Thursday, September 27, 2012

End Of The Road Festival 2012 Review. Day 2, September 1st.


Day 2 of the End Of The Road may have been an early start for many, judging by the noise outside the tents on the cool Saturday morning however this wasn't the case for us. As predicted this would be a physically tougher day, an uphill struggle so to speak, the copious amounts of Whitstable Ale had taken it's toll, however it was nothing that a big vegetarian breakfast couldn't repair. Waiting in the queue it was obvious that we were not alone in our predicament. there were many people who had travelled far to be here the previous day too and of course indulged heavily on the many brews available.
Again the friendliness of the crowd just has to be commended, this was such a defining attribute to the festival and actually would alone make you want to return back there again next year without question.

How many festivals can boast that they serve their own brew? .Of all the choices available at the bars, I had found the perfect one this day, titled of course 'End Of The Road Ale'.
A couple of pints of this nectar of the gods later and the feeling of a new beginning started to kick in, it was time to check out some music. The sunshine was seeping through the once threatening clouds  at around 2pm and the crowds were building around the Woods Stage, some carrying deck chairs with them to just sit and chill out to the sound of Mr. William Elliot Whitmore.

This banjo picking troubadour is the real deal, his songs with themes depicting life in rural America could not come from a more genuine source.
When not touring or recording, Whitmore can be found working on his family farm in deepest Iowa. Part hillbilly and part punk rock his set brought a lively atmosphere to the beautiful afternoon. Young children and parents were dancing near the stage front, everyone lapping up the sunshine, the day was slowly getting better.


William Elliot Whitmore

Later in the afternoon a quick call to the Rough Trade music stall was a worthwhile venture which had a vast array of Cd's to offer with notable albums from artistes performing over the weekend. Several albums in fact were available that I could not easily find at stores closer to home, for example some of Bella Union's earlier releases. A mental note was taken of dozens of collections on view for future purchasing, including a splendid double compilation called 'Rough Trade shops Bella Union'.

At 5.45 it was time for Anna Calvi to play at the Woods Stage, at first glimpse she could be mistaken for a rather refined office clerk or secretary with her sharp suit and carefully tied back hair. Her petite appearance however was deceiving, as this girl displayed a wild side as soon as she picked up her Telecaster and started to play.Her vocal ability on songs like 'Blackout' and 'Desire' from her self titled and only album to date, were savagely striking. Among her set list also included a fine version of a song called 'Jezebel' made famous in the 1950's by french legend Edit Piaf, each line delivered with solid ferocity.

Anna Calvi

 Her album released in 2011 has had rave reviews including being on the shortlist for a Mercury Award, which comes as no surprise. Her virtuoso guitar playing and voice combined is a tour de force, as arresting as anything we have heard from P.J Harvey for example. Incidentally she is often compared to P.J Harvey but personally I feel that Calvi has something more to offer. Her next album will be a difficult one no doubt, its never easy to better such an incredible debut, but greatness like this does not  fade out easily .
This is the song 'Suzanne and I'....

Stranded Horse
Stranded Horse is essentially the work of french native Yann Tambour, I was lucky enough to catch some of his performance later that evening at the Tipi Tent .Along with being a mesmerising guitarist, another instrument of choice is the West African Kora, which interweaves beautifully with his melancholic voice, similar to that of Nick Drake. This was yet another treasure like musical discovery, the intricate string playing had everyone there to see him transfixed, sitting silent throughout except for bursting into applause between songs. Some of Tambour's lyrics were sung in French, some in English, either way their delivery was sparsely beautiful. The Kora is a complex instrument even in appearance, never mind to play, however to say that this man's playing was masterful would only be a flippant understatement.


At 7.30 Alabama Shakes  were kicking off their set at the Woods Stage, this funk blues outfit were scarcely even heard of 6 months ago, that was of course before the release of their hugely successful debut album 'Boys And Girls'. Hailing from the Deep South Georgia this foursome create a wonderful sound with gorgeous guitar riffs and fiery vocals by one Brittany Howard. Touring relentlessly since the album's release across the U.S. and Europe, this was just one of their stops along the way. They would later do a surprise gig at the Big Top tent the following night for anyone who missed them or  for anyone who simply couldn't get enough of them.
Alabama Shakes

Tindersticks brought their own blend of smooth to the Garden Stage later in the evening, here is a band I have loved since they began over 20 years ago and this would be my third time seeing them play live.These Nottingham natives have possibly partially been responsible for the term 'chamber pop' when describing their music, I prefer the description 'Indie Jazz' if indeed there is such a title. Stuart Staple's unmistakable voice thankfully hasn't altered with age, their songs often, heartbreaking, even sometimes devastating have provided a soundtrack to many troubled relationships in their long career.
The set list tonight included some songs from the latest album 'The Something Rain', which I have yet to listen to in it's entirety, it's their 12th studio album to date, not counting compilations and film soundtracks.
In a direct quote recently Tindersticks are 'still drinking, laughing, crying, fighting, fucking making our music',and long may they keep doing just that.

Stuart Staples -Tindersticks

Brooklyn psych rockers Grizzly Bear were the headliners tonight at the Woods Stage, clashing with Mark Lanagan at the Garden Stage, acres apart between stages perhaps but miles apart in musical contrast.

Grizzly Bear promoting their latest album 'Shields',the follow up to massively acclaimed 2009 release 'Veckatimest' displayed an intriguing stage presence, their multi layered songs filling the night with a collage of sound. Often likened to fellow New Yorkers Mercury Rev, this four piece make complicated music, yet refreshing in originality. A full concert from September 20th at Washington D.C's 9.30 Club can be streamed here on this link, yet another treat from the wonderful NPR website.


We were lucky enough to also catch some of Mark Lanagan's set of course and there was a lot of talk among revellers today in anticipation of him playing the festival. Some of his many previous achievements include forming Seattle grunge band The Screaming Trees, not to mention being a member of Queens Of The Stone Age for 5 years. His raspy vocals could only be described as something like a cross between that of Lemmy from Motorhead and Tom Waits combined. Holding firmy to the microphone stand throughout, he delivered some grinding songs from past and present. 'Blues Funeral' is the title of his latest album and is well worth checking out.
After the gig  it was announced that he would be signing copies of his album at the Rough Trade music stand, so obviously there was a rush from the crowd to get there, mind you he seemed like the kind of man that would not be willing to indulge in much small talk.
Here is a clip of Mark earlier this year performing 4 songs following the release of 'Blues Funeral' last February.

And so concluded our second day of the festival, a day of diverse music, fine ale, aching limbs but overall bliss.Tomorrow would be yet another adventure with a change in the weather but with even more incredible music....

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