Live Review – End Of The Road Festival, Salisbury, Sep 15-17

Larmer_treeIt’s not everyday you get to go to a festival that has extraordinatory examples of Victorian
extravagance, complete with a wonderful collection of
ornate buildings and intimate arbours, peacocks, water gardens with a Roman Temple and bonkers Nepalese
buildings. That’s what the Larmer Gardens have which held the strangest festival of the year, The End of the Road festival. If you click on the picture to the left, you’ll see the lovely thing that sat by the main stage. Shame the billing didn’t match the surroundings.

The End of the Road festival, chiefly inspired by the superb Green Man, seemed a little lost in its hopes. True highlights were few, and puzzling additions to the bill were all too frequent. The aim of the weekend was an admirable one. To create a folk based festival with greater diversity than its peers. It would seem however, that in this case, diversity meant substandard indie.

There were highlights of course, most notable the sublime skills and charm of Hush The Many (Heed The Few) who manage to create a strange beguiling sound akin to Spiritualized (if Spaceman J was more prone to dwelling in forests as opposed to gazing into vacuums of celestial depression). Another joy to behold was the successor to Wanda Jackson’s throne, Holly Golightly, star of Billy Childish‘ Thee Headcoatees. Creating a wonderful wash of rockabilly and country, she managed to create a gut barging hoe-down in the middle of rural Salisbury.

The one treat and great new find (to me at least) was the fabulous Charlie Parr. Parr is an incredible talent, and with just one guitar (and no FX) managed to encapsulate UK folk, US dustbowl folk, blues, ragtime, country… and privelidge to see and behold. His voice frequently oozed Little Feat, and his post song patter was wonderful to listen to. (click here to hear Mr Parr in action)

Unfortuantely, for every Charlie Parr and Holly Golightly, there was a dozen dire outfits. Gravenhurst, who had promised much from previous folkier efforts have suddenly found themselves slap band between a Nutrasweet version of Sonic Youth and Snow Patrol. As flaccid a band as you are likely to see, and the rounds of applause which followed each tune seemed to be comprised mostly of friends and family. Also, Jolie Holland, formerly of the Be-Good Tanyas, and accompanied by headliner Ryan Adams on drums, offered up a sass-less take on country, which left this particular writer running for cover in an ale tent.

Richard Hawley surprised the most with his own take on Scott Walker and Lambchop, with gentle easy ballads of heartache and love. Classic songwriting coupled with the funniest asides I’ve ever heard from a musician. To open up an aching song about the sea with "I’m as soft as a bag o’tits me…" is both smile raising and slightly confusing.

The festival seemed to be sparsely populated, confirmed by the selling of tickets on the door. A shame as the festival was genuinely trying to go for something less commercial than more popular (and lesser) festivals. I fear that it may be the last we’ll see of this festival, but hopefully not and I wish them the best of luck for next year. Just let me help choose your line-up ok?

Mof Gimmers

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