“Are you ready for some more Saturday night party songs?”

This question was posed to us by Mr Mogwai (of Mogwai fame) at their headliner slot on the night in question. End of the Road festival was immense, it literally did have it all. I was mildly dubious as the only other residential festival I’ve done is Glastonbury, so one could imagine it might be a little overshadowed. But it had the music, the food, the Woodland Library, PEACHICKS FOR FUCK’S SAKE (what kind of a festival even has the average peacock? The only disappointment here was the lack pf plumage display), PieMinister, a tea-bus, hot cider, quiet camping, showers, genuinely decent toilets (I’ve read comments that these were actually cleaner than a toilet owned by a festival-goer), space to pitch yo’ tent, a near-complete lack of idiots and, a very new experience, a sense of kinship with festival staff.

This is because we WERE festival staff. A completely new aspect of a festival was shown to us, we were mixing with the security guards, festival directors and everything. More on the shift later, but we did get designated camping, a stewards tent with tea urns and snacks, a free ticket for doing it, and showers. More on that later too. Would thoroughly recommend working a festival if you can!

So. I’m going to mainly review the bands and the food I think, with mild comments on the setting at the same time. I believe my cynical views on the bands are the most interesting thing I churn out and I don’t think people want to know about how we “found ourselves” or some hippy bollocks. We didn’t. It was just lots of fun. When we got there on the Thursday, things were still setting up, which confused us as they’d be in full swing by now if we were at Glastonbury. We were genuinely waiting for the Cider Bus to open. There were Rough Trade, vintage and book stalls to explore first, then PieMinister for supper. This Heidi pie was a nine out of ten for me. Tasty noms.

Choons started on Friday with Best Coast – although initially this was one of the bands I actually picked out to go and see (when you’re at a musical event with Benchlad, it’s a rare thing I make a suggestion he hasn’t already), I wasn’t quite as impressed as I’d hoped. The setting was perfect – a field in the middle of nowhere with some pretty epic sun, but the wind didn’t help the sound and the difference in songs from the album was even more stark when live. A shame, but still enjoyable.

Tune Yards – completely different from what I was expecting, and she is ridiculously eccentric. Some pretty good looping occurring, not quite Owen Pallett but still a very good stab at it, and I liked the way she built her band up as they were needed. The whole thing did sound like one song though, as opposed to individuals, and it didn’t capture me quite as much as the rest of the audience I don’t think.

Bo Ningen – couldn’t quite catch all the set due to seeing Ms Yards on the Garden Stage (definitely my favourite stage), but my god! So loud and so weird. Strangely very enjoyable. They all kind of look like witches with their ridiculous hair and dress sense, and given how tiny they are, their stamina is immense. They said, about ten minutes before their slot was due to end, that they were about to play their last song – twenty minutes later their set ended in a blaze of feedback, hair and stage-related antics, although no instrument was harmed. Which is nice isn’t it. It was pretty intense.

At this point we stopped for supper – this time I opted for the falafel, which would usually be a good staple. But didn’t quite cut it this time, although I feel if I’d gone for the platter instead of the pitta it might have been better. Not to worry, one must live and learn.

HEALTH were straight after Bo (our poor ears!), so back into the Big Top tent we went to be blasted away by the loudest set of the festival. I enjoyed them much more this time than when we saw them in Leeds (to be fair, that was my first exposure to them), and they played some excellent new stuff, but must the front man be so nonchalant to his audience? There is a good side to this, it means they just walk off at the end of their set and don’t piss around like Bo Ningen (and Gogol Bordello) would, but they are paying your way you tool. Good set though.

At this stage we went to have as much sleep as we could as we needed energy for later. It’s odd trying to sleep when you can hear Lykki Li just over the field. We were up for the last part of the Beirut set, then geared ourselves up for staying up all night to guard Gate B. This was our one stewarding shift – if you do all night here, you don’t have to do anything else. And you might as well as you’re not going to miss anything and if you can hack it it’s the best choice of slot. Gate B was the entrance to “production” so we had the directors, crew, backstage crew and band members going through, although no one particularly famous as they are probably sensible not to be up til 5am. We were able to go and get some tea at about 4am, and played 20 Questions, read ‘Cider with Rosie’ together, played Word Association and ate copious amounts of flapjack and sweets for energy. It was a very strange experience but nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. By the time the sun was up I was so tired I kept dancing around as I’d gone beyond normality.

