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Simon Taffe's End of the Road Picks

Simon Taffe's End of the Road Picks

28 August 2013, 16:00

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Despite there still being nearly a week to go, End of the Road festival tickets sold out in a Bank Holiday rush – an impressive feat in the current festival climate.

Whilst us hoards of punters scrub off our wellies, perform pagan sun rites, and prepare for a glorious weekend of fairy-light paved forests, apple brandies, and one of the most strongest musical line-ups on offer in 2013, Larmer Tree Gardens moves into its final stages of completion. We took on the challenge of the North Dorset mobile reception to catch Simon Taffe, the festival’s co-founder, amidst these final preparations. Between the bleeps of lorries reversing, Simon ran us through the musical highlights of this coming weekend that he’s itching to catch personally, and the process behind bringing to life the immense curatorial challenge of creating a festival that feels constructed personally for each participant.

1. King Khan and the Shrines

I’ve been a fan of the band for quite a few years, and so am very happy we’ve got them. They put on an amazing live show, and hopefully we’ll be able to get them to play more than once at the festival. We tried to book them last year – they’re one of those bands that put on a real crazy show. I’m quite into old garage-blues, like the Sonics and things like that – and they’ve got that sort of feel about them. I’ve never seen them at a festival, only at gigs, and they’re always unpredictable and a bit mental – always doing mad collaborations with bands like the Black Lips. I think they’re one of those perfect festival bands – even if you don’t know their music you’ll enjoy the show. Kind of Bob Log III – it’s more about the show. I’m hoping they’ll play Land of the Freak, it’s probably my favourite one.

2. Parquet Courts

They’re one of those bands that when I went to SXSW, they ended up playing everywhere and I just thought they sounded amazing live, with their energy. I wasn’t completely sure at first, but then just really got into it – they’ve got witty lyrics with a really Ramones speed of playing. They’re really good fun live. I was chatting to them at SXSW and they were up for playing. They’d heard about the festival, and I think they’re one of the great new bands to come out of America this year. Different bands in New York had to them that was a good festival, and when I went up to them they were like – “Oh yeah we’re playing that!” I told them the agent hadn’t confirmed but they were sure – “Oh, we’re definitely up for that”.

3. David Byrne & St. Vincent

I’m a huge Talking Heads, and David Byrne fan. I read all his books, and he’s one of those people who we’ve asked about every year, and it’s all about when he decides to tour. I think they actually approached us – it fell into their tour period. I got an email before Christmas from the agent saying they should be around. Apparently I missed the original e-mail so they had to send another one. I was really happy with that – he always puts something unique on, and never sticks to the same formula. It’s always very interesting, and a lot of friends have seen the show in America, with a full brass band, and it definitely makes a different from guitars and stuff. It’s a fully choreographed show, and quite immersive, with quite a theatrical basis – lots of dance routines worked out – and I’m quite interested in that. It’s one of the more unique shows we have, and I’ve heard they can’t really do it again, because it’s so expensive to put on, with the brass band and dance routines – so I’m proud of that one. I was trying to ask if they’d play Talking Heads songs, and they said that – “Well, you’ve booked them for an hour and a half, so they’ll run out of songs on the album!” I know on the whole tour they’ve been playing Talking Heads songs, with some at every show. Headlining a festival I’m sure he’ll do some…

4. Matthew E. White

It’s just one of those records that I liked when I first heard it – but it becomes more and more addictive the more you listen to it. It’s one of my favourite records of the year, to be honest. It’s got so much going on, and the production’s amazing. It’s got this whole community of musicians, and he’s created this Stax vibe, with these top session musicians. The album’s quite quiet, but I’ve seen them twice live now, at Latitude and SXSW, and they’re really good – it’s quite loud! It’s not what you expect – quite a quiet show – but it’s not!

5. Joe Gideon & the Shark

They always put on a great show – I think they’re one of the most underrated English bands out there. They’re always really interesting. They’ve played a couple of times, and always go down really well. “Daughter of a Loony” – I really like that one.

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6. Jessica Pratt

I think she’s amazing – she sounds like she’s from another world, like she’s recorded in the 1940s or 50s. She’s got this amazing, incredible voice – kind of reminds me of Vashti Bunyan and Karen Dalton. I think she’s really young as well. We initially couldn’t make any contact with her, and didn’t get anything back – but she confirmed eventually. I’m quite happy about that – it’s a great record as well, one of those slow burners. It’s one of those records that whenever you give to friends – I usually give it as a present – you know that they’re going to like it.

