Festival Reviews

OnRoundhay is the newborn northern sibling of the OnBlackheath festival which has been running since 2014. The festival site sits in a natural bowl in Roundhay Park which gives very good views of the enormous music stage and two top quality video screens from wherever you are in the main arena. The tie in with John Lewis means that there's a cookery demonstration tent and a selection of fine festival foods. There's also a Penguin storytelling area , a mini sports day, and giant, costumed characters (Peter Rabbit and Spot The Dog for the kiddies, and The Clangers for grown-up kiddies with longer memories) walking around for selfies and high fives.

Promoter Harvey Goldsmith is the compère for the day and he introduces Actor, who are a discovery of BBC Introducing West Yorkshire. Actor are a three-piece based in Leeds who produce a set of epic power pop tunes in a Bat for Lashes style driven along by Louisa Osborn's vocals which are powerful and striking. Standout tracks are 'Power' and 'Baby Cries'.

Another local band The Haggis Horns are next .They play mainly instrumentals of funky tunes with surprise, surprise a killer horn section. Their sound bursts from the PA and gets the partisan crowd down the front dancing. I suspect they would be at their best in a small, sweaty venue with everyone up on the tables and dancing, but to the uninitiated each track sounds very similar and the appeal is lost after a while in the wide open spaces outdoors.

Harvey's back on stage to introduce “ one of the hottest bands around .. Wolf Alice” and having seen Wolf Alice several times in the past couple of years Harvey's not wrong. Their sound is fuller and heavier live than on their debut album 'My Love is Cool '. Highlights include 'You're a Germ', 'Fluffy' and 'Moaning Lisa Smile'. The shortened set of 45 minutes and 13 tracks means there's little chance for audience / band interaction, but that's a minor quibble as their consistently high quality live performance means there's likely to be great things ahead for Wolf Alice.

A band already with a great past, current and likely future is Primal Scream, who understand that they are playing to a festival crowd so select a set list of greatest hits. A couple of minutes of opener 'Moving On Up' ignites long distant memories, causing a stampede of grown-ups into the area in front of the stage. 'Moving on Up' is one of four tracks from 'Screamadelica' in the set which also includes 'Jailbird' and 'Rocks', plus the two best tracks from 'Chaosmosis' the new album. A final anthemic 'Come Together' sends the crowd back to their early twenties and hopefully converts a few of the current teens/ early twenties present in the audience.

The investigatory powers of Sherlock Holmes are not required to deduce from the flowery face paint and band merch being displayed by the audience that tonight's headliners James are the main reason many are here tonight. Tim Booth ,wearing a beanie to protect against the rapidly dropping temperature, welcomes the audience “Good evening , it's a real pleasure to be here”, as the intro to the slow burn of 'Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)'. 'Sit Down' causes the inevitable mass sing-along.

The giant sun disc/ speaker from the front cover of their most recent album 'Girl at the end of the World' hangs over the band and there's six tracks from that album in the set tonight. But there's a steady drip of hits including 'Laid', 'She's a star' and during 'Sometimes' there's a mass audience sing-along to the fade out “Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes, I swear I can see your soul”. The encore of 'Say Something ' ends in band bows and farewells to close this fine day.

The varied music selection, interesting food stalls, general good feeling and family atmosphere all blessed by the surprising late Summer Yorkshire sunshine means that the birth of On Roundhay feels like a successful delivery. We hope that the biggest village fête in Yorkshire will return again next year.

Alisdair Whyte

Festival Website

OnBlackheath has become a mainstay of South London festivals. Situated on the Heath itself with, Greenwich Park just around the corner, this is a delightful part of London to spend the weekend in late summer, whatever the weather.

Rain on Saturday afternoon, then dry the rest of the weekend, indeed, it was gloriously sunny on the Sunday. A two day festival, no camping but that is not a issue in this location. The site itself has a heavy John Lewis (the main sponsor) presence and tons of excellent food stalls and numberous non musical activites.

