With David Byrne, Sig­ur Ros and Belle & Sebas­t­ian amongst oth­ers on the line­up, End of the Road fes­ti­val set in lush Larmer Tree Gar­dens in Dorset looks like a per­fect musi­cal finale to the summer.

Far from feel­ing chilled and serene, I’m feel­ing a knot of ten­sion. Which act should I see? … and while I’m see­ing who­ev­er they may be – who am I miss­ing?? By day two the pan­ic starts to sub­side, and we get into a rhythm of float­ing from one stage to anoth­er, tak­ing in the incred­i­ble span of music which fol­lows a dis­tinct nar­ra­tive, lead by the vision of the fes­ti­val organ­is­ers. End of the Road has estab­lished its place in the fes­ti­val cal­en­dar  – a fes­ti­val born of gen­uine pas­sion for music.

On Fri­day after­noon we head up to The Gar­den Stage, an oasis of calm set in the trees where pea­cocks ven­ture out dur­ing qui­eter moments. We lie on the grass and enjoy a peace­ful set from Doug Pais­ley, an enig­mat­ic Cana­di­an coun­try performer.

Doug Paisley at EOTR

It was my inten­tion to see much-rec­om­mend­ed Man­cun­ian band Mon­ey but, like so many times at EoTR, got pleas­ant­ly dis­tract­ed else­where. Anoth­er time…

On The Woods (main) Stage, Eels pre­side over a much-antic­i­pat­ed sun­down slot, just as the first (and only) driz­zle of rain begins. Main fig­ure­head E has a loaded back­sto­ry which takes equal billing with the music, some­times that’s good, some­times bad. Good = there’s so much touch­ing stuff in his lyrics. Bad = some­times it would be bet­ter to not know any­thing about the band and just enjoy the music for what it is. I did hope they would play Novo­caine for the Soul or Susan’s House but nei­ther are fea­tured tonight, but God­dam Right it’s a beau­ti­ful Day  is. There are also tracks from Won­der­ful, Glo­ri­ous, Eel’s lat­est album, such as The Turn­around. E seems upbeat and pos­i­tive and engages the band in a group hug – it’s maybe iron­ic, maybe not, but it looks cute with all the mem­bers in match­ing track­suits. At one point they are near­ly upstaged by the appear­ance of a dou­ble rain­bow, a por­tent, perhaps.

E of EelsEelsAnd so to head­lin­ers David Byrne and St Vin­cent. It is, quite sim­ply, a knock­out set. Byrne arrives on stage with flax­en-haired Annie Clark ‘St Vin­cent’ plus an eight-piece brass band, to per­form songs from the duo’s col­lab­o­ra­tion Love the Giant, tunes from St Vin­cen­t’s own back cat­a­logue, and a few Talk­ing Heads num­bers. It’s a joy­ous, pow­er­ful, exhil­a­rat­ing per­for­mance, enhanced by the col­lec­tive pow­er of the brass band, Annie Clark’s vocals and rock-chick gui­tar style, and Byrne’s mag­net­ic stage per­son­al­i­ty. Byrne and Clark radi­ate a mutu­al respect and affec­tion for each other.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see how Talk­ing Heads num­bers have been adapt­ed from their for­mer jit­tery gui­tar pro­duc­tions to this – Burn­ing Down the House and Lazy both fea­ture. The per­for­mance is strong visu­al­ly too – each song is accom­pa­nied with some enter­tain­ing chore­og­ra­phy as the brass play­ers weave in and out of each oth­er, or play in a cir­cle. Byrne too gets into his danc­ing groove. Road to Nowhere fin­ish­es the set.

David ByrneDavid Byrne 2

St Vincent

On Sat­ur­day after­noon: After swear­ing in the pres­ence of many small chil­dren at The Gar­den Stage, Angel Olsen apol­o­gis­es in case she’s offend­ed any­one. “I’ve offend­ed myself many times in my life,” she says. It’s a good way to describe that moment after you’ve done some­thing stu­pid. Angel’s per­for­mance is one of those where I find myself just sit­ting there trans­fixed. Her voice is cer­tain­ly unusu­al, and there’s a qual­i­ty to it which is more pro­nounced live than on her record­ing, which I’ve sub­se­quent­ly lis­tened to. The slow, steady pac­ing, that con­trolled break which at times is almost a yodel.

Dur­ing the evening peo­ple are pour­ing into The Gar­den stage area for a set by Daugh­ter. The band  express more than once their amaze­ment at their pop­u­lar­i­ty here. Theirs is a char­ac­ter­isi­cal­ly dark and moody set, there’s an echoey qual­i­ty with the unusu­al drum rhythm and Ele­na Ton­ra’s voice icy yet fragile.

Sig­ur Ros are Sat­ur­day head­lin­ers. They cre­ate a fan­tas­tic atmos­phere and are visu­al­ly stunning.

Futur Primitif

Daniel Lefkowitz, for­mer­ly of the Low Anthem and now oth­er­wise with his Futur Prim­i­tif col­lab­o­ra­tion, gives a sur­prise extra show at The Gar­den Stage on Sun­day morn­ing, a per­fect way to soothe a frag­ile look­ing audi­ence after an evening of much partying.

On Sun­day we wit­ness a beau­ti­ful lit­tle pop up show in the Pirate Ship in the for­est with Scott Hutchi­son of Scot­tish band Fright­ened Rab­bit, a warm up before his per­for­mance on the main stage. He’s relaxed and enter­tain­ing, and although he attracts quite a crowd, it still feels like an inti­mate set. We are treat­ed to half a dozen or so songs…

pop up show

… before his appear­ance on the main stage with Fright­ened Rab­bit. Mid­way through there’s a beau­ti­ful sun­set, dra­mat­i­cal­ly on par with Eel’s rainbow.

Frightened Rabbit

The Scot­tish themed evening con­tin­ues with pop­u­lar head­lin­ers Belle & Sebas­t­ian. Their amus­ing and upbeat num­bers are a per­fect fes­ti­val clos­er,  with The Boy with the Arab Strap to fin­ish.

End of the Road is blessed by near-per­fect weath­er and music to match – I’ll car­ry the mem­o­ry of this love­ly fes­ti­val through the win­ter months ahead.

Festival facts

Bars: reg­u­lar bars plus a Som­er­set cider bar, and cocktails.

EoTR barstaff
Lucille, work­ing at the main bar: check out her blog at http://callmelucille.blogspot.co.uk

Stages Two stages and two tents, plus a For­est Dis­co tucked away in the woods, which has music through to about 3am. You have to keep a con­stant look­out for sur­prise pop­up shows by the artists.

Toi­lets etc
Always seemed to be clean. Plen­ty dot­ted around the site, and not too many queues.

The organ­is­ers have gone to lengths to find dif­fer­ent and inter­est­ing food out­lets. Par­tic­u­lar­ly loved the Tibetan cur­ries (meat, and the spinach and chick­pea one) and the veg­gie Indi­an stall. Shep­herds ice cream too. In the camp­ing sec­tion there’s local organ­ic pro­duce on sale.


**  a big thanks to Rough Trade Records, a great stall, and as always the most knowl­edgable and friend­ly staff.

2 thoughts on “Review: End of the Road festival 2013

  1. It sounds bril­liant – one to go to next year I hope. The fes­ti­val facts are real­ly use­ful – thanks!

    1. If you can think of any more details you need to know before going to a fes­ti­val, let me know as I’m always think­ing of use­ful stuff to add.

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