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Festival Coverage: End Of The Road 2015

  • Published in Live

In celebrating its 10th birthday, End Of The Road remains a unique and brilliant fixture of the UK festival calendar. Housed in the exquisite settings of one-time Victorian Pleasure Gardens, EOTR has grown in recent years, but refuses to part with any of its charm. There’s a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, but they are deadly serious about their packed and diverse line up, which showcases huge names and those in the making.

Among the free-roaming peacocks, the festival is also packed with comedy, fantastic art installations, a Forest Disco and perfect little touches. (How does a surprise performance from Laura Marling on a tiny, hidden Piano stage sound?)

In an increasingly busy festival calendar, End Of The Road stands out from the crowd, and you can see it in the enjoyment of the performers. You’ll see many of them wandering around the site before and after their sets, and there’s no wondering why.

On Friday afternoon there were captivating sets from the Race Horses’ Meilyr Jones; moody Canadian outfit Ought; the fantastically raw Torres; upbeat art-pop act Django Django and the wacky King Khan & BBQ Show (complete with gold cape and black leather pants).

But Friday belonged to Tame Impala, who headlined The Woods stage with a commanding and mesmerising set. They flowed through earlier, guitar-led material and the more disco-focused Currents. Opening track ‘Let It Happen’ pinned their colours to the mast for a dazzlingly trippy set, and when the stomping favourite ‘Elephant’ started, the festival really felt underway.

The night was capped off by East India Youth, who performed a spellbinding electro-pop set in the Big Top Tent.

Saturday began with the colourful Human Pyramids, who performed a wonderful, orchestral show. With a stage literally full of musicians, it was the perfect wake up call, complete with uplifting string arrangements, clever melodies and startling drums.

Following this came The Duke Spirit, Slow Club, whose impact was lost slightly on a larger stage, distinctive LA two-piece Girlpool and the abrasively rocky Ex Hex. All this preceded the explosive Fat White Family, who tore the Big Top Tent apart.

As the highlight of the entire weekend, special praise must be reserved for Sufjan Stevens. Making his first UK festival appearance, Stevens played one of the most astounding sets you are ever likely to witness at a festival, during which you could hear a pin drop.

To stun a festival crowd into silence on a Saturday night is no mean feat, but in brisk September conditions the real chill comes from the wonderfully bleak compositions of Carrie And Lowell. ‘The Fourth Of July’s’ refrain “We’re all gonna die” is one you would expect to be a bit too drab for this crowd, but it’s absolutely spectacular. After sharing a hand-written letter he had received from the organisers some 8 years earlier, requesting he played, it was more special for the wait. Then when things got a little too solemn, Stevens would react appropriately, playing feel-good tunes like ‘Chicago’ and ‘Come On! Feel the Illinoise!’ complete with a brass backing band.

Following Saturday’s chill, Sunday was gloriously warm. We are welcomed by indie darlings Hinds, who had clearly brought some Spanish sun. In turn, the inhabitants of the Big Top tent groove to the tunes of Ultimate Painting and Happyness, who bring a dreamy slice of '90s-inspired rock. Later Alvvays brought their sugary indie pop to the sun soaked main stage.

Mac DeMarco offers a 10th birthday cake for the festival, alongside a slick set on the Garden Stage. “I’m going to cuddle up to a peacock and ruffle a few feathers, if you know what I’m saying”, a spaced-out DeMarco announces, in his best bloke-in-a-porno impression. Towards the end of his set, Mac leaps into the crowd, but “straight to the ground as always.” Meanwhile his band-mates, who have personalities and talent as immense as his, chuck their guitars to and fro, amidst impressive solos.

The grandiose sound of The War On Drugs, driven by Dylan and Springsteen’s influences, is chosen to call an end to the festival. Like so many others they show a genuine pleasure to be playing, saying the only other time they’d been asked, they simply couldn’t afford the flights. Now as a major player, they’ve found their place and give an impressive show, showcasing 2014’s astounding Lost In The Dream, for the festival’s final hurrah.

End Of The Road’s 10th birthday celebration was, as expected, a huge success. The intimate but expansive gathering is a family-friendly treat and a musical highlight of the year. The sound on each stage is incredible, and most importantly unlike other festivals, the 4 stages are close enough that you’re only ever be a few minutes’ walk between each (via a bar with short queues), meaning you can really focus on enjoying some great music, in an idyllic setting. Here’s to another 10 years.




Album Review: Race Horses – Goodbye Falkenberg

  • Published in Albums

In these lands we traverse, we find certain regional musical similarities some would consider clichéd: the cheeky English, the dramatic and sometimes miserablist Scottish and the zany, somewhat psychedelic and slightly tongue-in-cheek Welsh. I’ve missed out the Irish because it’s saved me a further generalisation, and the risk of potentially alienating another nation for the sake of some tenuous regional cohesion. Race Horses, formerly Radio Luxembourg, being Welsh, of course fit snugly into their respective camp – and this is no bad thing.

Goodbye Falkenberg starts with a Mahler-influenced detuning of synth , leadingstraight into ‘Man in Mind’, a meandering sonic onslaught justifying their new moniker.  “Oooh”s come from every angle while glockenspiel and piano slide up and down, mimicking the obsessive madness overshadowing singer Meilyr Jones’ desperate pleas of “I’m ok!”. An abrupt outro is followed by debut single ‘Cake’, a heavily Beatles-influenced story of a good guy turned bad by a girl’s literal interest in sins of the bakery over that of the body. Delivered with typical humour and wit, “You’ve gotta talk with your whisk/if you wanna get a kiss” is just a snatch. Luckily it ends before any serious sploshing and then moves into ‘Pony’, drawn from a similar palette but with more lyrically longing. “I want to be your pony,” he yearn, and an all its absurdity it starts to sound more like early Of Montreal. ‘Tim I Wish You Were Born a Girl’ in particular could have had them part of the Elephant 6 collective.

It’s obvious that the Welsh language is as important to them as it is to their forebears, and as such, it’s skilfully introduced with ‘Cecen Magmu’ and ‘Glo Ac Oren’. Melding Welsh and English seamlessly in different sections as though you’d just misheard the preceding line, these songs are full to the brim luscious sweeping melodies and delicate harmonies. It’s an acid tinged piece of chamber-pop Syd Barrett would have been proud of.

The unmistakable triumph on this record is ‘Voyage to St. Louiscious’, a condensed epic with biting string arrangements Owen Pallet could have penned. It’s a picaresque piece with an almost Odysseyan longing for home (“I’m really quite sick of being so far away”) and separation (“Become one of your tears, and drop down every night, to be at your side”). The title of the album, Goodbye Falkenberg, supposedly relates to a sunk German warship and also a German sailor drowned at sea.

There are obvious singles – some of which have preceded the record’s release (‘Cake’, ‘Man in Mind’) – but it’s tracks like ‘Marged Wedi Blino’ that showcase what this band has to offer, all sombre melodies and searing delay distortion. As it is sung in Welsh, to me it could be about anything – and in my ignorance of possible humorous turns of phrase I can only compare it to the effect of Sigur Ros or Elizabeth Fraser’s primal delivery.

Recorded in various locations from recording studios to eco villages and parties, it’s as if the recording process had to fit around the haphazard spirit of their songs on a physical level. It’s not just their record label and the name that have changed. Wrench’s unsubtle production and Race Horses’ musical vision and ambition make a strong debut album for a band who on first inspection, could easily be dismissed as twee and whimsy.  They are both, make no apologies and back it up with charm, wit and a creative edge which ensures they’ll never be also-rans.

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