Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Slow Club - 24/09/08 - Barfly (Dragon bar)

Fuckin quality. Some guy on first who I think was supporting the Wedding Present with a full band, much better tonight without the hideous acoustics of the Barfly's main room working against him/them. Ended up with seven people on stage but still quite a subdued sound, bit of a shame really as it would have been good to hear the full band without the keyboards drowning everything else out. Next up was Little Palm who sounded far too much like Cathy Davey for her own good. Quite pleasant but I spent the whole set waiting for Save Button which clearly wasn't what she was after. Tom something next who didn't quite have enough about him to grab me (I was seriously pissed by this point) and finally Slow Club. Surprisingly big crowd considering how hard it usually is to get Brummies to gigs, shame everyone was just standing there like a corpse. Made little sense to play Me & You and Because We Are Dead so early in the set when they were clearly the best known songs but never mind, the whole thing was glorious and the final song completely acoustic in the middle of the crowd was a truly special moment. Thank fuck I don't have work tomorrow, thanks to staying in town after work and the half price cocktails in Island I can barely see right now.

p.s. Yes, I've only just got back. Yes, I'm still pissed. No, I won't change my mind about this gig tomorrow and I'm slightly disappointed I won't remember more of it. I may however remember the names of the support acts and dig out some links to their myspaces as they were all worth a further look (even the guy I said sod-all about, he didn't do owt for me tonight but I'd listened to him online before and it sounded pretty good)

p.p.s. Rebecca from Slow Club is fucking gorgeous. Fact.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

EotR - a rambling mess of a tale (part 3)

After another morning of tea and Bad Science I arrived at the comedy stage around the time it was due to open, however it soon became apparent all was not well. James and Sarah were spotted attempting to prise open a side door before coming round to announce to the waiting crowd that there was going to be a slight delay as they couldn't get in the building. It transpired the person with the keys had gone AWOL and in the end there was nearly an hour's delay while they were located. To keep everyone busy Rufus Hound arranged some sort of strange game involving everyone holding hands, which being an unsociable git I studiously avoided. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made, as two biologists suddenly appeared and started talking to Robin Ince, who happened to be standing a few feet away from me at the time. I got brought into the conversation as they were talking about the teaching of science in schools which I'd been chatting to Robin about the night before and suddenly I found myself sat on a bench behind the comedy stage with two real scientists, Robin Ince, Josie Long and Maeve Higgins while Robin recorded us all having a chat about science! I'm pretty sure this must actually have happened as I was stone-cold sober at the time, but it still seems slightly unreal looking back on it. I did not expect that the highlight of the entire festival wouldn't involve a band, but this was it. Having the opportunity to speak to people so enthusiastic about science has made me realise just how much I care about it myself and made me want to somehow get back into studying it, if such a thing is possible after the crap grade I got for my original degree. Whoever had the keys and overslept - I thank you.

Sadly due to the stage being so late opening I had to miss James Dowdeswell to run off to The Wave Pictures, who were in top form and had the massive crowd they deserved rather than the feeble handful at Latitude (being up against Blondie and Grinderman was always gonna hurt). Another bonus of the comedy stage being delayed was that I could get back in time to see Terry Saunders' Figure 8 which I'd been interested in seeing since it was first announced for End of the Road but thought I'd have to miss as it was due to clash with the Wave Pictures. I'd been warned that it might not work particularly well as there was a certain audio/visual element to the show that couldn't be recreated at the festival but nonetheless I really enjoyed it, although I'm not sure how well it went down with those in the audience not appreciating the Elliott Smith references. A brief trip to see Kimya Dawson followed, but it was impossible to get past the very edge of the main stage area so I abandoned this rather swiftly and made my way back to the comedy stage for one final time in order to catch some of Darren Hanlon. I have no idea why a singer/songwriter was on the comedy stage but it suited him well, there were some hilarious stories between the songs, its a shame that with the comedy stage so out of the way not many people had turned up.

