All photos: Laura Palmer
It’s raining and there’s a man proposing to his girlfriend on stage after Bat for Lashes has just performed ‘Laura’. The woman is not called Laura – she’s called Andi and she is Natasha Khan’s friend; the man who is proposing describes Andi as “pure kindness”. She says yes and a woman lets off a confetti canon to my left; to my right, a friend wipes a stray tear from their cheek, blaming the wind.
End of the Road is a festival where the small touches matter – a place that keeps the surprises coming and truly keeps their attendees at the heart of everything they do. A man proposing to his girlfriend on the main stage is pretty much the perfect pick-me-up after a solid 6 hours of wet weather tbh and whilst it might not be for everyone, you can’t help but feel a bit warm and nice afterwards.
It’s just as nice as the secret sessions in the woods (curated by The Line of Best Fit), especially when Phosphorescent plays a set at midnight, made up entirely of fan requests; it’s also just as nice as portrait booth tucked away in the woods, where an illustrator hides in a makeshift photo booth and draws a 20% likeness of you and a pal with some sharpies; there’s also a nice treasure hunt that ends with a table full of sweets in the gardens that have already been attacked by a carnivorous pack of kids but they give you a sticky orange smartie anyway. On the surface, End of the Road is a very nice festival but once you dig a little deeper, it’s so much more than that.
There’s a noticeable effort to include up-and-coming acts alongside established artists, which means you can start the day watching a magical performance from Bristol’s RHAIN in a tipi and finish it with an unforgettable set from Cat Power, who covers both Frank Sinatra and Nico whilst still making the time to perform ‘The Greatest’ and ‘Sea of Love’.
There’s also a noticeable inclusion of women on the line-up, which shouldn’t be a thing but it is a thing and it’s a nice and great thing to see so many of them across so many of the stages. Bat for Lashes and Joanna Newsom make up two of the headliners; Julia Jacklin straight-up captivate the audience first thing in the Tipi Tent; Shura almost blows the speakers in a the Big Top with a set that solidifies her as 2016’s best pop star and Frankie Cosmos makes us forget the downpour going on outside, if only for a brief, beautiful moment.
There were also stand out moments from the triumphant return of Broken Social Scene, which saw the atmosphere in the crowd reach euphoric proportions; Whitney proved why they’ve been the buzz band of the past few months with an undeniably charming set at the festival’s iconic Garden Stage and Ezra Furman’s third set of the weekend got just about every tired toe tapping. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the weekend came from New Jersey’s Pinegrove, who lost their European-playing virginity not once but twice on Sunday. Witnessing a band like that as the first and last thing on the last day of a jam-packed weekend is only something that could happen at End of the Road.
End of the Road is often cited as ‘the underdog’ but to be honest, they’re simply in a league of their own; they’re incomparable and truly know how to put on a party that caters for all. If you’re more into the making wooden spoons and watching Adam Buxton record a podcast in the woods kind of partying, they’re there for you; if you’re more into the catching Jon Hopkins at 2am then rolling around in wet mud with your face covered in glitter whilst you dance to some Motown, they’re there for you or y’know, if you’re more into the trying out every kind of posh gin cocktail then catching some nice acoustic acts whilst watching a couple of parrots fly over your head, they’re there for you. The point is, they care – a lot – and it’s these little things that make End of the Road not only one of the best festivals in the world – if not *the* – but one of the most special and lasting experiences you’ll have the pleasure of being a part of.
Check out the End of the Road 2015 highlights here:
Tickets for End of the Road 2017 are on sale now