Stuff that made St. Vincent's parallel headline set look like the height of convention
End of the Road’s debut matrimony with BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction last year prefigured a seismic shift for your average three-quarter length trouser-wearing progressive-bluegrass disciple. The sacred boundaries of safe and curated exploration within the comfortably avant-garde were traumatized, one ten-minute long gong solo at a time. 2017’s recollection tells of topless saxophone skanking via the BBC Radio 3 logo; abstruse jazz that made a zither and mbira look more common-place as instruments-of-choice than an acoustic guitar; ambient drone music became more grime samples and less drone music.
This second Late Junction at EOTR line-up begins with Zimpel/ Ziołek, the tentatively titled project of two of Poland’s finest underground musicians – one named Zimpel, the other Ziołek. The majority of their time was spent behind a mixing desk, blending black metal, electronica, drone and jazz with the occasional five-minute clarinet solo. Escaping an exercise in pressing buttons, a delicately finger-picked acoustic guitar leads into a section that could have easily been a Robin Pecknold solo record – the whole thing only a little confused by taking place in a bright and airy tent instead of a Warsaw basement.
Moor Mother continue to defy the slight confusion of their surroundings, standing upright against the delicately painted Festival backdrop. The pseudonym of poet and visual artist Camae Ayewa supplies an electric blend of DIY-veering hip-hop, spoken word and free jazz. At its best it’s an exhilarating shouting match, at its worst it’s just a shouting match. Always engrossing.
A more mellow twist to the eccentricity comes with Powerdove. Fluttering twelve-tone folk melodies were short-lived snapshots of songs begging for further experimentation and extension. Their steel-drummer has bought a suitcase of Hawaiian themed shirts with him, teasing a potential twelve costume changes, an essential for radio listening. He then delivers two successive minutes of Peter Crouch robot impersonations. Also essential radio listening.
The Scorpios was the perfect late-night antidote to St. Vincent’s headline set on the Woods Stage. The core members of the 10-piece psychedelic Afrobeat ensemble first came over to London in the 1980s as refugees, fleeing fundamentalist Sudan. With them came a blend of 1960s Sudanese funk with a rich core of traditional, rhythm-heavy pentatonic blues. The electrifying end to a day that demanded concentration was a good excuse to dance.
Wandering around the tent throughout the Late Junction Tipi takeover is a man whose t-shirt reads “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek philosophy that radiated in a slightly more critically-conscious narrative over the last few hours. For all its eccentricities, the sophomore was a less adventurous sibling than last year’s debut. Nonetheless, the kind of cultivated fascination that delights in hit-and-miss is a refreshing laissez-faire side-plot to even the most carefully curated of medium-sized festivals.
Late Junction @ End of the Road festival, Friday 31 August
Photos by: Nick Helderman