Another wonderful weekend at EOTR, with the usual selection of first-rate musical choices, summed up by the band Wand who spoke little between songs but said “it’s great to back and playing with some great programming (as they call it)”. I’ve made a mental note to use this expression going forward instead of 'great line-up’
The perennial feeling about this event is simply the wonderful vibe, with pop-up shows in the woods and, new this year, musical acts on the comedy ‘Talking Heads’ stage. On this basis any criticism is entirely constructive but I would urge the organisers to investigate better payment solutions as ‘cash payments only’ at many bars and outlets were far too common.
But with the wonderful atmosphere and 'great programming’ we took in 31 bands, mostly from the undercard rather the headliners, starting with the Thursday evening session
Day 1 - Thursday
Pottery - Tipi Tent - from Canada via Salisbury (Tom, bass player). Rockin scuzzy guitars with keyboard, albeit keys were a little subdued for my liking. Drummer provides the dynamo for this energetic band with excellent use of cowbell. Set opened with ‘Lifelike Costume’, the set closer when I saw them previously. The excellent ‘Hank Williams’ and ‘Lady Solinas’ provide the centrepiece of the set.
Du Blonde -Tipi Tent - Beth Jeans Houghton, sometimes a little moody bordering on the belligerent but today in good humour and on top form. “This is my favourite festival “ she declared to excited response from the expectant opening-day crowd. BJH has a wonderful chocolate voice and one of those artists where you simply forget how many good tunes she has. Supported by Mike on bass plus a drummer. Included my favourite Du Blonde song ‘After The Show’
Spiritualized - Woods Stage - overwhelming sense that most people wanted to see Spiritualized simply because they hadn’t seen them before. Highly competent as you’d expect and songs are very accessible with good backing singers. A good Thursday evening headliner but in all honesty this felt like saccharine fuelled pop for the masses.
Day 2 - Friday
Ohtis - Garden Stage - a Country vibe from this threesome. Enchanting steel guitar in the sunny garden
Stella Donnelly – Garden Stage - our pre gin-party gathering, purposely designed so we could enjoy this wonderful lady from New Zealand (with strong hint of Welsh ancestry). Amusingly (but also slightly irritatingly) she had the same chat between songs as last year, but Stella is an enchanting songstress so difficult to be too critical. ‘Beware Of The Dogs’ was the standout tune of the set which got into full flow 5 songs when she was joined by her band.
Jade Bird – Garden Stage - a highly mature performance from this 19 year old. Excellent tunes that got rockier as the set went on. Didn’t have as big a crowd as Stella Donnelly - this set deserved more. Did a cover of ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’. Fuelled with gin we duly did so
The Beths - Woods Stage - have seen this band previously and then had the overwhelming feeling their live set didn’t do justice to their superb rockin album ‘Future Me Hates Me’. I’m still not convinced they pack the punch to raise their tunes to a complete live blow-away experience. Played some new songs which sounded stronger, but perhaps because there was no recorded reference point
Wand – Big Top - a stage set of pretty much white lights only for this trippy 5-piece from LA. I’m always a fan of bowed guitar playing and today we saw plenty, as the back-drop to the set opener which showcased songs from their recent album ‘Laughing Matter’. Freaky, trippy guitars and an almost falsetto vocal from lead-man Cory Hanson who said little between songs but reminded us they’d played the festival in 2015 and “it’s great to back and playing with some great programming (as they call it)”. [Mental note to use this expression instead of 'great line-up’]
Bodega – Woods Stage Usual mix up of styles from this NY 5-piece with a stand-up drummer who takes lead vocal on some songs. Pretty much a 45 minute freak-out
Yves Timor - Big Top - the legend from Bristol that is Big Jeff was, as usual, in attendance. Festival rule: if Jeff is at the band you’re watching you’ve made a good choice. Having bumped into him the previous evening his recommendation for today was Yves Timor. The programme uses the words clattering and experimental. To my (obviously uneducated) ears this was cacophonous. I’ll pass on this one thanks Jeff
Parquet Courts – Garden Stage - Uncompromising as ever and didn’t simply trot out their hits (which I suspect many of the crowd would have liked). The set started with high-paced classics ‘Master Of My Craft’, ‘Borrowed Time’ and ’Total Football’ before allowing pulses to settle with ‘Before The Water Gets Too High’’. Then a series of songs that show the true expanse of this band, including a rare outing for ‘Death Will Bring Change’ supported by a small local choir for the choral refrain, the whole song having the slight air of under-rehearsal but a mark of a band in full confidence.
Day 3 - Saturday
Sweaty Palms – Big Top - glad to see this Scottish band make a return to EOTR and first on in the Big Top provided an early highlight of the day, with keys and synths giving a delightful addition to the slightly grungy guitar; all overlaid by angry lyrics delivered in a an almost spoken vocal style
Martha – Woods Stage - four piece guitars hailing from the North East. Great performance, and in my view, as a live act carry more punch than yesterday’s similar line-up on the same stage, The Beths.
