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Festival Review Thankfully, no end in sight for this tongue-in-cheek misnomer

TOM STONE has a whale of a time at the provocatively named festival in southern Wiltshire

End Of The Road
Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire

PUNK-RAP duo Sleaford Mods drew the biggest crowd of the weekend with their Saturday night headline slot at End of the Road festival, Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire (September 2-5).

Their no-holds-barred, anti-Establishment rhetoric tore into the capitalist political system, with lines like: “This daylight robbery is now so f****g hateful/ It’s accepted by the vast majority” (Faces to Faces) and: “The trappings of luxury can't save you from the nail-biting boredom of repetitive brain injury/ The injury of your useless mind, stuck to the track” (TCR).

With the crowd very much on their side they proved, beyond doubt, that the spirit of protest is alive and well in British music.

But it wasn’t just the loudest disrupters — Sleaford Mods’ frontman Jason Williamson’s passionate, expletive-laced anger could be heard right across the site — that challenged and provoked in the Covid-restricted and therefore almost exclusively British line-up.

Hen Ogledd — their name taken from the Welsh term for The Old North — the region they hail from, called into question the status quo with their progressive folk on Saturday afternoon, encapsulated by their 2020 song Time Party: “Bomb the banks!/ Shrink the economy/ The economy is shrieking/ Leave your wallet / In your pocket.”

Elsewhere on the line-up, artists were perhaps less overtly political, but certainly cutting edge and helped to continue End of the Road’s reputation as the festival that books the finest-quality acts, digging beneath the mainstream to uncover the up-and-coming who exude the talent that is the very lifeblood of music.

The act who perhaps encapsulated this best was avant-garde heavy prog-punk rockers Squid. They drew what looked to be the biggest crowd of the weekend on the second, Garden Stage.

Their super-tight, focused, power-laden eight-minute epics, overlayed by singer/drummer Ollie Judge’s startlingly raw yet unique and thought-provoking vocals, created an all-consuming soundscape that carried the audience on an hour-long journey through the flickering imagery of a modern, sometimes scary but often beautiful world.

They could easily be a future festival headliner. Keep your eyes and ears out for this Brighton five-piece.

Other festival highlights, apart from wonderful weather, included Billy Nomates — her Hippy Elite poking fun at those who say they haven’t got time for environmentalism); Katy J Pearso — Friday’s main-stage opener going places with infectious pop-folk like Tonight and Take Back The Radio; Teleman, who recently added a superb new single Right as Rain to their already impressive back catalogue of perfect electro-pop; alt-country rockers Penelope Isles; classical-electro pioneer Anna Meredith; Blur’s Damon Albarn and reliably enjoyable festival stalwarts Hot Chip, to name but a few.

Add to all this an impressive after hours area “hidden” in on-site woodland, literature, spoken word, cinema and performance art installations, enjoyed by a wide demographic of young and old, in a spacious, uncrowded site — the 15,000 tickets sold out months in advance — and you can see why End of the Road, in its 15th year now, is rightly hailed as the best small music festival in Britain.

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