Live Report: End Of The Road Festival 2021

Live Report: End Of The Road Festival 2021

A stunning weekend...

Since its inception in 2006, End Of The Road festival has been charming festival goers with a carefully curated line up of music, comedy, literature, and insightful Q&A sessions.

Head in the heart of the countryside on the Dorset/Wiltshire border, this independent festival is truly one of a kind and has an almost serene unique atmosphere. Located at the picturesque Larmer Tree Gardens, this festival is relaxed but is intensely serious about the music. The festival organisers take pride in refusing to be pigeonholed into championing specific genres. Previously the likes of Badly Drawn Boy, Super Furry Animals, Mogwai, Tame Impala and Father John Misty have played here. Pretty impressive stuff!

Wandering around the site between the stages is almost like being in a Midsummer Night’s Dream scenario - this woodland wonderland is adorned with art installations and decorated spaces. If you are looking to get lost in a moment away from the crowds, you can do so easily at the Larmer Tree Gardens.

Friday

The End of the Road festival kicked off with a bang. After nearly two years, music lovers flocked to one of the UK’s best independent festivals at the pretty Larmer Tree Gardens.

With an eclectic line up, Friday delivered a spectacular evening of music. As the sun went down, the crowds gathered around the Woods stage to watch acclaimed musician Damon Albarn and his live band.

Whilst a couple of tracks from Blur and Gorillaz made an appearance ‘Out Of Time’ and ‘Melancholy Hill’ respectively (with the latter track being a rather subdued affair but still highly evocative) most of the set list was centred around Damon’s forthcoming solo album ‘The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows’ which takes inspiration from the landscapes of Iceland.

The relative serenity was underpinned by some swaggery bass lines, and sultry Afrobeat rhythms. Albarn chatted away to the crowd and was thoroughly engaging which included a request to the crowd to chant the version of the ‘eighth chakra’ which easily segued into his fantastic new track ‘Polaris’. Namaste!

Damon commented to the crowd: “It was musical. It was heartfelt and it happened!” – you can’t say fairer than that!

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If Damon was about laidback and understated chi, Hot Chip brought the party with their synth pop vibes and with a delectable fusion of fun and effervescence which had the crowd dancing the night away. With tracks like ‘Don’t Deny Your Heart’, ‘Night & Day’ and ‘One Night Stand’ you can’t fail to be charmed by the ‘thinking person’s party band’ whose euphoric and scintillating set was one of the highlights of EOTR 2021.

Without doubt, Hot Chip have an impressive back catalogue, so the inclusions of cover versions of ‘Sabotage’ (Beastie Boys) and ‘Dancing In The Dark’ (Bruce Springsteen) were fun, but perhaps not quite necessary.

Saturday

Brighton has a pedigree for producing some pretty stellar bands (Royal Blood, the Levellers, Sea Power) and East Sussex’s very own Squid have been a band on my radar for a while. Returning to End Of The Road for a second time, they put on a raucous and joyful show which included ‘Boy Racers’ and ‘Narrator’ which delighted the crowds at the Garden stage.

Enchanting and exhilarating, The Comet Is Coming were one of the festival highlights thanks to their jazzy-synth vibes. The London-based trio fuse funk, jazz, psych rock, and electronica which is both earthy and mystical in equal measure. Each of the trio (King Shabaka, Betamax, and Danalogue) are consummate musicians individually, but there is something very special in how they play together.

Shrewd, straight-talking and scintillating, Jason Williamson is a captivating presence on stage. As one half of sleaford mods, he owned the stage with a resolute swagger and unsurpassed levels of vim and vigour. In contrast, Andrew Fearn is the epitome of laidback and nonchalant – playing the music in the most casual and understated manner – quite possibly the most chilled out person at the festival.

sleaford mods are renowned for their clever, observational lyrics and there was no shortage of that during their riotous and electrifying 90-minute set. ‘Spare Ribs’ from their album of the same name was a highlight with Williamson strutting around the stage singing as if his life depended on it.

In his Q&A, he lamented his frustration at not being able to tour this album which led to the set including the compelling and stirring delivery of tracks ‘The New Brick’, ‘I Don’t Rate You’ and ‘Mork n Mindy’ along with old favourites ‘B.H.S’, ‘Kebab Spider’, ‘Big Dream’ and ‘Tweet Tweet Tweet’ from their 2014 album ‘Divide And Exit’.

Intoxicating, extraordinary and always entertaining, the dynamic duo delivered the most honest, arresting, brilliant and memorable performance of the entire weekend.

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Sunday

With the sun blazing down on the Larmer Tree Gardens, the final day of End Of The Road festival was upon us. Eyes down, it was a full house of a diverse and eclectic line up of music acts that this independent festival is famed for.

Fusing experimental rock with grunge, jazz and psychedelia, Black Country, New Road entertained the crowds at the Woods stage with a professional and concise set. ‘Science Fair’ was a highlight, and it showcased the bands super musicality and performing skills.

The intriguingly named Crack Cloud were undertaking soundchecks until the moment they were due to perform. What ensued was a high energy, thunderous set that was certain to eradicate any hangovers garnered from the previous night. The post-punk collective epitomised angst and disillusionment in a punchy and fearless fashion. The keyboard player Mohammad Ali Sharar is enigmatic and dramatic in equal measure, taking emoting via the medium of facial expressions to the next level.

With verbal deftness, rapper Little Simz put on a passionate and intense display. The prolific pioneer of UK rap revealed it was her first time in Salisbury and the Ivor Novello winning Londoner seems almost shy when she’s not performing and was delighted by the response of the crowd who were energised by her sparkling set which set the Woods stage alight.

Scottish duo Arab Strap with their brooding brand of wry indie-rock delivered an almost dead-pan set. Showcasing their new album ‘As Days Get Dark’ their first in 16 years, singer Aidan Moffat is his usual candid and slightly cynical self that has become something of a trademark since the band’s inception. This was an opportunity to showcase new tracks ‘Here comes Comus!’ and ‘The Turning of Our Bones’ as well as ‘Kebabylon’ and ‘Blackness’.

Deemed a voice of his generation, Archy Marshall aka King Krule is considered a cult-like figure in the music industry. Picked to close the festival, his set was a vibrant and gripping affair with a commanding and monumental performance from a musician who remains on the top of his game. Once again, the End Of The Road Festival has proved itself as a jewel in the crown of the UK festival calendar thanks to its dreamy landscapes and eclectic line up.

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Words: Emma Harrison
Photo Credit: Burak Cingi

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