Local boys, The Meantime brewery supply the beer and, with kids going free, it’s a real family affair. On Blackheath has a Chef’s stage with demos and a kiddies stage and adventure park which is packed all weekend long. The Roald Dahl maze a real highlight apparently.

Bands on the Saturday for us, kick off with Lone Lady on the main stage. A raft of great songs, with a full band and great visuals on the big screens. Róisín Murphy is next up and another original show presenting songs from the new album. More on stage costume changes than I have ever seen at a gig ... almost an art form in itself.

Connan Mockasin has played a fair few festivals this summer, but just seems to get better every time, a great summer set. Stars for the day as darkness fell were Hot Chip who had the main stage crowd bouncing. Most of the band have been off doing solo stuff recently, so great to see them back together.

All day the three stages are buzzing with activity and DJ sets from Don Letts and Neneh Cherry go down a storm in the DJ tent. It’s a pure rock n’roll finale with Primal Scream to round the day off and with a 10pm curfew we are back at the hotel in time for Match of the Day!

A stroll around Greenwich on a sunny Sunday morning is lovely, it also led to the discovery of Casbah Records, an ace record shop at 320-322 Creek Road.

Back on the Heath for the dreamy Amber Arcades followed by some Spanish Psych from Mardid based band The Parrots. Heavenly Records are curating a stage today so, it not easy to drift away especially as Edwyn Collins and band are next on and play a superb set of solo and Orange Juice tunes. Amazing and highly comenable to see Edwyn treading the boards with so much enthusiasm!

Soak with full band brought her beefed up ballads to the main stage early afternoon, followed by, local heroes Squeeze who draw the biggest crowd of the festival in the glorious sunshine.

It’s now about choices as the festival reaches it’s climax, James or Saint Etienne and then Belle & Sebastian or Nightbeats. We go the James and Nightbeats route and are not disappointed. What a fine band James still are and with Tim Booth spending most of the time crowd surfing. “I trust you to take care of this antique” he tells the crowd before diving in again, they are a triumph.

Belle and Sebastian play what seems the same set they have been playing all summer and whilst they are a lovely band live, we go for a bit more bite with L.A.’s Nightbeats. They blow the roof off the tent, a power trio on fire and a great way to end the bands this weekend.

We catch the end of the Craig Charles Funk & Soul DJ set that has the packed tent bouncing before heading back to the hotel yes, in time for Match of the Day 2.

A great weekend all round, let’s hope it’s all back in 2017.

Pete

Photos

So here we found ourselves once again - the happiest spot on the planet ......... 

EOTR is often cited as 'a music lovers festival’. I've not been particularly comfortable with that descriptor and the rather pompous picture it conjures. But this weekend I think I was able to rationalise it. Bands play all weekend across four stages (two outside, including the sizeable Woods Stage, and two in tents) but such is the nature of the exciting line-up every arena empties out after each act. There is no sense here of people camping for the day in a given spot just to wait for that night's headliner; everyone simply seems too excited about what is happening elsewhere. And there's lot's to sample from an eclectic mix of music to the stunningly beautiful gardens, literary and cinema arenas or simply the gin hut or cider bus for a chill-moment.

For the first time this year bands played on Thursday evening on the main Woods Stage, with The Shins headlining. This really helped elongate the festival - let's hope this becomes an established feature.

This years event was a little rain affected. There was a downpour Saturday afternoon which meant we got a soaking during the beautiful Meilyr Jones set on The Garden Stage - but absolutely worth toughing it out in the wet for such an accomplished artist. Heading back to the tent for a change of clothes and to recuperate meant we had to forsake Local Natives.

Fortunately the site drains well so the need to wade through mud was restricted to just a few particularly well-trodden areas. Later that evening the crowds were back wandering around, all smiles and not a single moan to be heard - oh well, this is a music-lovers festival.

Across the weekend we saw 30 bands.

