Pop: End of the Road festival, Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

In name, location and lineup, The End of the Road presented itself as the gentlest of climaxes to the festival season, full of alt.country, folk and bucolic bands. But just like the pianos, fairy lights and peacocks that appeared as if by magic around the Larmer Tree Gardens, spark and colour were everywhere. The little touches made this tiny festival glorious: children mounted on shoulders and waving branches at a vibrant British Sea Power; a triumphant Robyn Hitchcock drafting in his sisters on backing vocals; a majestic Bon Iver commanding his audience to join in. Calexico even passed their hot pints of cider through the crowd. The community spirit was palpable, and the sunshine thanked us for it.

Soft touches shimmered around this festival's corners. Canadian sextet the Acorn impressed with their lush folk rock, while the Wave Pictures captured hearts with their sweet English indie. But rock'n'roll's wild heart pumped, too. Billy Childish thrilled the Big Top with his raucous ragged garage, while Bob Log III twisted the memory of Vegas-era Elvis. His spangly pantsuit and feral yowls were not unusual; the way his vocals crackled through a telephone attached to a crash helmet certainly was.

Elsewhere, bands strived to do something special. Cardiff trio Threatmantics were one of the best examples, filling the Tipi tent with a folky clatter that recalled the Fall. The big names picked up the game, too. Tindersticks brought strings and brass with them, while Mercury Rev were celestial Saturday night headliners. Highlights included their astounding, chorus-free cover of Talking Heads' Once in a Lifetime and their 2001 Top 20 hit, The Dark Is Rising, accompanied by a beautiful light show. Sounding like a heavenly epic from a Walt Disney soundtrack, this song summed up the festival perfectly, widening our eyes with wonder as the night drew in.


Jude Rogers

The GuardianTramp

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