End of The Road Festival 2023

End of The Road Festival 2023

by jessicajolly / Sep 05, 2023 / 0 comments
Friday, 12 January 2024

If, as festival season winds down, you find yourself feeling you’ve not quite seen enough incredible bands this summer, often too ensconced in paint-bomb performance art during your weekend escapes, then grab a ticket to the End of The Road Festival. It will fill the aural dietary requirements of the most ravenous live music fan.

EOTR a unique festival. Small yet intense in impact, tucked away into an EONB area in inland Dorset, it feels halfway between a music festival and village fete. This is a compliment, I promise. The festival lineup is full of international touring acts that include indie-rock royalty and the most hyped up and comers, yet the stages are tiny, and the infrastructure is slim. There’s not even a camping store. There’s a robust family area, but it’s quite difficult to take small children into the music areas. This makes for a festival that die hard music fans must attend due to its drool-worthy lineup, but they also must be prepared.

Three points to discuss if you are interested in End of the Road:

1. The lineup is truly incredible. Thursday night, usually full of warm up acts at most festivals, featured Deerhoof and Wilco, two of North America’s finest alternative bands. Deerhoof’s Japanese-American experimental pop emanated from the stage like aural candyfloss, making you wonder what chemical reaction makes such a sweet, pillowy sound. Wilco headlined with a career spanning set showcasing their superfine guitar work that is impressive yet not fussy. Just satisfying folk-rock. I can’t think of a better Thursday night music experience I’ve ever had at a festival. Another highlight: the secret Saturday act was a blistering set by world-renowned locals Wet Leg. They were magnificent. As for the rest of the weekend, diversity and mastery was displayed throughout. The Big Top hosted UK noise punk as well as Korean goth-pop. The Garden stage offered expected folky wolky as well as wild carnivalesque ensembles. You could find whatever you were looking for. Which is why the crowd included equal amounts of black-clad metalheads and sad-beige almond mums.

2. A lot of work went in to procuring that lineup. I do believe the infrastructure and logistics then suffered. The campsite is lovely, the food selection was nice, but there wasn’t quite enough of anything, making getting around and organising your day a bit of a slog, even though the site is miniscule by festival standards. This is no Glastonbury, where you can show up with nothing but a tent and a pile of money and get everything you need. You need to bring some food to this event, there’s but one row of stalls that won’t fill all your caloric needs, but if your camping stove runs out of gas, there is nowhere to buy a canister. It's a festival you need to prepare for. Pretend you are camping in the woods for a week and haul in everything one needs to survive. Toilets were well kept but dispersedly placed. We’re bringing a camping potty next year.

3. Families. Loads of people prammed their little ones into the festival. The family camping area was as large as general and just as populated. At first, I found this odd, as the hilly site with waist high grass didn’t seem suitable for plastic-wheeled prams. Once enveloped in the forest corners of the event, I got it. A brilliant children’s area of marble races, ancient tree climbing, and traditional fairground rides was erected to the delight of our four-year-old kids. On the opposite corner of the site, crafts could be made and a lovely children's folk singer engaged ecstatic groups of little ones in song. So ,if the cost or expanse of Camp Bestival turns you off but you still want to take your kids to a festival in Dorset, End of The Road is a great option. But a couple of things to keep in mind. First, as mentioned above, BE PREPARED. You won’t find formula or a NCT tent. Secondly, while yes, there is a lot of enjoyment for the children to be had, the stages where music crazed parents will want to enjoy top-notch bands are difficult to take children to. In the case of the Big Top, impossible. The Big Top is an enclosed tent with two small exists, quite unlike the openness of Glastonbury’s John Peel or Camp Bestival’s Big Top, both of which are open sided, allowing parents to hover near edges to protect the ears of little ones while still enjoying the perfect sound of an epic set. We tried taking the kids inside the Big Top twice, it never worked out. However, encapsulating the dichotomy of the festival so perfectly, right outside the entrance of the Big Top was a mini-golf structure. So while the punk bands we badly wanted to see blew the roof off inside, we let our children whack balls and we sat near the tent entrance outside, our headbangs and approving parent nods indistinguishable from each other. What I’d say to families considering making EOTR your brood’s annual music event: everyone will have a great time. But you won’t see every act you want to, not without a childminder or a family collective that alternately watches each other’s kids. We’re bringing ours next year, but we’ll have to find a family member to pawn them off to for one day when our favorite acts are on, so we don’t get such bad music FOMO.

I loved End of the Road and am so pleased something so music-first is offered in an ever-increasing festival landscape of “experiences” that simply involve throwing glitter at strangers while listening to shitty DJs. We’ll be back to Larmer Tree Gardens next year. With extra gas canisters and a camping toilet.

Rating out of 11: