Ten gigs to remember…

I will not give you a figure (although I have it!) but I already spent a huge portion of my time on Earth attending gigs. It also means money spent on tickets, travels, tens of merchandising and gallons of beer! Jim & Greg from Sound Opinions recently did one of their shows on the concerts which made them what they are. I thought it would be a cool idea for this blog. You will find below a selection of ten concerts. A few massive live bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, U2 or again Bruce Springsteen could have been there for sure but these next ten are really special to me.

  • Prince – Paris, Bercy – 14th June 1987 – Setlist

Difficult not to select Prince in this list. I was lucky enough to catch him live three times but the first concert was definitely the best. He was at the peak of his career and had released his first post-Revolution LP “Sign O’ The Times” a few months earlier. I remember the stage was amazing while retaining a very natural feel. And Mr Prince Roger Nelson was also playing his beautiful peach harp-shaped guitar…

  • Happy Mondays / My Bloody Valentine – Paris, New Morning – 22nd March 1989 – Setlist

I must admit I am not sure which band was supporting which but I remember sweat was literally pouring on the walls of the tiny New Morning theatre, which was more a jazz location than a Madchester / Noisy Pop one! I also remember experiencing Happy Monday’s Bez dancing like hell with MBV on stage as if his life were depending on it!

  • Neil Young – Paris, Zenith – 7th July 1993 – Setlist

Neil Young is one of the best performers of all times and I guess you do not need to read this blog to discover this as a fact. I have attended six gigs of his and they have all been gorgeous. In my mind, the first time I caught him live on stage with the immense Booker T and the MG’s gave me shivers down my spine throughout all the concert and for good reasons probably. I saw him last year in 2019 at Hyde Park and he was playing like a guy in his twenties.

  • Jeff Buckley – Paris, Olympia – 6th July 1995 – Setlist

Jeff Buckley… The saddest history of them all… He gave us one hell of an album with “Grace” and was destined to be one of the greatest… It was unfortunately not meant to be but that night was one of the most moving moments I experienced in my life. This was an extraordinary performance by a beautiful human being. Pretty awesome setlist as well from acapella opener “Dream Brother” to final Big Star cover song “Kanga Roo“.

  • Radiohead – Paris, Cigale – 16th April 1996 – Setlist

Radiohead is probably my favourite band of the last 25 years and when I am asked which style of music I listen to, I generally reply that I like every genre but with a specific love of bands such as The Velvet Underground or Radiohead. I went to seven Radiohead gigs in my life and I must say their initiative of releasing one new video concert every week during this lockdown period was a real sign of class. In 1996, they were far from releasing their next to come masterpieces but that night they way the played tracks from “The Bends” with so much passion was the start of a love story between me and the band.

  • Tom Waits – Paris, Grand Rex – 24th July 2008 – Setlist

…and here we go, twelve years later, back in Paris as if living in Brazil or Strasbourg never happened… Catching Tom Waits on stage is quite difficult to say the least as the great man very rarely tours (no sign of him in Europe since then). What made this concert standing up above the rest was probably the musicianship and atmosphere the audience had that night and the feeling we were all in a different and fairy world.

  • Arcade Fire – Austin City Limits festival, Texas – 18th September 2011 – Setlist

Is there a better band than Canadians Arcade Fire on stage in terms of intensity, passion and dedication? Probably not. Is there a cooler musical city in the world than Austin, Texas? Probably not either… Attending Austin City Limits festival was a dream come true for this blog’s main shareholder and his Paulistano buddy. No ticket picture this time and no way to find the original wristband…

  • Iggy Pop – London, Royal Albert Hall – 13th May 2016 – Setlist

Finally, a concert happening in my favourite city in the world! Was it the best concert I have ever seen? Difficult to answer such a question but the way Iggy Pop performed that night was probably as good as in his years with The Stooges but with more experience and life troubles behind him. Based mainly on his three best albums, i.e. “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life” from his Bowie Berlin years and recent “Post Pop Depression“, what made this show so special was also his backing band…which basically was Queens Of The Stone Age on this tour. Spotting Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Mani (The Stone Roses) and Kate Moss while leaving the Hall probably added up to the excitement that night.

