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Review: End of the Road Festival 2009

The end of the road… the beginning of the sea. Right? Done with land, time for sea. Something like that. Anyway. The End of the Road festival is a charming, small 3000-ish capacity festival down in Dorset. For people not from the UK and for the benefit of people as geographically unaware as I am, Dorset is down in the South West. Countryside! It even smelled of countryside. I love the city but it’s nice to take a  trip out every now and again.

After pitching tents the first band I caught a tiny bit of was Ohbijou. I stayed for 15 minutes or so before running off to the main stage. From what I heard they were lovely. Over at the main stage Mumford and Sons were opening up. I’ve seen them play four times previously, they are a good live band and it was enjoyable. The crowd loved  them.

Let me set the scene. It was sunny and lovely and beautiful. There was a garden stage, a little piano stage in the woods, along with other fun stuff like ping pong and hula hooping. Then there was the big top stage, like a carnival. The Tipi Tent was tiny and had some quieter bands mostly, and The Local also had a tent. There was lots of pretty reasonably priced food stalls and a few other interesting little places all around the site. Because the festival was so tiny (3000 is lovely) there must have been a good few dozen of my friends there. It was perfect and meant I was never far from a friendly face. And on top of that, the festival seemed to be filled with lovely people anyway.

Loney Dear were next on the main stage and it was much the same as the day before, when I saw them at Union Chapel. Emil needed some sunglasses (!). The sun was super bright and in his face. David Thomas Broughton was next on the main stage, up to his usual crazy antics. In between sets I shot Charlie Parr and had a listen to a few songs. Shearwater played on the main stage and I caught a bit of it before heading off in favor of some din dins. Returning to the main stage, it was time for Dirty Projectors.

Dirty Projectors were one of the bands I was most excited about, and for good reason. They were wonderful. Such an exciting band. Brilliant guitar and the vocals are incredible. I loved them. I caught some Herman Dune and a little bit of Explosions in the Sky.

The next day The Leisure Society started things off. I’ve seen them before and know their songs. They all looked like they were having so much fun and it made me feel really happy. Lots of love for this band. Next I caught Motel Motel in the Big Top. I loved them. I had never seen them before and I would really, really love to see them again. Harlem is such a brilliant song. After bumping into Jess and Andy of She Keeps Bees the night before, and having Jess recommend their friends This Frontier Needs Heroes, I headed to the Tipi Tent to catch the brother and sister duo from Brooklyn. It was lovely. 

Peter Broderick was on top form in the Tipi Tent. He was absolutely stunning. Best time I’ve seen him. He played with his sister singing harmonies. He mentioned about how one fan has been to so many of his shows, and his name is Mark. So for one song he used Mark’s name, looping it and incorporating it into the song. I thought it was beautiful and sweet. For the last song Peter had everyone singing with him. What a fantastic musician.

One artist I had on my ‘must see’ list was Laura Gibson. I love her 2009 record The Beast of Seasons and was so excited to hear her sing her beautiful songs live. She has such a delicate voice, there’s so much care over every single word. Funeral Song is one of my favourite songs of the year and it was a treat to hear it live.

I headed to the Main Stage to catch a few minutes of Alela Diane and shoot her. It sounded wonderful but I had to make a dash to see Wildbirds. I decided to stay in the crowd instead of heading to the photopit, so I could watch the whole set without having to move. It was the same setlist as the Union Chapel show, but I don’t think I’ll tire of seeing this band. They are truly special.

I caught some Okkervil River on the main stage, I still love the song Lost Coastlines alot. I caught some Efterklang and Fleet Foxes. I had some pretty tasty sheep’s milk ice cream while watching Fleet Foxes. Then I headed into the woods with a couple of friends and we had an impromptu sing along session at the piano stage.

Sunday, ahoy! With the new day came Whispertown 2000. I love them hugely. Mountain is so epic live, it kills me. I was pretty sneaky and managed to spend the whole set right up front sitting in the photopit. I could have stayed there listening to their songs forever. Next, we marauded into the woods to catch The Leisure Society playing a stripped back set at the Piano Stage. The Piano Stage was basically half of a room, amongst all the trees and grass, with a piano in.

