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.
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
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
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.
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 !!