Wednesday, September 7, 2011

End of the Road festival

The Fall –

Third song in Mark runs his finger across his throat – ‘Kill it! Kill it! Pete, Pete – it’s not 'Cowboy George'’ – and 'Greenway' is played instead.

The evangelical write-up of the band in the End of the Road programme compares The Fall’s influence to The Beatles and describes last album Your Future Our Clutter as ‘a masterpiece of sorts.’ Tension is palpable before the band take the stage as Ed Blaney prowls about and drums and bass are sound-checked. Drummer Keiron Melling shakes the mixer’s hand in a gesture of thanks or good luck.

There’s lots of amp-fiddling this evening which in every instance shows respect for the musicians, lifting the guitar or bass above the combined other instruments. This adds variation to the repeated riffs, and the band lock in tight. It does, however, nothing for the clarity of vocals above the mix and Mark and Eleni are pretty inaudible throughout.

On the other hand, both seem in good spirits – Eleni, perhaps enjoying the environs of the Garden stage rather more than say, the inside of the Koko, Camden. Mark swallows a smile a few times, arms outstretched as the band power around him, having tossed two mics into the bass drum and made a royal havoc of the mic wires and stands. At other times he seems to be suffering from colic, swallowing hard before delivering a line. He pulls a scrap of paper from his blazer, casts a glance at both sides before pulling a face and returning them to his pocket.

He is in full charge tonight – running his hand across his neck to signal a song’s end, gesticulating with his little finger. We can’t hear a word, but whatever he is saying seems to carry huge import. The crowd go mad for Heads Roll-era ‘What About Us’ and old chestnut ‘White Lightning.’ He marches the band off after 45 minutes, before they return for an encore after loud applause. Again, an apparent gesture of respect for his band.

The standout is the final song. Descriptions of the forthcoming Ersatz, G.B. as being largely played live in the studio with great urgency ring true. Keiron Melling lifts this one into another level, effectively pulling off an ostentatious build mid-song.

Mark’s attempts to play his hand-held tape recorder through the mic are doomed to failure throughout the evening, as is his attempt to make a stylish exit – Pete leaving the stage first, followed by Dave Spurr and Eleni, leaving just Keiron drumming. Keiron misreads the cue, and stops playing as the others are mid-passage. Cruelly, Mark sends him back to his drums to start up a riff on his own before Ed Blaney appears from behind the curtain and makes that finger across throat gesture once again.

Other bands:
tUnE-yArDs – some great Malian and dub influences, but best were some Captain Beeheart non-chord progressions

Diagrams – their first gig. Power pop akin to XTC or The Lightning Seeds. Superb positive vibe as the audience fills the Tipi with balloons and bubbles, and cheers as Sam Genders (ex-Tunng) drinks his fifteen-year-old bottle of emergency vodka, a birthday present from his dad during lean times

Okkervill River – great performance. Solo performance almost matched their classic ‘Bad Movie’

The Unthanks – delightful clog dancing

M Ward – mellow sounds suit the Garden stage perfectly; he exits with panache

James Sherwood – wry comedy in the great outdoors

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