With all the comedians I'd been hanging around with (I'm not a stalker, honest, they were just the only people I'd spoken to who I managed to find again at any point) having to run off and get paid I was back on on my own for Billy Childish, who I knew by name but wasn't overly familiar with. It was a decent set and a bit more lively than most of the bands I'd seen but by the end I was slightly bored of hearing songs which could all have been obscure Jam B-sides. It would seem the last 30 years of music have completely passed him by, so it would seem his place as one of the founders of the stuckist art movement was more appropriate than I'd realised. Darren and Jack Play Hefner Songs seemed to go down incredibly well with the rest of the crowd, unfortunately Hefner were a band who largely passed me by so I felt quite out of place surrounded by people who knew every word. It was enjoyable nonetheless and marked the second appearance of the Wave Pictures, with Franic Rozycki and Jonny Helm playing bass and drums all through the set and David Tattersall appearing at the end to play some ridiculous dueling solos with the Hefner guys. A third appearance for David was soon to follow during Jeffrey Lewis's set which was one of the best performances of the weekend and also included a brief appearance from John Darnielle singing backing vocals on the Crass song Do They Owe Us a Living? Before The Mountain Goats own set. Both Jeffrey Lewis and The Mountain Goats are bands I desperately need to buy up the back catalogues of, brilliant sets from them and the biggest and most appreciative crowds seen in the big top all weekend. Missed most of Calexico unfortunately but made it along in time for perennial set-closer Crystal Frontier which was a great last(ish) song to hear at the festival.

By this time I'd ended up with all the comedians again and we decided to see what was going down in the woods. Sadly the security started coming round to close the area off at midnight but we weren't giving up quite that easily. We fled into the undergrowth and managed to stay hidden for some time but we couldn't very well just stay crouched down in silence and it would seem we made our move too soon. Before we had a chance to escape security were on us and marching us back to the main arena. After re-grouping it became apparent some people had managed to evade the security guards so it was decided another attempt was in order. With Tom Bell distracting the steward I was able to get into the service road (being the only one of us with a pleb wristband) from where the next attempt was to be made. We managed to locate the box needed to get over the fence but the cursed security were already waiting for us on the far side. They were threatening to throw us out by this point but one more attempt had to be made as we still hadn't managed to meet up with those who had avoided security the first time round. We eventually found our way to them but yet again our adventures were cut short by the damned yellow-jackets. This time they were taking no chances and escorted us the entire way back to the arena. We may not have managed to have a secret party in the woods but the attempt had been one of the most entertaining moments of the weekend and certainly the most surreal. I'd spent quite a long time worrying what going to a festival on my own would be like and I never once considered that I'd spend Sunday night hiding from security guards in the woods with a bunch of comedians who I'd been watching earlier that day, funny that. While my night didn't quite end there this post most definitely has to, nothing of any great interest happened and I've spent more words than I ever thought possible describing the weekend already. It was a truly incredible three days and if I had the money I'd be buying an early bird ticket for next year right now.

Friday, 19 September 2008

EotR - a rambling mess of a tale (part 2)

For what I'm about to tell you, you will probably hate me forever: I have never suffered from a hangover at a festival. I don't know what it is about sleeping on the ground in a cold tent but I invariably wake up by about 10am feeling refreshed and ready to go, no matter what I've drunk/smoked/snorted/swallowed the night before. Of course, being all on my own this left me with 2 hours hanging around drinking tea and reading Bad Science*, but lets face it there are far worse ways to spend a morning. By midday the sun was shining and it was time for an ice-cream, before the queue got too ridiculous. Yes, this does seem like a particularly minor detail to mention, but it was REALLY good ice-cream - heather honey flavour. Never thought of making honey ice-cream but will definitely be attempting to track down a recipe now.

