While the album alternates between atmospheric folkiness and Waitsian growliness, the live set tends to the former and is all the better for it. The way they switch between instruments (guitar, double bass, vibraphone, pump organ) is as breathtaking as their harmonies are spine tingling. The Americans misuse the word but “awesome” is the only way to describe it. Alela Diane once received an allowance from her dad; now she pays him a wage for playing guitar and mandolin in her band. Tom Menig is part of a line up that looks – bass player and drummer at least – like some early 70s country outfit. Alela’s voice is a soaring bird of wonder, and her folk songs are pastoral and highly poetic, especially the stunning ‘White Like Diamonds’. (GM)

30 minutes later and it’s the Big Top turn from The Boy Least Likely To. I’m sad to say, after many attempts, I still don’t get the fuss about the band (especially the lauding of their debut album). Their bubblegum pop is tolerable only in short bursts. Very short bursts. They do have a very appreciable crowd however who clearly think otherwise, and those in favour of this particular brand of Indie twee would’ve thoroughly enjoyed this spirited performance. A special mention for singer Jof Owen and his hugely entertaining banter; full of charm and humorous self-deprecation, even introducing one song as “our summer flop”. This candid enthusiasm, unlike the band’s overcooked material, is something you don’t grow tired of. (PW/AT)

Broken Family Band
Broken Family Band
This is the Broken Family Band’s last festival and although they don’t announce their separation until the end, the set-starter ‘It’s All Over’ is a strong hint. For that reason you can even forgive Jay Williams for indulging himself in a few rock shapes. It’s one of the best shows I’ve seen them play, and I’ve seen a few over the last 8 years. They exhume older material like the quirky ‘Song About Robots’ to stand alongside their newer and rockier songs, while Steve Adams, though he looks like he’s just stepped out of a suburban garden where he’s been deadheading the roses, is as irreverent as ever. The soaring ‘Oh Captain’ is a personal favourite, guitars bursting with the same pyrotechnical effects as Texan rockers Centro-matic. They’ve got a few farewell shows left so catch them while you can. Teenage Swedes Klara and Johanna Söderberg, a.k.a. First Aid Kit, are precociously talented and impress the Tipi Tent with their alt.folk songs that sound inspired by Conor Oberst and his circle. ‘Tangerine’ is a delicious heartbreaker but it must be the folly of youth that causes them to cover Buffy Saint-Marie’s ‘Universal Soldier’ with updated lyrics. That’s so wrong on so many levels. Blitzen Trappen also play the Tipi Tent but this is so wrong too. It’s absolutely rammed and they’d stoked up to play loud tonight, ‘Black River Killer’ being just one highlight of their Neil Young inspired guitar mayhem. Great band, wrong stage. (GM)

Okkervil River
Okkervil River
Okkervil River are literary and rockish all in one. Named after Tatiana Tolstoy’s novel, Will Sheff’s songs drip cultural and pop references through layers of melody. Songs are becoming anthems these days as venues become larger but they haven’t lost their slightly geeky charm and the days on the road haven’t prevented him from penning classics like the gossamer folk of ‘A Stone’ and rousing ‘For Real’. Greatness stands to the side of the stage, awaiting her cue, which must come soon. Following Okkervil River we go off to buy food and on our return find 200 people waiting outside the Garden Stage gates. For the first time, it seems that the field has reached its legal capacity so there’s a one-in, one-out system in place (no one’s leaving) and you’re not even allowed to go and sit in the woods and listen. The rest of the site is pretty subdued by comparison so we head off for the hotel bar and Match of the Day and, as we cross the dark carpark under star-crowded skies, the high harmonies of ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ ring out pure and clear (the car park is in direct earshot of the main stage), making our trek across the field staring by the light of the Milky Way an almost transcendental psychedelic experience. (GM)

The afternoon has also taken a turn for the worse with news that The Horrors have decided to pull out of tonight’s headline slot; all very disappointing. So it’s perhaps all the more appropriate to pay another visit to the Big Top for Malcolm Middleton and his sardonic wit. Alas, for all nice melodies on show today, his most potent ingredient (his lyrics) are often obscured under feedback, or a poor mix at the hands of the soundman. Either that or Middleton is having a bit of an off day; he certainly keeps his banter to an absolute minimum early on and even when he does speak it’s more of a mumble. Pity, because when the sound is right (or when Malcolm makes an effort, who knows?), the performance blossoms into something very special indeed, and by the closing stages, it’s intelligent and delightful Indie folk of the highest ilk. (PW/AT)

There appears to be less variety at this year’s festival compared to 2008; so with utter relief and delight it’s time for Zun Zun Egui in the Local Tent. Under different circumstances, their blend of Afrobeats, heavy bass and Deerhoof-style prog wigouts could very well scare off the cider drinkers among us, but 30 seconds into the first tune and half the tent dance while the other half simply stare in amazement. Either way, no-one’s leaving in a hurry. At various points they’re brilliant, daft, or utterly bizarre; but always fun. (PW/AT)

As Faris Badwan & his crew have decided to phone in sick, even a larger majority of the crowd descend on the Garden Stage for Fleet Foxes. Unfortunately, through fear of spilt cider and trampled peacocks, the stewards close the path and prevent a fair number of Fox fans from catching even a glimpse of Robin Pecknold’s beard. Far from satisfactory, but at least now there’s time for a few pints at the Hotel. (PW/AT)

Authors: Ged M, Pete W/Annalisa T and Paul M


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