We made a dash and headed to the Big Top to catch The Tallest Man on Earth (insert joke about how he’s not that tall here). He has such charisma and energy and was a treat to watch, I’d really love to see him again. There was a funny moment while I was in the photopit. I, personally, always try to be as considerate as possible when shooting. So if there is a quiet part, I won’t ruin it by releasing my shutter. There was another photographer who was going shutter crazy during a quiet part, and Tallest Man Kristian looked at her and SHHHed her. I thought it was pretty funny.

Sunday was a much lazier day. We sat on the floor and listened to the insanity of Bob Log III. While we were sitting on the grass I spied Okkervil River strolling past, into the woods, carrying all their instruments. I figured they must be going to do a secret, acoustic set. We followed them and listened and it was lovely. Such a treat to see the band in such an intimate setting.

Neko Case took to the Main Stage in the evening. The lady is amazing. Her voice is brilliant, and she can sing, seemingly, effortlessly. She’s pretty hilarious too. We had some tasty pizza treats, Whispertown were getting their pizzas too. The pizza place was pretty awesome. 

To round the whole festival off, we caught She Keeps Bees in The Local tent. The crowd adored them, they were amazing as ever. Jess was also throwing cookies into the crowd. Bonus. So much love for this band, the perfect way to end a truly brilliant festival. I had such an amazing time. Great friends, great food and great music. A really unbeatable combo.

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Motel Motel – Harlem

One of my favourite new discoveries at End of the Road is Motel Motel. They are from New York and play music that reminds me of Langhorne Slim, Vetiver, Two Gallants… that kind of thing. They sound brilliant live. I’m really hooked on their song Harlem. It’s from their record New Denver and you can hear it on their Myspace. I love the vocals. A band worth investigating further indeed.

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End of the Road

End of the Road is approaching. I am excited. Here are my must-see bands:

Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Whispertown 2000, She Keeps Bees: These three are the headliners for me, in my heart (My Heart! Nudge nudge, wink wink). Wildbirds were the band that made me get a ticket, when I was in full Wildbirds-centric-swoon mode. And then Whispertown. I love them so much. Since I first saw She Keeps Bees in June I’ve been more than a bit in love with their brilliance, and I am excited to see them for the tenth time. It’ll be the ninth time for Wildbirds and the fourth time for Whispertown. I have so much time for these three bands. If you’ve never seen them, I really can’t recommend them enough. I adore them so much.

Laura Gibson: I can’t wait to hear this lady perform her beautiful songs. I am intrigued to see if she has a band or if she plays alone. I adore musical saw, so I hope she has a band with someone to play this wonderful instrument.

Dirty Projectors: I am so very excited to see this band. I missed them earlier this year on a clashy day (Alessi VS Soap&Skin VS Dirty Projectors) and I’ve felt kind of sad about it. But! Now is the time I can finally catch them. They have an album out, Bitte Orca. It’s been raved about all over the interwebs, and deservedly so. It’s a brilliant record, one of my favourites of the year.

Neko Case: I saw Neko play earlier this year, and it feels like an eternity ago. She’s still in the top chunk of artists I’ve seen this year. Her voice is phenomenal, it’s so powerful and completely hypnotic. I can’t wait to see her again.

Just because of the nature of…. my tendency to go to everything, I’ve actually seen a sizable bunch of the artists on the lineup. But! I will make an effort to catch some stuff I’ve never seen before.

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End Of The Road

The other day I got a text from Adam saying Wildbirds & Peacedrums (!!!!!), Dirty Projectors (!!!) and Neko Case (!!!) had been added to the End of the Road lineup. Unfortunately, I always forget to look at my phone until I go to bed, which is usually 1am. So before I went to sleep I had this information nestling in my mind, and I got quite excitable. To be fair, any Wildbirds & Peacedrums news is liable to get me excitable. Tickets are priced at £115 for 3 days and camping. I’ve never been to a festival with camping, so I figure now is the time to go.

There are tons of great bands on the lineup, the ones I am most interested in are: Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Neko Case, Whispertown, Dirty Projectors, Fleet Foxes, Peter Broderick, Low Anthem, Ohbijou, The Dodos, Dent May, Okkervil River, The Tallest Man On Earth… and some more. 

But the important thing is: WILDBIRDS & PEACEDRUMS!!! Woop.

Everyone should come along to this, I suspect it will be buckets of fun. Considering it’s 3 days and there are over a dozen great bands on the lineup, the ticket price isn’t toooo bad.

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