End of the road is any origami loving indie kid’s perfect festival. The site, Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset, is decorated during the four days with fairy lights, hanging paper birds and aspects of a woodland house – a living room and a library (cue hearing from someone sat in an arm chair, “I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.”) As if this wasn’t enough to fulfill the creative appetites, the permanent fixtures of the location include wild peacocks and a beautifully painted, concave stage from 1895. The effort put into creating this festival is astounding, especially when considering the location’s size. Although the experience begins as a continuous leisurely stroll through different musical gardens, it soon turns into an aesthetically pleasing, but heavily confusing maze… sometime I’d suggest, between the fourth and fifth cider.
The organisers’ practical and artistically respectable preparation is also emulated in the welcome package sent to every attendee. It’s true that a very pretty ticket, a cool fridge magnet and a drawing of a bear on a bicycle wont make a festival good, but it definitely doesn’t hurt either. End of the Road’s programme is also one of the best I’ve seen, it includes detailed and accurate descriptions of each performer and illustrations of cutely personified woodland creatures by artist, Kai Wong.
Hipster details like these and a collection of undoubtedly current, as well as ‘under the radar cool’ bands are the two features which attract the most stylish festival lovers of the summer. If you’re a well dressed man with glasses you probably don’t need, and a beard even you’re suprised you could grow, or a vintage clad girl with top knot and annoyingly thin legs, you’ll fit right in.
Many of the people who attended the festival were avid, although slightly unsuccessful acoustic guitar players who wouldn’t give up on the camp fire style sing along until the early hours of the morning. Therefore, it seems fitting that a large percentage of the performers were folk singers who could show us how it’s really done. With their gruff, pained voices and poetic lyrics Willy Mason, Nathaniel Ratecliff and Doug Paisley offered a transatlantic sound to the quaintly English environment. However, Laura Marling’s performance came top of the folk artist’s class. Marling’s greatest skill is the ability to create a mesmerising atmosphere no matter what the situation. Despite knowing every lyric the audience was reluctant to sing along, fearing that they would miss a single moment of her pure and characterful voice.
A notable trend in End of the Road’s booking policy were the numerous appearances from witty, and sexy in a classic Alison Mosshart way, front women. In particular, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and She Keeps Bees singer Jessica Larrabee, both of whom exude sexuality through their lyrics, for example “Gimme gimme gimme/Give it to me daddy/Work me like my back ain’t got no bones” and uninhibited stage presences. Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris also impressed the crowd with her entertaining inbetween song commentary. The exception of this trend was Emma-Lee Moss from Emmy the Great, who, excuse the obvious pun, was Emmy the Average. Her performance was lazy, and not charmingly effortless as it sounds on record.
Many of the festival acts, as well as being relatively unknown also chose to create music within an unusual genre or with suprising instruments. Therefore allowing their fans to get double the amount of notes on their blog post. The most successful performances of the festival came from this classification. Lykke Li suprised the majority of the audience who were seeing her live for the first time. The entire band, as well as the Lykke Li herself were dressed entirely in black and clearly aimed for a recognisable look on stage, which unfortunately conflicted with the music. Beirut were one of the most anticipated members of the line up, and although the set was technically impressive and enthusiastic, the feedback was quite simply, that it went on for too long. The most obvious exponent of a rare instrument choice was Joanna Newsom, who played a solo show. This seemed like an odd choice for the headline act on the last night, and it was clear that this limited her set list. However, she was entertaining, particularly when handling any mistakes and her voice was, as predicted, stunning.
End of the Road Festival is an interesting and varied, uncommerical festival. It completes every requirement you would give an event like Glastonbury, as well as having one of the most stunning locations in England. It also avoids the ‘I went to see them just so I can say I have’ vibe. The organisers should be congratulated on creating a festival that selects acts of high quality and somehow still manages to keep them humble and their performances personal… and for doing all that origami.