  • Moses Sumney – End of the Road festival, Dorset – 2nd September 2017

Another obvious choice as End of the Road has probably been my favourite time of the year since I have discovered it. No edition this year for the same obvious reasons which have made 2020 such a weird year so far but memories from past editions as still there. Moses Sumney’s gig that year was a shocker to me as I had no clue whatsoever about who he was and what kind of music he was playing. I am not sure being able to better characterize his art today but I know for sure he is one of my favourite current artists following the emotional encounter I had that day at the beautiful Garden Stage.

  • David Byrne – London, Eventim Apollo – 19th June 2018 – Setlist / New York, Hudson Theatre – 25th January 2020 – Setlist

Last but not least to end up this list of concerts, let me introduce you to Mr. David Byrne, originally from Scotland but better known as the singer of New York band Talking Heads. I went to his London concert just because his new album was quite good and also because I had good memories about the previous gigs I had seen. However, nothing was preparing me for such a beautiful conceptual thing. Surrounded by eleven musicians from all over the world, each of them wearing an elegant grey suit, free of their moves and barefoot, David Byrne had never sung so well. The setlist was extraordinary with songs from all periods of his musical career. If you add up a beautiful stage, lots of fund and energy plus a pinch of political conscience, you will get a recipe of a fantastic gig. The good news is that this tour had a continuity on Broadway in late 2019 and early 2020. I must admit I loved it so much that I succeeded in seeing it again in New York at the start of the year.

So ten nights out of hundreds of great performances may look like a difficult choice to make but I guess it was done quite naturally. Regrets, I had a few (how did I do not to see Nirvana live?…) but overall I would like to thank all these artists for the 1,304 concerts I have been to (indeed, here is the number!).

End of the Road festival – Larmer Tree Gardens, 29/30/31 August 2019

This week brought the very sad but quite expected news that the 2020 edition of the End of the Road festival will be postponed to 2021. This event has been this blog’s favourite part of the year for a bit of time now and missing it will be a huge disappointment…

As I did not take the time to review last year’s festival, I thought that the moment to do so was perfect and that it would (slightly) ease the pain. The 2019 edition was quite special for me. On the minus side, I had to leave on Sunday and therefore did not attend any of the fourth day’s gigs. Not ideal as for those familiar with this festival will undertand that this is more than actually missing a few bands… On the plus side though, I was accompanied last year by the leading music expert of Garidech, France and we both enjoyed every minute of it. Here is a selection of the bands and artists I liked the most.

Day One – Thursday 29th August 2019

I guess I probably repeat myself but deciding a few years ago to extend the festival from three to four days was a great decision. This was even truer this year with two of my favourite artists. Du Blonde (née Beth Jeans Houghton) played as usual a very intense set with her usual mix of rage and tenderness.

Thursday’s headliners may not appear an obvious choice on paper but to me Spiritualized played the best set of the festival. Jason Pierce is one of the best songwriters of his generation and the only one to mix so beautifully gospel sounds and psychedelic rock. If not familiar with his career, please read my review of their “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” masterpiece.

Day Two – Friday 30th August 2019

I think I can bear any sort of weather when attending a festival but I must confess that nothing beats a beautiful sunny day! We were also lucky to have an unexpected and friendly chat with Sofia Hagberg, one of the two original founders of the festival.

From The Beths (young pop band from New Zealand) to Wire (post punk legends), I very much enjoyed all the gigs I attended but a specific mention has to be given to two artists. The first one is what is called a musicians’ musician, i.e. an artist very much lauded amongst their peers but without necessarily a major impact in terms of sales of records. Steve Gunn is an extraordinary guitar player and he can regularly be found on other bands’ records. He is starting to find his own voice as well as a songwriter and singer and his set was close to perfect. Very nice to find him again a few hours later playing guitar on two songs with Cass McCombs. The latter had been one of this blog’s favourite for a long time now and his latest LP was one of our albums of the month in 2019.

The other special mention of that day was to be given to the festival’s main headliner. Michael Kiwanuka‘s name is probably no stranger to those reading reviews in this blog on a regular basis. The more he ages, the better and personal his art and music get. That night’s set was incredible in terms of dedication and beauty. There is still a feel of the late Bill Withers in his music but also something which is very ‘now’ and difficult to describe. Probably one of the key artists with whom we will grow old in the next twenty years.

