Once upon a time End Of The Road was the last festival of the summer, and it makes for a very nice last hurrah at the end of the outdoor festival season. The last time we attended in 2010, it was our final festival of the summer. This year it precedes Bestival, Festival No.6, and a few others and offers a final opportunity for a beer in the warm sun, a chance to dance in the warm night air, get sunburnt and awake all too early each morning in a sweat slick sleeping bag.
EOTR is a bit off the media radar, and probably all the better for it, offering a strong line-up of music, and a host of acts that are sure to be filling line-ups next year, it's less end of the road more start of the road for acts for the next festival season, and for that reason I guess it attracts hipsters. Those who want to say they saw a band they're clearly uninterested in listening to. The lack of phone signal (you have to pay £8 per device for the weekend for wifi) perhaps is contributory to how few people have phones in the air in the crowds.
The line-up includes quite a few acts who really impress, and are currently flavour of the month - the bands of the moment The Wytches, Drenge, and Temples, the talented Hookworms, Horse Thief, and Deer Tick, the voice of Benjamin Booker, and the highlight of the weekend The Gene Clark No Other Band who despite cutting off a Gram Parson's track to begin, are forgiven for delivering '8 Miles High' at the end of a wonderfully attentive set. I do regret missing Pink Mountaintops through not realising they'd changed the day they appeared on from Sunday to Friday, until after they had played.
Since our last visit the site layout has been improved with the addition of another big outdoor 'Woods' stage, and better use of the open spaces now filled with seating, and more stalls. It all feels less cramped without feeling too exposed nestled as it is above views to the horizon of golden fields, and the occasional blast from occupants of the Great Dorset Steam Fair down the road. A fact that brought traffic congestion to many arrivals and departures.
The car park and campervan field have been swapped since our last visit too, and it's a longer walk to the campsite from the car. However there are trolleys available from Mr Trolley, to take the exertion out of making camp in the spacious green fields, and for families to ferry their little charges around over the weekend. For those in campervan the ground us lovely and level, plus there's a good provision of loos and showers in the campervan field - a rarity at many festivals.
The new outdoor stage does mean the festival has lost a little of it's intimacy, gone are the days of hearing acts in silence at all but the Garden Stage, and does seem to be blighted by loud talkers in the crowds disinterested in the acts, this isn't the kind of festival where there's any bands that create mosh pits, it's more foot tapping and head nodding than pant swinging. The large Big Top tent is cleverly located on a gentle slope so the crowd can see, and is nice and warm inside, there's also plenty of space to sit down at the edges.
The additional bigger stage does mean more big acts, and more clashes, but the line-up is staggered, even so we manage to see around 50% of the acts we would have liked to, mainly because we stay for the whole set at each one, and decide to miss the alternative. A brutal choice when I realise how much we missed, but the acts we do see are so good we remain captivated. We have to put our trust in the creator of the line-up as it's the acts we've never heard of who often most impress.
The crowd is quite varied in terms of age from families, to old folks, and there's a lot of Americans about - probably due to the input of Bella Union. Walking around looking at what the trendy youth are wearing, it slowly dawns on us, the nineties are vintage and the kids of today are wearing late 80's garments which it would appear are now fashionable. The shock of seeing people walking around in the jumpers we wore in our youth is a bit much! Worse still is the shock that that's over 25 years ago, and vintage stores are selling clothes and nick nacks of the era! There are a lot of vintage clothes stores about, these and letterpress prints are clearly the in things for EOTR goers.
After being reminded of those golden days of youth, we take solace in the huge range of real ales on offer all reasonably priced around the £4 mark, the very drinkable session Hedge Monkey is £3.80. The festival offers their own cups to swap for a clean one each time which keeps down litter. Though clean space in the grass to sit can be found all weekend. Whilst there's no restriction on bringing in your own booze, with so much well kept ale, and the glorious Burrowhill Cider Bus offering mulled hot cider and their usual cold offerings a can just can't match the real thing for flavour.
Food prices too are reasonable from budget meals around the £3.50 mark to large stomach fillers for around £8 this is a festival where as long as you can control your diet you can happily get by on a budget. Though the queues for the cash machines on Sunday morning suggested everyone seriously loved the food and drink a bit too much.
