It’s not all about the headliners
End Of The Road Festival 2011

It was dark, silent and chilly when elfin songstress Joanna Newsom took to the stage as the Sunday night headliner at End of the Road. Every other stage, including the forest disco, shut up for this treat. This pissed off a few disgruntled festival-goers, who ran around the woods looking for action only to be met with ‘Shhhh!’ and ‘Why the hell aren’t you watching Joanna Newsom, moron?’ But for the Newsom lovers among us, it was bliss. The day had turned drizzly, but we didn’t care. The night’s cold air also played havoc with Newsom’s harp playing fingers, but again, we didn’t care. She could bash her head against those strings and we’d still be happy.

This solo performance was undoubtedly the highlight of the festival, the sixth End of the Road in Dorset’s Larmer Tree Gardens. She wailed in her wonky way songs from ‘Have One On Me’, ‘Ys’ and a few oldies: ‘California’, ‘Easy’, ‘’81’, ‘Soft As Chalk’ – every one as beautiful as the next.

It was the end to a perfect day on End of the Road’s new Woods stage – a bigger stage allowing a larger audience than the more enclosed Garden stage, which was still going strong this year.

Midlake were simply amazing; Laura Marling sweet and mesmerising; Willy Mason spine-tingly superb; and Emmy The Great just lovely and heart-warming. This is how every Sunday should be.

Other treats throughout the weekend included many a familiar face, like folky ye olde sisters The Unthanks, and a broken-armed Micah P Hinson accompanied by an outstanding string quartet. Bob Log III returned to inject a little life and dirt into the mainly laid-back festival-goers, and Caitlin Rose drew a massive crowd in an early slot.

Fence’s James Yorkston was also loved at the garden in daytime, but became a legend in a secret ‘we’re not a party band’ set in the evening after a rendition of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ – accompanied by a clarinet, of course.

Along with such names as The Fall, Gruff Rhys, Mogwai, Wild Beasts, Lykki Li, John Grant and Beirut, it just shows that this festival – which sold out months before – can pull in an eclectic mix of big names.

But as all End of the Roaders know, it’s not all about the headliners. The real gems are the never before seen acts, the secret sets and the crazy collaborations. This year, Danish psychedelic poppers Treefight for Sunlight won some hearts in the day’s opening set; Herman Dune turned up out of the blue before the main event even started; and The Growlers… well… blacked

up and off their faces, but possibly one of the finest bands to grace any stage all weekend. They were so good in front of a way too small audience, that eventually the sound was cut and they had to be manhandled off stage. And yes, I did say blacked up – we’ll let that go!

Even more fun was scattered around the woods this year, too. The forest disco kept the young ones dancing till dawn (well, about 3am), although the DJs seemed a little poor, the sound a little sketchy and the lighting a little disastrous.

The biggest change this year was the size – doubled to 10,000 people. End of the Road regulars could be seen weeping into their wellies when they entered the site, but by the end of the weekend it was obvious that the spirit, the treats, and the whole ethos was very much still the same. Thank God!

Words by Gemma Hampson
Photo by Joel Knight

View a full photo gallery from the End OF the Road 201 music festival HERE.

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