Monday, September 25, 2006
End of the Road Festival - Sunday
Sunday morning started bright and sunny, in contrast to the grey skies of Saturday. The sun kept shining until just after I’m From Barcelona’s set, which seemed appropriate, given their sparkly day-glo pop music. In the hands of one man and an acoustic guitar, these songs would be insufferably twee, but coming from a 29-piece all singing (literally), all dancing (yep, that too), all throwing-confetti-around, and generally riotous and fun Swedish band, they sound just right. Coming on a bit like the Polyphonic Spree, without the cultish overtones, and with better tunes, they were the perfect start to the Sunday, drawing one of the biggest crowds of the weekend to the Garden Stage at the improbably early hour of 12pm. They’ve got a charismatic frontman in Emanuel Lundgren, who makes regular forays into the crowd, whilst being backed up by his gang of super-enthusiastic friends. They’ve got way more people on stage than is necessary, but they just use it as an excuse for a big party! They seem to have suddenly sprung into the public consciousness fully formed and larger than life. And we’ll no doubt hear a lot more about them in the near future.
Download: I’m From Barcelona – Tree House
Next up in the Big Top, I was keen to see Jeremy Warmsley live, after recently getting into his music. In a perverse way, he was the perfect artist to follow the exuberant Swedes, mainly because rather than three-chord singalongs, he specialises in an altogether more complex type of pop music. He has a great vocal range, as well as an impressive range of musical styles, often within the same song. From solo numbers on the keyboard, to full band wig-outs. I’m not sure if the bass was meant to be so high in the mix, but with his brilliant bass player these songs sounded almost funky. He’s an exciting new talent, and I’m already looking forward to his new album next month.
Download: Jeremy Warmsley – The Boy Who Cried Love
It was fantastic to see Tilly and the Wall again, especially since their last show I went to was so marred by bad sound. Today, they sound perfect. I think in the few months since I last saw them, they’ve become an even more accomplished pop band. Whatever, their wonderful harmony-fuelled, tap dancing-driven pop still thrills the soul, and leaves us with big smiles on our faces, wanting more.
Download: Tilly and the Wall – Sing Songs Along
From the Big Top, it was a short walk across to the Bimble Inn to catch Emmy the Great. She arrived with Jeremy Warmsley and other friend called Charlie in tow, to act as her band. Collectively they were called Emmy and the Whale, at least for that day. I bet there’s not going to be many gigs Emmy plays where she has to contend with small children throwing coins onstage, but she weathered the storm to play another stunningly good set of folk-pop gems. She really is brilliant. Her way-too-short set was rounded off by an amazing cover of Where is my Mind?, with Warmsley on banjo and Charlie on ukulele. A Pixies cover to rival, or maybe even surpass TV on the Radio’s reworking of Mr Grieves. And because she had time to spare after she finished, Emmy generously handed the stage over to some performance poet. Now these two words would normally have me running for cover, but this guy was hilarious, with his physically enhanced poem about a crap night out in an English costal town. Who is he? I need to know.
Download: Emmy the Great – Paper Trails
Jolie Holland in the Big Top seemed like a good proposition, though it did take me a while to get into her lugubrious brand of bluesy alt-country, but eventually the songs won me over. She has a delivery a bit like Lucinda Williams, where she wraps her vocals round the words. Ryan Adams made a guest appearance on drums. I was almost sorry to leave the tent when it was time to go to see Richard Hawley.
Download: Jolie Holland - Goodbye California
Another festival, another Richard Hawley gig. However, this one was more satisfying than his brief Summer Sundae appearance. He had more time for one, so he and his fine band were able to wow us once again with songs from Hawley’s breakthrough album Coles Corner, as well as a good number of oldies to keep the old fans like us happy. I know Richard and band have been playing a lot of gigs over this summer, which may explain how they sound better every time I see them. The rock-out end to Run for Me is even more thrilling. And of course, as always, the songs were accompanied by Hawley’s own brand of bawdy humour and withering put downs. Much of this goes down well, though after seeing him a few times the jokes are much the same, and I’m not sure I’ll ever have the use for the phrase ‘soft as a bag of tits’.
Download: Richard Hawley - Run for Me
I had hoped to see more of Ryan Adams, but we spent more time watching his roadies set up than watching him and the Cardinals performing. He was due onstage at 10:15 but it wasn’t until almost 10:45 that they arrived. But we got four songs, including a fine country-rockin' version of To Be Young before heading back to the Big Top to see James Yorkston. I noticed that Jolie Holland repayed the drumming favour by playing violin with the Cardinals.
Download: Ryan Adams - To be Young
Adams was the big draw of the day, because James Yorkston must have only had about 50 people watching him play solo acoustic in the tent. In one way it’s a shame because he deserves more. On the other, it made the gig a very special intimate occasion, with Yorkston feeling at ease, chatting with the audience, and even taking requests. Things did seem to get worse for him when a bloke collapsed during the sublime Moving Up Country, Roaring the Gospel. James looked concerned, asked how he was, and seeming unsure of whether he should continue playing. But was urged on by everyone, including the guy on the floor as he waited for the medics to take him away.
“I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but when I did that song at Bestival, I got a Mexican wave” he said at one point. So in the end, we obliged, giving him several. OK, they were all prompted, but there was a lot of goodwill for the man from Fife in the tent. He asked us to dance. Mrs Growl and I complied by doing a few twirls. And he even was given extra time to play after the watershed by the compere. That went down well. All his songs – his older material as well as from his new album Year of the Leopard, sounded wonderful. His final song – Cheating the Game – lingered with me well into the next day, as a happy reminded of a wonderful evening. Ryan Adams – who’s he?
Download: James Yorkston – Cheating the Game