Day Three – Saturday 31st August 2019

Saturday was a tough one in terms of choices. As I still did not find a proper solution to be in two different places at the same time (I would be happy to learn from you, beloved readers…), I did not attend Courtney Barnett‘s concert. No regret however as all eight gigs we attended were awesome, from young British sax player Nubya Garcia to London female band Goat Girl (and their papier maché guest on stage) or again Porridge Radio, lead by vocalist Dana Margolin. Specific mention though to be given to three bands.

The first one is to the very young and bright band called black midi. Not a band you wanted to miss on stage as they played at 120% from the very first second to the last. Their music could be associated with a kind of modern age Public Image Ltd and I hope they will confirm all their musical talent in the years to come. Did I also mention that their drummer is amazing?

I finished the festival with two major bands, the first one being Low. That was a bit weird to catch them in the relaxed and mysterious atmosphere of the Garden Stage after their Barbican February gig but I must say I found it even better. The way this fantastic trio of musicians evolve in their art is simply flabbergasting.

No better way to finish the festival than partying with Sleaford Mods. No real surprise here as they give what you get, i.e. Andrew Fearn touches his laptop at the start of every song and dances with a beer in hand while Jason Williamson puts into lyrics all that does not work in today’s society with a Balzac-sense of details and loads of wittiness and humour. I must admit I was not that convinced the first time I caught them live in 2015 but the more it goes, the more I like them. A band not to miss on stage by any means.

So it looks this is it for now… The pain is still here but I already got my ticket for the 2021 edition for which a few greats have already confirmed their presence (Pixies, Aldous Harding, King Krule, Little Simz, Big Thief,…). For sure, ‘we will meet again’.

End Of The Road festival 2018 – Day Four – Sunday 2nd September 2018

..and then we eventually all reached the final day of the 2018 edition of End of the Road. As all great events, there is always a sense of weirdness when one realises that something expected for months is actually going to end soon… 

That was another day of choices and for instance my program did not allow me to make it for Haley Heyderikx, Iceage, Ezra Furman, Idles, Feist or Ariel Pink‘s gigs. Another time, another planet I guess…

No better way to start the day than with the Perpignan garage band The
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from Perpignan, France. They may not be the most radical new band of all times but their music is really excellent, especially in the context of a festival. And being able to hear “c’est bon, on peut y aller” in the middle of Dorset was a real treat!

But this was nothing compared to the next gig I attended. I was not really familiar with the legendary Posies from Seattle, although I had recently heard the latest albums from one of their two leaders Ken Stringfellow, the other one being Jonathan Auer.  The concert was actually a positive shock as their music is an incredible mix of grunge and power-pop, which makes them associated by many with the beautiful Teenage Fanclub from Scotland. I had never seen them in their prime but I read that they are as good now since they reformed as they were in the 90’s. A band not to be missed on stage.

I then attended two nice gigs at the Garden Stage. The first one was from the Velvet Underground influenced British band The Wave Pictures: quite a refreshing gig but with no real sparkle to be honest. The second one from an old acquaintance with Jonathan Wilson, a musician from L.A. and also fantastic producer of our 2017 album of the year with Father John Misty. Jonathan’s musicianship and taste are unchallengeable but I must admit I had been more excited when I first caught him on stage a few years ago in France.

After a final catch-up at the Big Top stage with Michelle Zauner’s interesting band Japanese Breakfast, I came back to the Garden stage, full of hopes for Julia Holter‘s gig. That was quite a disappointment actually as although her challenging music can be very good on record, I felt that a festival was probably not the best place to appreciate it, especially on Day Four… What makes End of the Road so beautiful is that rather than killing time, I then decided to check on rebel grunge country outlaw Jim White at the Tipi Tent, which actually ended as one of my best moments of the festival. In the great tradition of American singers, his songs are very simple but also very often straight to the point and full of a certain desperate emotion. Jim White is also one of the funniest musicians I have ever experienced and his introduction story about his former role as a Jehovah’s Witness was hilarious.