Happyness - Tipi Tent - recently reformed with three new members, the most notable being the drummer, a drag queen who took centre-stage for much of the between-song chat. This band have a good stock of tunes with a unique sound underpinned by flowing guitars. There was a feeling the musical artistry was somewhat undermined by the drummer's rather crass banter (a shame because actually a very good drummer)
Nubya Garcia - Woods Stage- mesmerising saxophone from NG, riding the wave of UK jazz resurgence
Molly Sarle – Piano Stage - surprise set in the woods, four songs, wonderful voice.
Gazelle Twin – Big Top- variety certainly is the spice of life and that’s what we got here from Brighton-based Elizabeth Bernholz. Performance Art - mostly enchanting, particularly when she played recorder; but in truth a pretty hard listen
Black Midi – Garden Stage - the most stunning set of the weekend on The Garden Stage and a highlight of the festival. Unusually there were some sound problems, specifically the vocal was inaudible just in front of the stage, but as we moved back slightly we got the full force of this excellent band from the main stage-side PA. Drummer Morgan Simpson sits side on allowing us to be totally absorbed by his craft and draws comparisons with Chester Thompson ‘the backbone of Genesis live’ (in the 80s). At one point during a marvellous instrumental break I’m sure I picked out Los Endos, the ubiquitous Genesis set-closer from those heady days. These prog comparisons are not misplaced, but BM have a superb knack of blending heavy rhythms with dance vibes and wailing vocal all combining to draw in the listener and allow us to enjoy a unique experience
Porridge Radio – Tipi Tent - Three funky girls with a lad on drums. The Tipi Tent has good vantage points from all corners but there is a large central tentpole right in front of the stage. So amusing to hear the lead vocalist exclaim “I want to say sorry to the people behind this pillar who can’t see me ......... but I’m also not sorry as it’s not my fault”. A charm in these words that matched the charm of the tunes. Black Country, New Road – Tipi Tent - eight of 'em on stage, all of them simply beautiful people, playing the best tunes of the weekend. All of us swept away by the jazz undercurrent with the vocalist expertly surfing the choppy waves. As ever, the female keyboard remained elegantly bored throughout. BCNR are most certainly of the moment, but it’s a wonderful moment and there are no greater exponents of this funky jazz wordy mash-up
Nov3l – Tipi Tent - a Foals-ish sound from this 5 piece with keys and sax.
Day 4 - Sunday
Pom Poko – Woods Stage – an unannounced rescheduling meant the band started 30 minutes after the expected time. A very enjoyable band from Norway with some arty pop songs. ‘Follow the Light’ third song in today is the best from their recent album ‘Birthday’. With a PP gig in the diary next week we headed to the Big Top
Crack Cloud – Big Top– the drummer/vocalist was on a riser front and centre of the stage leading this seven strong band: 2 guitars, bass, 2 keys and a sax player. An African feel to the tunes, more structured than Black Country New Road but seeping funk nevertheless. Everything complemented with devo-esque vocals and lyrics. Got further into the funk vibe when the sax and keys also picked up guitars. They orchestrated a mosh-pit, politely commanding everyone to make a ‘Wall Of Death’ circle – all with great results
Jessica Pratt - Garden Stage – perfect voice, perfect sunny afternoon, perfect EOTR garden setting
Israel Nash – Garden Stage – Mature americana, perfectly suited to the post tea and cake ambience. “Follow the sun... Follow the music.... It brings people together y’see!”
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Big Top – sat outside the Big Top enjoying lunch for the beginning of this set. This band has garnered notoriety over the last 12 months so the tent was full with a ‘one-in, one-out’ policy operating. Amusingly a few songs in, the number of ‘outs’ were exceeding the numbers waiting to gain admittance. I joined mid-way through the set. This is not a band blindly seeking popular appeal. Comparisons with Idles can’t be ignored, but their sound is more retro veering more towards Black Sabbath.
Tunng – Garden Stage – Upbeat folk, complemented with beat box.... And costume changes including a foxes head
Angelo De Augustine - Talking Heads Stage– Most enchanting set of the weekend. For fans of Benjamín Francis Leftwich. Beguiling songs sung solo with guitar. Only the sheep bleating in the fields beyond for accompaniment
Babe Rainbow – Tipi Tent – Four Australian dudes with bleach blonde hair – in a different setting could be surfer dudes, but this was 60s synth pop. Gave the impression of not taking themselves at all seriously. ‘Love Forever’ was the stand-out song fitting the mood perfectly
Murder Capital – Tipi Tent – Brooding and menacing. A lady behind me commented ‘Joy Division meets Peaky Blinders’. A fantastic band, playing the set of the weekend. Their recent album ‘When I Have Fears’ is filled with punchy tunes, leading into some slower-paced numbers “Slowdance I’ and ‘Slowdance II’. The band have the swaggering confidence to lead their set with the slower songs that build the menace as lead singer James McGovern stands at the side of the stage coolly drawing on a cigarette. When in full flow the crowd inevitably livens up and the energy remains throughout, with single ‘Don’t Cling To Life’ providing an already well-loved anthem for 2019
Mark Mulcahy – Tipi Tent - Country/indie (is that a thing ?). Song one reminiscent of Conor Oberst, number two a la Bob Dylan and the third one like Tom Petty.... So maybe country/indie is about right