Monday, 19 September 2011

End of the road 2011

This outstanding festival held in Dorset revealed its surprises for three days in a row, in an enchanting and enrapturing environment, from comedy shows to book shelves and lecture in the woods, stories being read over the hidden piano stage, improvised intimate concerts (that I have missed of course) but most importantly, a decent amount of new artists or musicians I had heard of before and amazing performances, a list will obviously follow.
Walking around in the Larmer tree gardens takes you to tiny hidden paths where you have great chances to meet some mummy peacocks in the company of their little ones, hanging books among low energy consuming lanterns, a jungle made of origamis and garlands, pianos and comedy stage, simply magic. It doesn't matter how old you are, End of the road festival is made for all of us.

I arrived on a thursday evening, the weather was mild and beautiful. Packed quite lightly, equipped only of a tent, sleeping bag, towel, socks and a tiny shampoo bottle I was aiming at enjoying myself with very simple things and hoping the festival would bring me such. Yet it feels strange to arrive and set up your temporary home on your own; I had exchanged my phone number with a few lastfm buddies the previous days and found a group of lonesome campers who had arranged to camp at the same place, I had been lucky enough to spot the yellow flag and join the tribe. Once the tent up and metal sticks in the ground (next year remind me to bring a hammer) I walked around the site and spotted things you don't see that often in such events: bookshops, sweets shops, a cider bus which sells hot and spicy cider (quite efficient when the night and first chills fall down), well chosen food stalls with a fair diversity of quality meals (this mushroom/blue-cheese/bacon soup served with a delicious piece of bread is definitely a must-try!)
I saw a few bands and had time to get familiar with the site on thursday evening. I also met Alan on that day with whom I ended up seeing most of the bands I'm going to tell you about.
I got up on friday morning quite early, the city girl I have become being unfamiliar at sleeping on the ground with only a sleeping bag as I had forgotten a mattress (but after 3 days of festival, I'm telling you, you don't need any.), got a nice coffee and ventured to the gardens, which were closed the night before. Such a marvel, this place is very unique and it feels so good hanging out there. Late in the morning I met the lovely Marianne and her friends, James and Mike.
It all started with a band called Drum Eyes ,  a band you certainly need to appreciate live first, psychedelic sounds, synths, two drum kits and DJ Scotch Egg - Brighton based. Stunning.

After this pretty efficient warm up I headed to the Garden stage to get a decent spot for tUnE-yArDs, which was one of the bands I really wanted to catch. Well that Merill Garbus knows what she's talking about, that's a fact. Such good vibes and rhythms, I was astonished by her groovy act and enthusiasm she shared with the very receptive audience. So glad I'm going to see her again next week. Both of her two albums are great, WHOKILL being the one I respond to the most though. 

check this one
that one too.

Friday night was actually the one I was looking forward to since two of my favourite bands were playing that day. I couldn't wait for The Walkmen to come on stage. As usual, I have not been disappointed: they played some of their classics, Canadian girl, The Rat, Angela surf city but also Blue as your blood and On the water. As far as my fan knowledge goes, they also played two if not three new songs which was predictable as they had mentioned previously they'd come back in september playing a bunch of new songs. Paul Maroon's new moustache was also a nice surprise, he looks kinda similar to Nick Cave now, which is not a bad thing at all - should have sent him a text, guess it's not too late, ah!

On the Water
live at Primavera sound 2011

We (Alan - who had been very patient bearing my teenager behaviour like and enthusiasm for Hamilton and his mates - and I) then walked towards the main stage also called the Woods as the anticipated appearance of Beirut was imminent. It was all so perfect, listening to the rhythms of Postcards from Italy and Nantes was something very special I had wanted to experience for a very long time. I consider myself very lucky to see him again next week in London too. Following Alan's recommendations we finally saw White Denim, I remember they were great but to be honest I need to listen to their music again and at the moment there's so much to catch up with, I might need another five days off from work to be able to do so.