My fate was to finish the festival at my favourite Garden Stage with the final two concerts I attended. Always a pleasure to see rock legend John Cale on stage, for the second time of the year after his March concert at the London Barbican. Of course, John Cale does not sing Coldplay-hymn stadium songs and his music is often a bit difficult to say the least. But taking a step backwards, isn’t it incredible to watch this 76-year old man still eager to experiment? Amazing bunch of musicians as well.

I was also super excited and full of joy to finish it all with White Denim, from my favourite city in the USA, i.e. Austin Texas. I have always enjoyed a lot their records although their music is so diverse and embracing all styles that this is sometimes difficult to remember them as a real singular band. However, they are truly amazing live, playing endlessly super catchy but very complex songs, owing as much to jazz, Americana or power pop styles. Not a hint of weakness during this great concert and the best way to finish the day and the festival full of memories.

Any idea about where I will be next year late August/early September?


End Of The Road festival 2018 – Day Three – Saturday 1st September 2018

 

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Saturday is traditionally the most tiresome day of them all. So to fight it and to stay as energy-driven as possible, I spent close to twelve hours on site!

I attended fewer gigs than the previous day (only eight…) but also decided to start the day differently by watching a movie at the beautiful cinema tent built in the Twin Peaks spirit. End of the Road is also a great festival to chill, relax, meditate, get a massage, attend a comedy show …or watch a movie. No better way to start the day actually than seeing one of my favourite director latest movie, namely Wes Anderson‘s Isle of Dogs. I guess he does not need me to say so but his latest opus is as usual funny, entertaining, full of emotion, very creative,…everything one wants to find in movies really.

 

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After this excellent start, it was back to the gigs for me in a day that was under the banner of psychedelic and garage rock music. This was also a difficult day in terms of choice and I missed amongst others bands or artists such as Screaming Females, Julian Baker, Mulatu Astatke, Gruff Rhys, Destroyer or again the festival headliners Vampire Weekend.

Boy Azooga - End of the Road 2018

 

After a nice first gig from Welsh newcomers Boy Azooga , my first thrill came from L.A psychedelic band Flat Worms. Their formula is not revolutionary but one can really feel the vibes and energy of this pure rock’n’roll trio just after one song. Lead by singer and guitarist Will Ivy, I dare anyone not to dance like a maniac after watching a couple of songs. Well I did anyway…

Next stop at the Garden stage was a bit of a disappointment as I was expecting more from Pennsylvania songwriter Alex Giannascoli, better known under his artist name of (Sandy) Alex G. I thought the gig was lacking energy, emotion or both so I went to the Wood stage to be prepared on time for Shame. They are a South London young punk rock band and they released early in the year (in January to be precise) one of the best records of the year. I knew they had the reputation of being wild on stage…and there was no disappointment here neither as wild is probably too soft a word. What is even greater with these guys and in particular with their singer Charlie Steen is that there is not an ounce of cliché. You feel you are watching a potential great band without them being aware of it. Isn’t this what rock’n’roll is about?

Spontaneity is probably not how I would describe Brooklyn’s Sunflower Bean as it looks everything has been studied here, from their influences (The Velvet Underground meets The Cocteau Twins) to their non-look… and moustache for their drummer. What makes this band different and probably one of the best we have today is bass player / singer Julia Cumming. She has a real stage fascinating presence whilst staying very spontaneous. One of the best gigs I attended during the week-end.

My next two gigs were a bit opposite as singer Sophie Allison’s band Soccer Mommy were more exciting on stage than on record with their folk rock music, whereas I thought Hookworms on stage were much less subtle than they are on records with their German repetitive influenced music.

Anyway the real excitement of the day for me was that I would eventually catch John Dwyer on stage with one of his numerous bands and project, namely Oh Sees. With Ty Segall or Jack White, John Dwyer is currently one of the hardest man in show business and his records have regularly been in our best of lists. Wearing his traditional bermuda shorts made out of cut jean trousers, his usual tattoos and his guitar held very high, the great man and his band performed an amazing gig of psychedelic music. John Dwyer is the sole constant member of The Oh Sees (I know, they are currently called Oh Sees…) and musicians come and go depending on the overall ambiance he wants to create. This tour is particularly awesome as there are…two drummers on stage. That was an excellent way to end a very long day.

