End of the Road 2021 review – phones firmly in pockets at life-affirming festival

This year’s summer seems to have passed with only a glimpse of sun and celebration. As Covid squeezed the usual British festival season into only a few months, each large-scale gathering that has made it through the red tape and constant risk feels like an unexpected gift. Winding your way through the verdant Wiltshire hills into the homely camping site for independent stalwart End of the Road, it especially feels like you have stumbled on an unearthed treasure.

Celebrating its (delayed) 15th anniversary, the charmingly sedate and spacious weekender boasts a typically diverse lineup. Taking to the main stage on a sunny Friday afternoon is 15-piece west African percussion ensemble Balimaya Project. Bandleader Yahael Camara Onono guides his group of kora players and atumpan drummers into a polyrhythmic frenzy of Mandé folk compositions, challenging the rapt audience to try and keep up with their virtuosic sense of groove.

In the cavernous Big Top tent, Hyperdub signee Loraine James then transmutes this polyrhythm into an electronic syntax of tooth-rattling bass, scratches and, at one point, a rigorous deconstruction of the Spice Girls’ Wannabe. It’s a winning combination, breaking down snare-less beats almost to the point of abstract absurdity.

Read the review in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 06/09/21]