There’s no two ways about it, this year’s End of the Road line up is yet again the best on the UK festival circuit. Top to bottom, the EOTR booking team know what they’re doing when it comes to selecting the most exciting artists from the independent scene.
If, like us, you’re heading down to Salisbury in two weeks, then chances are you’re a bit of a music nerd. What goes along with being a massive nerd? Needless, premature over-planning. Again, like us, you’ve almost definitely already started agonising over who you’re going to see.
When EOTR announced their line up timings earlier this month, it struck us yet again just how unbelievably fucking strong and dense the bill is. It also struck us how many brutal clashes there are. Almost everyone clashes with someone great. It may be a very nice problem to have but, in cases where you have two of your favourite bands on at the same time, it doesn’t make it any easier.
So, for once in our lives we’ve been (sort of) decisive. Clashes aside, we’ve settled on our preliminary plan. Picking out our three favourite must-see acts per day (aside from the headliners), we’ve navigated the worst of the clashes to give you our top recommendations for each day of the festival. We hope it helps.
Everyone will be at Yo La Tengo on Thursday night, but on just before them are the brilliantly fun Shopping. Cantankerous art punk that will take you straight back to the 80s (not that we were even born then), we can’t think of a better way to start proceedings on the Woods Stage.
One of the year’s breakout acts, Stella Donnelly is an Australian folk force to be reckoned with. Her six-song EP Thrust Metal (re-released this year on Secretly Canadian) is an exemplary collection of lo-fi bedroom folk songs, all of which are distinguished by Donnelly’s powerfully ranging vocals and no-bullshit lyrics.
Lucy Dacus’ sophomore album Historian, released earlier this year on Matador, remains one of our standout records of the year. Tender, bold and at times powerfully rousing, Historian signalled the driving progression of one of rock’s most exciting new voices.
This is the first monster clash of the weekend. The Orielles vs Big Thief vs Fat White Family. Three bands we love and can hardly bare to miss. Whilst you could go and see Fat White Family before running over to catch the start of The Orielles’ set, the other combinations unfortunately guarantee some missed music. You can do no wrong here, but if you’re going to see just one of them, make it The Orielles. Their Halifax brand of drifty disco-punk-rock is immeasurably charming and, in Silver Dollar Moment, makes for one of our records of the year.
Big Top, 20:30-21:30
Another one of our absolute must-sees for the weekend and proud owner of another thrilling debut release in a brilliant year for Heavenly Records, Boy Azooga blew us all away with June’s 1, 2, Kung Fu!. The fact that they clash with Insecure Men is frustrating, but for some of the strongest riff-heavy fun of 2018, Boy Azooga are not one to miss.
One thing EOTR does brilliantly year by year is offer a range of eclectic artists from all over the world. Representing Syria is one of the undisputed legends of Middle Eastern music, Omar Souleyman. Starting off as a wedding singer in his home country, the Syrian has around 700 albums (that is not a typo) to his name. The folk-pop singer’s beats are thumping and wildly hypnotic. This is a straight clash with Flat Worms, but if you’ve never seen Omar Souleyman before, you have to be there.
Shame & Mulatu Astatke
What can be said this year about Shame that hasn’t already been said? Dropping their debut Songs of Praise at the very start of this year, it still remains one of the very best albums of 2018. As ever, their set will provide a heavy dose of unapologetic fun. One tip though if you are planning to head their way, Ethiopian pop-jazz legend Mulatu Astatke starts just 15 minutes before their set ends, so you need to be jogging over to the Garden stage pronto.
Shame: Woods, 17:30-18:30
Mulatu Astatke: Garden, 18:15-19:15
Picture the scene. It’s Sunday morning. You feel like shite. It’s probably raining. What’s the antidote for this bleak situation? Anna Burch at the Tipi Stage. February’s Quit the Curse was a lyrically sharp, rich and all round lovely debut album. Take cover from the depressingly unavoidable Sunday rain, ease yourself back into boozing and bring yourself back to life with 45 minutes of breezy tunes.
Julia Holter & Iceage
Going from Julia Holter to Iceage is a little like going from drinking a glass of fine wine to necking a pint of stout (albeit very good stout), but that’s exactly what we’ll be doing on Sunday night at EOTR. Julia Holter’s Have You In My Wilderness is up there with our favourite records of the past 5 years. Having seen her on her 2016 tour, you can expect a gorgeously stirring set from one of the most talented vocalists/singer-songwriters on the bill. Once Julia Holter finishes, head over to Big Top and get lairy at Iceage. Beyondless (2018) had a lot to live up to after the quality of previous releases including 2014’s excellent Ploughing Into the Field of Love, but they continued to live up to expectations with another punk masterpiece.
Julia Holter: Garden, 18:00-19:00
Iceage: Big Top, 18:45-19:45
This is a clash straight from the depths of hell itself. Put simply, we don’t have a fucking clue who to see. Snail Mail (read our interview with her here) headlines the Tipi stage and has undoubtedly been one of our favourite artists of 2018. Her full length debut Lush was an example of lovesick indie rock at its purest, catchiest and addictive best.
Of course, pretty much exactly the same can be said about Idles within the punk world. Arguably the most refreshingly honest, open and genuinely loveable bands to come out of the UK in recent years, their debut album was a snarling, brutal assault on bigotry and backwardness in Britain. Based on initial single releases, their upcoming follow up Joy As an Act of Resistance looks set to go a step beyond.
You literally can’t go wrong with this one. The best advice we can give here is to go and see whoever takes your fancy on the night. You’ll undoubtedly enjoy the set before meeting up with mates who tell you how good the other one was. Then you’ll feel angsty about your decision for the rest of the week. Isn’t that what festivals are all about?
Snail Mail: Tipi, 21:00-22:00
Idles: Big Top, 20:30-21:30