End of the road... or just the beginning?

Envoyé special at the End Of The Road festival 2008. Photos and review by Andrew Heather. CLICK ON THE THUMBNAILS TO VIEW THE PHOTOS

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We’d heard that the End of the Road festival (now in its third year in rural Dorset) was ‘different’, but nothing had prepared us for the laid back tranquillity that we discovered in the beautiful surroundings of the Larmer Tree Gardens. I’d say this is a festival for musicians’ musicians, appreciative audiences and respectful artists.

From my point of view one of the best things about the weekend was discovering a whole bunch of new favourite bands I’d heard little about before. True artists like Micah P Hinson, Bon Iver, Shearwater, Woodpigeon and The Accidental to name but a few of the major talents on show. There was also just the right sprinkling of the, so far, more commercially successful artists: Richard Hawley, Conor Oberst, Calexico, British Sea Power, none of whom disappointed.

Credit has to be given to Simon and Sofia for organising such a splendid, faultless departure from the festival norm. Limiting capacity to 5,000 people undoubtedly helps, as does the venue, but they’ve also managed to create an atmosphere where you can feel relaxed. There’s none of that usual unpleasant ‘edge’ that’s crept into so many of the better established events. Fairly lights dripped from shrubbery, bookshelves nailed to trees, bongo lessons for groups of kids.

Ok there was the odd ‘rock and roll’ ego trip: Oberst and Hinson hardly entering into the chilled spirit, preferring to jibe sarcastically at their respective (and respectful) audiences; and Alan Sparhawk from Low, petulantly throwing a ‘rock star’ tantrum while hurling his guitar into an undeserving crowd. It has to be said though that all three still put on unforgettable performances. Plus, they were in the minority, with almost all the performers – notably Bon Iver clearly genuinely moved by an overwhelmingly intelligent and enthusiastic audience.

Festivals are supposed to be wild, sweaty, chemical-fuelled lost weekends – at least they have been in my experience. But what a joy to find something different; something old, but also something new; an actual cultural experience.

EOTR 2009 already promises to be an equally mind-expanding experience and I should encourage you to be there. Only I won’t encourage you; I don’t want you there. Something inside me really wants this to remain an enigma; like a newly discovered tropical island where only the privileged few are in the know. That way there is less chance of it succumbing to festival fever and growing into just another corporate showpiece.

Maybe it wasn’t quite a 70s-style painted hippy love-in, but love was certainly in the air; the shared love of great music.

Photographs © Andrew Heather 2008

Review of Bon Iver at the EOTR festival

Review of Micah P Hinson at the EOTR festival

Review of Calexico at the EOTR festival