Onto the bands, starting with three A's: Absentee, The Affection and The Accidental. Sadly the fact they all started with the same letter was the most interesting thing about them for me. I was quite looking forward to the Accidental from listening to their myspace but it just didn't grab me, demonstrated in my original notes by the fact that I spent more lines pointing out how good the music between the bands was than describing all three of the above bands. The next lot were a completely different proposition - Screaming Tea Party were easily the loudest band I saw all weekend and just what I needed to cheer me up after all the A's.
The weekend's first dilemma of any note was whether to bother watching Noah and the Whale or go to the comedy stage early to make sure I had a decent place for Robin Ince. Thinking back to Latitude solved that one pretty easily, since Noah and the Whale were rather average and Robin Ince was the biggest surprise hit of the weekend. Got into the comedy room (it was housed in a real building rather than a tent, which seemed like a good idea but was to cause problems on the Sunday...) and it appeared to be running a bit late, but I couldn't be arsed to get up once I was sat down so I stayed to watch Adrian Poynton, Saturday's compere, desperately filling time while Dan Antopolski was stuck in traffic. He made a rather decent job of it too, particularly his list of "things I'm secretly proud of but know I shouldn't be." Dan finally turned up and did a rather mixed set, most of his actual jokes going down quite badly but saving the day with a bizarre routine about a worm. Finally it was time for Robin Ince and he did not disappoint, a glorious set including the expected Feynman and Sagan quotes as well as a fantastic recent quote from Brian Cox "Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat." We need more scientists willing to say things like this.
Sadly the comedy had now ended for the day, which left me slightly lacking in options for a while. I decided I might as well see some Bon Iver but was no more enthused with it than I was at ATP earlier in the year (I was also quite irritated to notice the programme for EotR claimed they were the only festival to get Bon Iver on the very first page - apparently I was imagining it back in May) British sea power were, well, British Sea Power. I hadn't seen them in several years (except a brief glimpse from far far away at Latitude) but they don't seem to have changed one bit. Good fun but nothing incredible, sadly the classic set-closer of Lately was noticeably absent which left the set finishing on a bit of a flat note. I took the chance to wander round the woods by the main stage during another brief break in proceedings, noticed that the "healing field" was thankfully rather hidden and hopefully unlikely to suck too many gullible passers-by into the clutches of the homeopaths and other woo-merchants within.
A washing line, on the stage? Whats all this about then? These were my first thoughts on strolling in for Kurt Wagner. Turns out he spent the set pinning lyric sheets to it once he finished the song, along with the odd cigarette (yay, an excuse to smoke in the tent guilt-free) It was a beautiful set, just him and a guitar letting his gorgeous voice carry the songs. Of course, I missed the weekend's only proper talking point while watching him, when someone from Low apparently threw a guitar into the crowd (those ker-azy mormons) which luckily didn't injure anyone. One band left for the day - Mercury Rev, who were truly, utterly, indescribably stunning. Again they are a band I hadn't seen in a long time (I think reading 2002 was the last time) and I'd forgotten just how breathtaking they were live. Band of the weekend, despite the awesome stuff still to come on Sunday.
Of course, there were other bands on in the smaller tents for several hours yet but I knew where I was headed, something called "Scarytellers Club" in a tiny tent (think the sort of thing you might have in the garden if you were very middle class and having a family party) which was billed as being comedians telling scary stories but turned into comedians just being comedians, which was fine by me. Robin Ince made his second appearance, reading out a beautiful passage from a Feynman book which alcohol has sadly stolen the content of from my memory. After this wound down I spotted Robin wandering round the site and unusually for me actually managed to speak to him. This proved to be my best decision of the entire weekend as we had a fantastic chat about science and I ended up spending a couple of hours chatting to him, Sarah Bennetto, James Dowdeswell, Pink Haired Girl (with brilliant Gizmo rucksack) and Beardy Welsh Guy (as pointed out yesterday, I forgot everyone's name unless it was in the programme and I sincerely apologise for this) They were all really friendly and it was good to spend some real time talking to anyone by this point. Finally at around 4am it was time to grab a few hours sleep, knowing I had to return to the comedy stage by midday as James was first on.

*Managed to get hold of a copy despite Waterstones best efforts at hiding it - every single copy was on a table of '3 for 2' offers which I had no idea it was part of, rather than 'new books' or 'popular science' where people might actually be looking for it. Yes, I know it was much cheaper on Amazon, but I didn't want to risk not having it in time for the 3 hour each way train journey.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

EotR - a rambling mess of a tale (part 1)

Apologies for being slow in getting this posted, I've been struggling to figure out how to put such an amazing weekend into words. One advantage of this is that there are now already some great in-depth accounts of the weekend(see here for a massively in-depth review and this blog - no tags annoyingly so you'll have to find the posts yourself - for a more personal account) leaving me free to pick and choose just the bits I want to mention in detail without feeling I'm leaving out any important information. I'll try to make sure there's a bit of detail for any bands not covered elsewhere but I make no promises, my memory is pretty shocking and most of the available space was taken up with a few of the more spectacular moments.

