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The Windmill, Brixton
Good Friday, 14th April 2017
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Gig Review

Whispertown 2000 / T Model Ford / The Tallest Man on Earth / Bob Log III / William Elliott Whitmore / Dan Michaelson / Joe Gideon / Soy Un Caballo / The Pack AD / Magnolia Electric Co / Dan Sartain / The Dodos / Steve Earle / Neko Case / The Hold Steady
End of the Road - Sunday Larmer Tree Gardens, North Dorset

Article written by Various Writers - Sep 23, 2009

On Sunday the sun is no longer relentless though the musical quality is. Luckily for any diligent reader of the festival programme, The Whispertown 2000 are nothing like the band to which they are compared (Kimya Dawson and The Moldy Peaches). Instead, the sweet but world-weary country harmonies of singers Morgan and Vanesa ring out over the sun-drenched main stage audience. Not as overly ‘quirky’ nor saccharine as Dawson’s band, their delicate voices and gentle acoustic strums are occasionally punctuated by the heavy bass drone and Lee Hazlewood-style delivery of bassist Casey. It’s little wonder they have been picked by up Gillian Welch’s Acony label. (PW/AT)

Up first in the Big Top is a man who doesn’t know his own date of birth (various sources place it somewhere between 1921 – 1925), who was sentenced to ten years in a chain gang for murder, and who didn’t record an album until in his 70s. Yep – T Model Ford has indeed a back-story / legend befitting of his Mississippi Delta blues. He treats us to a raw, riff-filled 45 minutes with tunes containing the expected tales of hard living, surviving against the odds and keeping the faith. The music may not deviate a great deal from song to song, but the crowd aren’t particular bothered, giving the old man a rapturous approval come every tune’s end. As he departs, clearly frail, he stops to acknowledge the audience in a genuinely touching moment. Fantastic. (PW/AT)

He’d no doubt scoff at the accusation of Dylan-aping, but watching Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth, for a mere 30 seconds and it’s plainly obvious that Mr Zimmerman’s voice and early 60s demeanour is in for a right, royal mimicking. That isn’t necessarily a problem and it wouldn’t matter one jot if his material was decent enough; but while there’s certainly some impressive finger-picking action, the songs aren’t particular strong or memorable, and they’re sorely let down by Matssons’ extremely clumsy metaphors and insistence on ramping up said impersonation to unbearable (and rather irritating) levels – tellingly his voice is somewhat different (and a lot better) when fronting his band, Montezuma, i.e. when the singer-songwriter persona isn’t required. Based on this afternoon’s display, the hype is misplaced and the performance seriously overcooked. (PW/AT)

If you’d have told me beforehand that I’d spend an hour watching a man in a clingy gold bacofoil boiler suit and full face pilot’s helmet and still be desperate for more after he’d finished, I’d have assumed you’d quaffed too much of the hot spiced cider hanging off everyone’s face here. But the fella in question, Bob Log III, is unbelievable. On a warm day, dressed in this ridiculous schmutter, Log plays psychobilly guitar at a breakneck speed while pounding a bass drum and a cymbal with his feet. The lyrics are frquently indecipherable, often crude (one track’s called You Shit On My Leg) but the “Oh yeah!”s are infectious and the ‘tween track banter is often hilarious. He tells us that he has had to stop playing with a girl on each knee following doctor’s advice – a quick check on Youtube shows this really is actually normally part of his act – and we laugh as two burly fellas in drag are turned away. You might not want to buy his albums but live, Log is far from dead wood. (PM)

William Elliott Whitmore is the first of my revelations today. Not only is the Ohioan reassuringly rootsy, his arms a graphic novel of illustrated flesh, his music is a soul-baring acoustic country-blues banged out on banjo and guitar. He’s almost as glad to see us as we are to see him; mid-set he leaps down into the photo pit to shake hands with the front row. When asked for songs, he invariably agrees to do them later in the set, admitting that he's "too fucking lazy to write a set list". All this endears him to the crowd so much there's a roar of disappointed disapproval when he announces his last song. It's impressive to see how a man can win friends so effortlessly and he's still at the side of the stage signing records when the next band starts 30 minutes later.
Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards are another high spot; Dan's Cash-meets-Cohen vocals, his desert-dry sense of humour, and the sumptuously melancholic heartbreakers he sings are totally wallow-worthy. Britain's answer to Bill Callaghan, he doesn't get the kudos he deserves. (GM)

