Festival Review: End Of The Road 2021
George Ward reviews his experience at End of The Road Festival this summer.
When I went to End Of The Road festival three years ago, my friend lost her purse and we assumed the worst. Just to be sure, we headed to the lost property tent and within half an hour of her losing it, someone had found it, handed it in, and the lost property people were searching for her on Facebook to find her and give it back. This year, another friend lost her phone and by the end of the night someone had got it back to her. This might not seem important but it sums up for me why End of the Road is such a special festival.
Set in the middle of nowhere in Wiltshire, End Of The Road brings together the buzziest bands, classic headliners and some delicious food trucks to create a friendly but seriously exciting weekend. Considering that the lineup has been hit so hard by Covid, the fact that the quality of music is as high as ever is unbelievable.
After a lovely headliner set from Stereolab on Thursday night, EOTR 2021 properly kicked off on Friday. Each day always starts with grabbing one of their many beers and heading to the garden stage, a beautiful grassy setting in the middle of the woods, suiting the folksy CMAT equally as well as the energetic shoegaze of BDRMM.
Damon Albarn hit the main stage, playing a mix of solo tracks and a couple of Gorillaz and Blur ones too. While it would have been nice to have a few more hits, his set was great and Albarn himself seemed a very genuine guy. However, the real highlight of Friday was headliner Hot Chip who played banger after banger to an incredible crowd. Don’t be fooled by their dad-appearances, their energy is amazing and they’re definitely one to catch live.
One of my favourite things about End Of The Road is how varied its lineup is. One minute you can be listening to folk, the next minute punk and then finish your night having a boogie at the disco ship. While Sleaford Mods do their Sleaford Mods thing on the main stage, you can always make your way into the woods to see Jonny Greenwood and his incredible group of strings/pianists play a beautiful set of his film scores and a seriously impressive solo guitar cover of Steve Reich’s ‘Electric Counterpoint.’
On the lineup again this year were Squid and Black Country, New Road, two of the most talked-about bands of the last year and both blew expectations completely out of the water.
Squid hit the garden stage on Saturday night, with drummer and singer Ollie Judge holding the band together with his brilliantly yelpy vocals and lively drumming while the rest of the band gave us an hour of horns, riffs and a lot of fun. They so clearly love playing together and their songs sound even better live.
Black Country, New Road played the main stage on Sunday afternoon and after playing a few of the tracks from their album, the band played mostly unreleased music for the second half of their set. These were all surprisingly moving, with touching lyrics, the usual tightness of sax and violin, and an unbelievable performance from lead singer Isaac Wood.
Little Simz, only two days after releasing her new album, knew exactly how to get the crowd going and was, by far, the coolest and seemingly most effortless performer of the weekend.
Another highlight for me were the late night shows. After the headline show each night were some of the loudest, most insane shows I’ve ever seen. Girl Band’s noise rock was so intense that you’re unable to draw your eyes (or ears) away from them, while Warmduscher never settles down for one minute, firing tune after tune at the audience. But some of my favourite of these late night sets were the surprise acts: bands who weren’t announced until you see them in front of you. From Katy J Pearson and Squid covering David Byrne to Black Country, New Road merging Eminem and Athens, France, it was so nice to see bands have so much fun on stage. I also want to shout out Bo Ningen, a band I wasn’t familiar with, whose Japanese Rock is relentless and brilliant.
You never feel rushed at End of the Road, despite how much stuff is going on, from eating Persian street food and walking through the beautiful woods, to riding the ferris wheel after the mosh pit. Somehow, the organisers have created the perfect mix of calmness and intense energy that lives up to any normal year beforehand. I can’t wait to see lots of you next year at the best festival of the summer.