From the very first moment things were going well. I'd made a disgustingly early start (left the house at about 6.40) but this meant I hit Salisbury station at 10.30, before the majority of the festival crowd, so I was able to jump on the first bus to arrive and had my tent up well before the rain hit (End of the Road 1, Latitude 0) There was still a while before the first band so it was time for a quick tour of the site, and what a site it is. The first area you come to seems much like a miniature version of any other festival site, a ring of shops in a field with various stages dotted round the edge, but behind this is the entrance to Larmer Tree Gardens itself, housing the main stage and comedy stage. For some reason it hadn't occured to me that this was going to be the sort of garden people would pay just to look round for the rest of the summer (I know, the name should have been a clue) and the stupid grin which was to sit firmly on my face for most of the weekend emerged for the first time at the thought of watching bands in a place like this.
The afternoon was spent wandering around catching bits and pieces of anything which sounded worth a look from my brief myspace investigations as there were few bands I knew well. I caught some or all of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltzin, Gossamer Albatross, Cats in Paris, Kelley Stoltz, The Acorn and Lonely Ghosts. My memory of this period is a bit hazy (I'm blaming the cider - think I started a bit too early) but I distinctly remember being particularly impressed with The Acorn and my notes suggest all the others were quite watchable too.
Finally it was time for someone I did know and had seen before - Laura Marling. I thought the show I caught on the church tour earlier in the year was amazing but this was even better, despite being in the relatively anonymous surroundings of the big top. After a quick stop off at Dirty Three, which confirmed my suspicions that I just don't get it, it was back to the tent for Robyn Hitchcock. I'll be honest, all I knew about him was that he was in a band who Six. By Seven once covered (The Soft Boys - I Wanna Destroy You) but I'm bloody glad I went along. This was a guy who had clearly been doing this for long enough to put on a decent show in his sleep and despite not knowing any of the songs I thouroughly enjoyed it. If only I had any money I'd be picking up a selection of CDs from his back catalogue right now. Next on the list was Robyn G. Shiels (2 Robyns in a row, what are the chances?) and at this point I must thank Manuel for mentioning him in a post the other day, I doubt I'd have gone along otherwise and would never have known what I'd have been missing. Actually bumped into Robyn at the cider bus the next day and he gave me a free album (which is, incidentally, top notch) after I explained how I'd ended up seeing him.
Headliner time, tonight's being Conor Oberst. For various unimportant reasons I wasn't entirely in the mood for this and it didn't seem Conor was either, what with the sarcastic comments (anyone know what he has against Arcade Fire?) and ending the set on a truly cheerless song. I wandered off midway through to see Dead Meadow but the Local was completely rammed and the stage in there was so low I couldn't see anything so gave up and went back for the end of Conor. After this I just milled around the site for a bit, I had been planning on catching the Pictish Trail but ended up hanging out with some randoms* and drinking more. Sadly I have totally forgotten their names, as I have the name of every single person I met over the weekend except the ones whose names were conveniently written in the programme (more on this later...) I suck, I know. Sorry to anyone who wanted a mention on an obscure blog.

Written an awful lot more than I expected, was planning on a single post but it looks like I'm going to have to split it into days. Saturday to follow soon.

*Of course, everyone there was a random to me as I went all on my own.

Monday, 15 September 2008

End of the Road

I think the festival can be best summed up with the very first line from my notebook:

"Oh. My. god."

(No idea why god ended up without a capital but quite pleased it did)

I think it was probably the best weekend of my entire life. The setting was perfect, the bands were incredible and I met many wonderful people. Will attempt a real post or two about what I got up to once I've had some sleep and decoded the remainder of my drunken scrawl. One more quote from my notes for now:

"Best t-shirt of the weekend - So many kittens, so few recipes"

Monday, 1 September 2008

Jason Lytle returns

Yay! Best news I've heard in ages, thanks to Sweeping the Nation for pointing it out. They've also been playing some new All Smiles tracks on 6music recently so with any luck we might see two new albums from ex-Grandaddy guys before the year is out.