The End of the Road Festival

End of the Road

I really have made you wait for this haven’t I. Ah well, no matter. So, another year, another End of the Road Festival. We drove down again, specifically renting a hippy VW camper for the journey, and Christ almighty what a fucking death-trap that thing was. As I wrote in the intro to the podcast about this festival, the thing steered like a bathtub full of water. Honestly, if you ever needed to react to anything unexpected turning the steering wheel was like trying haul a bucket of water out of a well. Throw in the rubbish high beams and the teeny-tiny windscreen wipers and we can count ourselves lucky we got there at all.

But get there we did, to be welcomed by pissing rain. Splendid. I’ve led a charmed life so far, as far as festivals are concerned, having encountered no more that the slightest of sprinkles in the five or six I’ve attended so far. Spoiled, you might say. Well no such luck here. I had the interview lined up with Micah P. Hinson and it was pissing down and they wouldn’t even let us into the photography pit at the front, as had been promised beforehand. I was struggling just a little to stay cheerful. Anyhow, Micah’s set was outstanding – his recorded music may be quite beautiful at times, but when he plays live he puts some real snarl into it.

The lineup is pretty basic – Micah on guitar supported by Nick on drums who plays occasional banjo, and Ashley, his wife, on keyboards – but they manage to dredge some racket out of it when they want to. During the set the sun finally broke through, and the rain stopped falling, and suddenly everything was good. Hinson’s slower songs get a bare and lovely outing with just a guitar, and his sightly abrasive on-stage manner never seems to strike a dubious chord with the audience. The interview went well, and will be posted here shortly, but safe to say that this gig seemed to be the turning point of the End of the Road Festival as far as I am concerned.

Micah P. Hinson – When We Embraced

The mud was still liquid despite the sun, and were still sloshing about somewhat treacherously, but optimism was restored, and people’s spirits lifted with the cessation of the rain. I managed to meet up with
Tim from the The Daily Growl again, which is always a pleasure. His festivalling is somewhat curtailed by the presence of the Baby Growl, but himself and his lovely lady still managed to find time to wander about and enjoy things, despite their little passenger.

Last year End of the Road was almost two thousand visitors short of their five thousand capacity, and the empty space was very, very welcome. This year they sold out, which meant a lot more people, some queueing for toilets (surely not!) and a generally less relaxing atmosphere. As lovely as the tea garden was, as excellent as some of the food was and as good as some of the bands were, I came back from this year’s festival feeling just slightly ambivalent. I found it difficult to settle on things, and became a little prone to watching half a set and then wandering off. I don’t know why this was, but maybe the fact that the lingering damp made it impossible to sit down had something to do with it. Let’s face it, we came very badly prepared.

Few of the bands I went there to see really made much impact on me, actually. Calexico and British Sea Power seemed to suffer from some very squishy sound on the main stage, although the rougher sounds of Micah P. Hinson and The Wave Pictures seemed to just about tear through the fug and shake your eardrums with real bite. The Big Top was on good form this year as well, with Liz Green sounding very promising from the little of the end of her set that I caught. One to investigate there, I think. The other great big bundle of joy given by the Big Top was me finally discovering Jeffrey Lewis.

The Wave Pictures – Leave The Scene Behind

I deposited Mrs. Toad near the Pavillion with a book for most of the festival, although she participated a little towards the end of Sunday, and tended to wander about either on my own, with Tim or on Saturday with Johnny Pictish. On one of those solitary moments, I meandered into the Big Top as Jeffrey Lewis played and now, finally, I get it. People have been recommending Jeffrey Lewis to me for a couple of years, I think, and I’ve never quite got round to investigating. His torrent of verbiage seems always on the verge of tripping over itself, and the accompanying guitar style seems liable to divorce itself entirely from the music at any point and simply wander off on a path entirely its own. However I describe it there’s something incredibly arresting about it. I finally get it. Sorry it took so long.

Jeffrey Lewis – Don’t Let the Record Label Take You Out to Lunch

Mrs. Toad reckons there’s something sort of sad about the last day of a festival. The ground’s all worn out, people are tired and dirty and the inevitable end hangs over everyone just a little bit. If anything, I think I enjoyed Sunday the most. I wandered about by myself, the Wave Pictures interview went really well and that was the day I discovered the most interesting new stuff, such as the aforementioned Mr. Lewis. One other group who really impressed me were Glasgow band Over the Wall. I’ve seen them before, funnily enough, at one of Euan’s Trampoline nights but they didn’t really grab me then for some reason. This time round they seemed to be having a ball, enjoying the enthusiasm of the crowd, and that effusive enjoyment spread to their performance. For the most part I guess I’d descrbe them as pop music filled with electronica. Not electro-pop, I don’t think, because that sounds a bit disco, which they aren’t, but hopefully you know what I mean. They have an EP just out as well, which I’m guessing you’ll have to get in touch to request, because there’s no sign of it on their MySpace page just yet. Out in October, I think.

Over the Wall – Thurso

Ultimately, we had a really nice time. I think on Saturday I was just struggling to relax for some reason and this slightly got in the way of enjoying the festival. By Sunday I’d chilled out a bit and was able to enjoy whole sets without getting jumpy. Calexico closed with real flair, their battle with the spongy sound won with a brilliant rendition of Minas de Cobre (For Better Metal) and by then I was ready for another day. Perhaps by the end of Sunday I was finally in the frame of mind to have enjoyed Saturday properly. I feel like I’ve let down an excellent festival with this review, but I felt like I was letting down an excellent festival all the way through until Sunday by just not quite gelling with it for no reason I could really think of.

Calexico – Minas de Cobre (For Better Metal)
Calexico – Sirena

This feels like one of those classic ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ lines, doesn’t it. But it’s true, sometimes.

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