We are often seduced by too many choices in life. Like, say a line-up full of excellent upcoming and already well-established bands playing across four stages at the same time at End of the Road Festival. Trying to catch them all can be the stuff of any festival goer’s worst nightmare. I sort of considered myself lucky then that most of the bands this year were slightly (some vastly) outside my musical comfort zone. Stewarding shifts took care of another few I would have liked to catch. However, and as usual, being part of the volunteer team was one of the things I enjoyed most this year. So instead of listing the many bands no doubt worth writing about I decided to focus on a couple that are still resonating with me now.
The Barr Brothers hail from Montreal and were one of my most cherished discoveries at last year’s EOTR. Their sound is hard to classify but incredibly addictive – on my musical map they are very close to Hem, whose sound I absolutely adore. The innovative quartet consists of Andrew and Brad Barr as well as Sarah Page and Andres Vial. The band’s ‘secret’ late night gig at the Tipi Tent was just as outstanding as in 2013 and made the Friday night for me.
Having never seen Gruff Rhys live before I had no idea what to expect. His set on the Garden Stage on Saturday night showcased his current album American Interior following his ancestral roots to the USA of Welsh explorer John Evans two centuries ago. Accompanied by a slide show and a John Evans puppet, he told the story of his distant relative in song which was at times humorous but also a reminder how accidental and fleeting life is. As it happens, up-and-coming US duo Lily and Madeleine, who opened the Garden Stage on Saturday afternoon, had a wonderfully atmospheric song on exactly this topic entitled ‘Hold Onto Now’.
Sunday was my favourite day and it started with a talk by JP Bean in the forest library about his book ‘Singing from the Room’ shining a light on the past and present of folk clubs around the UK. Having finished my stewarding shift by mid afternoon I wandered into the Tipi Tent again while most people were heading over to see Richard Thompson. It was the early evening and for once neither the sound guy nor the singer on stage, who happened to be Nashville resident Andrew Combs, made us get up from the floor when the music started. While Andrew and his band are certainly capable of getting a crowd dancing, it was fantastic to quietly enjoy the sound of well-crafted Americana songs with just the right country twang and three musicians on stage who harmonised perfectly. The current set-up with Andrew and Philadelphians Dom Billet and Jerry Bernhardt has definite live album potential and will strike a chord with any UK-based Americana fan. Here is a taster, ‘Pearl‘, which will be on Andrew’s forthcoming album.
Most of my volunteer shifts this year were running the info desk together with another lovely music-loving steward. True to the motto life is what you make it, we made our little stall a friendly hangout for anyone who cared to drop by including village stall holders and artists. As we also took care of lost and found (which included children!) we were able to make many people’s day by reuniting them with their precious belongings (iphones, handbags, wallets, cameras, silver rings, glasses – you name it, some decent people most likely handed it in to us). Those who were not so lucky got an encouraging smile and sometimes a can of beer (generously donated by a random festival goer, thanks). We also swopped a few cans, Burning Man style, for some of the yummy food and drink on offer and listened to The Stewards (duo Bob and Ed) doing their epic secret gig right beside our info hut.
Other memorable moments (in no particular order) were the impromptu songwriting workshop (one group produced a song with the brilliant chorus ‘Fly Ladybird fly, eat bread in the sky’), dancing with other volunteers in the silent disco alongside parents with sleeping toddlers hanging off them, the Austentatious theatre show (see pic above), watching the resident baby peacocks out on a stroll, the dance party outside the cider bus, the free books in the forest library and the couple who hugged us for reuniting them with both their lost phones. Life is a festival, especially, if you make it one!
Watch some more EOTR videos on the lifeisafestival youtube channel.
P.S. I rescued this little fella from the lost and found box and am fostering him for the time being. If his real family happens to read this, please get in touch so I can post him back to you (mind you he is currently greatly enjoying the London live music scene, so no rush).