Oh…and by the way, that was another beautiful sunny day in Dorset!

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End Of The Road festival 2018 – Day Two – Friday 31th August 2018

The last day of the month of August is generally a bit depressing at it means the end of summertime, no more sunny weather and back to work/school. The best remedy is to be at End of the Road…and attend 10 gigs as I did! So without further due, here you go for Day Two review.

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My first concert was under a beautiful sun at The Woods Stage with Du Blonde, the avatar name chosen by Beth Jeans Hougton. I had not seen her since 2015 for my first edition of the festival and she was as powerful and subtle as I remember her last time. She is probably not the most smiling person ever and her choice of a Star Trek tee-shirt was too geeky to be true but her music is a real delicacy. One can even feel the spirit of the great David Bowie sometimes. She is working on the finishing touches of her new record which should be released early 2019 so I am quite sure this is not the last time she will be mentioned here.

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I then attended two gigs in a row at my beloved Garden Stage, one of my favourite places on Earth. The first one was from the North Caroline band Hiss Golden Messenger, basically the sole project of M.C. Taylor. I have always enjoyed their records as they mix Americana music with a certain depth. They are a bit different live as they are more in the country rock tradition. In other words, I had a good time but I was expecting a bit more.

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Quite the opposite with This Is The Kit, the band lead by English singer and songwriter Kate Stables. I also discovered this band at End Of The Road 2015 with a fantastic concert at the Tipi tent. Since then, they have been one of my favourite current bands and this was the fourth time I was catching them live. It was again beautiful and probably the best gig of theirs I came to see. Kate was alternating as usual between her banjo and her nice green guitar with a strength and emotion I was not expecting. I also attended a signing session a few hours later in the day at the Rough Trade store tent and we had a nice conversation in English… and French as Kate has been living in Paris for thirteen years now.

Completely different genre of music with Tirzah, a young Londoner female artist, working in the design world by day and singing her great melodies by night. Her music is not that different from Leila, for those who remember this very original female artist who released a few personal kind of trip-hop records at the end of the 90’s and start of the 00’s. Tirzah was on stage in a minimalist configuration with her friend and collaborator Mica Levi and another excellent male musician playing… a bit of everything. Go and discover her debut album, which was part of our August record of the month selection.

Back to the Woods stage for the concert of the legendary Josh T. Pearson, former leader of the cult Texas band Lift To Experience. Josh T. Pearson released in April his second solo record “The Straight Hits!, with all tracks having the word “straight” in their title. I already told the story of this incredible artist and performer as part of my review of his 2011 gig at the Café de la Danse in Paris. With a completely different look and haircut and also a quite different style of songs, Josh T. Pearson looks and sounds like a different artist…but beware the beast is still here, as experienced by this fantastic live performance. He is an artist not to be missed, alternating between very intense numbers…and a few dick jokes as well (I did not get them all I must confess!). I also had a 5-minute conversation with the great man the following day as part of a signing session, once again talking about Paris as he used to live there a couple of years before going back to Texas.

Next step was back at the Tipi tent to see the Polish experimental guitar and clarinet duo of Zimpel & Ziolek. Although their names sound more like a kids’ cartoon, their music is quite fascinating. Exactly the kind of thing I like about this festival: discovering new artists and it looks I was not the only one as the whole audience was delighted. I then attended around thirty minutes of the Brooklyn band Big Thief at the Garden stage but I must say I was quite disappointed. All reviews of their latest records have been so positive that I was expecting to find a life-changing band but I only attended a quite good indie band. Maybe I was not in the mood… On the other side, I was not really expecting anything of The Orielles, a young UK band, but they were really excellent under the Tops stage tent. They are a two-female and one-male trio…and are actually all very young! Their indie rock sound will not start a revolution but I must say they have an impressive musicianship and energy.

