Clearly some form of musical Gods were attempting to teach me a lesson in response to my recent article on Glastonbury. Through a combination of extremely good fortune and extremely nice people I was offered the opportunity to attend End Of The Road Festival for a day. Upon arrival, it was immediately clear that this was not going to be like any sort of festival I had been to before. The walk up the hill from the car park into the main arena and catch sight of a big blue tent, not an usual vision at a festival, however the fact that there was bright pink crazy golf sat in front of it I think showed all I would need to know about what my experiences were going to be for the day ahead.
End Of The Road has always somewhat eluded me both as a fan and subsequently as a reviewer for one main reason: I am a Dad and this always falls on the weekend at the end of the summer holidays. As a result of this I had always assumed it was going to be a unique festival but one that perhaps was not going to be for the demographic I fit within. Boy could I not have been more wrong! As a festival experience it was genuinely quite magical, instantly catching me with its charm and brilliantly there were families enjoying this everywhere.
It is a festival that has been running since 2006 and always seems to focus on the more Alternative music. In the space of one day and several bands I think its safe to loosely band the genres of music I watched as Punk, Afrobeat, Shoe-Gaze, Free-Form Jazz, Hip-Hop, Americana, Psychedelic noise and some fabulous stand-up comedy. None of the headliners for this event would be likely to headline stages at other festivals yet still the uniqueness of End Of The Road means that people know exactly what to expect and clearly everyone that comes ends up coming back. Throughout the course of the day I found myself chatting to all sorts of people and I was the only person who had never been before.
As an overall experience it was completely spellbinding. The general festival areas and stages were nowhere near as big as perhaps you would expect from one of the countries festival standards. However, because of this it meant that every time you watch a band you feel much closer and because of the way that the stages are set up there is a lovely feeling to whatever you watch. There is also so much hidden away, waiting to be discovered and through a variety of twists and turns, you can stumble on the oddest things. At one point next to a field offering all sorts of homeopathic treatments and then, in another, there was a free book exchange. Walk slightly further round the corner and there is a hidden stage made to look like a living room where secret gigs are planned (where I was lucky enough to see the quite stunningly voiced Othis with about forty other people as I was roaming around). The stand up comedy stage was set a bit further afield , in a secluded section of the festival grounds, where the stage was essentially opposite a grass bank for seating where I managed to catch the brilliant Robin Ince discuss everything from his superb animal based description of Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds through to The Beano and its cultural appropriateness in 2019 and on to some of the challenges of parenthood (as a Dad and a Nick Cave fan this set sent me from hysterics to near tears).
My experiences of the main stage (The Woods Stage) were comparatively small but nonetheless positive. The stage opened with UK Pop-Punk band Martha, who were a perfect wake up call to everyone arriving on site with some fabulous short, sharp loud Pop songs. Kokoko played one of the most frantic sets Ive seen in years, all dressed in bright yellow boiler suits and playing songs from this year’s debut release ‘Fongoloa‘, driven by Afrobeat that had everyone moving. Later on in the evening, as dusk was settling in, Kate Tempest took to the stage. Tempest was a late addition to the line-up after previously announced headliners Beirut were forced to cancel their set. Tempest is getting a lot of plaudits at the moment. Her new album ‘The Book Of Traps And Lessons‘ was produced by Rick Rubin and has been causing quite the stir in the Hip-Hop world (with rumour having it that upon hearing it, none other than Jay-Z restarted what he was working on at the time). She opened with a few older songs before essentially giving the audience an emotional health warning about what was coming as she played newer material. Her set enthralled as her use of language continued to hold the audience and none more than in set closer ‘People’s Faces‘, which caused many a tear in the eye as she speaks brilliantly on the negativity in the modern day Western world whilst being able to know and find that happiness still exists if we look for it.
The Garden Stage also played host to some brilliant performances. Lonnie Holley played in the mid-afternoon, introduced by his manager, who came out and described the history and the struggles that Lonnie has gone through, before making it very clear that what was about to happen was going to be completely unique, that there would be no sense of ‘playing the album’ and what would flow was improvised and a performance for the here and now. Holley, who was backed by three musicians, then proceeded into a captivating set. He was followed by everyone’s current fave new thing ‘Black Midi‘, who turned up (both in the literal sense and in the volume sense) and played a set at blistering pace of music that can only be described as Jazz inspired Heavy Rock. The penultimate band on the Garden Stage were Kikagaku Moyo, a Japanese psychedelic band. As a live band they were stunning. Long soundscapes with a heavy backing and the genius use of a sitar to augment the sound, a sound which perfectly fitted the darkening time of day. Then came the stage’s headliners, Low. There will soon be a separate review of this set to be found on this website, but here’s the truncated version – they were absolutely stunning. Completely intense and had very single person at the stage hanging on every word and every note. One of the best and most fan respected performances I have ever witnessed at a festival.
Everything about my day at End Of The R0ad 2019 was an absolute pleasure. The art spaces in the woods, the fact that there were band signings at the Rough Trade tent (Big up to Rough Trade records, whose shops are absolutely top notch – Vinyl Enthusiast Editor) throughout the day, the choice of food was incredible, and the overall atmosphere was something genuinely special. I could not recommend End Of The Road enough. If your choice of music is the sort that makes Glastonbury look like Top Of The Pops, this is the place for you.
Plus, as a non-beer drinker, anywhere that has a double decker tea bus is a winner with me!