United Kingdom | 14 September 2010
Overall – 8/10
There is a definite vibe and atmosphere engulfing the End Of The Road Festival. It prevails through each day and in every act. A lot of the bands and attendees are quite obviously at their last festival of the year. This doesn’t necessarily detract from the experience, simply adds a more calming and chilled edge to everything. EOTR is a quiet cup of tea in a stately home garden with your favourite bands playing quietly just for you, instead of the booze-hazed teenage thrash house party of the more prevalent festivals. You come out of it in possibly a better state than you came in. Revitalized rather than worn down. This year’s festival is no different, an astounding display of indie and folk with a great buzz.
Getting There and Back – 5/10
As beautiful as it is, it is unfortunately set in sunny Dorset. Thus the middle of nowhere. The train connections aren’t great and the shuttle buses charge, but go hourly. If you’re road tripping however it is a beautiful drive and very well sign posted. A nice big car park and ample road space mean there aren’t any queues or mayhem either.
The Site – 8/10
Operating out of the Larmer Tree Gardens, it is a picturesque and serene location. For those unfamiliar with the grounds: imagine travelling through the wardrobe to Narnia, only not when that evil snow queen had her wicked way and there was snow everywhere. The nice Narnia, with lush greenery, exotic wildlife and crisp clean air. You’re just as likely to bump into a peacock or a parrot as you are a fellow festival-goer as you travel the luscious grounds.
There’s also ample space to set up your tent around the site on the greens and forests. The toilets, although still just portaloos, are accessible and plentiful, seldom having queues. There are also more than enough eateries dotted about, offering you the chance to sample a different cuisine everyday from exotic delicacies to organic, vegan and local specialities. Also with the advantage of such a landmark site you can enjoy your favourite bands whilst laying up against a tree or reclining on the luscious grass.
Atmosphere – 5/10
There is an amazing and overwhelming sense of security and calm that prevails on the site. You can’t escape the feeling of being part of something truly beautiful. The other side is, however, that to the younger festival-goer the crowd might be a bit painfully middle class. There is no excessive drinking and, although everyone is polite and friendly, it is a less welcoming community with people tending to stick in groups.
Music – 9/10
If you don’t like folk music, this festival is not for you. It is the glue that keeps the weekend together. You can wander from one tent to the next and the mood won’t make much of a shift. The bands all fit and there’s a sense of family between them walking from one to the next. You can pick out the rockier bands if you’re up for something with a bit more pace but the dominant forces are of a folky persuasion. The bands are also of a slightly more precise calibre, so unfortunately there is often a longer wait whilst they sound check and fine-tune everything to perfection. The end result, however, is well worth it. Not a single sloppy performance, everything is tight, every note in place.
Stagecoach – 7/10
If through ignorance or underexposure you have missed out on hearing this band, rectify this mistake right now. They kick off the tipi tent on Friday and do so wonderfully. A marvellous blend of raw power, kooky lyrics and kicking guitars. A fired performance and also excellent deployment and use of a mandolin. Definitely one of the highlights of the weekend and a band to keep an eye on for the future.
Wolf People – 8/10
Wolf People are the first band to take to the stage and really just rock. They are tight, gripping and technically brilliant joining sweet riffs with folky vocals. They dazzle everyone and are practically forced into an encore by a crowd who literally won’t leave until they’ve had some more. This is a band that is going to make a mark in their own right very soon.
Ben Ottewell – 9/10
One half of the vocals behind the legendary Gomez, Ben Ottewell doesn’t disappoint. Whether gruffly crooning out stripped down renditions of classic Gomez tunes or exhibiting his beautiful new solo material, Ben hits the mark. The set is also memorable due to the unique stage invasion provided by the mini-Ottewell’s. Ben handled his children’s impromptu dance accompaniment masterfully and the whole thing is endearing and completely in keeping with the festival whilst not being detrimental to the power and soul of the music being played.
Three Trapped Tigers – 8/10
A unique and enjoyable set. The band love playing the music almost as much as the crowd enjoy listening. A fantastic set which leaves everyone buzzing: a frenetic soundscape of keyboards, crashing drums and thumping bass.
Iron Wine – 10/10
A highly anticipated set that doesn’t disappoint. Of all the headliners this is the one that shone. You could hear a pin-drop throughout the entire set. Sam Bean puts on a folk master class with his soulful song writing and dulcet southern vocals. The audience is obviously quite moved with a few moist eyes among the fans. A touching and intimate experience.
Modest Mouse – 4/10
Less a downer than just a little disappointing. This band simply does not belong on a headlining stage. Put them into one of the smaller tents and they probably will blow the crowd away. But swamped by a mass crowd that flocks to the Garden Stage, they fail to deliver and even the power and groove of ‘Float On’ can’t win over a mostly indifferent crowd. They are completely outshone by The New Pornographers who play after them in the Big Top.
The weekend will be marked by the relatively unknown Monotonix’s set, whether you are in attendance or not. The Israeli punk band shuns the stage to play their entire high-energy set, drums and all, from within the audience. They end their performance outside the tent letting everybody witness Ami Shalev rip out the contents of a recycle bin, dump it over everyone nearby and shove the empty bag down his shorts. It is a spectacle everyone was happy to say they were part of.