Im­pres­sive gath­er­ing of indie and folk-rock lu­mi­nar­ies still makes room for noise and fury


End Of The Road, Ka­masi Wash­ing­ton

ÒIT seems like you guys re­ally like mu­sic,” ob­serves from the main Woods Stage on Fri­day. “It’s not true of all fes­ti­vals…” In­deed, End Of The Road is per­haps the leader in a grow­ing move­ment of fes­ti­vals that seek to re­flect the wide range of mu­sic many of us now en­joy. Punk or folk week­enders, say, don’t span the range. Mean­while, here on the Dorset /Wilt­shire bor­der, there’s avant-garde sets cu­rated by Ra­dio 3’s Late Junc­tion, Ethio-jazz from the 74-year-old

Mu­latu As­tatke and young Bris­tol punks Idles, a word-of-mouth sen­sa­tion. Some­one who knows a thing or two about ex­tremes is Josh T Pear­son, who demon­strates his dual in­ter­ests with a rous­ing set of heart­land rock from this year’s The Straight Hits!, fol­lowed by a run of, as he puts it, “sad bas­tard mu­sic” from 2011’s Last Of The Coun­try Gentle­men. See­ing the man who wrote “Sweet­heart I Ain’t Your Christ” ex­plain­ing how he penned “Give It To Me Straight” from the point of view of a sports jock, and en­cour­ag­ing the crowd to raise their fists in time, is a strange ex­pe­ri­ence, but Pear­son tells the crowd he’s hap­pier now, “though I don’t look as good”. The Texan im­merses him­self in the fes­ti­val for the rest of the weekend; he’s spot­ted en­joy­ing rau­cous sets by Thee Oh Sees and Fat White Fam­ily.

Sim­i­larly po­larised, Yo La Tengo’s Thurs­day night head­line set swings be­tween quasi-am­bi­ent cuts from last year’s There’s A Riot Go­ing On, indie-pop gems such as “Stock­holm Syn­drome” and their louder ma­te­rial, like the sting­ing shoegaze of “From A Mo­tel 6”. Fel­low head­liner St Vin­cent brings her robotic space-disco to the Woods Stage the next night, draw­ing one of the big­gest crowds EOTR has seen. Kick­ing off with the hard elec­tro-pop of “Su­gar­boy”, “Los Age­less”, “Masse­duc­tion” and “Sav­ior”, backed by a wall of bright lights and wield­ing a dif­fer­ent coloured Ernie Ball gui­tar for each song, it’s an im­pres­sive spec­ta­cle, but one that’s di­luted when An­nie Clark brings out slightly maudlin bal­lads like “Mar­row”.

Vam­pire Weekend cover Peter Gabriel’s “Sols­bury Hill” dur­ing their own car­ni­va­lesque head­line set on Satur­day night, their first Euro­pean gig in four years, but they are eclipsed by Thee Oh

Sees’ par­al­lel per­for­mance on the leafy Gar­den Stage, one of the most ex­cit­ing ap­pear­ances of the weekend. There’s lit­tle chat, just fast tem­pos, co­pi­ous tape echo and some stun­ning mo­torik punk from John Dwyer and his dou­ble-drum­mer lineup. “The Dream”, “Web” and the re­cent “Sen­tient Oona” are es­pe­cially driv­ing. In an echo of Ty Se­gall’s riotous set on the same stage last year, the mass of peo­ple down the front turn End Of The Road into some­thing a lit­tle more feral and dan­ger­ous for an evening.

The next morn­ing Richard Daw­son ap­pears on the same stage, with the sun right in his eyes, to take a large crowd back to the Mid­dle Ages with songs from his ac­claimed 2017 al­bum, Peas­ant. With the New­cas­tle gui­tarist joined by a com­pact band, it’s a loud, rau­cous set of folk-rock: ragged, com­plex and tran­scen­dent. We also get a hint at his next al­bum; in di­rect con­trast to Peas­ant, he jokes, it will be “set in mod­ern times but is ac­tu­ally an al­le­gory for me­dieval times”. Daw­son ends his set with an a cap­pella folk song, which he pre­dicts will be a damp squib, yet as he switches be­tween a bel­low and a mur­mur, he stuns the crowd into si­lence.