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However, the greatest moment of the day and of the festival for me was Jeff Tweedy‘s gig at the Garden Stage. The show of the Wilco leader was not necessarily that different from that I saw at the start of the year at the Barbican but it was probably more intimate. Those reading regularly my reviews probably know how I cherish this amazing artist who has produced or created amongst the most beautiful songs of our recent years, first with his band Wilco but also with other collaborations or solo. He was just playing with his acoustic, which shows how strong these songs are. I also knew he was a very funny person and I must say the concert made it a real fact. When an audience member told him “You’re beautiful”, he replied “I’m beautiful? You’re sick!”. Discover this beautiful man, his beautiful band, his beautiful records and his beautiful songs if not done yet.

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I still had a bit of energy left so I decided to attend Protomartyr‘s concert in the warmth of the Tops Stage. …and I must confess there was not better to end a lovely day than with this Detroit band, lead by the fascinating Joe Casey. You would not believe this man in a cheap suit and with the haircut of an insurance clerk is one of the best current punk rock singers of our current times but he is! Their sound is also very dense and not that different from what a mix of Joy Division with Living Colour would be. Not sure if it means anything to anyone but they are really good on stage!

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So here it is for Day Two. I did not see Daniel Blumberg, The Weather Station, Lucy Dacus, The Low Anthem, Fat White Family or again St. Vincent although they were all on my list but a man has to do difficult choices sometimes. Stay posted for Day Three!

End of the Road festival 2018 – Day One – Thursday 30th August 2018

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That time of the year again… and what a magical and great moment that was. Back for the 4th year in the beautiful scenery of the Larmer Tree Park in Dorset, surrounded by excellent musicians, great audience of people actually here to listen to and enjoy music, birds (peacocks, macaws) but more than anything a friendly and peaceful atmosphere which makes this festival the best of them all (sold out again this year  – 16,000 tickets).

On top of it, the weather was also very enjoyable this year, meaning my traditional rain cape stayed in the bag whereas I was happy listening to awesome bands dressed in a tee-shirt and Converse shoes!

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As initiated in 2016, the festival started on Thursday evening. This was a good warm-up for your beloved reviewer as I started my 30-gig marathon with three excellent concerts that night.

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My first concert of the festival took place under the friendly Tipi Tent stage with a discovery. Laura Misch is a young South-East Londoner female musician who plays on her own…and with her saxophone and machines on stage. It meant sometimes a few software errors but mainly a mixture of beautiful sounds. She is very talented and her music sounds like a very personal R’n’B with an indie rock mindset. Not sure if it makes sense but I personally enjoyed it a lot.
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I then went to the main stage of the festival (the Woods Stage) to catch two very different bands. The first one is called Shopping and can be defined as a queer trio playing post punk music influenced by great names such as ESG or Gang Of Four. I had found their latest Edwyn Collins-produced album “The Official Body” ok but live this London band brings something else. Their drummer has a good sense of humor as well and I was proud to understand both Fanta-sy and Sex Cymbal jokes!

The headliner of the day were my beloved Yo La Tengo. This was my seventh YLT gig and there were as good as earlier in the year when I caught them in London. This American trio could be considered veterans of the indie rock scene but really they get better with age. They are now in a place where they can basically decide which kind of setlist they want to play and which type of concert one could attend. That night was quite focused on their latest quiet sounding “There is a riot going on‘” LP but they also played a few classics, alternating cool Velvet Underground influenced songs, repetitive loops but also ferocious punk rock numbers. Fantastic…as usual.

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Stay posted for Day Two!

My review of End of the Road Festival 2017

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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…

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See you next year End of the Road ; I already bought my “early bird” ticket!

 

 

End of the Road Festival 2016 – 4th of September – Day Four

Bill Ryder-Jones - blurred

Final day of the 2016 edition and fourth post on this blog. Still so-so weather on Sunday but a fantastic line-up (again)!

Bill Ryder-Jones - End of the Road 2016

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.

Broken Social Scene - End of the Road 2016

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.

Thurston Moore - End of the Road 2016

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.

Chris Cohen - End of the Road 2016

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.

Green Gartside - End of the Road 2016

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 - End of the Road 2016

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!

End of the Road Festival 2016 – 3nd of September – Day Three

Basia Bulat - guitar

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.

Meilyr Jones

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.

Basia Buliat - piano

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.

