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   Thursday, September 25, 2008  

...that was this blog's word of the weekend at the End of the Road Festival earlier this month. Though not de rigeur, a solid pair of gumboots were absolument nécessaire as 10,000 feet churned up the saturated arena ground. And several acts packed a unexpected wallop.
Slightly disappointingly, this time round much of the music at the 3rd EotR came to resemble the mud underfoot - or plasticine after the rainbow of colours have all been squidged together. A 'dull brown' core programme consisting of two broad types:

:: earnest, troubled indie-Americana from the likes of Jason Molina and Marks Kozelek and Eitzel (who really should form a supergroup and call their album 'Life's shit and then you die')

:: and a younger legion of folksy pop troupes fronted by pale guys in plaid shirts and hesitant beards, usually with The Girl on accordian and/or fiddle (Woodpigeon, The Acorn, Bowerbirds, Seabear, etc whose nearly-but-not-quite songbooks tended to blur into one another)

No, for this blog it was those acts with a bit of the aforementioned welly, hitherto largely unsuspected, who stood out. Acts like Shearwater, for instance. reallyrather must confess to not having paid much attention to their output since mostly liking '02's Everybody makes mistakes. (In the words of the great philosopher Homer, 'Doh!'.) But the buzz around Rook pulled me front of stage in The Local tent late on Saturday. Good move. The Austin/Denton Tx. five-piece delivered a set of escalating mightiness, dirty riffage and fundamental heft anchoring elegant, concise compositions with Meiburg's exotic vocal contrasting starkly with the camp caveman presence of Thor behind the drum kit. Rivetting.

Also shifting up a weight division, perky janglemeisters Pete & the Pirates. The decanting of folks from the Big Top over to Bon Iver on the main stage would surely have been far swifter had the chipper Reading mob and their forest of Fenders' set not been so hard to resist. Wall-to-wall lusty pop tuneage. Yes, they're pretty straightforward and not exactly musically adventurous but it feels like they're stealthily building up a head of steam to rival the likes of British Sea Power as UK indie guitar pop tyros...
[pete & the pirates]

And then there's Hawley. OK, so this set's hardly a thing of edgy spontaneity but it has been honed right down to some kind of perfect. In this time and place there was an ineffable rightness about the whole thing - Richard Hawley seemed to feel it, the packed lawn in front of the Garden Stage felt it. As much as anyone, Hawley was trying to impress his four kids watching from the side of the stage. They weren't giving much away (it was just Dad posing in his shades, after all) but things like the zinging solo on a gorgeous vintage gee-tar during Here in my arms pushed this blog's ace-ometer to eleven. Kwalidee with a capital K...
[richard hawley]

... random EotR notes ... the Shop Assistant Least Likely To - Jof doing a shift behind the Rough Trade counter on Saturday afternoon ... Clare & the Reasons turning Somewhere over the rainbow into a single-word ode to Barak Obama's candidacy at the end of their Bimble Inn set then to be greeted by a picture-perfect specimen in the sky as the crowd spilled from the tent ... discovering from the (excellent) programme that Jonathan from Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Pete from P & the Pirates are actual cousins (this blog having unwittingly compared SSLYBY's Pershing to P&tP's Little death back in April) ... Boris' turn was zesty shot at the thankless task of opening the whole shebang before half the crowd had pitched up - the campsite could be opened the day before, surely? ...

Tickets for EotR 2009 on sale now, £90...

Loveliness & pop, that's what was there wasn't really quite enough of for this blog this time round. The increasingly close involvement of Plan B magazine isn't necessarily a bad thing (the 84-page programme was a model) but the preponderance of worthiness and outthere indie-cred rather crowded out unadulterated - yes, it's that word again - loveliness. It's quite simple really:

...and more about that anon...
   posted by SMc at 6:41 AM |