There's been a spate of festivals boasting offering decent food caterers as a new idea. This must make the organisers of End Of The road lift an eyebrow, as there's a feast of good food on offer here, and I remember it was pretty good last time too. All of my favourite caterers from across the festival season are gathered together, except the Caribbean contingents. There's so much on offer we decide to forego making our own breakfast in favour of eating on site.
At the other end of the spectrum, the toilets here are great, Andy Loos offer the awesome big white 'vac-loos' and the '6 Unit' Urinals here, and they're kept in spotless nick. These loos are so nice that we seriously consider a 'Andy Loos Festival Tour 2015' only going to festivals where they provide the toilets. There are queues at the main loos by the big stages, but just a short distance away ones with no queues can be found, for those prepared to walk there. Bizarre how some people will wait so long just for the sake of not using their legs.
There are also showers available, lots of showers, so many so that after returning hot and sweaty from the disco in the woods one night I decide to give them a try. I've no towel, I just wander in shower, and cool off it's fantastic, and the night's not too cold to freeze as I stride refreshed to my bed. Again queues for these are massive for those unprepared to alter their morning schedules, for the rest of us they are freely available from the afternoon onwards, when the water is less in demand.
This isn't just a festival of new acts though there's also visits by Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips, who clash with John Grant - both of whom I see wandering the site, the latter is much taller in real life than I had previously thought. Also appearing is St Vincent who also gives a surprise Q&A in the woods, and there are various other secret sets from the likes of Lily & Madeleine. Plus Tinariwen, Richard Thompson, Lau,John Cooper Clarke, British Sea Power, and Yo La Tengo are among the more established acts in attendance.
Two particular acts impress me The Radiophonic Workshop are even better than when I saw them this summer at Glastonbury, and Sean Lennon's new band The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger deliver great guitar work and tiny droplets of his father's work are scattered through the show. Sean then sells his merchandise (for £5 less than the Rough Trade stall) and sits and chats for literally hours to fans. A special mention must also go to Jenny Lewis - I only see half her set, but wish I'd caught the whole thing, Las Vegas cool with white flares and attitude, the ex-Rilo Kily singer mixes a colourful upbeat fusion of indie country-rock and it's an aural delight. Also worth a quick mention are Canada's Cold Specks who get caught in traffic play a short set that packs a terrific otherwordly emotive punch.
Daniel Lefkowitz also makes a return, he was here last time we came, and I could listen to him all day, his new project Futur Primitif, his sound perfectly accompanies the terrific coffee we sip at the back of the Garden Stage crowd whilst peacocks wander passed us.
Since our last visit a cinema has been added, and a new comedy stage. At the former we just don't get a chance to see anything, the latter we try but it's down quite a steep dimly lit slope, and when we arrive the crowd is large, and the sound makes it hard for me (tinnitus) to hear what's being said. So we turn and leave. Another new thing on site is the Postal Service, who offer to post letter anywhere on site to anybody. It's a great idea - all postmen should be issued with pints of red wine. Talking of booze, did I mention the decent numbers of bars on site, and the cider bus? I did, well I think I've pretty much covered everything, except for the woods and gardens.
The gardens themselves offer workshops and walks, where both adults and kids can sculpt in clay, use juggling things, make your own miniature house, and more. There's a lot more for little kids here this time than I remember last time, and with the games in the woods the teens are kept occupied, as are we in the treasure hunt, we fail at the first clue! There's even a chance to play croquet. The gardens also house the healing area (we didn't need any), and the woods provided walks, installations, a disco, straw animals, artwork, and if you looked at the leaves carefully someone had cut letters out of them to create poetry. We found a friend a brought her there to show them to her, I was disappointed to see someone had stolen the one which said 'End Of The Road 2014'.
And talking of crimes, other than that I saw no trouble, the stewards and staff were friendly, and I'd like to thank everyone who puts the event together on doing such a good job.
A festival which offers an eclectic mix of carefully chosen quality established acts and selected samples of up and coming new acts with a range of musical styles. It's generally a good choice for the music fan of well crafted non commercial sounds. They even offer you the chance to take home a double of CD of the acts that appeared over the weekend, I do like a festival that does that.
latest on this festival
joining Vampire Weekend, Feist, St Vincent, Yo La Tengo, & more
line-ups & rumours
plus Ezra Furman, Jeff Tweedy, John Cale, Ariel Pink, Gruff Rhys, & more