End Of The Road Festival (29 Aug - 2 Sept '13, Larmer Tree Gardens) // Words: Tom Carpenter
The Dorsetshire countryside met my expectations in fine style. Accents were as strong as the cider, hay lorries drove backwards for miles down narrow country lanes and the gentle undulations of Larmer Tree Gardens played host to the perfectly-realised End Of The Road Festival.
Early on the bill on the Thursday night in the Tipi Tent were Tigercats, whose camp Black Kids / Los Campesinos stylings made for a whirlwind of unhinged exuberance. The sound mix proved problematic in this small tent, with the mix being too trebly and causing the vocals to grate more than they probably should have.
A few sound problems continued with Deap Vally. With their roadie gesticulated wildly, this girl-girl guitar and drums duo tried to rip the canvas up with a coruscating chainsaw of rock, simultaneously managing to channel some seductive energy reminiscent of Liela Moss from The Duke Spirit.
Friday afternoon in the Big Top tent brought Duologue and one of the best light shows I’ve ever seen. The band justifiably invites comparisons to Radiohead and their songs – with satisfying, limb-snapping beats and moments of genuine power – demonstrate that this is a band to watch. Moving to the open air, Allo Darlin’ were the perfect sunny mid-afternoon band. With their upbeat Belle & Sebastian style storytelling and some cracking bass lines, they gave the impression of a more forthright, more Aussie Camera Obscura.
Consummate performers Eels were striking and vaguely unsettling in their matching tracksuits. Looking like a gang of escaped prisoners, they defied (perhaps unrealistic) expectations - those of us in our mid-twenties somehow felt this set would be a blast from our teenage pasts and of course it was not. Their songs were fresh, thick and electrifying.
By Saturday, the unexpectedly good weather was taking its toll and red faces and limbs began to appear with increasing frequency in the crowds. Post-punk four-piece Savages were billed as “straight to the point, efficient and exciting”, but delivered a performance that seemed lacking in imagination and struggled to hold the attention of the wider crowd. Danish synthsters Efterklang put on a powerful, mature and accomplished performance, charming the crowd with their conversation between songs.
Sunday brought an early afternoon therapy session for Canadian singer-songwriter Evening Hymns. Confessional and downbeat, his folky songs were well-realised but the intense psychoanalytic introductions that preceded each song were so intense and acute that the whole thing made for awkward listening.
Søren Løkke – the man behind Indians – was extremely nervous and seemed to use a highly extended intro sequence to psych himself up. Once he was into his set he got caught up in the music and, clearly emotionally affected, put on a powerful performance. Also in the Big Top, Teleman proved lethargic. Their songs swelled with potential that unfortunately never went anywhere. Lacking nucleation points and release, they plodded just when you expected them to soar.
Back in the Tipi Tent, I encountered the mad one-man band Ichi. His eccentric persona, clever, funny animal-themed songs and unlikely instruments went surprised and delighted. While his performance was off-the-wall, it was genuinely interesting and skilful. Over on the Garden Stage, Jens Lekman’s meticulously-arranged, autobiographical songs charmed and entertained. On the main stage, Frightened Rabbit rose to the challenge of rearranging their richly-worked studio efforts into a stripped-back, live sound. The contrast was stark and refreshing.
Seasoned headliners Belle & Sebastian demonstrated their skill as performers. Their set, upbeat and complete with dancers invited onstage from the front rows, pleased the crowd from beginning to end. Completely different but equally accomplished, Sigur Rós put on a mesmerising show.
With the campsite dominated by an enormous folly and barely a stone’s throw from the stages, it was impossible to get lost in this eccentric and welcoming site. Other attractions at the festival were the huge array of caterers, eccentric shops and one of the most thoughtfully-stocked bookstores I’d ever seen. The toilet facilities were more than sufficient, which was a blessing considering the huge range of ales on sale!
End Of The Road was small and perfectly formed, with one of the friendliest festival atmospheres I’ve ever experienced. The bands are well-chosen and varied, with big names performing alongside choice less well-known acts: a great weekend of music.
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