Why do I bother to go to music festivals?,this is a question I am often asked by curious people with different interests to myself. Mind you it's a question I sometimes ask myself particularly when I am trudging through a mud filled campsite carrying 30 kilos or so of luggage or indeed lying in a freezing cold tent, hungover and surrounded by noisy juveniles outside who somehow seem to never require any sleep.
However, some of the most memorable live music performances that I have been lucky enough to have witnessed over the years have been at such festivals.
There is also that total 'escape' feeling that goes with attending such an event, the copious amounts of booze, the eccentric, free spirited even crazy people you meet along the way, the sheer buzz of it all. Also the access to the other arts entertainment in the form of comedy, theatre and film always adds that bit of extra magic to the weekend..
Each time it's a new experience with the chance to catch heroes performing or indeed the opportunity for some new musical discoveries to be pursued.
This year I was attracted to the idea of trying out one of the British festivals for a change. The End Of The Road had been on my wish list for some time and after reading that this years line up included such luminaries as Dirty 3, Beach House, Midlake ,Mountain Man, Villagers and Tindersticks I was sold on the idea of getting there.
In fact the first day of the End Of The Road was a showcase for bands associated with Bella Union Records who were celebrating 15 years in business, this independent label has seldom failed to produce anything short of excellence across its wide range of signings since the day it was founded.
One of the endearing qualities that the End Of The Road has going for it is the location of the place which is situated at the Larmer Tree Gardens, in Wiltshire North Dorset surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside you are likely to see in all of southern England.
Originally when this festival debuted back in 2006, it was a much smaller affair and although still regarded as a minor sized event, (even managing to win an award for 'Best Small Festival' at the U.K Festival Awards last year) it now has at least doubled in size.
Personally I was hoping that such a set up could maintain it's tidy capacity of just 5000 or so punters but seemingly such was the demand for tickets, it was necessary to expand out to a wider audience of at least 10,000 in my estimation.
However it is important to point out that I have never been to a festival that had such a likable crowd as this one. The people attending were the most humble, friendly, polite, genuinely music loving crowd I have ever had the pleasure to mix with.
Total strangers had no problem with sharing stories and opinions with us throughout the entire weekend as we mingled without effort at the campsite, the bars or in front of the stage areas. This is what clenched our visit to this festival as being a great experience and an unforgettable one, the absolute friendliness of the people was alone enough to make us want to return there next year.
Our somewhat, unplanned late arrival on Friday evening was a disappointing start for us because it meant that we missed a few acts that we had earmarked as must sees. Notably Lanterns On The Lakes, Pure Moon, Peter Broderick and Mountain Man.
It was only on the previous day that I discovered that the festival was kicking off at midday, but such a hiccup was put down to a learning experience for us and would be underlined heavily for planning our next trip there.
If we do go again, we will most certainly be going an extra day in advance of the festival, perhaps staying overnight in Salisbury so as to get a head start.
As our bus rolled in that evening and we were unloading our luggage, a black van pulled up nearby. Two familiar faces appeared, it was Warren Ellis and Jim White from Dirty 3 stepping out to stretch their legs and have a look around, we knew instantly that a great weekend was in store..
This was my first time seeing Beach House play live, if I was to make one complaint, it would have to be a mention about the very poor stage lighting throughout their set. Perhaps it was intentional, or maybe it was a technical problem but it drowned a bit of the atmosphere for me personally to not be able to get a good view of everything happening onstage.They did however play the set list I wanted to hear including the gorgeous song 'Zebra' from the 'Teen Dream' album. With my disappointment at failing to capture a decent photograph of Beach House aside, someone thankfully managed to grab this video and put it up on YouTube..
A quick dash across to the Garden Stage was essential we felt, to catch some of Midlake's set, this Texan 5 piece have been of huge interest to me since hearing their 2006 release 'The Trials Of Van Occupanther'. Clearly humbled to be part of this festival day dedicated to the Bella Union label, they introduced new material from their forthcoming album and came back on for no less than 2 encores. The Garden Stage was the perfect setting for their soothing harmonies amid the cool September night air, I was pretty pleased to get this photo too.
|Zun Zun Egui|
Listen to the title song here from 'Katang', the band's first and only album to date.
And so concluded our first day at the End Of The Road, Whitstable Bay Premium Ale and Somerset Cider had been the order of the day along with some incredible music. A short trek back to the campsite felt like the next best thing to do...Tomorrow would have so much more again to offer.