End Of The Road is an end of season musical delight

End Of The Road 2010 review

By eFestivals Newsroom | Published: Wed 15th Sep 2010

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Friday 10th to Sunday 12th September 2010
Larmer Tree Gardens,Tollard Royal, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 5PT, England MAP
adults £130, youth (13-17) £120, child (6-12) £50 - SOLD OUT
Last updated: Mon 6th Sep 2010

End Of The road is one of those classic old school festivals with no gimmicks, no commercialism (properly none), and no fancy dress costumes. In fact the normal looking crowd is a shock to this seasoned festival goer's system. The site too does not need to be dressed up to look attractive, the gardens adding their own verdant beauty, with the trees lit at night to provide a wonderful back drop.
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Arriving at the box office with animal heads poking out and a large set of letters spelling 'Welcome' it was clear the festival had made efforts to make it inviting. We were in the campervan field, and whilst the water tap was hard to locate, there were plenty of toilets and pleasant company in our neighbours. The site actually has plenty of toilets everywhere which Andy Loos keep in tip top shape all weekend. There are only queues of any noticeable size between acts, and even these clear rapidly.

Even the disabled campervan area is clearly marked, and the site on high flat ground with a brief walk, beside the car park to the site entrance. Once inside the campsites came into view and the arena itself with a welcoming striped tent entrance beside the rattan fencing hiding the more familiar metal fencing, around the horizon the scenery is an expansive landscape of Dorset fields.

This is a festival for music lovers, well technically a particular brand of music, that flavoured with indie, Americana, and folk. But, the most amazing thing is that the audience are genuinely interested in hearing the acts. A case in point is the emotive quite set of the fantastic The Low Anthem, who deliver a set that's so captivating, you can literally hear the clock of the photographers' cameras in the pit, or the occasional squawk of a security walkie talkie. The former stop taking pictures out of respect, the latter turn their radios down - amazing!

What a weekend we had! To start with I missed the gimmicks (main arena site art, crazy costumes, wandering performers) that I've become accustomed to at other festivals, but soon I realised that all that is unnecessary, it's the music that festivals really should be all about, and EOTR really delivers in that respect. As the weekend progressed this little gem slowly climbed my internal festival leaderboard for festivals. By the end of the event it had clambered into my top five!

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The crowd were well behaved as well as reverential and littered with performers (both those playing and those coming as punters for the weekend). I saw no trouble all weekend, although the festival (as many are these days) was blighted by thefts from tents on the Thursday night, despite posters warning festival goers not to leave valuables in their tents. The good news is that I heard security had caught the thieves. I have to say both policing and security were remarkably low key, and conversely there seemed to be plenty of friendly faced stewards around in hi-vis jackets helping out.

It took a while to get used to the fact that whenever a band started the venue would be practically empty, suddenly packing out as the first notes sounded through the PA. I was such a target audience muso that all the songs played throughout the weekend between the acts over the PA had me singing along, and that was before the live acts took to the stage for more singalongs. There were late night sets and the woodland disco going on until the early hours, sensibly music didn't start until 1pm the next day, giving late night revellers the chance to sleep it off the next day.

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You could be fooled into thinking the festival just consists of the wide open space but further exploring reveals the Garden Stage, and the tranquil healing area, and even more exploring illicit Woods, revealing hidden areas, the site art and more stages.

The Garden Stage gives children (and adults) the chance to meet the residents with parrots and peacocks (the motifs on the stage) occasionally putting in an appearance. The area has a no chairs in Garden after 6pm policy, and the festival's environmentally-conscious 'leave no trace' policy works well with the green space clean enough to sit on, although it's a bit soggy early on the Saturday after the late night rain, talking of which we had pretty fine weather with only one 10 minute downpour that we sat out at the Chai tent.

Headliners Modest Mouse, Yo La Tengo, and Wilco topped a line-up of terrific artists with many popping up again in secret sets (I was gutted I'd missed Willy Mason on Thursday night) or joining other acts as backing vocalists/additional musicians. The festival has large boards near the cash point giving details of the line-up and puts up signs telling us of cancellations Timber Timbre, and Steve Mason for instance), and there's a chance to talks to the acts as they're wandering the site too, because this festival has no backstage area as such.