Thursday

Teleman - Woods Stage. One of our favourite bands kicking off our favourite festival. Opened with live favourite 'Sweet Combinations' followed by a good showcase of their latest album Brilliant Sanity

John Johanna - Tipi Tent. Repetitive guitar work accompanying a drum machine. Bluesy tunes, almost spiritual in places

The Shins - Woods Stage. What is it about Portland that allows this otherwise un-noted city in Oregon to produce so many sublime indie bands? This was The Shins first show in 4 years. It didn't sound like it. Arguably the perfect EOTR band. Played the wonderful 'Phantom Limb' second song in followed by a set featuring many tunes from their 'Chutes Too Narrow' album. Four song encore. Marvellous

Friday

Roddy Womble - Woodland Library. Humble and self-deprecating, the Idlewild lead singer was talking about his book Instrumentals and his current life that sees him living in a 90-strong community on Iona. Good news is that Idlewild is still an ongoing entity, with new album and gigs over the next 24-36 months

Amber Arcades - Garden Stage. Female lead singer and jangly guitars. Good set of pop tunes. Rockin final number

Weaves - Big Top. Shades of Beth Jeans Houghton in lead singer Jasmyne Burke’s vocal. Strokesey guitar provided the backdrop for this Toronto 4-piece. Lyrics were laced with sexual tension. Others were more graphic ''When I was 15 I was living in a shit-hole...."

Martha Ffion - Tipi Tent. Supported by a 4-strong band which Martha introduced as The Homemakers. As she took to the mic she pointed out 'if you were expecting Martha, the punk-rock band from the North East, we aren't them ..... we wish we were". Delivered a good set of non punk-rock. Lyrics in stark contrast to the more edgey previous band: "when I was 15 I burnt my diaries, when I was 15 I burnt my record sleeves"

David Brewis - Tipi Tent Bar. Stopping for a quick bite of lunch were able to spend time listening to one of the Field Musicbrothers. Like Roddy Womble earlier in the day, he eschews being in the spotlight but quietly admitted he does get a real buzz on the odd occasion somebody stops him in the street and tells him how they'd enjoyed a recent show. DB also revealed the rest of Field Music were in a broken down van with all their gear on the A34, all this just hours before they were due on The Garden Stage

U.S. Girls - Big Top. The first I saw this band (earlier this year at Primavera Festival) I thought it was a 2-girl collaboration. Today Meghan Remy was quite clearly leading the show, though still with 2 girls with beats and loops. My earlier recollection was also of a frothy fun-filled performance; today quite the opposite, dealing with rape and other highly emotive topics. But not without humorous moments including sporadic appearances of a guitar-touting cowboy. Costume changes aplenty including nun head-dresses for the last number followed by getting re-dressed to exit the stage.

Whitney - Garden Stage. Julien Ehlrich (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) centre-stage on drums and vocals together with guitarist Max Kakacek (Smith Westerns). Today supported with a 4-strong band. Included a Dylan cover 'Tonight I'm Going Home With You' in their 50-minute set.

Anna Meredith - Big Top. AM on keys, clarinet, drums and vocal - plus tuba, two bass, drums and guitars. The ensemble provided superb harmony-rich orchestrations, but later in the set an opportunity for a 'sweaty dance'. Interesting backdrop throughout - an image of a red and yellow cat which was static apart eyes blinking intermittently; replaced by a similarly coloured snail that moved across the screen, and finally a frog with a pointy tongue (or was it a lizard?).

Money - Big Top. As foreshadowed earlier, Field Music were late commencing their set so we got in early for what promised to be a highlight of our agenda, Money. The refrain "There will be music all around, When they put me in the ground" set the tone for a customary haunting set. Best set of the day and a highlight of the weekend..

Animal Collective - Woods Stage. A long awaited appearance at EOTR from this interestingly bedecked band standing in a row across the stage. For me it was Kraftwerk without the kraft.

Shura - Big Top. Electro-based pop. Shura on keys front centre. Guitar and bass on either side, drummer behind. Somebody said she has shades of Kylie. Agree.

