End of the Road festival yet again evaded the wet weather bookending it, and returned to the Larmer Tree gardens in Salisbury with a new layout, new ‘The Woods’ stage and perhaps its most varied line up yet.
Now in its sixth year and growing in capacity to around 8,000 – though never to the detriment of its clientele organiser Simon Taffe assured in an online interview a few months back – End of the Road festival championed with arguably its best line up yet. Joanna Newsom‘s headline slot on Sunday night, and her first solo performance in two years, drew the majority of the crowd and there was a pristine silence of bewitchment surrounding her set which relied heavily on stripped down versions of songs taken from Ys and Have One on Me.
Zola Jesus and Austra, at the electro-gothic end of the spectrum under- and overwhelmed respectively, Zola Jesus perhaps suffering from a headline slot in the Big Top which seemed at that time of day to attract only chatter which did little to help her vocals which were already quite drowned in the mix of heavy synths and basslines. Austra conversely playing the same stage earlier on the Saturday was one of the standout surprises of the weekend: heavenly harmonies and Kate Bush inspired interpretive dancing throughout; their’s was a truly captivating set.
In the more traditional musical niche Micah P Hinson left a lot to be desired and seemed to banter with the audience more than sing, while his string quartet the Pioneer Saboteurs upstaged the usual intrigue of his branch of Gothic Americana, while Alabama’s the Secret Sisters who opened proceedings on the Garden Stage were the Southern gospel darlings of the festival covering numerous country songs as well as the self penned ‘Tennessee Me’ and ‘River Jordan’ from their upcoming eponymous debut.
Complimenting the magical setting of this boutique festival, Lanterns on the Lake and Other Lives‘ chamber folk captured those feelings of mystery and wonder. The former so well received the year previous they found themselves performing to a packed out tent: woozy wonderment and hypnotic shoegaze that pitched the perfect balance between the elements of ambience and post-rock. While Other Lives just a few weeks previous expressed their awe at playing to an 80 strong crowd in Manchester must have been equally as astounded at the 400 plus audience captivated by the cinematic landscapes they conjured in the Tipi Tent.
Here is a festival truly about the music, where (for the most part) bands both familiar and unfamiliar are met with patient and pleasing ears. End of the Road has marked itself a step ahead of all other festivals for this alone; and the frequent artist praise throughout the weekend from the likes of Lightning Dust and Caitlin Rose exclaiming “what a great festival” and “the best in the world” further these claims. One for the musicians and fans alike whose intimate setting and beautiful installations – where else can you find a woodland library nestled into a tree, a games area and trope of peacocks merrily prancing? – provide something that makes this feel like one big garden party.
Joanna Newsom at EOTR
Austra at EOTR
Secret Sisters – Tennessee Me (Music Video)
Lanterns On The Lake – I Love You, Sleepyhead (Glastonbury 2010)
Other Lives – E Minor (acoustic version)