Like all good series, important to make the audience wait eagerly for the next episode (not that true anymore with Netflix…) so here is episode 3 of the great End of the Road 2016 edition.
Saturday is traditionally the day where one feels a bit tired but not so much the case this year as I attended 10 gigs…despite the ongoing rain. I unfortunately did not spend one second around the Woods Stage and missed such excellent artists as Local Natives or Bat for Lashes but once again there were a few choices to me made.
My start of the day was as usual at the Garden Stage with Meilyr Jones, a relatively newcomer from Wales who published this year his first album called “2013“. This is one of the records I have been listening the most recently and must say that the concert was as good as the show. This guy is very talented and has a way in making great melodies. Listen to the first song of the album (and of the show) named “How to recognize a work of art” and I can bet you will immediately be seduced by its rhythm and sense of melody. A real talent to follow.
I then adapted and changed my plan and decided to stay dry under the Big Top tent to see The Garden on stage. This band is that of twin brothers Fletcher and Wyatt Shears and is based on the bass and drums-only formula. Quite fascinating and a bit annoying at the same time as songs are very punchy, very short and sung with sounds that a smart monkey could do. I quite enjoyed the show but must admit this is not the kind of band I will follow.
Still in my “let’s-not-get-too-wet” mindset, I then attended the gig from Basia Bulat under the Tipi tent. She is a Canadian singer and she and her band probably got one of the unexpected success of the festival. Basia Bulat has a fantastic voice and great songs but also something different in her fresh attitude and choice of instruments (hello,dulcimer?…). I have read that she starts to be very popular in her native Canada and cannot see any reason for this not to happen in the UK and continental Europe.
But to me the best concert of the week-end was that of Sam Beam (fron Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop. Funny how I always have great expectations from Iron & Wine in traditional halls and always feel (slightly) disappointed whereas I found the guy amazing in festivals. Not very intuitive as his music should not work in festivals but this is not the case. The great (and modest) man published a record this year with Jesca Hoop. I had already seen her as opening act for Shearwater and she is a beautiful artist on her own or in all the collaborative stuff she does with others. They were on their own with very often Sam’s acoustic guitar as the only instrument but believe me the emotion was incredible. Excellent stage presence between tracks also as both of them were very funny and a couple of great covers from The Bee Gees…and Eurythmics. Gig of the festival for me!
I continued my marathon and managed to grab a few songs from Cat’s Eyes, the duo formed by The Horrors’ singer Faris Badwan and the classically trained singer Rachel Zaffira. Their music is really interesting in the sense that they mix a gothic attitude with a Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood type of music but with more ambition. I think the Big Top stage was probably not the best one to give back their sense of subtlety but I still enjoyed the few songs I saw. I would just add that not offering them a role in a Tim Burton movie is a real disgrace!
M. Ward is an artist from whom I regularly buy records either solo or with other collaborators (he has been quite popular with Zoe Deschanel as She & Him) but I realised it was the first time I was spotting him on stage. Excellent surprise as I was not expecting him to be as good as on records but he acted live the right way, i.e. with excitement and playing rockers rather than ballads. His band is really on top of their game and he is also an amazingly talented guitarist, which is something I did not know. A bit like for Phosphorescent the previous day, here are two guys who play traditional rock with a 21st century attitude so what’s not to like?
For really traditional music to typical inventive Scottish attitude, there are only a few yards… That was indeed the feeling I had with Steve Mason and his band. The guy started his career very high with the Beta Band, one of the most inventive British bands from the last decade. For those of you “High Fidelity” fans, you will remember the scene where Jack Black proudly announces to his boss John Cusack that he will sell a few records by the Beta Band (“The 3 EP’s” to be precise) after playing them in the store. But success is an ephemeral thing and Steve Mason disbanded the group quite soon and went back to his demons… He just released an album under his own name this year and this is a real return to form. More on record than live to be honest as there was too much a “lad” attitude on stage as far as I am concerned and I was a bit frustrated by a certain lack of subtlety. Pity really as the record is really good.
Last concert of the day at the Garden Stage with a new important talent: Ezra Furman. This singer/songwriter/guitarist has recently started a very positive buzz amongst critics and fans not only for his music but for what he is as well. Here is a young man who was close to being good for many years but with too heavy a personal burden to achieve what he had in him. But the solution was really obvious : let’s wear stockings, a pearls’ lace and moreover a nice dress on stage. So this is what I experienced ; a guy playing a very fresh version of rock’n’roll, wearing a dress and surrounded by a gang of rockers! Great energy and refreshing attitude indeed although one will really judge Ezra Furman in a few years when/if the sensation is over.
I did not stay until the end as I really wanted to enjoy BC Camplight under the Tipi Tent to end the night. This artist from Philadelphia, PA had released two LP’s which were not really noticed by the general public (me included I must admit) before relocating to Manchester, UK after a few years of doubts and personal trouble. I am just realising by the way that the three gigs in a row were a bit similar in the sense that these artists were far from getting a straight and linear career ; fascinating coincidence… Anyway, back to BC Camplight who to me has released one of the best albums of the year with “How to die in the North“. Do not focus on the title as I guess this is more a joke on Manchester than anything else. This album is not dissimilar to what Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys would have done if he were of the same age nowadays (and having got rid of Mike Love…). Mini-symphonies, punchy melodies, weird solos… Go and listen to that record.
So here it was for Day Three with a “mission accomplished” feeling…but as I still had a bit of bravery and will, I went on my way out to the Big Top Stage to see who was playing as surprise show and if I had a chance of knowing the band… And indeed, as I had the great surprise with the other thousands of people staying late to watch Wild Beasts on stage! I only managed to watch the four last tracks of the gig but they all were hit songs. For those regular readers, you know this blog is a huge fan of Wild Beasts and that I have been either reviewing concerts and put their records in my best-of-the-year lists. Their last LP is quite different from the last ones (more radio-friendly or more urban? not sure yet…) but it is really impressive to see what they have become on stage, especially in the UK. I just hope they will not become too big and will not lose in subtlety what they gain in energy and popularity (hello Foals…).
One more review to come with Day 4 so stay tuned!