Beak> - Big Top. Electro kraut rock - delivered in excellent style

Saturday

Darren Hayman - Woodland Library. As well as playing recorded extracts from his 'Thankful Villages' album, we were treated at the end to 3 songs sung live. These are stories and songs you can hear countless times without tiring of them

Younghusband - Big Top. Fuzzy guitars; west coast sounds. Played two slower songs in the middle of their set otherwise peppered with tunes from their 'Drones' and 'Dissolver' albums

Meilyr Jones - Garden Stage. Supported with his excellent band (featuring Euan from Younghusband) this set was simply brilliant. During one song Meilyr dropped vertically from the stage as if through a trap-door. We were pretty close and it looked impressive; I guess there were people further back to whom he would simply have disappeared. Marvellous fun in the rain.

Martha - Tipi Tent. Their lyric 'Blisters in the pit of my heart' summed up this raucous nu-punk from Durham. Androgynous guitarist had his hair in pig-tails. Shared most of the vocals with the other guitarist creating a Billy Bragg soundalike in places. 'Curly & Raquel' was introduced as a song inspired by 'the greatest romance of the 20th Century'. Liveliest band of the weekend including a mosh-pit for 30-somethings and the odd crowd surfer.

Goat - Woods Stage. Fantastic costumes - allowed us to step momentarily into a Womad-infused world

Steve Mason - Big Top. Our plan had been to watch the first 20 minutes and then go to see 'Fews' - but one look at each other during the opening chords told us that wasn't likely to happen. The sound was so good; band so good; Steve M so good - we went nowhere.

Ezra Furman - Garden Stage. The Saturday night clash was always going to be one to grapple with (Ezra v Bat For Lashes). We always said we would go with flow, and hearing BFL already in full swing with songs from recent 'The Bride' album we plumped for Ezra. Wearing the now customary dress he delivered a superb mix of his classics and tunes off his new covers EP, starting off with 'Teddy, I'm Ready To Rock And Roll'. Excellent

BC Camplight - Tipi Tent. Wonderfully orchestrated tunes. One's to follow up on

The Big Moon - Tipi Tent. This band always look like they’re having so much fun. The bands stunning appearance was enhanced further today by one of the band members playing the set in the EOTR post-man uniform. 'Formidable' was once again a stand out song between their lively single releases.

Seratones - Tipi Tent. From Louisiana. Occasional hints of deep south but in reality these were simply excellent guitar songs with vocals delivered by a vibrant female singer.

Sunday

BE - Garden Stage. Introduced by a soundtrack of bee calls with an enlightening description of the many and varied sounds. The band then took to the stage to play recently released 'One' album with the bee soundtrack accompaniment. Spellbinding in parts. Rather like early Floyd, 20 minutes of admiring the musicianship earning you the right for the 'hairs standing up on back of neck' moment at the crescendos.

Pinegrove - Tipi Tent. US six-piece. Summery, quirky tunes. Think Paul Simon with occasional Beach Boys thrown in. Time changes that really kept the interest.

Dr Dog - Woods Stage. Americana indie/Country. 10 years since we first stumbled across this band. Wonderful to see they'd not slipped completely off the radar.

Bill Ryder-Jones – Garden Stage. A great set, shades of Pernice Brothers in some of his numbers. Possibly a 45 minutes would have suited rather than the allotted hour.

Flamingods - Big Top. In terms of football formations: first half: 2-4; second half: 1:5. Manic tunes with a Latin under-groove. Lead Singer jumped the barrier in last song. As the crowds parted I managed to grab a leg and with assistance from an initially unwilling crowd we got him to surf to victory.

Broken Social Scene - Woods Stage. Another coup for this festival. This seven strong band were playing for the first time in 5 years. Today with 4-man brass section and guest female vocal. Great to hear some of the BSS classics

King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard - Big Top. Like buses, bands with two drummers are scarce, but to the old adage two came along at once this evening. KGATWL Are a seven-strong outfit playing manic tunes with elongated bluesy guitar breaks

Thee Oh Sees – Garden Stage. Second band running with two drummers, and didn’t they generate a fantastic sound. A real crowd-pleaser. Played old numbers plus a good selection off recent album ‘A Weird Exits’.

