End Of The Road

Larmer Tree Gardens 29/8/19

I have now attended 13 of the 14 END OF THE ROAD festivals and have seen it grow in reputation but, thankfully, not grow too much in size. It is, for me, the perfect festival. Set in beautiful National Trust gardens, with peacocks roaming around alongside punters, macaws flying overhead and the newly renamed ‘Effin Forest’ to explore, it really does have something for everyone. My daughter, Nicole, says it’s like a spa retreat except with great bands. The attention to detail is apparent in everything they do and that’s what makes this festival so special; there’s no corporate sponsorship anywhere. Lyrics are hand carved into trees in the forest, the food is exceptional, the choice of beers is fantastic (every bar has a different selection) and the line-up is always exemplary.

On the opening Thursday of this year’s offering, we ease in gently as SPIRITUALIZED hypnotise us on the Woods Stage with their gospel-tinged rock. J Spaceman is on top form, playing a career spanning set that is the perfect footing for EOTR to start on for a weekend of magical sounds.

Friday sees us wander into the Tipi to catch a captivating set from HARRISON WHITFORD who has Johanna Samuels in his band. His hushed Americana is perfect for the Tipi – much like the way Samuels’ similar brand of soulful balladry was at Future Yard the previous weekend. The next highlight is Domino Records’ GEORGIA, whose high energy electro-pop set threatens to bring down the elephant hanging from a hot air balloon in the middle of the Big Top.

LETS EAT GRANDMA then give us one of the best shows of the weekend with their choreographed moves, finishing with the immense Donnie Darko. We decide to round off Friday with a visit to the midnight comedy set where DAVID O’DOHERTY who brings tears with his keyboard comedy and, in particular, his song about having to take his laundry to a night club. He’s a genius.

"End Of The Road is all about about your next, yet-to-be-discovered, new favourite band"

We decide to take in TVAM early on Saturday in the Big Top, a big step up from the Shipping Forecast where I caught him in late 2015 around the release of the single Porsche Majeure. He has certainly come a long way since then as the Big Top is packed out, the whole tent bouncing to his psychedelic electronic anthems. Next up are SQUID, whose avant-garde punk style instantly wins over the entire audience with drummer/singer Ollie Judge stealing the show with his yelping intensity. The highlight of Saturday is undoubtedly LOW’s headline set on the Garden Stage – my favourite band on my favourite stage is nothing short of exceptional. The tracks off Double Negative sound huge, and with the odd old favourite dropped in as well (Lazy, Holy Ghost), it’s not far off being the perfect set.

Sunday is the day for surprises: BILL RYDER-JONES plays a 45 minute set on the Piano Stage despite not being listed on the line-up at all, and SHAME play the surprise show in the Big Top. Thanks to some diligent use of Twitter, we find out about both sets in good time to make sure we don’t miss out on these extra treats. Bill charms everyone with his sharp banter (my favourite line being in relation to him having his back to us: “The piano won’t face away from the crowd on my Yawny Yawn tour, but I haven’t decided which way I’ll let the audience face yet…”) and beautiful tracks from Yawny Yawn. Shame play four new tracks written for their second album, plus some classics from Songs Of Praise. As ever, Eddie Green had the crowd in the palm of his hands; or rather, we have him in the palm of ours thanks to his constant crowd surfing.

FONTAINES D.C. dominate a lot of the pre- and during festival talk, showing how far their hype has reached in a short time; but, for me, THE MURDER CAPITAL blow them away in the Tipi with their brooding, Joy Division-esque tracks.

If you’ve seen the extensive line-up that’s been lovingly crafted for EOTR’s 14th outing, you’ll possibly wonder why only one of the headliners has made it in here (BEIRUT, METRONOMY, MICHAEL KIWANUKA, COURTNEY CARNETT, PARQUET COURTS and JARVIS COCKER are also on offer). And that, for me, is what End Of The Road is all about. It’s about your next, yet-to-be-discovered new favourite band. That’s why, every year, I keep coming back for more.

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