7. Cass McCombs

He’s one of those guys who we’ve always tried to get to play the festival but it’s never worked out, we’ve wanted to get him over the last three or four times. I think he’s actually been booked before but had to pull out. I just really love his songwriting – he releases one or two records a year sometimes. I believe it’s a full band show as well, and it’s on the Garden Stage, so it should be a nice show.

8. Warpaint

They’ve been away a couple of years – I think the record was supposed to have been released, but it’s been delayed. I’ve heard they’ve been playing a lot of new songs off the new record. I love them, they’re quite unique. I love Stella, the drummer, I think she’s got such a distinctive sound. It’s one of those bands that, to be honest, I only really got into the record…I have a thing – If I’ve booked a band, I’ll go out and buy the vinyl, and really take the time and listen to it. I did like them before but I wasn’t completely into them – but now I love them. It’s Saturday night, and I think it works really well before Sigur Ros. I’m really happy that they’re coming over to play that slot – and it’s their only festival show. I’ve asked them the last couple of years – I met them at Primavera, and they always wanted to play, so it’s good to finally have them.

9. Angel Olsen

I got her record last year, and I think she’s just like the female Roy Orbison. I think she’s got this unbelievable voice – I think it’s going to be one of the new band highlights of the festival. It’s one of those records that I literally play to anyone and they like it, her voice is just so strong. I’m really interested to hear what the next record sounds like. I’ve never seen her – so I’m quite excited! I don’t think she’s ever played a UK festival, as far as I know. She used to play with Will Oldham, on one of the Bonnie Prince Billy albums, and her voice was so distinctive on that. Then she released this record, that’s really been a word of mouth of thing, but think she’s getting a re-release on Jagjaguwar. Saying that, I do have this thing where I try and see the band first before I book them if I can. I’m quite particular about what stage they’d work on, and if they’re good live as well! I’ve seen pretty much most of the bands, bar a couple live.

10. Belle & Sebastian

I lived up in Edinburgh sort of 97-98, when those first three albums came around. I was obsessed, definitely a little Belle & Sebastian fan-boy at that time. It’s one of those bands that we’ve asked every single year. They seemed really up for it, and it worked out this year – they were one of the first bands we confirmed, so very happy about that. They always put on a great show.

What’s the one track you’re hoping they’ll play?

There’s so many! “Get Me Away from Here, I’m Dying”, “Women’s Realm”….there’s quite a few. Anything off If You’re Feeling Sinister, basically. I’ve seen them so many times, and they understand that they’ll always put on a great festival show. I don’t always just got for the standard 90 minute set. If it’s a band like them, with a huge back catalogue, then they’ll play for almost two hours. It’ll be good fun.

What impressions are you getting of the individual character of this year’s festival so far?

We always try to improve on everything we do, and I always push the line-up as hard as I can. The tickets did go up this year, but we really have put it all back into the line-up – I try and make it like a musical mixtape. This year, I’m really proud of it – it’s almost like an indie-fan’s wet dream kind of thing. You’ve got a lot of the bands I really grew up with – the Eels, Sigur Ros, Belle & Sebastian. I think it’s the strongest line up we’ve had, for sure. Each headliner is exciting and will put on quite a show. We’ve had that in the past, but they feel like they’re real spectacle shows this year.

That’s the most fun part of booking the bands for End of the Road – there’s a lot of great bands out there, and you get them to play, but they might not be playing any other festivals. You’re just turning people on to good music. It’s great to see people selling records off the festival. It gets easier and easier every year – I remember the first couple of years having to chase and chase people, but now we get bands chasing us, and offers for headliners quite early. There’s a good word of mouth going around.

You must be doing something right if you’re getting David Byrne on the phone! You had a small disappointment with No Direction Home this year – have you had to make any changes to End of the Road?

No – we took a break on No Direction Home – but we haven’t made any changes! We’ve sold out now, which is pretty good. It’s the first year we haven’t advertised at all! It’s definitely stepped – I mean both Sigur Ros and Belle & Sebastian have headlined Latitude, which is 30,000 people or whatever. It’s quite flattering for them to play this fairly intimate, 10,000 festival.

What’s the one non-musical gem no End of the Road goer should miss?

Just make sure you go for a walk through the forest – with the art installations, and the Forest Disco. There’s going to be a recording booth on site this year, you can record straight to tape, that’ll be quite funny. There’s gonna be a little engineer in there and stuff!

End of the Road festival is now completely sold out for 2013, and takes place this weekend, from 30 August to 1 September. For information about the festival, head to their website.

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