Thank you End Of the Road. Early-bird tix already in the bag for next year !!

Si

Photos

 

 

Our tenth trip down to Dorset for the End of the Road festival, the Eleventh edition of this ever growing boutique affair. Not much to report site wise, a few cosmetic changes but mainly the same set up as recent years.

A main stage start on a Thursday this year meant that the majority of the weekend crowd were there on Thursday night to enjoy a crack set from Teleman followed by a re-generated Shins back on stage for the first time in a very long time. An excellent set as they have a catalogue of wonderful tunes, we even got, ‘Chutes Too Narrow’.

Friday

It’s a pretty grey weekend weather wise but Amber Arcades bring some sunshine with their dreamy Scandinavian indie. Dawn Landes and band plays a set of great tunes and looks in top form and over the "break-up album" phase. Fiery Furnace, Eleanor Friedberger, played a lo-fi indie set on her birthday.

Margo Price is on the main Woods Stage, which was introduced a few years back at the same time that the bigger bands arrived at the festival and the capacity was increased. For what the Wood Stage lacks in ambiance the artists themselves create unique musical vistas. The vista for Margo Price and band is Nashville in the rain. A great set of modern day C&W.

Stealing Sheep replace Omar Souleyman and play a great set at short notice, they look like a female Kraftwerk on stage I must say. Now into the evening session and Field Music, running late (van broke down, borrowed equipment etc), are still sound checking when the set should start, but once they get going it’s a superb set.

Phosphorescent plays a one off set on the Garden stage as the night draws in followed by, an outstanding set from Cat Power, what a voice! Later night shows in the Tipi tent from Mothers and Big Thief and both are excellent. Mother’s hypnotic and intense, Big Thief, bright and sparky.

Saturday

The majority of rain falls today but before the heavy downpour arrives, there is time for breakfast with Wilco, well, a playback of the new album ‘Schmilco’ and a chance to chat with the neighbours. A fine record by the way.

Julia Jacklin, a Caitin Rose like singer/songwriter from Oz is in fine form with a full band, in the Tipi tent. A real find is Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, a folk duo recently signed to Rough Trade Records. Ben play guitar and Josienne, with a dry dark sense of humour sings. Absolutely wonderful, look out for the new album this autumn.

Meilyr Jones storms the Garden stage before the rain hits which means it’s back to the tent for some shelter and red wine. By the time Local Natives hit the  Woods Stage at 5.30pm the rain is still coming down but, these guys from L.A. soon have us forgetting about the weather as they pile massive energy into their set. The band have not been around for three years so, all these classic songs from the first couple of albums sound fresh as does the new material. A brilliant hour and oh ... the rain has stopped!

Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop played a lovely set accompanied by some coordinated wildfowl on one song. This is followed by M. Ward and band in full rock n’ roll mode and again an ace set. Our headliner tonight on the Garden Stage is Ezra Furman, who has been playing sets around the festival since Thursday evening. Ezra tonight is in fully focussed, rock n’roll mode and with his band, The Boyfriends, plays an outstanding set.

Tonight’s late night show is an hour in the company of Wild Beasts in the Big Top tent. a nice surprise appearance from these, previous festival headliners.

Sunday

A nice dry and sunny day at last as Sunday dawns and Pinegrove from New Jersey are an ace early find. slightly Pavement like this a a great band destined for bigger things. The Blind Shake deliver a raw rock n’ roll set on the Big Top stage.

Bill Ryder-Jones in the mid afternoon sunshine is in fine form with his ace band along side and still in a Neil Young and Crazy Horse frame of mind. JD McPherson is a sonically loud rock-a-billy dude in full flight on the Woods stage followed by a 20 piece? Broken Social Scene who flew in for just this set and where heading back to Canada the day after. A sense of occasion was in the air and the band delivered a great set to an adoring crowd.

