Final day of the 2016 edition and fourth post on this blog. Still so-so weather on Sunday but a fantastic line-up (again)!
No better way to start a day than attending a good gig on the Garden Stage. Bill Ryder-Jones used to be a founding member of the excellent Liverpudlian band The Coral but left after a couple of records as he wanted to do his own music and was not really made for tour and band life. Despite his health issues, he has kept on doing beautiful orchestral music and his 2015 “West Kirby County Primary” LP was one of the best records of last year (which I discovered a bit too late to put in my best-of list). The show was in line with what he is, i.e. a good-looking young but not really well-dressed man, not at ease on stage but at the same time very communicative. He and his musicians well excellent though and that was a very good gig for a start.
Same stage 45 minutes later with Kevin Morby, the only artist who was already there last year, as part of the Heavenly label day. He told the audience that he would play here again and again so much he likes this festival. Kevin Morby is a key person right now in the musical scene as he can be found in many projects. His progression has been impressive though from one year to another as it went from a really nice to a great gig. Same thing as for the previous artist ; his 2016 LP “Singing Saw” is great and one of the best of the year so far.
The Canadian collective Broken Social Scene were on the main stage today. Although they played with their regular enthusiasm and energy, I am always a bit sceptical about bands who have many players or members on stage, unless your name is Prince… Not unpleasant but a bit annoying sometimes when one does not enter into their world.
Talking about annoying…Seeing Thurston Moore and his band (including Deg Googe from My Bloody Valentine on bass or the great Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth on drums) should have been dreamy stuff for a Sonic Youth fan…but that was not the case. Difficult to explain why as the music was very good but maybe I am so used to his usual tricks (distortion, 1-minute 1-note solo, etc…) that I lost a bit the flame. I felt like watching a sub-par Sonic Youth influenced band but maybe I was too harsh.. or influenced by the book “Girl in a Band” wrote by Kim Gordon.
I then went for the last time under the Tipi Tent to see Chris Cohen and his band. Quite a miracle by the way as the guys missed a ferry-boat from who knows where and arrived five minutes before the show. It did not prevent them to play one of the most refreshing gigs of the festival, mixing a detached American style with a beautiful sense of melodies.
I had to choose between Sunflower Bean, a great new band (a mix of Cocteau Twins and Nirvana to make it quick) and the legendary Scritti Politti lead by Green Gartside. I chose the latter, having in mind I may be able to see the former in a few months or years. Not that bad a choice as despite a funny look (hello the Loveboat), Green showed that he was still going forward, mixing his love of pop, reggae and hip-hop. He told us a few funny stories as well about the genesis of a few songs (apparently Kraftwerk and reggae do not mix that well…) and played a refreshing show. …and for once I was not one of the oldest people in the audience!
Joanna Newsom was probably considered as THE headliner of the festival, which reflects quite well what the festival is about as having a young woman in a beautiful dress playing the harp on stage is far from the usual rock clichés… That was a strength and a weakness for me. I really love her music and am the proud owner of all her records but unless being super snobbish and despite the quality of her music, voice and band, you tend to feel a bit bored and tired at one stage when standing up in a field. But once again, her music is beautiful and she is one of the most original artists of our times.
Teenage Fanclub is one of my favourite band ever, ranked #22 in our Top 100 of the best bands of all times. It had been a few months that I was following their website as there were news of a new record and a tour so I was delighted when I learnt that they would play their only festival of the year at End of the Road. If you want revolutionary music, they may not be the band for you. If you like great melodic and punchy bands, they will be your friends for life. That was only the 3rd time I was attending one of their shows and the last one was already 11-year old at the Point Ephémere in Paris… As usual, the three songwriters Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley sang alternately but there is such a Teenage Fanclub sound that it does not look as if the songs were created by different writers. That was a delight as usual and the setlist was very well-balanced between old and new songs taken from their new LP. Probably the best way to finish late the festival and I was not the only one to experience such a feeling, surrounded by enthusiastic Scottish fans! Video I took of the opening song “Start Again” below.
Not sure where I will be in a year in terms of personal life but I already got my pass so I guess I will be spending a few days in a field in Dorset early September!