Patrick posing with one of our pal Lucy Sherston’s installations at End of the Road 2016
YUK FUN went to End of the Road Festival in Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset in September. End of the Road is a small festival (attendance in 2014 was 11,000 compared to 135,000 at Glastonbury) that specialises in alternative music including indie, rock, folk and Americana. Here’s a little review of the festival and a selection of tunes by the bands and performers we most enjoyed over the weekend.
We travelled there by coach on a sunny Thursday afternoon and managed to set up our tent just in time to get to the arena and watch Teleman perform at the Woods stage.
After that we saw YAK play at the Tipi tent. As well as putting out an album (Alas Salvation) on their own label recently, they released a single on Jack White’s Third Man Records in 2015 and have a reputation for a raucous live show, which turned out to be fully justified. With pounding drums, big guitar riffs and a frontman fond of rock n roll theatrics like diving into the audience with his guitar, YAK were great fun to watch.
Thursday evening would prove to be the last time we would see the sun at the festival unfortunately as the weather turned overcast, windy and wet. After watching a few bands out in the open we ducked out of the rain and into the darkness of the Big Top tent to catch U.S. Girls delivering a great set of sinister yet very catchy tunes. Back out in the rain again and Whitney totally brightened up the afternoon with some swooningly heartwarming soulful tunes. The main vocalist in the band is Julien Ehrlich, who used to play the drums in Unknown Mortal Orchestra and sings in a lovely falsetto.
We trudged back out into the driving rain and found that Omar Souleyman had mysteriously disappeared (we didn’t know at the time but he had to cancel due to a family emergency) and been replaced by Stealing Sheep – three women with synths and guitars – a pretty good substitution it turned out. They were great entertainers, with some sharp moves on the stage and plenty of smiles despite the fact that they were clearly getting wet in the rain too!
Savages played the main stage as night began to fall. Their music fitted the occasion perfectly – dark, brooding and intense. The band are so good to watch on stage: Fay Milton bangs the drums with buckets of energy and venom, bouncing on her drum stool and Ayse Hassan (bassist) seems to be in her own world, eyes shut during the entire set and dancing around the whole time, even when the band stops playing. Jehnny Beth really whipped the crowd up into a frenzy and did an interesting version of crowd surfing which involved walking on the audience upright rather than the usual horizontal method.
Headlining on Friday were Animal Collective, who were joined onstage by a gang of big papier mâché creatures. Their performance was fairly static on stage but it was made up with a spectacular light show and brilliant music, the highlight of which was the very strange, yet very danceable FloriDada. Be careful watching the FloriDada video below, it’s not only completely nuts, it contains lots of flashing images which could trigger epileptic seizures.
One of the best things about festivals is happening upon bands who you’ve never heard of who turn out to be really good. The Big Moon were one such band – they played a joyful mid afternoon set full of ear-pleasing riffs and thudding drums in the Big Top which cheered us right up (it was still raining so we were feeling a bit sorry for ourselves!).
Next up was The Garden, who we also knew very little about. The duo from California appeared on stage looking spooky with their faces painted white and their hair dyed black. The singer was wearing a black sweatshirt with a kind of white ruff and frilly cuffs sticking out. They then spent the next 45 minutes acrobatically dancing, diving, and running around the stage, while performing songs that veered from punk rock to drum n bass. Very entertaining and occasionally very funny – great to see a band who really looked like they were enjoying themselves.
To round off a trio of acts at the Big Top, we saw Shopping. They are a trio from London who make music that reminds us nicely of one of our favourite bands, ESG. We were at the back of the tent, but had a grand time dancing to their bass driven, pleasingly angular (yes pleasingly angular, we’re being music journalists here) post punk. The video below is a fun collaboration with the Glasgow Open Dance School.
Bat For Lashes was the headliner on the main stage on Saturday night and was very impressive – her new rather spooky songs were delivered beautifully. Her voice sounded absolutely perfect and she interacted with the crowd in a charming manner. She played all of her big tunes and did a lovely cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy”.
The last person we saw on Saturday night was BC Camplight in the Tipi Tent. Entering the tent from the chilly September night, it felt like we had stumbled into a cosy bar where a great band happen to be playing. BC (American songwriter and musician Brian Christinzio) has a gorgeous voice and it was really well accompanied by his band. He was forced to cancel his festival gigs and an appearance on Jools Holland last year due to ill health and complications with his visa so it was good to see him back performing again.
Sunday was all about two bands for us – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, who we have blogged about a couple of times before and Thee Oh Sees, whose albums we have been playing a lot in the studio and who we were told were amazing live. King Gizzard played in the Big Top and delivered super tight performances of songs mainly from their latest album Nonagon Infinity. Here’s a video of them playing on Seattle radio station KEXP which we feel demonstrates just how good they are live.
Thee Oh Sees were as good as everyone had said they would be. Most of the festival crowd had headed to the main stage to watch Joanna Newsom so we got nice and close to the band, who played a towering set in the darkness and rain. It felt like the gates of hell had been opened or something. The two drummers played in perfect synchronisation throughout the performance and the band somehow managed to sound louder than anything else we had heard all weekend. It was a frenzied set which really got the crowd going, as evidenced by an outbreak of crowd surfing, the most impressive of which was a topless man riding an inflatable dolphin (see him and more great photos of the festival here). Here’s a clip of the band back when they had just the one drummer. It doesn’t quite reflect the amazingness of their show at End of the Road, but it gives you a rough idea…
The festival itself is organised really well and is on a relatively small site, so unlike lots of other festivals we have been to, we didn’t get tired walking between stages. Perhaps most importantly, the loos are kept in excellent condition and are never allowed to run out of toilet roll! Other good things about End of the Road were: a nice selection of beers and ciders, very friendly stewards and the lovely green setting, complete with woodland and sunken garden.
Lucy’s top 5 acts at End of the Road
- Thee Oh Sees
- King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
- Bat For Lashes
- Ezra Furman
Patrick’s top 5 acts at End of the Road
- Thee Oh Sees
- Animal Collective
- The Big Moon
- BC Camplight
Our top tips for enjoying music festivals in the UK
- Take some really warm clothing. You might get lucky and go to a festival and not get rained on, but if you’re at a festival in Britain it’s going to be cold at night. Colder than the arctic. Wrap up!
- Take wellies and decent waterproofs. You won’t get lucky with the weather, you will get rained on and the ground will become swamp-like after a day or two. Wellies are the only option. Don’t try and be cool by wearing trainers all weekend, nobody even looks at your feet at a festival, especially when they’re submerged in water.
- Write a list of things to take on a piece of paper and cross it off as you pack. We managed to forget to pack our sleeping bags at End of the Road this year, and we thought we were really well organised!
- Take a mallet. Because it had been dry for ages, the ground at End of the Road was rock solid, making putting in the tent pegs nigh-on impossible. Luckily there were some nice people near us who lent us theirs.
- Do a bit of research on bands to see before the festival. The festival programme will tell you that every act is incredible, so it’s worthwhile checking out the acts before you get there!