Last weekend, End of the Road festival was a smooth departure from the monotony of the real world into a wonderland of musical experiences. It was a celebration of the guitar, as most of the line-up we saw armed themselves with the well-loved instrument. Yet, some of the stand-out acts wielded outsider instruments like Arooj Aftab’s harpist and Avalanche Kaito’s Burkinabe flute and small under-the-armpit drum. Every act gave it their all, celebrating the last of the Summer. And it was one last hurrah for some ending their tours at End of the Road.
On the scenic Garden stage Arooj Aftab’s resounding and beautiful singing transported us to the lush rolling hills of Pakistan. Her performance was simply blissful. Delicate melodies stood in contrast with her comedic down to earth stage chat, such as the taut jest, “We are going to play some more sad songs for you now because you are emotionally mature, not burying your feelings in techno and MDMA”. The roses Arooj Aftab had intended to distribute at the end of the performance were mistakenly sent to the wrong stage, but her presence alone felt like a gift.
Amongst the weirder music we saw was Oren Ambarchi’s untethered sculptural synth sounds, which stood out on the Boat stage as a starkly experimental moment. It was a freak-pleasing set up. Shrouded in trees, the well-hidden stage felt like a personal discovery and so did this artist. Another act for the crazy people in the crowd was Horse Lords who provide a proudly alternative lyric-less journey through hedonistic riffs and driving drums. Avalanche Kaito hypnotised us too with their surprising combination of noise post-punk and traditional Burkinabe instruments. The crowd swelled to their beat and enthusiastically joined in with call and response under the hot sun.
In the corner of rap, we enjoyed They Hate Change and Flohio who hyped up the crowd with their bars laced with infectious energy, as they bounced around the stage. Heads bobbed and bodies moved to the rhythm. We also rated electronica from our favourites PVA and awe-inspiring newcomer yunè pinku who added their own flavours to the multidimensional festival. Guitar-slingers included but certainly weren’t limited to Blue Bendy, Mary in the Junkyard, Katy Kirby, Tapir! and Caroline. They pleased us with singer-songwriter blues, indie rock and post-punk that warmed our souls like the wonderful weather that graced the festival. Yeule glitched on stage with guitar in hand too. End of the Road beautifully catered to left-field tastes in diverse musical categories.
As for the headliner performances, it was Wet Leg’s surprise set that really blew us away. “The reason we started this band was to play this festival” admitted the lead singer, Rhian Teasdale, to the crowd whose band was formed at the festival back in 2019. Some called it a homecoming for the group. It was certainly a special moment. We also were rocked by Greentea Peng whose catchy lyricism and deeply cool energy took the mainstage by storm. All in all End of the Road was a moment to behold that shook our souls and the Devon countryside. Alternative, full of opportunities for discovery and age-inclusive this is the festival to bring everyone along to.