Within days of turning the page on my calendar to September, it feels like autumn threatens to arrive on the breeze. The days are getting shorter and there is a chill in the evening air. But there is just time for one last stop on the festival circuit before allowing the summer to fade – End of the Road festival…
End of the Road festival is a unique event in Dorset, with a serious focus on music, and it celebrated it’s tenth anniversary this year.
Since the first festival in 2006, End of the Road has been organised by a small team of music-obsessed friends who booked bands that excited them, to play at the kind of festival they would want to go to.
The event stays true to this philosophy ten years’ on. A celebration of music, featuring unsigned acts as well as more established names, and encouraging the audience to participate in the music.
There is a strong musical theme through everything from the art installations to the programme of movies and workshops.
The line-up at End of the Road festival is not restricted to any one genre or style of music, it depends on what excites the organisers as they plan the programme each year.
Over the years there have been some pretty special musical moments, from American indie folk act Bon Ivor playing their first UK festival appearance as a (then) unsigned act, to Super Furry Animals’ headlining their unique brand of Welsh psychedelic rock.
This years’ line-up of headliners included Australian group Tame Impala, American folk songwriter Sufjan Stevens, Philadelphia-based indie rock band The War on Drugs, and London-based Django Django.
There are no VIP areas at End of the Road festival. Musicians wander around the site with the punters, and music is everywhere…
Workshops included opportunities to turn unloved EPs in to picture frames, learn the Ukulele, stimulate the development of babies with music, or create instant songs!
A stroll through the woods, along a path lit by fairy lights, will bring you to the piano stage where festival-goers and musicians alike are free to step up and give an impromptu performance if they choose.
I stumbled across local musician Marcus Tettmar from Shugmonkey playing, and Jarvis Cocker was once found giving an impromptu cover of Leonard Cohen’s Tonight will be Fine.
A new discovery for me this year, was the awesome Andrew Combs, a country and soul singer-songwriter from Nashville, who offered a contemporary twist on the classic country sound with gorgeous vocal harmonies and great story-telling.
But I’m afraid some of the acts left me slightly mystified. Maybe I’m not hip enough to get them, but Palma Violets just sounded like noise to me, and Saint Etienne failed to excite.
Sufjan Stevens played a beautiful and involving set, but I wasn’t convinced that the sound was right for the Saturday night headline act. It was definitely too chilled, possibly too melancholic, and felt more like a Sunday afternoon vibe.
Former Racehorses front-man Meilyr Jones however, was quite a revelation in the Tipi Tent, with his experimental new sound and a set delivered with both musical skill and great humour.
Whatever live music you saw there was a sense of serious appreciation as festival-goers nodded along earnestly without really dancing or breaking into sing-along mode themselves.
The Disco Ship in the woodland area provided a bit of a refuge for me later in the evening, with an informal vibe and DJs banging out tunes to actually dance the night away to.
Another firm favourite is the comedy stage at End of the Road festival. Deep in the woods behind the main stage, Mary Bourke had me in absolute stitches with her quick witted take on gender equality, social media trolls and internet dating.
Robin Ince from Infinite Monkey Cage provided some characteristically high-brow humour, touching on subjects as broad as politics, literature and physics.
And if all this wasn’t enough, there was the usual array of festival food, shopping, bars, healing and extra activities from Folk in a Box to the Secret Post Office who were hard at work delivering postcards to unknown recipients at vaguely described festival addresses.
Despite the queues for a gin and tonic or to use the toilets, and the crowded picnic tables and campsites, there was plenty here to make the average music enthusiast smile a big smile in a fitting send off to the festival season. A send off that focused on what should really matter at any music festival… the actual music!
Here are a few more pictures from this year’s End of the Road: