End Of The Road, despite it running for ten years, manages to sustain a green ethos: a stripped-back atmosphere and relaxed environment that makes it dreamily wonderful. Attracting an equally middle-aged and young crowd, the festival celebrated its 10th anniversary with a stellar lineup that’s hard to challenge. With headliners such as Tame Impala, Django Django, and Sufjan Stevens joining the lineup with his exclusive first UK festival performance, End Of The Road created an eclectic mix that wasn’t one to be missed.
In the lead-up to the weekend, there weren’t many bands playing at the festival, but what bands there were at the intimate Tipi Tent were still worth seeing. In a stark contrast to what would become of the festival crowds that weekend, Palma Violets attracted a savage punk crowd that fed the band with more energy and created an aggressive explosion of a set. Disgruntled press photographers wiped the beer from their alcohol-soaked cameras. “You wouldn’t expect that to happen at End Of The Road.” While frontman Chilli Jesson stalked the stage with his tall, lean frame, his contempt for the stage fed the rich fabric of the band’s sound. The set started out calm but with every song the crowd grew vicious, culminating in fans tearing Jesson’s shirt to shreds by the end, and surging forwards to take over the stage.
This year, the event organisers struck gold with the exclusive performance from Sufjan Stevens. Not a prolific tourer, Sufjan remains a mysterious presence on the internet, as he doesn’t give many official interviews and isn’t widely found on social media networks. Half of his performance was comprised of cuts from his most recent release, ‘Carrie & Lowell’, complemented by a backdrop of childhood home movies. This, when combined with Sufjan’s powerful death-laden lyrics and songs, as odes to his late mother, made for an emotive and moving performance. To mix things up, older songs from previous albums – ‘The Age of Adz’, ‘Illinois’, and ‘Seven Swans’ – were also performed with a full brass band. ‘Fourth of July’ was particularly poignant as a closer with the final refrain: “We’re all gonna die, we’re all gonna die”.
On the last day, we caught the tail end of Happyness, who captivated and mesmerised their daytime audience. Marika Hackman was a highlight as she gave another – a secret show – at the piano stage. Asking the crowd to come closer, the intimately spaced green area also hosted Laura Marling who joined the UK singer-songwriter, and together they made a perfect duo. Mac DeMarco, as expected, kept the crowd entertained with his prankster personality on stage. Although some of his songs from his latest album, ‘Another One’, are nostalgic and question the feelings of a partner, the performance was kept upbeat with the band members’ riffing off each other’s jokes. “It smells like someone’s… been cooking ravioli.”
End Of The Road is an unpretentious, no-bullshit festival that welcomes all indie and psychedelic rock lovers to the Larmer Tree Gardens. If you’re on a budget and a lover of indie music, this festival is the perfect choice. Budget wise, End of the Road doesn’t break the bank. I found that I was freely allowed to take my own drinks in and out of every gate without being searched. Stewards banded together into a welcoming community, greeting both familiar faces and the new. With an intimate setting and a smaller crowd of 12,000, festival-goers can feel closer to the musicians. The overall atmosphere was relaxed – save for Palma Violets – providing festival-goers with a blissful musical escape awash with guitars for a few days.