Hugs and Kisses: David Thomas Broughton and the End of the Road Festival


This is Hugs and Kisses #11, a weekly Sound of the City column from UK-based music writer Mr. Everett True, author of Nirvana: The Biography (da Capo Press) — one more fucking book about one of the most overrated bands of the Nineties — and publisher of Plan B Magazine, a title dedicated to writing about music (and media) with barely a nod towards demographics.

For the last eleven weeks, he’s told us about stuff like anti-folk (UK), Stolen Recordings, and Le Club Des Chats‘s French Glue Wave. This week, while us Americans flocked to Austin City Limits, he went to End of the Road Festival in Dorset.

Hugs and Kisses

The Outbursts of Everett True

This week: David Thomas Broughton

Saw David Thomas Broughton play at the End Of The Road festival this weekend.

He was phenomenal. It’s hard to exactly explain why: discussing him on the way home last night, my friend Chris opined that he must have a degree in psychology or hypnotism or something, the way DTB was able to hold the audience spellbound with the simplest of gestures, the most pointless of movements. Certainly, I never expected to be so mesmerised by the sight of a man zipping up his cardigan while singing — well, this side of Fred Rogers of course, who indelibly altered my life the very first time I saw him, aged 29. And I never expected to have my companion, a nicely enthusiastic Scout Niblett, in hysterics at the sight of DTB reaching into his pocket for his mobile. He unfolded it and then sang very straight-faced and deep-voiced and quite, quite dolefully into said mobile.

But there was something about the way DTB started to unlace his boots, taking them off one by one, deliberately clunking the microphone with them, and then started to carefully lace them back up, the way DTB would reach across the stage for a stray mic stand, the better with which to lackadaisically strike another mic stand, the way he’d wonder off stage while his guitar was playing, his voice was intoning… the way he never directly addressed us and segued seamlessly from one deadpan bluesy number into the next, the lyrics sadder than Disney, the voice trembling and opera-deep and eloquently pained (my friend Chris, once again, mentioned he particularly loved the song about DTB taking his girlfriend to an execution to prove his love to her)…

It seemed that even the tiniest nuance (which in all probability were taking place at random) had been worked out to the finest degree with which to manipulate the audience’s emotions… and this isn’t too detract from his music at all: intricately layered, delightfully detailed tape loops, being recorded as he performed, the better to express melancholy with, like Antony Hegarty several octaves down and failing to see the positive side of anything whatsoever…except that when I readied myself to perform an a cappella set of Negro spirituals and the odd Television Personalities number, DTB was coming off stage, his guitar and voice still looping over themselves, and he was radiant with laughter…

All I’m trying to say is this: I knew nothing about this man, saw him twice at a quite wonderful, magical festival (that also featured secret garden performance on a piano from Frida Hyvönen — Swedish, blonde, six feet tall; upfront about intimacy; theatrical and unembarrassed — and my own heart-held crushes Herman Düne) and now I’m obsessed… and obsession should know no bounds. DTB’s MySpace page holds that he “struts around like a gypsy Freddie Mercury” — and, oddly enough, I can see that too.


Five incredible acts from End Of The Road

1. MISTY’S BIG ADVENTURE, “How Did You Manage To Get Inside My Head?” (from the Grumpy Fun album Funny Times)
Fun shouldn’t be so sad. Sadness shouldn’t be so joyful. Feet shouldn’t ache so much from dancing. Birmingham’s finest toy (and real) orchestra get inside Julian Cope’s head to discover where it all went wrong from him, and mix it up like Faust auditioning for Willy Wonka.

2. FRIDA HYVÖNEN, “I Was A Serene Teenage Child” (from the Licking Fingers album Until Death Comes)
The song she played especially for me, spaced-out and inebriated, on a piano in the middle of fairy lights: “Once I was a serene teenage child/Once I felt your cock against my thigh…” (And I promise this is the last time I ever mention this song.)

3. THE WAVE PICTURES, “We Never Motored West” (from the Smoking Gun album Sophie)
Wrongly, they didn’t play this one. Wrongly, they forced me to miss the majority of Herman Düne’s rainbow-hued set. Rightly, singer Dave Tattersall then showed up on various stages several more times with David-Ivar Herman Düne in tow. Rightly, they play with the panache and spirit of a youthful Jonathan Richman.

4. PETE AND THE PIRATES, “Come On Feet” (Stolen Recordings seven-inch single)
This is precisely the rush of adrenaline I need to kick off Saturday: boys with guitar playing indie music like the idea hadn’t become so devalued by constant years of misuse — the International Pop Underground of Olympia transposed to Reading, England.

5. DAVID THOMAS BROUGHTON, anything. Really, anything.