Angel Olsen, The Mary Wallopers: End Of The Road 2023 – Day 2

“Tonight we shall burn in hell,” yells a bloke called Joe as a DJ in a fisherman’s hat and his saxophonist sidekick jog on the spot to some rabid electronic post-ska. A minute ago, everyone was bobbing at the knees to the cabaret drop-down section of a piece of skittering jazz rock that couldn’t be more South London if it had inadequate transport options. This is Fat Dog, freshly signed to Domino and kicking off EOTR Day 2 in customarily esoteric fashion.

Across at the main Woods stage, Brooklyn’s Say She She – named as a tribute to Chic for reasons which swiftly become apparent – are spinning and sync-dancing through a sort of psychedelic disco funk they call discodelia, caught in the exact midpoint between ‘60s psych soul and ‘70s funk where it’s acceptable to sing lines like “be my lover on an astral plane”.

Mid-afternoon at the Talking Heads stage, Angeline Morrison bewitches a crowd perched on hay-bail pews with her haunting folk laments on domestic violence, her supernatural bond to her late grandfather and several sorry tales of slavery, racism and maltreatment from her recent album The Sorrow Songs: Folk Tales Of Black British Experience.


They might share a folk tradition but there could barely be a sharper clash of vibes all day than that between Morrison and The Mary Wallopers on the idyllic Garden Stage. “We all have fleas and we’re proud of it!” they yell, bantering wildly between crazed traditional jigs, reels and yarns celebrating Cork’s red-light district and rich people going to hell. The key signifier? “If you have brand name underwear, you’re fucking rich.” They too boast their fair share of historical social commentary; one battle ballad confronts the warmongering rich while The Dubliners’ “Building Up And Tearing England Down” tackles the Irish “navvy” struggle. But we’re moved here in a very different manner; whirled by the elbow rather than hurled by the heartstrings.

By nightfall, exuberance burnt, a chill descends. “You staying warm?” Angel Olsen asks the Garden Stage crowd as she wraps her country quilt across its shoulders. Hers are opulent Americana songs of big-sky drama and romance; alt-country with an Oppenheimer co-write, Lana writ large.

Accompanied by a string duo, occasional harpsichord and sensitive band, the ghostly melodies of “Give It Up” are imbued with strident emotion, “Unfucktheworld” becomes a devastated waltz. Yet for all the Lynchian haze and sumptuous sadness shrouding her music – she even closes with an impassioned if somewhat tongue-in-cheek cover of Badfinger’s “Without You” – there is also plenty of hope on show. “Sister” balloons with sonic optimism and “Shut Up Kiss Me”, the 2016 hit she craftily introduces as “a song I wrote last night”, catches much of its infectious joy from it sheer determination for love. “We’ve got two more songs,” she says towards the end, “amazing, I love freezing!” But her audience, tonight, burn in heaven.