A Festival Mixtape: End of the Road 2011
Hollywood blockbusters, sunkissed days at the beach, barbies in the backyard: summer is the big, brash crowd pleaser of the four seasons. But for someone who thinks factor 30 is a sensible daily moisturiser, then high summer is the season of swelteringly hot commutes, muggy nights, over-priced holidays, English footballing mediocrity and increasingly over-hyped festival headliners.
If, like me, your skin goes beetroot red at the mere mention of a ‘barbecue summer’, you prefer the dappled shade to the scorched sun lounger and take inordinate pride in your cardigan collection, you probably delight in the subtle beauty of summer’s slow transition into autumn (and your corresponding urge to rediscover Kings of Convenience's back catalogue).
A time of crisp early morning sunshine, slightly off-season resorts and clear, still air; September, on the cusp of late summer and early autumn, is one of the most beautiful months of the year. Perhaps that’s why one of the UK’s best and most intimate festivals, End of the Road Festival, is held at a time when most festival goers are scraping the Glastonbury mud off their wellies and putting their camping gear back into storage for another year. Since its inception in 2006, End of the Road Festival has boasted consistently excellent lineups, including sets from Ryan Adams, Yo La Tengo, Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes. End of the Road’s focus on Americana, folk and alt country - indeed its very name - reflect the subtle beauties to be appreciated as the last carefree days of summer slowly fade away and merge imperceptibly into autumn.
From the start the festival’s guiding philosophy has been that its entire line-up should be viewed as a headliner in itself. This year is possibly the strongest yet with sets from some of the best new artists of 2011, as well as some old favourites who you may never have had the chance to catch live. Oh, and if I haven’t sold you on with the whole 'abstract beauty of early autumn' angle, they serve some top notch local cider too...
1. Zola Jesus - 'Vessel'
With driving rhythms, gothy atmospherics and a voice that could silence Florence & the Machine, Nika Roza Danilova, aka Zola Jesus, has built up a loyal and growing fan base. New single 'Vessel', taken from forthcoming album Conatus, patiently builds haunting lyrics upon jagged beats and stark piano chords – a festival ready anthem.
2. tUnE-yArDs - 'Bizness'
Putting the Afro-Punk into, well, Afro-Punk; Merrill Garbus’ (aka tUnE-yArDs) new album W h o k i l l is possibly one of the most groundbreaking albums of 2011. Standout track Bizness is a gloriously chaotic symphony of carefree harmonies, funky bass lines and Afro-pop melodies climaxing in a crescendo of life-affirming, joyous noise.
3. Beirut - 'East Harlem'
Sure, he’s got the bittersweet melancholy angle nailed but did you know that Beirut is also an artist you can dance to? New song 'East Harlem' is propelled along by a jaunty mandolin and piano combination interspersed with a brass-section hook so rich and warming it could be marketed as a replacement for Prozac. Zach Condon sings along in his distinctive baritone and, although the lyrics seem to be about the pain of separation, I think he’s secretly having a jolly old time: time to dust off your best East European folk dance moves.
4. Joanna Newsom - 'Peach, Plum, Pear'
It is unlikely that Joanna Newsom will ever headline Saturday night at Glastonbury. That’s not meant to sound pompous. With her frankly rather shrill voice and sprawling, storytelling songs, Joanna Newsom it, has to be said, does not fall into the easy listening section on most people’s playlists. But a little patience and perseverance is richly rewarded and it is well worth immersing yourself in her weird and wonderful world. Newsom’s style tends to lend itself to the album format rather than individual songs so it’s difficult to choose a standout track, but 'Peach, Plum Pear' always packs emotional punch.
5. Wild Beasts - 'Albatross'
Everyone’s favourite Cumbrian art-rock group are back with a follow-up to Two Dancers and despite having spent what seems like the majority of 2010 on tour, they’ve produced another peerless album. Smother is full of stunning little pieces of music - and for my money, Chris Talbot is one of the most talented drummers around. First single 'Albatross' sees the band at their most emotionally vulnerable, delicate and spare, and their music is all the more beautiful for it.
6. The Walkmen - 'Angela Surf City'
Must... resist... temptation... to... pick... ‘The Rat’. Granted, The Walkmen are better known for one of the greatest singles (and terrifically ferocious drum patterns) of the last decade, but they have also produced five albums of tremendous depth and subtlety. 2009’s Lisbon was another terrific longplayer, and 'Angela Surf City' demonstrates that they are still producing tracks with as much raw, irrepressible energy and gut-wrenching emotion as ever.
mixtape by Chris Park
End of the Road takes place between Thursday, September 1 and Sunday, September 4 and is completely sold out. The campsite will open at 15.00 on Thursday, September 1st. Please check the ‘General Advice For Festival Attendees' on the website for information about camping at the festival. Timetables for shuttle buses and other useful information are also available on the official festival website.