End of the Road Festival, Larmer Tree Gardens, North Dorset
Tuesday 04 September 2012
Americans who are self-conscious about visiting Europe can be sure of a warm welcome in one idyllic English corner. Now in its seventh year, End of the Road has bucked the festival blues by carving out a niche where Americana and US leftfield sounds command centre stage. Alabama Shakes brought their testifying soul-rock to two stages while a playful and vivacious Patti Smith preceded her set with a secret reading in a woodland glade.
Much of Friday was dedicated to the discerning Bella Union label's 15th anniversary. Bear-like solo artist John Grant set the tone with a speech praising both it and the festival. At the piano, Grant's rich, rolling voice gave his confessionals the feel of songbook standards. Country-rock labelmates Midlake joined him for a sublime "Paint the Moon" before their own set and Low Anthem's duelling pump organs and ramshackle elegies continued the eccentric love-in at the deceptively intimate Garden Stage.
In the main field, by contrast, Beach House were dry ice-wreathed enigmas, their more sombre material lacking punch in the open air. Anna Calvi was a better fit with chiming guitar and vocals that swept from fruity croon to full-blooded roar. Filling the big top, meanwhile, were Alt-J, pre-shortlist favourites for the Mercury Prize with debut, An Awesome Wave. The Leeds University graduates added snap and sparkle to their cerebral math-pop, especially the glitchy pulses of "Tessellate" and "Fitzpleasure".
Also heading up were Minneapolis-based Dark Dark Dark. Singer Nona Marie Invie's understated, well-crafted tales of heartbreak, backed by accordion, were more dramatically immediate than chanteuse pastiche.
References could be obvious if acts used them with genuine passion. Take the popular First Aid Kit, two country-obsessed, Jack White-endorsed Swedish sisters that showed a deft way with melody. Upcoming, all-girl foursome Savages provided a brisk wake-up call on Sunday: a Banshees wail over Joy Division shards and much venom. Cold Specks leavened her spirituals with a jazz-funk take on Will Smith's The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme tune.
Grandaddy's reunion has been warmly welcomed after their fractious 2006 split, though as Sunday's headliners, the Californian group's blissful synth-rock rarely provided startling thrills. Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear stepped up by floating Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies over twitchy rhythms and increasingly caustic guitar rock on new material, notably "Sleeping Ute", from the experimental pop group's long-awaited follow-up to 2009 breakthrough album, Veckatimest. Singer/guitarist Daniel Rossen was palpably grateful for the platform, commenting, "There's not enough of these things in America."
Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 2 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 3 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 4 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
- 5 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Cumberbacklash: Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange riles Marvel fans
Best horror films of all time
Benedict Cumberbatch describes the 'explosive' Sherlock sex scene that will never happen
Downton Abbey season 5 episode 6 - review: Thomas and Lady Edith show sad signs of the times
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything