Larmer Tree Gardens
2 - 4 September
What it might lack in grit and, this year, sunshine, End Of The Road made up for in its commitment to addressing the persistent gender imbalance in festival line-ups. Savages, Bat For Lashes, Cat Power and Joanna Newsom all topped the bill and all provided powerful performances.
On Friday night Savages rule as hard as ever, treating us to a cover of Suicide’s Dream Baby Dream in the process. On Saturday, Cat Power manages to draw a large crowd away from Animal Collective’s brilliantly bizarre stage set up (and refusal to play the hits). Chan Marshall won the crowd, as ever, with a voice that brims with fragility, soul and courage and a huge back catalogue. BEAK>’s Geoff Barrow and co are also on top form, both musically and with their onstage patter, joking at their surprise at the large crowd they’ve pulled.
Amidst Saturday’s rain showers GOAT seal their status as one of the best live acts around at the moment, before Wild Beasts impress with two late night surprise shows from and a Jon Hopkins’ DJ set provides some much-needed beats amidst a sea of guitars.
End Of The Road is a festival that pays close attention to detail. Set in the beautiful – and this year sadly soggy – surroundings of Larmer Tree Gardens, the festival is made up of several custom built areas, each hosting an extensive musical schedule alongside one off collaborations and guest speakers. This year, they hold tight to their status as one of the UK’s most charming festivals due in no small part to the carefully planned décor that gives the site a unique and irresistible character.
The Woods area, for example, provides an impossibly lengthy trail of outdoor games upon art installations upon fairy lights upon treasure hunts. It’s centrepiece, a small, hidden piano stage that looks like it could have been been dropped straight out of a Wes Anderson film. There we find Adam Buxton, all beard and wit and jaunty jangles, and Bridget Christie recording a podcast live in front of our very eyes.
The Woods also host the majority of the festival’s late night activities, where you can, if you so wish, sing karaoke whilst standing in a bathtub filled with gold streamers. The yellow rubber ducks hanging from the ceiling make for a great audience as we nail Heroes before wandering onto the dance floor to for an evening of seemingly endless indie bangers.
On Sunday, we nurse our heads in the calmness of the Tipi stage and are entertained by James Canty with his lyrically smart tales of heartbreak and gender confusion. Late afternoon it’s the return of Broken Social Scene, who feel the need to incessantly remind us that they are ‘coming back guys!’ They play one of the loudest sets of the weekend with a five-piece brass band and sound as strong as ever while blasting out classics 7/4 Shoreline and Cause Time. Later on, Thee Oh Sees play a relentlessly high-energy and infectious set in the beautiful surroundings of the Garden Stage.
Joanna Newsom, who doesn’t have to play her headline slot against any other acts, delivers a sweet and intricate set in the rain, holding court as her audience listens quietly and attentively. It’s a fitting end for a festival that’s perfectly positioned to ease us gently into the autumn.