The closing day of a festival is always a challenging one. You begin fearing the return to reality, tired, weary and drained from your previous exertions. Your energy levels drop, you’re almost certainly, whether you admit it or not, quite hungover. You begin the challenging balancing act, attempting to find the happy medium that lies in the correct amount of coffee, alcohol, greasy breakfast foods, and starchy carbohydrates. Using your last drops of will power you pull yourself once more into the breach, and ignoring the fact you’ve seen so many bands you’re forgetting what they were called, let alone what they sounded like, you rise phoenix like from your canvas abode and you triumph! Why? BECAUSE YOU’RE A MUSIC FAN GODDAMMIT!
North Carolina singer songwriter Daniel Lefkowitz, is the perfect way to ease into a Sunday afternoon, which is appropriate as he’s scheduled for a terrifyingly early 11.55am set over on The Garden Stage. He’s draws an audience that is, perhaps unsurprisingly, mainly consisting of the festivals slightly older residents and plenty of families. Performing under his current pseudonym Futur Primitif, Daniel runs through a series of superb, gentle, Americana tracks. His voice is the star, a rich blend of Bob Dylan and Tom McRae, that perfectly offsets his gentle acoustic guitar. The only thing he doesn’t seem to have noticed is the number of children present; he’s splendidly foul mouthed throughout, after delivering a romantic number he notes “now there’s some relationship advice for you, welcome to church mother-fuckers!” Excellent, as is his entire set!
Alabama artist turned gospel singer Lonnie Holley has arguably the greatest back story we’ve ever heard. The 7th of 27 children, it is claimed that aged four he was traded for a bottle of whisky, it’s so unbelievable that we’re more than willing to accept that it’s all true. His art career started in maudlin fashion, carving tombstones for his sisters two children, who had tragically died in a fire, he believes divine intervention led him to the materials that he would use to create career. It is only later in his career that he has started performing music, but carvings loss is musics gain. His near pure improvised set, is a wonderful showcase both for his ability as a poet and most impressively, his stunningly unique vocal. There’s a hint of Bon Iver perhaps, but ultimately it’s all his own, a stunning reminder of the continued surprises available from the worlds oldest instrument. Lyrically it’s somewhere between a sermon and an ode to the beauty of mother nature, he ends asking the crowd to put their thumbs up to mother universe, and yes thumbs up to mother universe and thumbs up to you Lonnie Holley, he’s really quite something. (Special credit also to his guitarist, who does a very good job of keeping up with Lonnnie’s off the cuff improvising and even copes with attempting to sing harmonies when you don’t know quite when the lead singers going to sing: impressive stuff)
Best known as a member of Grizzly Bear, it’s clear Daniel Rossen is not quite used to being on the stage on his own. For starters he’s brought enough instruments for a small orchestra with him. From a full stage piano, via 12-string, acoustic and electric guitars and even a banjo, for someone who has only a single EP to his name it’s wonderfully ambitious. Perhaps the ambition gets the best of him; he’s plagued by sound problems, but despite that he manages to pull it off. He deals with the problems with a surprising amount of humour, and unlike when he’s with Grizzly Bear, he comes across warm and oddly chatty. That would of course only count for so much if the quality of the songs wasn’t there, but it is, borrowing from Grizzly Bear, his earlier band Department of Eagles as well as his solo project, the quality remains high throughout and he’s both a fabulous guitarist and a wonderful singer. Against the odds it’s a triumph.
The festivals smallest stage has been home to some of the best sets of the weekend, and Sunday is no different. Starting with Andrew Coombs, the Dallas-born country singer is a former member of Caitlin Rose’s backing singer, but stepping out in a cowboy hat, with a classic country sound, and a bucket full of songs, nothing particularly revolutionary on show here, but he’s a fine singer and seems a charming fella to boot.
New Zealander’s Tiny Ruins follow, despite my love for their recorded material, wonderful single Me At The Museum, You In The Winter Gardens aside, they don’t quite capture your attention. A mixture of nerves, a slightly chatty crowd and being on too late in the day, it just never quite gets going for them. Another day, another setting, they unquestionably have more to offer.
Oklahoma natives Horse Thief were already one of our favourite bands before we arrived at the festival, but after their wonderful set here, they might have even gone up in my estimation. They run through a brilliant set of material largely taken from their recent debut album Fear In Bliss. The likes of Human Geographer and Devil are recreated wonderfully, but best of all is Already Dead, given a rockier edge here, what on record sounds like a campfire anthem becomes simply an anthem. They even find time to preview a couple of new songs; Mountain Town and Drowsy show a band progressing their sound, the former really standing out with a delightfully 80’s vibe, reminiscent of The Cure. A wonderful way to wind towards the end of the festival, it stands out as one of the finest shows of the weekend.
Closing proceeding on the main stage are Kendal’s own, Wild Beasts. It’s a sign of their growing acclaim that they find themselves headlining a festival the size of End Of The Road. They’re four albums into their career, but to a lot of people, they’re still seen as a relatively new band, a consequence of their gradual break-through into the mainstream. It perhaps explains why despite drawing a sizeable crowd to the slope that leads down to the beautiful main stage, the atmosphere is more one of intrigue than adulation.
They proceed to run through a set predominantly taken from their most recent album Present Tense. It’s an album of densely arranged, adventurous pop songs and it sounds ideal for a stage like this, what was once a talented, unique, and utterly different band, have gradually rounded some of their edges, that they’ve achieved that without loosing the essence of what made them such an exciting prospect in the first place. They’re now musically a slick, highly tuned outfit, what they seem to have failed to mastered along the way is their on stage banter, the statement “we’ve got two types of song, songs about fighting and songs about fucking” is particularly cringe worthy, and it’s hard to escape the feeling they’re trying far too hard to be controversial, when in reality it comes across a touch juvenile, and entirely lacking in any of the humour required to make that line work.
There’s plenty of highlights, All The Kings Men still stands out as brilliantly catchy, whilst closing track Lion’s Share is the most obviously pop thing they’ve ever done, with it’s plodding piano line that gradually unfurls into something special, it’s a fitting end to the festival, even if perhaps the set doesn’t reach the heights of the previous nights headliners, maybe that’s more a sign of just how brilliant this weekends been rather than any criticism of the band who finish it all off, a simply stunning weekend!