“When I first came out, there was nobody here, just a peacock,” says Philly’s Rosali Middleman, gazing out at the thoroughly chillaxed crowd on camp chairs and blankets spread out across the idyllic lawns of the Garden Stage. A sigh: “quite magical.” It’s as succinct a take on End Of The Road’s unique vibe as you’ll hear, and Rosali makes the quintessential music to open a stage geared to lull us into the weekend proper. Alone with her electric guitar, she weaves chiming, gossamer alt-folk full of quiet agonies.
Londoner Naima Bock, on next, seems even gentler, since she brings a full band but just as restrained a tone. She strips back the electronic, percussive and orchestral layers of tracks such as “Giant Palm” and “Working” to expose soft-as-snow pastoral folk songs adorned with unobtrusive saxophone and peppered with blasts of Celtic chorale. Later, Anais Mitchell picks up the beatific baton with the seagoing Americana of “Ships”, the soul scraping folk of “Young Man In America” and the Feistian New York pop of “On Your Way (Felix Song)”.
On the Talking Heads stage, a solo James Yorkston gets more raw and intimate still, sat at a keyboard playing soul-folk laments for his disappointing album chart placings and poetic paeans to “towns the size of a teacup”. By the time he starts singing of “cocaine fuelled electronic cabarets” in “Woozy With Cider” he’s channelling the same sparse magic as Lou Reed and John Cale’s Songs For Drella.
Back on the Garden Stage it falls to Brighton’s Porridge Radio to prepare EOTR for the chaos to come. Their febrile and passionate post-punk boasts melodies to seduce, but also a cultish air, particularly when their violinist waves branches in the air as if to ward off Larmer Tree Gardens’ notorious wood sprites. In the oddball stakes, however, they’re fated to be monumentally upstaged.
There is a point, barely a few minutes into Black Midi’s headline set, where you’re forced to abandon all hope of coherence and just go with the maniacal flow of it all. The opening “Welcome To Hell” – the shore leave doubts and dischargement of one Private Tristan Bongo, culled from the maniacal rock opera album Hellfire which dominates the set – is aptly titled. For 75 intense minutes, howling jazz punk gives way to hardcore thrash, evil math-prog and, in the case of “The Defence”, a Billy Joel piano song, often without warm-up or warning.
When singer Geordie Greep doesn’t sound like he’s babbling in tongues, he’s barking random pop culture references (“Honey, I shrunk the kids!”), asking the crowd to vape in unison to create a smoke machine effect and yowling about deadly boxing matches (“Sugar/Tzu”) and a philosophical music hall compere exploding onstage (“27 Questions”). As a jazz rock or prog band they’re particularly boundless; as post-punks they go to volcanic places Fontaines DC wouldn’t dare. Rosali’s peacock doesn’t know what’s hit it: welcome, if you can handle it, to the age of the senseless things.
Catch up with the rest of Uncut’s End Of The Road 2022 coverage here:
Khruangbin, Sudan Archives: End Of The Road Festival 2022 – Day 1
Black Midi Q&A: End Of The Road Festival 2022 – Day 2
Tinariwen, Fleet Foxes, Beak: End Of The Road 2022 – Day 2
The Weather Station Q&A: End Of The Road 2022 – Day 3
The Magnetic Fields, Kevin Morby: End Of The Road 2022 – Day 3
Pixies, Margo Cilker, The Weather Station: End Of The Road 2022 – Day 3
Kurt Vile Q&A: End Of The Road 2022 – Day 4
10 Highlights From End Of The Road Festival 2022 – Day 4
Yard Act, Bright Eyes: End Of The Road 2022 – Day 4
Aldous Harding, Ryley Walker, Cassandra Jenkins: End Of The Road 2022 – Day 4