On the second day I was aiming at discovering bands I had never heard of before and Mogwai was the only exception. Treefight for sunlight were the first to open the main stage, four danish boys playing some very good indie pop I had actually seen as a support band for The walkmen earlier this year in Brighton. As the crowd was quite sparse and most of the people were seating and enjoying the sun while listening to them, they asked us that if we knew the next song they'd play we had to get our butts of the grass. The first notes were from Kate's Bush famous hit "Wuthering heights" and Christian Rohde Lindinger (bassist and vocals)  did an absolute stunning cover, so surprise to hear a man singingin such high tunes. They were brilliant and obviously not used to play great audiences like that. I forgot to mention that of course everyone got up and converged to the stage, which was a beautiful feeling!
What became of you and I ?
the Kate Bush cover:
Wuthering heights

Dan Mangan followed  with a great set of songs from his last album, Nice, nice, very nice. Kind of live you can easily remember as he shared his joyfulness and his now famous song "Robots" - Robots need love to, they want to be loved by you. yeah they need love to! - nice moments that make you smile.
Robots need love too!

Austra changed the tone and I witnessed a great show, even though I wasn't in the mood for some electro/dark wave, they managed to convince me. Pretty good band to see live actually
beat and the pulse
We tried to see a bit of Phosphorescent but as you know it can be a struggle to all the bands you want to see during a festival. I remember we passed by Bob log III, a guy disguised as a robot playing some acoustic guitar, inviting girls on stage and so on. Not sure I would have been able to watch this for more than 10mn but it was pretty funny. We waited to see Gruff Rhys, followed by Wooden Shjips and The black Angels, from these three I can recall the set of Wooden Shijps, and I'm becoming lazy at describing them all since it's been a week I came back from the festival and I have loads of other things to do!
Black smoke rise

A paragraph though for the Other lives, big big crush for me that day, amazing band from Oklahoma with the outstanding voice of Jesse Tabish, I felt in love at first listening. Check them out please!
For 12
Dustbowl III

From this second day, I can say that I have been a tad disappointed by Wild beast, I mean it was like listening to the album but in a slower version which I did not appreciate. There was a clash between Mogwai and Okkervil River, of course I've chosen my favourite band from Glasgow but I still thing I should have gone for the one I had never seen live. Either way Mogwai did not fail in my expectations (it felt like going back to Primavera sound which was pretty nice) and Okkervil River has a few dates in the UK so I'm saved.
This beautiful day ended up Zola Jesus, oh god, I couldn't stand that blond singer running on the stage so I followed Alan to the woods (woohoo).

The Larmer tree gardens are full of surprises, so if you're lucky to find the hidden paths you can end up shaking your body on a disco dance floor right in the middle of the woods, pretty pretty cool! The DJ's weren't the greatest but we had a very nice time there, even if the place was quite packed. After a few beers I started to feel that tiredness that drives you back to your tent and collapsed on the ground (feet in the sleeping bag, not in the air).

After a ridiculous bet on the name of the donkey in Winnie the Pooh (there was a screening on the first day which I did not go to - deep regrets) which I lost (thought it was similar to the french one, stupid Eeyore) I invited Alan for a nice and well deserved breakfast on sunday morning, joined by Joe and Guy we had met the day before. We had no clue of which artist / band we wanted to see that day apart from a few ones we had spotted on the program. On the main stage early afternoon was playing Emmy the great. The accumulation of 2-3h of decent sleep per night, hot cider (did not abuse though), sun and endless walks around the site didn't help to keep me wake and I actually fell asleep during her show - lying on the grass did not help either. I guess I haven't missed much anyway. I was curious to hear more about Kurt Vile but unfortunately most of his songs were part of a playlist we had at work for the past two months, four times a day so it completely ruined the gig. On that day I got to know Midlake a little more and the beauty of Joanna Newsom's set. I mean, how can you sing so beautifully such stories with such fascinating instrument? it was ethereal, beyond magic as if she'd cast a spell on us.

Josh T Pearson was probably the best performance of the entire festival. As we were walking around the site I got intrigued by a guy with a long beard, amused by those little clay creatures some children had left exhibited on the grass. I had only seen a picture of him on the program so I wasn't sure wether it was him or not. For his concert we all gathered at the Garden stage, he introduced himself with such modesty and sense of humour and started to play enticing melodies, the whole audience fell silent, it was something I had never experienced before - indeed, every single soul was listening carefully, appreciating this talented artist until the very last sound the strings made onto his fingers. Amazing. He even stopped to say how brilliant we were. I bet so!

I haven't bought my tickets yet for next's year festival. There will be a shorter version called No direction home in June 2012. And before I will probably go back to Barcelona too. If you look back, there has been wonderful times, beautiful people too; if you look ahead, there's only the wait for more of these moments which will be engraved forever. I am grateful I've met you all.