Review: End Of The Road Festival

This year saw the sixth incarnation of EOTR, and my fourth year in succession. This festival offers a nicely relaxed vibe at the tail end of the festival season, and attracts a loyal following among bands and punters alike.  It’s the sort of festival where you will expect to find yourself happening to stand next to a member of the Low Anthem or Singing Adams while watching some band, catch unprompted sets and generally schmooze to your heart’s content if you so desire.
This year the festival had grown, with the advent of a new main stage (The Woods), located in the main village area with pleanty of room to move around, following issues of crowd congestion at the previous main stage (Garden Stage) in years gone by. This stage is perfectly fine, though less intimate, and the Garden Stage benefits from being that bit smaller. Also there is a much-expanded comedy area which enabled me to actually see some comedy for the first time.
EOTR has built its reputation on a solid bed of nu-folk and Americana, often with a Scandinavian bent, although there has always been a raucous edge should you wish to hunt it out. For my part, this year many of the highlights came from the scuzzier end of the festival’s roster, with the likes of The Fall, White Denim, Brakes, Wooden Shjips, She Keeps Bees and Bo Ningen doing a fine job in keeping me bouncing.  However, I will focus here on some of the more laid back highlights.
Thursday night is a bonus night – it was only last year when they first opened the festival gates on a Thursday, and provided an impressive roster of surprise acts to entertain us.  This year we were treated to a splendidly hypnotic set from Jose Gonzales’ band Junip, and some fine fretwork from Herman Dune.
Emanuel and the Fear kicked off Friday, although this was a stripped-down affair from the normal nine-piece, Emanuel coming over like a latino Dylan with his wordy acoustic workouts (and leg-stretching!). Meanwhile, on the Woods stage, Dry The River delivered a pleasing set of scuzzed folk with refreshingly ramshackle harmonies. The Garden Stage’s highlight was a surprisingly rocked up set from Joan As Policewoman.
On to Saturday and back to the Woods stage for the gorgeous harmonies of the Danish foursome Treefight For Sunlight, whose highlight (again) was a note-perfect falsetto rendition of Wuthering Heights. They were swiftly followed by gruff Canadian folkist Dan Mangan, who didn’t let a broken B string dampen his ardour, finishing off with a stroll around the crowd during closing number Robots.
The secret disco (and accompanying wooden ship) laid host to a secret acoustic set by Okkervil River – according to Will Sheff, they played some rarely-played tunes, not that I’d know but I enjoyed them anyway. Nathaniel Rateliff played a solo set in the Tipi tent, and was suffering from a bit of a sore throat, but was engaging nonetheless.
Sunday built gently, from a brief sojourn at the Woods Stage for the lovely Emmy The Great, on to the Garden Stage for Megafaun. I knew next to nothing about them but was pleasantly endeared to their rocky brand of Americana with strong hints of The Band. The Garden Stage delivered its second treat of the day in the form of Josh T Pearson, who delivered a beautifully emotive set armed only with a fuzzed-up acoustic and a laid-back humour.
So, another successful EOTR down, and two to come next year, as they have announced a sister festival in June called No Direction Home. I hope I can’t have too much of a good thing.