Sat at the end of a week that sees most of the country drenched by rainstorms, End Of The Road is an apt title for a festival that marks the closing of the summer months. Thankfully, said rain sees fit to hold off for the Hampshire festival’s tenth birthday – a priceless present for a festival unlike any other.
It’s cerebral in the extreme, a sea of chin-stroking ale drinkers replacing the chaos that defines festival season for many, though there’s still space for the odd unhinged moment. Fuzz provide a screeching start at the Garden stage on Friday evening - Ought, too, incite a crowdsurfer early that afternoon as they debut material from their new album ‘Sun Coming Down’ - but it’s not a patch on the chaos of Mac DeMarco’s Sunday evening appearance. Countless t-shirts bearing the scrawled likeness of the Canadian mischief-maker pepper the festival site all weekend, so it’s little surprise to see half the crowd aloft mere moments into the man himself taking to the stage. He even returns to the stage post-set to serenade the site with a singsong of ‘happy birthday’, before showering the crowd in cake. Mischief, managed.
Hinds, too, inject some fun into proceedings in spite of their traffic woes almost causing them to miss their slot entirely. “Hello, we are Rihanna,” cackles Carlotta Cosials as they take to the stage, “and we are here to shine bright!” Bathed in the weekend’s only summer sun, the Madrid four-piece subsequently take the opportunity to showcase some new cuts from upcoming debut album ‘Leave Me Alone’ in their perfect setting, all smiles and scratchy guitar-work. Alvvays are another sunny-day hit, ‘Marry Me, Archie’ proving itself as a left-of-centre festival hit as its infectious singalong spreads throughout the crowd.
East India Youth’s late night slot under the glow-in-the-dark canopy of the Big Top stage proves deadly, with cuts from this year’s ‘Culture Of Volume’ LP taking on an immeasurably darker tint under the watchful eye of Doyle himself, as he thrashes around the stage with an unhinged look in his eye. By contrast, Tame Impala’s proceeding headline slot seems, well, tame – while newer cuts like ready-made opener ‘Let It Happen’ and the outstretched-arms euphoria of ‘Eventually’ manage to cut through, it’s a feat not quite achieved by some of their more meandering earlier psych-rock material.
The weekend is crowned by its Saturday night headliner, though, as Sufjan Stevens takes to the Woods stage to close out proceedings with an impossibly considered set of both newer cuts from this year’s ‘Carrie & Lowell’ and revamped older material. The ability to re-work older cuts such as ‘Chicago’ into natural bedfellows with the more open-heart, acoustic material of ‘Carrie & Lowell’ is Stevens’ masterstroke, but as he maintains an almost claustrophobic intimacy with every member of the enormous main stage crowd, such over-thinking of the technicalities behind his artistry does a disservice to Stevens otherworldy talent. It may have taken eight years for End Of The Road to convince Stevens to offer up a rare appearance, but as the stunned crowd stands in complete silence for nearing two hours, it’s proof that their persistence has been well-rewarded.
Photos: Jonathan Dadds
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