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End of The Road 2022 offers the absurd, the psychedelic, and the promising on its opening day

02 September 2022, 12:00

Unlike the nine weeks it had in 2021, End of The Road 2022 has enjoyed a full twelve months of planning. Embracing artists from different sides of the globe, Thursday bins any pretence and launches with inclusion and variety.

As the eventide of the festival season, End of The Road has long been going against the grain. Combining spaces for wellness, family-orientated fun, and DJ sets into the early-hours, it remains one of the most dynamic festivals on the calendar.

Whether a veteran or first timer, the setting of Larmer Tree Gardens is a lite-wonderland that knows how to be maximised. Originally designed as a ground of ‘public enlightenment and entertainment’, and later crowned as an area of outstanding beauty, its 11-acre gardens are scattered with ornate buildings, lakes, and wildlife, to provide a uniquely charming backdrop. Walkways bordered by ancient oak trees lead the way into the woods, green ponds lead up to the Garden Stage, and seasoned hippies embrace feather-clad outfits like the peacocks that surround the stomping ground.

Photo by Parri Thomas

There have been some changes this year too - the Disco Ship has been revamped and renamed to ‘The Boat’, a fully-fledged live stage open until the early hours, and the literature programming has moved to the Talking Heads Stage for early morning author talks before comedy takeovers in the afternoon. Though there’s a sense of familiarity as the Big Top, Tipi, Woods, and Garden stages remain built into the landscape of the site. Strong offerings of music, art, literature, comedy, and film, across seven different stages, can be found within yards of each other too, a welcome relief for the first full return to festival season since 2019.

Curating a line-up true to its roots, founder Simon Taffe has always seen the festival as an echo of this record collection, booking key artists that translate to record as well live performance (for the most part). It’s a process that has extended this year with the inaugural End of The Road Vinyl Compilation being available on a limited, festival-exclusive edition basis at the on-site Rough Trade store and merch tent. Between the Music, Volume One is “a compilation based on all the tracks that I play in between bands on all the different stages,” Simon explains. “It’s not necessarily bands that play End of The Road, it's more like my whole record collection;” whether that be the tracks played before Mac Demarco’s set in 2017, Ethiopian keyboardists, or newer artists like Josephine Foster.

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Joe and the Shitboys by Burak Cingi

Dropping all pretence, Joe & The Shitboys are the first glimpse of this alternative plane of reality. They spend an equal amount of time abusing the audience as they do shouting about “people who piss me off”, which soon, quite apparently, becomes much of the same. “Get the f*ck down asshole,” shouts the titular Joe as they plead with the crowd to get down on the floor a mere twenty minutes into their set. Gripping the crowd with their tongue-in-cheek participation, he later announces that “You guys deserve a banger, a classic” before bursting into an unintelligible screeching version of “Wonderwall”. It goes down a storm.

Without last year’s constraints from the immediate effect of touring within Brexit and Covid, discovery is extended to the sunset performances from international artists. LA-based Sudan Archives works every angle of the Woods Stage as she brings a combination of hip-hop, West African fiddle music, and classical instrumentation. Aided by her bassist, her violin is the equivalent of a vital organ for her performance, though it would be remiss to ignore the bigger statements she makes. “I’m not average” chants the crowd back to her while she encourages a singalong to "NBPQ (Topless)".

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Sudan Archives by Burak Cingi

Eventually, headliners Khruangbin arrive with the audience in the palm of their hands. It’s the first time they’ve ever played the festival, but with a feature-length set, they slide through the majority of their discography with a few surprises too. The band serve a medley of covers at the midpoint, grooving between old-school hip-hop from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Kelis and MF Doom to George Michael’s "Careless Whisper" and Dick Dales "Misirlou".

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Khruangbin by Rachel Juárez-Carr

Largely instrumental, it’s the perfect sundowner that toes the line between being sultry and spacey for a captive audience waiting for the other stages to offer something heavier in days to come. If the good nature of tonight's performance isn’t enough to sway audiences back to the Tipi for Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, then the likes of Black Midi, Skullcrusher, or Dehd will leave punters energised.

End of the Road Festival continues today with headline sets from Fleet Foxes, Black Midi and Battles

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