Another year goes by with personal issues, great moments, not so good moments, scary things happening all over the world,…well we/you all face this and I guess this blog is no different. However, as all good things in life, there are still a few times when one feels secured, happy or comforted. It can be done through art, books, friends, family, going to see a game, fishing,…you name it. For me, despite it being only my third edition, End of the Road brings that comforting feeling.
There was no major news this year in terms of why and how much I love this festival. It comes for the audience, the music lovers (hello Big Jeff!), the site, the peacocks, the comedy stages, etc… Please refer to my reviews of previous years (cf. tag “End of the Road” on the right of the page) and I hope being able to share all the good karma that comes out of it. I will guide you through a more summarised review this year so let’s start with Thursday evening.
- Thursday, 31st August 2017
As with last year, the organisers decided in keeping this good idea: let’s start the festival on Thursday night with a few gigs.
My first music note out of 24 gigs I were to attend during these four days came from a nice and friendly UK band called The Surfing Magazines. I then attended the concert of Brix Smith & The Extricated. Originally from the US, Brix used to be Mark E. Smith’s spouse and they both were members of The Fall in the 80’s. After a few years out of the music business, she is back with former The Fall members, playing a mix of old The Fall songs and new ones they created. Quite a lively and nice set I must say.
Thursday’s headliners were Slowdive. They were contemporary of bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Ride or The Boo Radleys in the late 80’s/early 90’s and part of the so-called “shoegaze” movement. After disbanded in the 90’s and focusing on their other project Mojave Three, their leaders Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell reformed the band a few years ago and released a new self-titled LP this year (cf. our May 2017 Albums of the month). As quite often with this band, they do not have so many memorable songs but their beauty lies in the way they work on sounds and musical structures. I was quite impressed by their strength and focus on stage and this was an excellent way to start the festival.
- Friday, 1st September 2017
Very sunny day to start the month of September with lots of great gigs as well! The difficulty at End of the Road is often to make decisions as there are almost always two gigs at the same time out of the four stages. I personally generally favour to attend concerts in their entirety when I can and chose either bands/musicians who are personal favourites or others I have never seen playing live before.
I decided therefore to miss Mac DeMarco who was headlining that day as I attended his concert recently at the Route du Rock festival in Saint-Malo.
I experienced a few nice discoveries such as the nice but slightly boring folk songs of Julie Byrne, the punchy Velvet Underground-influenced music of Ultimate Painting, the great country-rock of female legend Lucinda Williams, the surprising, demanding and beautiful music of New-Zealander Aldous Harding or the beautiful indie-rock songs of US band Real Estate.
The two concerts I enjoyed the most though were Michael Chapman and H. Hawkline. Michael Chapman could be considered as a finger-picking legend. Now reaching 76 years, he sounds and looks like a youngster both on stage and on record (cf. our January 2017 albums of the month). On a very sunny Garden Stage, he played a great set, alone with his acoustic guitar, telling us plenty of funny stories between songs. The older I get, the more I get bored with conventional music, like boring folk musicians, bland indie bands or repetitive electro shit (hello Justice…) so watching someone being so long in the business while being so fresh is something to recognize.
My other favourite concert was H. Hawkline, an artist I had already seen live two years ago. His attitude and music remain as fresh as I remember and this is a pity that this artist from Wales is not more famous. Catch him live if you can.
- Saturday, 2nd September 2017
Saturday is generally the most tiring day of a festival so I decided to enjoy the last sunny day, take my time rather than running from one place to another and appreciate the six gigs I went to.
No regret at all concerning those I missed as so great were the ones I attended. Quite funny and charming as with The Burning Hell from Canada, really good as always with Band Of Horses or amazingly dynamic and full of energy like The Lemon Twigs, lead by the D’Addario brothers (respectively 17 and 19-years old!). Nadine Shah‘s concert was impressive as well ; she has a real strong personality, her music is really beautiful, her words are clever and political…and she has a nice Geordie accent from Newcastle. Listen to her album as soon as you can (cf. August 2017 Albums of the month).