Anyway, we finished about 8am then slept for as long as we could. Up at 12.30, then breakfast at Anni’s Shack, which I would give probably a six out of ten. Friday’s breakfast was an eight, from somewhere called The Story. We attempted our first ever festival shower after this too, which was bloody freezing. I did feel better afterwards though, but wished the sun was more out than it was. The festival was ours now too, after having done our work! Bob Log was viewed first, a strange but entertaining chap, then Phosphorescent, which was far more inert than the reactive name might suggest. We stayed on the Garden Stage (you could find Peachicks hanging around this stage, it was epic) to see the Unthanks who are very good at this harmony business. They had a string quartet I do believe, which seems to be a popular choice for this season, and then in contrast we went to see the last bit of the Wooden Shjips set. I wish I’d been able to see more of this now, as it was rather good, but schedules dictated otherwise. Supper was then taken – fish and chips – which, given the cold evening and the hunger was possibly an eight out of ten. This might be more like a seven, but either way it was very much enjoyed at the time.

The last band of the evening for us was Mogwai. This genuinely wasn’t loud enough for me. I was expecting to be blasted away by it, like I was at Invada Invasion, but possibly they were thinking of the wildlife surrounding the area. Either way, it wasn’t loud enough. But we did get San Pedro, and the crowd were loving it. It seemed like the whole festival crowd were there, but as it’s a small festival, no sardining occurred at all at any stage for any performance. This was a beautiful thing – the crowd usually ruin a performance for me, but the lack of being squished helped in the other fashion. Mogwai were good but not as good as the HEALTH/Bo Ningen back-to-back combination.

Sunday. We started off with breakfast from the same place as Friday, although this time I’d give it a solid seven out of ten. That didn’t matter though, as our first culture-related appointment of the day was with Mr Roy Wilkinson, journalist, author and previous BSP manager. Also, bird-watcher and older brother of Yan and Hamilton of said band. Reading from his new book ‘Do It For Your Mum’, there was also a Q&A session, some flute, some damson liquor and a book signing. All in the Woodland Library, which was a great setting given the nature of BSP. After, we had a general wander-round, catching snippets of bands, but the next big thing was Tinariwen, on the Woods stage. The audience seemed to respond very well to these chaps, and they were pretty enjoyable, although I suspect I enjoyed them more as background music to the situation. Not that that always matters.

Pieces of The Leisure Society and Kurt Vile and the Violators were caught after that, and then, my quiet highlight of the festival, Josh T Pearson. I was expecting, after listening to his music, to be bored stiff, quite simply because songs seem to flow rather easily into each one and, judging on his lyrics, he’s not the happiest of beings. But he’s hilarious! It seemed much more like a proper show, despite it just being him and a guitar, as he talked to us an awful lot and told a huge amount of hilarious jokes. It started raining but I don’t think I actually complained once, apart from when I was particularly chilly. That is how much I enjoyed it. Quite a miracle.

I think supper came after this, in the form of a French tartiflette white wine, potato mush – which was immense – and then onto to a smidge of Midlake which, from what we heard, were very good – and a lot more upbeat live – and then probably the biggest festival highlight – Brakes. They were outSTANDING, so much fun and I think, even though they only had a 75 minute slot, they played about 30 songs. It was just one giant party really, and I now have a new-found appreciation for them. Much better than having to watch Joanna Newsom warble on like a child in the freezing cold, singing about stuff I couldn’t give a toss about. We were going to catch the secret Brakes set after Midnight but couldn’t quite hack it – we were all festivaled-out by that point. A shame, but it couldn’t be as good as the earlier set. Could it?

Immense festival, would love to go back.


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