Well here we are, back in Wiltshire for the End of the Road festival. Having only missed the first edition of this festival it’s been interesting to watch it grow from it’s small beginnings to the heights of the Flaming Lips, Sigur ros years to seeing the festival return to a very solid indie and songwriter base, with some alt-rock and psych thrown in for good measure.
‘Solid’ is the best word for the line-up. No bands that get the average spotify playlist listening member of the public excited but, with a reasonable knowledge of music, then expectations remain high.
Thursday was low-key affair, as Thursday’s usually are. Main stage headliners Yo La Tengo played a great set, but unless you knew the band and the new album, then they would not have been accessible to you as previous Thursday headliners. This was a dry festival which after 2017’s deluge was much appreciated and the sunshine around the site all weekend really created a happy atmosphere. More families with kids than usual this year which was also nice to see.
Friday was a great day musically. ‘Tiny Ruins’ gave us a lovely gentle start after which Daniel Blumberg ( with Dirty Three's drummer Jim White) gave a seismically ‘Out There’ performance. ‘Hiss Golden Messenger' brought some arse kickin’ Americana into view before it was off to see ‘The Weather Station’ as a full band in the Tipi Tent. Watching Tamara Lindeman solo is alway mesmerising, with a band some of that intensity was lost.
‘This is the Kit’ sparkled in the afternoon sunshine. Since they have lost their over-sized Jeremy Corbyn, band wide t-shirts they are also a much more watchable band. The music remains superb as they come to the end of two years of touring.
The evening session starts with 'The Low Anthem', long time festival favourites who actually don’t play any favourites, they just concentrated on their new album. ‘Big Thief’ delivered a special show. Band leader Adrianne Lenker seemed overawed by the size of the crowd but the whole band played a great set. Jeff Tweedy entranced us with his Garden stage set. Many a Wilco classic eased us into the night time festivities. Lucy Dacus played a surprise set in the Tipi and was joined Julien Baker. An excellent day!
Saturday kicked off with Colter Wall, a man whose voice is a deep as Johnny Cash and with an extremely good band in tow played a brilliant set of Americana and Country.
'Insecure Men' are a great and large band. Lots of brass, they had me thinking early Blur, sound wise. Highlight of the afternoon was Julien Baker who played a stunning set on the Garden stage in the blazing sunshine. Such intensity in her songs, a really exceptional hour.
'(Sandy) Alex G' follows and with an impressive canon of songs storms non stop through the band’s hour long set. The evening brings a great Woods Stage show from Gruff Rhys, another man with a vast collection of songs. His new album ‘Babelsberg’ is the base for the set and with added strings all the songs take on on an expansive and widescreen sheen.
Vampire Weekend are the big festival headliners of the weekend. The band have expanded in size, I think I counted seven members. They also have a new album due from which they aired some of the songs whilst, mixing in the hits. I could hear a lot of Belle & Sebastian for some reason.
Erin Rae and Anna Birch were the first two sets of Sunday and both were equally great. Erin from Nashville and Anna who is based in Detroit really have some great songs so the final day was off to a superb start.
Wave Pictures replaced Damien Jurado who was ill. They played their usual brilliant show and had a packed crowd. Jonathon Wilson and band followed with some West Coast cool in the warmth of the afternoon sunshine. 'Titus Andronicus' turned out to be a storming solo show from Patrick Stickles rather than, the band as a whole which was disappointing. It was a mighty set but, will a full band, who knows?
The second on the bill choice for Sunday evening was Ezra Furman on the Woods stage and John Cale on the Garden stage. The two of them had a Q&A session in the afternoon. I went the Ezra route and I think I experienced the set of the festival. A worthy headliner, Ezra had a massive crowd in the palm of his hand.
He now seems comfortable in this own skin and the set was well paced, nothing rushed, the songs delivered with passion and the whole band on top form. As day turned to night the set just grew. It was an enormous crowd and a triumphant show.
Final band of the weekend was the impressive 'White Denim'. The band powered through the first six songs of their set without room to breathe. A jumping joyous rocking experience and a great way to round up another year at End of the Road.