The UK festival scene is so often dominated by white male headliners, but End of the Road‘s lineup announcement last month was a breath of fresh air, with Feist and St Vincent both taking prime slots on the bill.
To kick off our Women in Music series, we spoke to Lauren Down, Managing Director at EOTR to hear about her favourite crate digging spots, the female artists she’s championing, and exactly what goes into planning one of the country’s best-loved festivals…
What was the first record you ever bought?
Hmm, now if we’re talking vinyl, it was actually a split 10″ EP that some friends of mine put out on Power Pop Records in 2006/2007. I’d just moved to London and I knew the label and musicians from back home in Devon. One weekend the guys that ran the label travelled up for an independent record fair, where it took place I can’t recall, but I went along. It was a limited run. Beautiful pink and seafoam green vinyl. All the sleeves were meticulously put together by hand and I loved the design, done by Sushi Grass. One of the bands was a two-piece called Up Periscope! – kind of a Don Caballero circa World Class Listening Problem act but with more noise. The other was called The Outfit, I think it was the solo project of the guy who was the drummer in Up Periscope! … but it was a long time ago and I’m damned if I can remember properly! I think some old Myspace pages still exist, but the tracks are long gone so I’m glad I have the record.
Tell us about your role at End of the Road…
Well, I’m the Managing Director, which means I kind of have a hand in everything: curation (comedy, cinema, bands, literature, workshops, extra activities); artwork; marketing; copywriting; liaising with local residents, the Estate and the council; ticketing and sales; “branding” (ick, sorry but ya’ know!); managing budgets and contractors; publishing our programme – the list is as endless as my current to-do list!
What goes into planning the lineup?
So much, I actually don’t really know where to start. Simon Taffe, one of the festival’s founders, books the bands. The lineup is really a reflection of his tastes and pulled together with input from everyone else who works here. We’ve always just booked the bands we’re really excited about, from the top of the bill to the bottom, and happily find our audience excited too. They put a lot of trust in us, which is pretty cool and very humbling.
Beyond curation, there is a lot of admin and budget management but no one really wants to read about that!
Who are your favourite female musicians at the moment?
There are almost too many to name… Phoebe Bridgers and Big Thief released three (Big Thief having put out two in one year) of the best records in 2017. I’m super excited for Lucy Dacus’ new album. And Aldous Harding’s. Plus there is Kelela, Kelly Lee Owens, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, St. Vincent, Yaeji, IAMDDB, Haley Hendrickx, Julia Jacklin, Nadine Shah, Julia Holter, Waxahatchee, Courtney Marie Andrews, Nadia Reed, Sigrid, SZA and so so many more.
Where do you love to go crate digging?
I went to one of the world’s biggest Record Fair’s in Utrecht last year, that was an amazing place to find rare jazz, Afro-pop, world music and soul but the prices were pretty inflated!
Flashback Records in Angel is a great spot, a huge chunk of my collection comes from there. Rye Wax in Peckham is a great spot too. Lucky Seven in Stoke Newington is an absolute institution and nearly closed last year … I think they’re still struggling with increased rent and business rates, so if you love crate digging and supporting independent records stores this is a must.
If I’m ever in Manchester, I make sure to spend time in Vinyl Exchange… I tend to find at least one gem whilst there. I think I found my favourite spot last year, Grimey’s, but sadly it’s in Nashville so I’m not sure I’ll be back anytime soon.
The truth is though, I try not to go very often. My flat isn’t that big and I have a tendency to get carried away if I don’t know exactly what I’m shopping for. I rarely leave a place with just one record, it’s either nothing or like ten!
What can we expect at EOTR 2018?
The possibilities are endless! It’s just kind of a magical place with fairy lit woods and no corporate bullshit. Maybe you’ll stumble upon a secret show on the piano stage. Maybe you’ll befriend a peacock! Maybe you’ll drink too much craft beer or eat too much Raclette (you can never eat too much Raclette). Maybe you’ll end up singing karaoke with one of your favourite bands. Maybe you’ll tear up the dance floor or huddle around the fire with a mulled cider until the wee hours. Maybe you’ll see a double rainbow. Maybe your kids will wake you up at the crack of dawn and drag you to the cinema tent for their favourite film.
Whatever happens, you’ll definitely have the chance to make new friends, laugh at some of the world’s foremost comedians, listen to talks from world-renowned authors and err see some bands. This year’s lineup includes the Vampire Weekend, Feist, St. Vincent, Yo La Tengo, Ezra Furman, Jeff Tweedy, John Cale and Gruff Rhys, Big Thief, Mulatu Astatke and so many more!
Follow Lauren on Instagram here.
Image credit: Sonny Malhotra