Gen­er­ally, End Of The Road is a place where artists seem to feel com­fort­able throw­ing off the usual con­straints of a fes­ti­val set. Ju­lia Holter, play­ing the Gar­den Stage on Sun­day, be­gins with a cou­ple of im­pen­e­tra­ble new songs from her new LP, Aviary, while Iceage, in the Big Top Tent, draw al­most ex­clu­sively from 2018’s Beyond­less. Elias Ben­der Røn­nen­felt’s mes­sianic se­ri­ous­ness is com­i­cal at times, but it’s im­pos­si­ble to re­main un­af­fected by the feral Bad Seeds lurch of “Hur­rah” or the clos­ing “Catch It”. Gruff Rhys, on the sun­set slot at the Woods Stage, per­forms a stripped-down

Lucy Da­cus,

Thee Oh Sees turn the fes­ti­val into some­thing a lit­tle more feral and dan­ger­ous for an evening

ver­sion of his re­cent Ba­bels­berg.A fair few of th­ese mid-tempo songs are treated like old favourites, how­ever, es­pe­cially when model Lily Cole comes on to reprise her vo­cal parts on LP closer “Self­ies In The Sun­set”, played – with ex­quis­ite tim­ing – as the sun goes down. A fi­nal half-hour, in­clud­ing “Iolo”, “Sen­sa­tions In The Dark” and “Amer­i­can In­te­rior”, pro­vides a catchier con­clu­sion, but Rhys has a prob­lem. “What’s the op­po­site of run­ning out of time?” he says, be­fore play­ing an im­promptu “Candylion”, with vo­cals from 9bach’s Lisa Jen, to fin­ish.

Also per­form­ing a host of new songs are The Wave Pic­tures,a last-minute re­place­ment for an ill Damien Ju­rado (“I was watch­ing

Celebrity Point­less when the text mes­sage came through,” jokes singer and gui­tarist David Tat­ter­sall). The trio draw heav­ily from their up­com­ing al­bum, Look In­side Your

Heart, in­clud­ing “Brian”, a chug­ging blues which Tat­ter­sall ex­plains is about a friend who took too much LSD and joined a cult, and the lilt­ing high-life of “Good­bye Spi­derman”, but there’s also time for tracks from their past, in­clud­ing an ex­tended take on Cree­dence’s “Green River”, with fan­tas­ti­cally knotty so­los from Tat­ter­sall. Even those ex­pect­ing Ju­rado seem cap­ti­vated by the band’s garage-blues, wordy lyrics and ir­rev­er­ent at­ti­tude. Per­haps next year they’ll make the fes­ti­val posters.

Wild Billy Child­ish hasn’t played live much over the last few years, but he’s cor­ralled his group CTMF for a mid-af­ter­noon set, prob­a­bly the most down­right en­joy­able per­for­mance of the weekend. With hun­dreds of songs to choose from, Child­ish sticks to his best-known garage cuts in­clud­ing “Lie De­tec­tor”, “Trou­bled Mind” and “Sally Sen­sa­tion”; but along the way, there are naïve, thrilling cov­ers of Hen­drix’s “Fire”, The Kinks’ “Misty Wa­ter” and The Who’s “You Are For­given”.

An­other acolyte of fury and noise is John Cale. To­day there’s a lit­tle more shuf­fling than there is chicken de­cap­i­ta­tion, but he’s as un­com­pro­mis­ing as ever, lead­ing his band in rad­i­cal rein­ven­tions of his work. “The End­less Plain Of For­tune” and “Half Past France”, both stately bal­lads on Paris 1919, are turned, re­spec­tively, into harsh new wave and night­mar­ish drone hor­ror, while a new song, “What Is The Le­gal Sta­tus Of Ice?”, is as un­wieldy and in­trigu­ing as its ti­tle. Cale ends on a hushed cover of one of his favourite Bowie songs, “Valen­tine’s Day”, and a roar­ing “I’m Wait­ing For The Man”, ex­it­ing to wild ap­plause.

White Denim, clos­ing the Gar­den Stage, might not draw the big­gest crowd of the weekend, but they are the per­fect em­bod­i­ment of End Of The Road’s free­wheel­ing ethic. In the garagey soup of their sound, there’s South­ern rock, punk, funk, jazz and even ex­per­i­men­tal tex­tures. They’re not afraid to chal­lenge the lis­tener, end­ing with a fuzzy, hy­per­ac­tive med­ley of “Thank You”, “River To Con­sider” and “Back At The Farm”, but it’s all done with a real sense of fun. A decade and a bit after they first ap­peared, they’re at the peak of their pow­ers – just like End Of The Road.

Fes­ti­val favourites: White Denim (above) Gruff Rhys (be­low)


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