geographically-challenged Conor Oberst wins over the crowd on opening day of festival

End Of The Road 2008 review

published: Thu 18th Sep 2008

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band

Friday 12th to Sunday 14th September 2008
Larmer Tree Gardens,Tollard Royal, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 5PT, England MAP
weekend £105; live-in vehicle £30; under 12s £15 - SOLD OUT
last updated: Mon 1st Sep 2008

around the site
There's been a lot of excitement surrounding the End of the Road festival since its debut as the season closer back in 2006, with organisers Sofia Hagberg and Simon Taffe keen to place emphasis on delivering a high quality music line-up in a non-corporate family-friendly environment. Both festivals prior to this year's have been highly acclaimed both by the press and the bands themselves, as well as, most importantly, the fans.

Swede Sofia brings a Scandinavian element to the surroundings, there's a Swedish food outlet and games of Kubb played out by the camping fields, but there's also a few noticeable Scandinavian accents in the audience, a sign that the festival is expanding in popularity both inside and outside of England. Indeed this is the first year that the festival has sold out its capacity of 5000 and the organisers and particularly, and rightly, chuffed to bits considering the festival has been relying on little more than word of mouth.

Set in the beautifully intimate Larmer Tree Gardens in North Dorset, the site consists of the main Garden Stage snuggled-up within the woodland and shrubbery, and a more conventional area of bars, eateries, a cinema, craft workshops, and three more music tents, The Big Top, The Local and The Bimble Inn. However, there is more to the vicinity than meets the eye, as a wander through the gardens takes us into Lewis Carroll territory. From the peacocks roaming through the trees and the parrots gently flapping above to the fairy-lit arboreal caves and an ipod powered disco dance floor deep into the woods there were many things to discover. Another stroll later in the weekend and we stumbled upon a mass meeting of the Scrabble Sunday group (thanks for the biscuits!), although judging by some of the words on display there was a particular fondness of human biology amongst the players.

American Music Club
The time of our arrival allowed us to take a quick look at the start of the American Music Club set which looked promising with Mark Eitzel on good form. There was just enough time to see them open up with What Godzilla Said to God When His Name Wasn't Found in the Book of Life and a couple more songs before dashing off to the Garden Stage to catch Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band.

I, like many, have a love/hate relationship with Conor Oberst and his other moniker Bright Eyes. On previous occasions that I have seen him perform he has been, for want of a different phrase, a bit of a cock... I don't think I've ever forgiven him for his John Peel outburst at Glastonbury a few years ago.

Things didn't start well introducing himself as "We're The Decemberists", later to be followed up with "We're Death Cab For Cutie" but as much as I am indifferent about the man himself there is no doubting that he is a genuine talent and one of the best American songwriters of his generation.

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
His work with the Mystic Valley Band is less preachy than as Bright Eyes and the self-titled album is a consistently strong affair, and tonight's show contains mainly of songs from that album together with a few covers with other members of the band taking lead vocals. The highlights of the set were the Dylan-esque Get-Well-Cards, and Sausalito which was reminiscent of Josh Rouse although introduced by the geographically-challenged Oberst with "Do you guys have beaches here?", and a rousing I Don't Want To Die (In The Hospital).

Once again, Oberst wins me over, no matter how much I might try to resist, even if he does appear to be performing well within his comfort zone.

around the site
review by: Richard Stevens

photos by: Sarah Stevens

Friday 12th to Sunday 14th September 2008
Larmer Tree Gardens,Tollard Royal, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 5PT, England MAP
weekend £105; live-in vehicle £30; under 12s £15 - SOLD OUT
last updated: Mon 1st Sep 2008


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