Joe Gideon and the Shark are a brother and sister two-piece who were Bikini Atoll in another life. Drummer Viva used to be an Olympic gymnast and it clearly helps: she's never juggling any less than four things (drums, keyboards, percussion and singing) at once while brother Gideon sings his blues-based story songs. It's loud and energetic but there’s no evil glint in their eye like this music demands. With all this music around, it's nice to take it down a notch and Soy Un Caballo couldn't fit the Sunday afternoon bill better. The Belgian threesome tease out the warmest, gentlest folk songs from the soft burr of their instruments, leaving you with a mildly psychotropic buzz that lasts all afternoon. Then it's back to the fray...The Pack AD are an astonishing two-piece garage band from Vancouver. Yes, you say, but haven't we already been immersed in two-piece garage rock till we pray for a bass player to appear? Well we have but not quite in this style. These women go mental on stage, playing with a punk rock intensity that doesn't admit thoughts of White Stripes or Black Keys. (GM)

Back to the Garden Stage and Jason Molina and his Magnolia Electric Co are staidly going about their business with their inoffensive Alt-Country. The influences, chiefly Neil Young and The Band, are unmistakeable, but as pleasant as that sounds they unfortunately teeter on the brink of dullness once too often. What’s urgently required is a quick burst of rockabilly to revitalize the senses, and it’s about to be deliciously served up in the Big Top thanks to Dan Sartain. Looking like a late 50s Folsom prison inmate with the occasional lyric to match (usually concerning the narrator murdering his lover), the songs veer between simple blues and potent garage. He’s utterly captivating for 25 minutes then, surprisingly yet sensibly, decides to call it a day and bids us all farewell. Easily one of the weekend’s highlights. (PW/AT)

After the Pack AD, the Dodos are a bit of a disappointment. They've added vibrophone and additional percussion so are now a three-piece, but their music lacks some of the subtlety of their first record. Drummer Logan Kroeber is a blur of percussive energy, each limb playing a different part and it's not surprising he has to mop himself down after each song but sometimes it feels as if the drum sound is the main thing in the mix. Visiter seems a long time ago...The last thing I see on the Garden Stage are The Hold Steady. My noggin tells me that they're just a Midwest bar band who struck good fortune but they've got some great propulsive Replacements-style "punk" rock, in songs like 'Sequestered In Memphis'. Unfortunately they’ve also got lots of Springsteenian character studies that appeal to fanatics only. They sound rock'n'roll but don't look it, except for the thankfully dandified Franz Nicolay, and they don't dance rock'n'roll, if Craig Finn's dreadful, drunken dad dancing is anything to go by. I’ll stick (selectively) to the records. (GM)

In the mid-1980s Steve Earle was much-vaunted as both the saviour of country music and the new Bruce Springsteen, and the chart success of singles such as blustering set-closer ‘Copperhead Road’ seemed to give credence these claims. Instead, the course of career success was interrupted by drug addiction and a stint in jail, subsequently enabling Earle to experiment with a range of more rootsy styles from bluegrass to folk. Such a long musical pedigree means that the hour he is allotted feels inadequate, as he concentrates most of his set on latest album ‘Townes’, a tribute to his friend and musical mentor Townes van Zandt. His prosaic vocals give the songs an abrasive quality which truly brings out their often-overlooked ire, but it’s Earle’s own more openly political material, such as ‘Dixieland’, an American civil war ditty that boils with rage, which are the highlight. (PW/AT)

More overtly literate than Steve Earle, but no less hardworking, the next artist to perform on the main stage, alt-country diva Neko Case, cuts an arresting figure as the sun comes down. Spiky tales of heartbreak feature heavily, and her soaring crystalline voice belies the often barbed lyrics. Again, an hour seems short, and the set leans towards latest album, ‘Middle Cyclone’, which leaves little time for older favourites from her impressive back catalogue. However, a cover of The Shangri-Las ‘The Train from Kansas City’ offers a 60s girl group intensity and, for a change, a heartbroken boy. The festival is drawing to a close, and it’s a shame that squeezing through the hordes of Hold Steady fans and queuing for a chai tea has resulted in catching only the final moments of the Big Top’s penultimate act, Richmond Fontaine. For the lucky crowd who did manage to catch the entire set, the Oregon four-piece’s impressive, atmospheric Country Rock seems to have been a fitting end to this year’s End of the Road. (PW/AT)

End of the summer, end of the road but we go out with the best festival of the year. Again.

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


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