End of the Road Festival: Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

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A boutique version of Glastonbury, End Of The Road has long established itself as a key fixture on the UK festival circuit. But as Getintothis’ Dan Salter laps up the onsite extras it seems all is not quite right on the music front.


End of the Road has for some years had the reputation of being one of the best alternatives to the Glastonbury festival so I thought it was about time that we went and found out what the fuss was about.
This year the capacity was upped from 6000 to 10,000; a worrying stat which suggests they may be cashing in on their previous success. Or maybe the expansion is genuinely merited?
Fortunately, Friday’s weather was glorious, so with tents erected we chose to explore the site in blazing sunshine. Obviously this is always helps a festival and makes everything look that bit better. However, it quickly became obvious even during the worst the British summer has to offer the EOTR site would look amazing.
Every nook & cranny presented the festival goer with a little slice of the unexpected; from the library in the woods to the games area to the hidden stages, every corner presenting a new and exhilarating sight.
The other thing that will strike the seasoned festival goer is the plethora of choice in the amenities. The range of food, drink and craft stalls was amazing with the only complaint being a shortage of time to sample everything. Still, the Moorish stall served the best lamb bourek these taste buds have ever sampled.
Since returning debate has turned as to whether people still go to festivals for the music or simply the festival experience? The British summer festival is no longer a specialist pursuit and has become a ubiquitous part of the landscape for many people, from die hard music fans to family holidays.
Personally, the music will always play a big part but I wonder if that’s now a minority view and these days it seems to be the festival experience that seems to be the greater attraction – something EOTR succeeds in spades. But on the music side, the festival perhaps falls short.
This weekend, too much on offer was samey, a little bland and a tad too downbeat. There were, however, amazing highlights; Okkervil River playing acoustic & unamplified to 50 people on a boat or Molasses playing a tiny shack made up to look like a Victorian living room, replete with wingback chairs and a piano.
Meanwhile, Mogwai. Glorious, glorious Mogwai own the main stage on Saturday night – the only act that manage to really succeed in doing so all weekend.
Whether the organisers watered down the music choice to appeal to the increased capacity there is certainly a more middle of the road feel compared to previous years. Too much is nice but inoffensive. Of the three main stage headliners Beirut were pleasant, the first few songs truly lovely, but a lack of direction results in a staid set which peters out.
Joanna Newsom, meanwhile, recalls the ubiquitous eccentric female acts ala Natasha Khan and Coco Rosie – groups only championed because Kate Bush rarely makes records these days. It’s left to Mogwai to offer something truly different and spectacular.
Of the few genuinely innovative bands too many were on at unsympathetic times – take the mighty Drum Eyes at 4pm on Friday. Really? Odd choice.
That said, Wooden Shijps, Black Angels, Megafaun, Josh T Pearson – bladdered in the rain on Sunday – and James Yorkston all pitched in with wonderful sets to conclude a great, if not quite perfect weekend.
Visit Dan Salter‘s music blog Echoes and Dust here.

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