Sam Beam - End of the Road 2016

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!

Jesca Hoop - End of the Road 2016

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.

Steve Mason - End of the Road 2016

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.

BC Camplight - End of the Road 2016

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…).

Wild Beast - End of the Road 2016

One more review to come with Day 4 so stay tuned!

 

End of the Road Festival 2016 – 2nd of September – Day Two

Episode 2 of our review of the excellent End of the Road festival 2016 edition. As very often at End of the Road, the density of good bands and artists is so high that one has to do choices sometimes. My experience of festivals taught me that attending bits and pieces of concerts is not that great as one never really feels the mood so better to enjoy fewer gigs but the right way. Long justification probably to miss today’s headliners Animal Collective, knowing I found them quite boring the only time I caught them on stage a few years ago at the Pitchfork Festival.

Eleanor Friedberger, in light

But let’s start with no further due with Eleanor Friedberger on the Garden Stage, probably one of my favourite places in the world! Eleanor was one half of sis’ & bro’ band the Fiery Furnaces and she is now in a solo career with already three excellent LP’s. For those Franz Ferdinand fans out there, let me confirm that indeed she was THE Eleanor from “Eleanor, put your boots on” at a time when she and their singer Alex Kapranos were more than musical friends…Anyway, this was a great start of the day for me as she performed songs from different periods of her career. Although this is true that the songs she plays under her own solo name are probably less difficult to deal with in terms of structure than the Fiery Furnaces ones, she still has an air of mystery which makes her one of the leading female artists of her time. That day was her 40th birthday too so no better way to celebrate than being on stage with a cake.

Not a long way to go from the Garden Stage to the Big Top and catch U.S. Girls, the project led by Canadian artist Meghan Remy. I can acknowledge that something was going on here…but not sure what exactly… I did not stay long as did not succeed in feeling anything to be honest.

U.S. Girls

Back to the Garden Stage with the first revelation of the festival for me with Whitney, a band I was not familiar with. The set was beautiful and the way their drummer/singer Julien Ehrlich leads the band with a mix of humility and bravado is probably one of the reasons. If you like the Byrds and R.E.M., this band is for you and their first album “Light upon the Lake” is one of the records of the year so far.

Whitney

I relaxed afterwards in the Tipi Tent with a few songs from the very nice and charming set from Blue House, a band probably to follow in next months.

Blue House

Back to the Garden Stage for the next show from one of my favourite current bands: Field Music. They have been regularly in my end-of-the year lists but do not have the recognition they would deserve. Field Music is based around the nucleus of brothers David and Peter Brewis from Newcastle and all their records (including those from their solo projects) are more than recommended. Their music is difficult to describe so I will give influences such as Steely Dan, Prince, Prefab Sprout or even Danny Wilson for those who remember that band… Despite them arriving literally 1 minute before the supposed start of the show and thanks to the great help of the festival stage guys, they performed as always a very fresh and exciting concert.

Field Music

A quick walk to the Big Top again and here I was attending Jamie Lee’s band MONEY live. Their music is very intense and sometimes a bit embarrassing to watch as too represented by the personality of their leader. Better to listen at home or on headphones than to see live as far as I am concerned but maybe I was not in the mood after the previous shows. Anyway, I still recommend their new album “Suicide Songs” to be listened to…even if the title already tells a bit about the mood of it all…

I finished Day Two with concerts #7 and #8 again on the Garden Stage with two old American friends. The first one was Matthew Houck who has been doing constantly great music in the last decade under the monitor Phosphorescent. His set was probably the best I  have seen of him as I felt he really had a perfect balance between traditional American country-rock music and his very unique voice and sensitivity. As if the Byrds (again) has listened to too much Joy Division. Grab him live if you can.

Phosphorescent, Matthew Houck

On the other side, I was quite disappointed with Catpower‘s concert… Sure, her voice is superb, she has very good musicians…but there is something which to me sounded and looked a bit fake and without too much emotion. I have never been at ease catching her live as well as it feels like this is a real struggle for her. To be fair, maybe I was feeling also the tiredness of the day…so I left before the end of the gig to be ready and full of energy to live and review Day Three. Stay tuned!

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