It was time to put the books away
I can’t say for sure, but I imagine this might be End of the Road’s first Wall of Death. To ‘Sound of the Underground’ by Girls Aloud. At 4pm. There’s mini golf going on just outside the Big Top tent.
Moments like this feel extra special at EOTR. There’s a lot of sitting down; a lot of gentle music. Some people read while the artists play, which is perhaps taking things a little too far, and if it isn’t, the game of backgammon that’s going on directly in front of Naima Bock’s show definitely is. It’s a draw of the festival, not a problem, but still, it’s good when someone throws a grenade into the middle of it all. In this case, it’s Bristol’s queer dancehall whirlwind Grove, whose beats and MCing styles pings from UKG to grime to dancehall.
The bass is always heavy, triggered by Grove themselves but mainly their DJ, E.J:AKIN. “EJ’s parents are here,” says Grove, before introducing us to the speakers at the front of the stage. “She’s a child of the bass, so can only speak one language.” When Grove asks E.J. to to say hi they boom a bass note from the decks. “And what do you think of the housing market?” E.J. lets out a more barbed, horrible tone and Grove crashes into ‘Fuck Ur Landlord’. Everyone chants along to the hook of, “Off, off, off, off with their heads.” Even the landlords.
Grove has the time of their life from the beginning and everyone else soon joins them there. A garage beat that sounds like DJ Luck and MC Neat’s ‘A Little Bit of Luck’ eases us in; dirtier dancehall follows and more aggressive bass music, Grove’s lyrics openly political and gay, delivered with a devilish grin – songs like ‘Black’, about how the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Grove’s home city in 2020 made them feel proud of their race, who they are and the collective power of the people.
‘Sound of the Underground’ is a highlight because it’s so unexpected – a heavier DnB version of the original that shows Grove can sing almost as well as they can rap – but so too is the guest appearance of London-based drag artist Lynks for their collaboration ‘BBB’. It’s over in a flash of Lynks’s spinning kicks in their jester-like mask.
Before the closing ‘Ur Boyfriend’s Whack’, Grove blows that they’re also playing a secret set tonight at 11pm in the Tipi tent. “Tell a friend to tell a friend”. Word travels throughout the remainder of the day – you can’t get anywhere near the tent for round two. Nobody wants to play backgammon anymore.
Photography by Luke Patrick Dixon