Tonight’s headliner on the main stage is Joanna Newsom. In fact with nothing else on any other stage at the same time, she is the true End of the Road headliner for 2016 however, like chalk and cheese, before Joanna, it’s Thee Oh Sees on the Garden Stage. A psychedelic 3-piece from San Francisco, these guys just blast the audience off their feet for a hour. a tour-de-force of a gig unlike any other band delivers at this moment in time. A stunning highlight of the festival.

A total opposite and it is the divine Joanna Newsom, for the second time left stranded on the Woods stage on a cold dark chilly night. Sitting in a concert hall her music is stunning. In a cold dark field, at the end of a long festival (with nothing else to watch) it’s just not been thought though it seems.

11.15pm and Teenage Fanclub are on the Garden stage and the festival end in fine style.

This is the festival for us that always draws a big group of friends so, is a constant on out festival calendar .... roll on 2017!

Pete

Photos

Festival Website

If you were looking to have a new and eclectic festival, who better to curate it than a respected and influential independent record shop, ( hello, Drift Records!) and where better to house it than a hippy intellectual enclave in the south west (yes, that is you, Totnes!) .

It’s near the sea, so the three lovely record shop organisers called it Sea Change – motto, I Can Sea change. I knew it was to be a special weekend when we woke in the bijou campsite in the dairy fields of Dartington estate to find a table laden with free tea, coffee, milk and flasks of hot water. Then Bob the Community Bus arrived to take us the short trip to town.

The five diverse venues were mostly close together in the High Street, where every other shop is a cool café or organic eatery. The opening ceremony was led by Ways with Weirds, two poets who really are undertakers. It had a death and rebirth theme, in the little used Civic Hall where Blondie and 90s raves once shook the tiles from the ceiling – now reborn with a line-up so diverse that even I could not appreciate all of it... full of new discoveries whose records Drift liked and had connections with.

A full-on Membranes rock show was preceded by lead singer and writer John Robb being interviewed about his love of science by John Duran of the Quietus, who later curated a stage in the S Devon Arts Centre featuring his mates like Teeth of the Sea and Bo Ningen...you get the picture. Incidentally, Teeth were so powerful my friend ran out screaming during the first number, joining several other deafened partners on a big leather sofa outside next to a ping pong table.

One of the finest venues for both architecture and acoustics was the 13th C St Marys Church (no bands til 4pm on Sat because of a wedding, when the large festival Bar Open sign was discreetly replaced).

Highlights here were 20 year old Holly Macve from Yorkshire who walked up from the train station with her guitars and sang just like Loretta Lynn, Alasdair Roberts in a trio with Stevie Jones from Sound of Yell and Alex Neilson of Trembling Bells, and James Yorkston with Jon Thorne from Lamb and the stunning voice and sarangi playing of Suhail Yusuf Khan from New Delhi, as heard on their hypnotic and emotional album Everything Sacred.

James then went on to tell anecdotes from his life and two books as part of a spoken word bill in the Birdwood House art gallery.. and then played acoustic solo at a perfect venue, the tiny but welcoming New Lion Brewery.

New Lion had brewed some special beers just for the festival, including British Sea Power IPA (100 numbered bottles – I drank no. 22!), named for the headliners and big name draw who packed out the final session at the Civic Hall. Totnes has two other breweries, including brew pub the Barrelhouse who hosted great dance music with Bizarre Rituals and guests such as Neil Landstrum of Planet Mu and the wonderful Throws, made up of the founders of folkpsych favs Tuung. The two singers played opposite, staring into each other’s eyes.

Perhaps the best new discovery of the weekend was Ultimate Painting, one of several acts referencing the 60s, in this case the Beach Boys and the Byrds. Shame I missed them solo on New Lion’s intimate staircase. Other highlights were BC Camplight roaring out his soulful songs in a big black hat and coat with a bottle of red wine in one hand and a keyboard in the other, and 30Lbs of Bone playing his sad slow laments to a seated Civic Hall. Then it was rocking out with Brighton’s version of the Beautiful South, Pure Conjecture, featuring new Heavenly artist Rose Elinor Dougall.

@KevinHand3

Festival Website