My two best moments of the day (and also of the festival) came from that day. I caught first quite early in the afternoon an artist I had never heard of whose name is Moses Sumney. In a world where we are 24/7 connected and where all sounds/records/news are supposed to be known, I was intrigued by it but also quite excited. I must say the reward was immense and very emotional. This beautiful big black guy is from the USA but with Guinean origins and has lots of interaction everywhere basically. He was assisted on stage by a young guitarist while he was singing, playing guitar, synths… or machines. His music can go from one minute to another from a heavenly melody to industrial sounds. He has the voice of an angel but does not insist too much on it as one can see his interest is more in sounds and emotion. I thought that this is a feeling that people must have had the first time they discovered Bjork on stage…and the next track he played was a Bjork cover. Discover him before he gets too massive ; his debut album will be out soon on the 22nd of September.
The day ended beautifully with the Festival headliner, i.e. Father John Misty. The alter ego of Joshua Tillman, Father John Misty has been one of our favourite artists in the latest years and the current success he has cannot be more deserved. His latest album “Pure Comedy” was amongst our April 2017 best albums of the month…but really this alum is more than this. It has been personally a very emotional companion since its release and I could talk for ages about the perfect balance between beautiful 70’s Elton John’s music and Joshua’s funny, sad, complex, political and overwhelming words. The current live tour is as beautiful as the record and for his first festival headline Father John Misty was really impressive. His band is fantastic and there are around 15 musicians on stage, including strings and horns. One of my best concerts ever for a performer on top of his form.
- Sunday, 3rd September 2017
What would be a UK festival without rain? After three days in a row without one drop of rain and two beautiful sunny days actually, Sunday was completely different and to make it short it did not stop raining all day! This did not stop your reviewer to do his job either by choosing “dry” gigs in tents or fighting the rain with the usual material (cape and waterproof clothes).
That was my busiest day with eight gigs attended, knowing that I went and see 45 minutes of each headliner rather than choosing one entire gig.
So quite a busy day indeed and a female-oriented one, either with the great C-86 UK scene influenced band Girl Ray or with the Crutchfield twin sisters. Born and raised in Alabama, their indie rock is really good and exciting: Allison Crutchfield has her own band with… Allison Crutchfield & The Fizz while Katie Crutchfield is a bit more famous than her sister with her band Waxahatchee (in which Allison also plays…shall I do it again or did you get it?). Anyway, both bands are super recommended and can be enjoyed in dry or wet weather conditions (as personally experienced!).
Other female artists I enjoyed that day were Nadia Reid from NZ and her beautiful acoustic and poetic songs and Satomi Matsuzaki who is the lead singer of the always weird but always enjoyable band Deerhoof. I could almost say that Foxygen is a female-oriented band as their two leaders Jonathan Rado and Sam France have a real non-male sensitivity in their melodies and song structures. Theirs was probably my rainier concert ever but the mood amongst the crowd was so strong that everyone almost forgot they were all heavily soaked!
The Jesus and Mary Chain or Bill Callahan? Bill Callahan or The Jesus and Mary Chain. Both artists are part of my Top 100 and have been personal favourites for a long time. I caught Bill recently in London… and the Reid Brothers even more recently at the Route du Rock festival. So I decided to watch the first 45 minutes of Bill Callahan and the remaining 45 ones of The JAMC. I think it was the right choice as Bill Callahan‘s set (this time with a full band and not only his usual side-guitarist as early in the year) is more balanced in terms of songs’ choice whereas The Jesus and Mary Chain generally plays their most iconic tracks during the second part of their set. Despite both gigs being obviously very different, both were excellent and represent to me a certain idea of what rock’n’roll should be, i.e. mainly self-belief in one’s ideas…
See you next year End of the Road ; I already bought my “early bird” ticket!