I saw so many great acts with my personal highlights being the wonderful The Low Anthem who gave us a chance to hear some new material including 'Smart Flesh' written at last year's festival, a great performance from Edwyn Collins visibly effected by his stroke but able to sing wonderfully, Freelance Whales, a barnstorming show from The Felice Brothers, and Smoke Fairies. The DJ set by Richard Hawley & Jarvis Cocker was great although I think Hawley dropped the bigger tunes. Radiohead's Philip Selway gave us a chance to hear his own material, and Dylan LeBlanc sound like Blackbud (whatever happened to them?). Daniel Lefkowitz, Phosphorescent, The Unthanks, and Caribou were also excellent with The Wilderness of Manitoba, Three Trapped Tigers, Frank Fairfield, CW Stoneking, Stagecoach, and The Wolf People topping the new finds pile. Other highlights for me included Cate Le Bon, Caitlin Rose, The Singing Adams, and Ben Ottewell in the tipi tent.

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The Tipi tent too was packed and almost impossible at times to see some of the acts I wanted without barging my way into a tight squeeze, or trying to step over those sprawled out at the front of the stage, which at my size I prefer not to do, perhaps having the acts live music PA-ed further into the tipi circle would at least allow people to relax on the hay bales and enjoy the performances.

Monotonix, and Pulled Apart By Horses whilst both a little out of place on the line-up prove entertaining. Monotonix carry on the party outside the Big Top to conclude their set, whilst Pulled Apart By Horses get what I think was the only mosh pit of the weekend underway whilst throwing themselves about the stage.

Whilst not pitched as a family festival EOTR offers those with kids a chance to sample the festival, with a family camping area close to the entrance, and a big open plan secure festival area which is almost a mini festivals for those with kids. Those kids in the arena are all amazingly well behaved, I only heard one tantrum all weekend, and no tears! Many of the slightly older ones spent hours on end collecting plastic cups to collect the refunds and bolster their pocket money.

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The cinema tent included a preview showing of Tamara Drew which was filmed the year before at the festival as well as a programme which varied from animation favourite Up to the new Doors movie. I do wonder if appearing in a feature film will change the dynamic of the crowd at the festival next year, only time will tell.

We are able to take our own food and drink into the arena as long as they are not contained in glass - with a 5p deposit on cups, (no discount for those with their own tankards) although the ales are quite expensive at £3.60, and taste awful on Friday where they clearly haven't settled, and the staff clearly don't know how to pour them, and take forever to deliver a cloudy pint. Fortunately the Cider bus is here, with it's mulled spicy cider, and options to add a brandy or two! The rest of the weekend the ale is in great shape, with the End Of The Road Ale supplemented by various tasty guest ales which quickly sell out each day.

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Whilst there are only around 20 catering places here to feed the 5,000 all the food they offer is delicious! All my favourite delicious caterers are here although prices are slightly higher than the same stall would offer at other festivals earlier in the year at up to £7-8 for dishes at some and a more sensible £5.50 - £6 at others. The Wide Awake Cafe offers tasty smaller versions of their dishes at £3, with the Mexican place also offering 'smaller portions' for those on a budget.
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Much of the audience are rather smartly dressed in collared shirts, hats, waistcoats and suit jackets much of the time, giving the festival a distinctly English look, this was further reinforced by the red phonebox, and the chance to play croquet outside the comedy, which took place in the Pavilion. This leads me to my only real gripe, and a minor one at that. Whilst providing an intimate setting it was perhaps too small (despite being bigger than the previous year I was told) a venue for the names they had billed, which attracted a large crowd. Perhaps the Local Stage which was unused at this time could provide a better if less beautiful venue.

A huge thanks to all those who made the festival such a memorable weekend, the musicians on stage, those working backstage, the crowd, the stewards, caterers, and of course the organisers. I'll definitely be back, although the new date, in 2011 it's the first weekend in September, may prove difficult with the start of a new school term.

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