End Of The Road 2009 - Rated!

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Ali Kerry | 16 September 2009

Overall – 10/10
You just don't get a more stress-free festival atmosphere than you do at this, the fourth annual End Of The Road. Befitting of Alice's Wonderland where wild peacocks and parrots roams free among the millions of fairy lights in the woodland areas, this is a festival where you become lost in the moment.

The American-heavy line up this year seemed as grateful to be here as the 5,000 punters who managed to get a ticket before it once again sold out.

Amazing music, stunning location, plus the food and drink on offer is the best of any small festival around. If you're looking for more than just music, you can check out the cinema tent, the comedy pavilion, the circus tent and even the kids have their own tent.  Every one of your senses will be tantalised here. Three days almost isn't long enough!

Getting There and Back - 9/10

Get a train to Salisbury and festival coaches to the site from there for £5. Or you are encouraged to try LiftShare, which is a free website putting people in touch with each other to fill up cars. As you're with like-minded people, it's not as scary as it sounds.

The Site - 10/10

The setting is in Larmer Tree Gardens - owned by the Rushmore estate and dating back to the Doomsday Book – which was developed in to its current grandeur back in the 1880s by English eccentric General August Lane-Fox who set about creating a garden for the education and enlightenment of the great unwashed. Current head gardener, Andy Rampton says, "He deeply believed in beautiful things – art, nature, landscape – to create a harmonious society."

What better way to celebrate this space than an independent music festival. The gardens are decorated for the festival with useable art installations throughout the woodland areas, including an outdoor library – complete with books, a games area, a hidden dance floor area and a working piano set on a stage for punters to have a go. A block of portoloos are even disguise behind a wall and door to resemble No 10 Downing Street.

The stunning surrounds seems to make the punters terribly civilised and more responsible. There's hardly any rubbish left anywhere. Recycling points at every turn make cleaning up after yourself easy. This is possibly the tidiest festival in the UK!

The site itself is compact making the journey between your tent and stages quick and easy. The camping areas are all flat, which for any harden festival goer is a luxury. The piece de resistance for this site is hot showers!  Something you rarely get at a small festival.

Atmosphere - 10/10
There's no VIP area here, so everyone is in it together and has the same experience. This year was hardly a struggle with brilliant sunshine all weekend and not a drop of rain, keeping everyone's spirits high. All age groups are represented and everyone is catered for here. If you leave this End Of The Road without making loads of new friends, you're doing something wrong.

Music - 8/10

This is a festival for people who know their independent music but aren't arrogant with it. With no obvious big name headliner, it's also for people who want to discover new and old music in an attitude-free setting.  With four music stages in all and staggered stage timings, it's easy to move between them without missing much. As mentioned, this year saw a large contingent of American bands in addition to the UK indie bands, with a dash of European acts thrown in. Legends like Steve Earle fit side-by-side with new acts like cosmic rock sensations Quack Quack. Four years on, festival co-organisers, Sofia Hagberg and Simon Taffe prove they really do excel at hand picking a brilliant line up each year.


Bob Log III - 9/10
Brilliantly crazy blues man, Bob Log, plays amazing slide guitar whilst wearing gold lamé jumpsuit and a motorcycle helmet. The helmet with microphone attached, complete with visor so you can't see his face. His singing and crowd banter is slightly unhinged. "I just realised this suit works a lot better in a dark room with a bunch of drunk people", he says. Possibly…but his bar room blues songs are brilliant. The first few minutes are spent thinking, "What the hell am I looking at?" but after 60 minutes of foot stomping fun, that changes to, "This is going to be the best thing I see all weekend".

Neko Case - 8/10
With a voice like honey, this woman doesn't get a note wrong. Her career as a singer-songwriter spanning the last 15 years is clearly nowhere near waning as she displays much of her latest album 'Middle Cyclone'. The adoring crowd are delighted to also hear a few classics like 'Teenage Feeling' thrown in.

The Low Anthem – 8/10
Not the most dynamic stage show, but this Rhode Island three-piece give us the most unique and beautiful harmonies from any band the entire weekend. The single 'Charlie Darwin', from their recent album 'Oh My God Charlie Darwin', is one of the many highlights. Their Garden Stage slot on Saturday at 2.15pm is the perfect soundtrack to this hot sunny day and sets up the rest of the afternoon quite nicely.

Fleet Foxes – 7/10
The stunning Americana from this band is a joy to behold during their headline set on the Garden stage Saturday night. Such was the demand to see them, the small field becomes overcrowded and had to be closed temporarily to incoming punters. Hearing most of their self titled and critically acclaimed 2008 debut album under a star filled sky is like a dream. They genuine affection for the crowd is reciprocated with hilarious banter between songs making this feel like a small club gig instead of a festival headline slot.

Herman Dune – 7/10
French, with Swedish roots, duo David-Ivar and Neman Herman Düne have an incredible knack for fell good indie pop that couldn't be more perfect at a festival. Starting the set with an acoustic solo from David-Ivar, then one by one more musicians join the stage as the joy builds for the crowd in the Big Top Tent until everyone is dancing.

Archie Bronson Outfit – 7/10

The Wiltshire three-piece have been out of touch since their fantastic 2006 album 'Derdang Derdang', so it's great to see them here and louder than ever. Not to mention how wonderful it is to hear 'Cherry Lips' in a live setting again. All three are sporting heavy beards, which we hope alludes to the fact they've locked in a studio for months preparing a new album.


The Mummers cancelling their Friday afternoon set

This would have been the perfect setting for this Raissa Khan-Panni's electro fantasia, but alas it wasn't to be.

The Horrors cancelling their Saturday night set
Only receiving this announcement on Saturday afternoon was a bitter disappointment. At last we were to see the über scensters for once play a non-Shoreditch-type event and perhaps prove they can deliver for fans you actually like music.  It wasn't to be.

Missing Mumford And Sons Friday set at 2.30pm
Despite being ready to leave London at 9am - plenty time to get to the festival site - the longest, most boring car journey ensued which meant a late arrival onsite. Being forced to hear bits of Mumford And Sons set from afar while queuing at the entrance gate for wristbands was torture. So close, yet so far and I'm left kicking myself for not taking the train which would have been far more efficient. Have made note to self never to leave travel arrangements to amateurs.

Random Events

Self proclaimed American 'schwag' rockers (we don't know what that means either), Motel Motel doing a surprise set in the Tipi Tent at 2.30am on Sunday morning. Fantastic. That kept the party going into the wee hours. Whatever 'schwag' rock means, they've got tons of it.

The piano in the woods saw large crowds gather around for a proper singalongs throughout the weekend and became the centre of one big bonding session. Great fun.

The secret woodland games area had ping-pong tables, giant Jenga, ten-pin bowls and hoolahoops created hours of late night entertainment.

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