Festivus for the rest of us

I have survived my first camping festival! I returneth with the minimal damage of sunburn, minor bruises and a cold. Thank you, thank you, applause is not necessary. In retrospect, my apprehension seems entirely misplaced. Most of it was camping based; I worried about borrowing F’s tent and ruining it, and not being able to pitch it. These were all unfounded fears. The minute I unpacked the tent, I remembered all those camping trips with my parents and got it set up in no time at all. I admit, some of my apprehension was also based around not knowing everyone in our camping group. While my social anxiety is a lot a better than it used to be, I do still sometimes get overwhelmed by having to deal with new people. And considering how ready I’ve always been to go home at the end of all the one day festivals I’ve ever attended, I guess I can’t really be blamed for having doubts about this experience.

But that’s all in the past. Everything has changed. I cannot recommend the End of the Road festival highly enough. It is just brilliant. Brilliant. In fact, I think it has spoiled me for all other festivals and I’ll now just always live in disappointment until I can come back. Which will hopefully be next year. (Yes, I’ll fly all the way back from Australia, what of it. Don’t act like you don’t know I’m crazy.)

Everything about this festival is a delight. The facilities are kept in remarkably good nick across the weekend, the party goes till the wee hours, the food is great, drinks are reasonably priced and everyone, workers and fellow attendees, is just so nice. There is a really lovely, chilled, laid-back atmosphere and it’s just perfect for relaxing and enjoying some great music. It’s also not one of those massive, sprawling festivals so moving between stages is pretty stress-free and you can catch multiple sets pretty easily. You also don’t have to worry if you get separated from your group because sooner or later you will bump into someone again, guaranteed, so wandering off is actually wonderfully appealing and not at all terrifying.

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Main stage action on the first day

We were camped quite close to the main entrance which was really handy for popping back to get warmer clothes and/or beverages. It was also prime location for hearing whoever was on the main Woods stage without actually having to do any work. My camping group, as it turned out, were all awesome and perfect camping buddies. We were 10 in all – two of them are good friends that I work with, two others I’m on relatively good terms with, while the rest were all acquaintances of the former that I’d never met before. We all had our factions that we mostly hung out with but we’d meet up to laze around in front of the main stage or to party in the forest disco in the evening. It worked out brilliantly, with everyone being quite independent and just focused on having a good time.

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The only complaint I had the entire weekend was that I was a leeeeetle bit chilly. Especially on Saturday night when the temperature just plummeted for no good reason. Next time I would definitely take my own thermal sleeping bag (sadly stuck in Oz) as well as a blanket. And an actual pillow. My idea of stuffing a pillowcase full of clothes only works if it’s one night…four is a bit of a stretch. I’d also take my backpack (again, sadly stuck in Oz) since this seems to be the done thing. It is a bit baffling to see people carrying packs the same size as the one I took around Europe for three months – you’re only gone for a weekend! What are you packing? I’m being petty, of course. Our camp crew included a trio of girls who’d driven down and had brought all manner of useful gear with them, including a gas stove that one of them kindly used to prepare breakfast for us all. So, really, I can see how you may need a big backpack. Oh! And there were a lot of wasps. An insane amount of wasps. It was like a wasp convention. So next time I’d definitely bring bug repellent. Or some sort of machine that pumps out wasp dispersing gas. Yes. That would be good.

Anyway. I digress.

Overall, the weekend consisted of a lot of dancing, drinking and early morning, bleary eyed wanders around a deserted festival ground. Some of my non-musical highlights include being told to “just walk into the sun!” as directions to find our camping spot when I first arrived; #doublebear; the hangover inducing cider bus; the Great One Direction Debate in the Tipi Tent; the double rainbow after the only bit of rain we had and witnessing a lovely chat about geology between two of my camping buddies. The forest disco was also a particular highlight – yes it’s a dance party in the forest. Getting waylaid by strangers is a high probability. The hands-down winner of the food battle was the Paellaria, home to the best paella possibly ever. And my favourite stage was actually the main stage, The Woods, just because it was so nice to lie in the sun in the early afternoon and get in the mood for excellent bands and shenanigans.

Forest disco is go

Forest disco is go

I saw so many great bands that it’s really stressful to choose a favourite set. But still, here’s my top 10. I would review them properly but I’m too tired. Maybe later. I’ve linked them all up so you can check them out if you haven’t heard of them.

  1. Frightened Rabbit
  2. Sigur Ros
  3. Daughter
  4. Merchandise
  5. Evening Hymns
  6. PINS
  7. Parquet Courts
  8. Palma Violets
  9. Savages
  10. Belle & Sebastian
PINS kicking ass.

PINS kicking ass.

I feel like this festival was all about the female singers/musicians. So much talent, it’s almost painful. And, y’know, there’s something really great about being able to get up in the morning and see a bunch of bands. It’s so much less stressful than going to a day festival because you don’t have to worry about getting home. Also, because EOTR is so compact, you never really feel worried about times. I mean on Sunday we had a pretty full on day of running around trying to see conflicting sets, but the clashes weren’t really major – 15 minutes at either end at the most – and you didn’t feel like you were missing out.

It really was just a wonderful weekend hanging out with great people and enjoying awesome music. It could not have been any better. It took ages to get back to London on Monday, post waiting for the shuttle bus back to Salisbury station and undignified train nap, but it was with relief that I finally collapsed on the couch at 4pm, dreadfully tired and sore. I had a brilliant time that I hope I’ll always remember, but I was ready to be home. Or, rather, to be warm. It’s just that simple wisdom of getting out before you stop enjoying something – the timing all worked out perfectly.

I really hope I can do it again next year.ย It’s more fun than I can adequately express.

And the sunsets are amaaaaazing.

And the sunsets were amaaaaazing.

Four days wide awake

I’ve just finished packing for my first ever camping festival at End of the Road. Slight trepidation, I admit. Not sure I will return sane and/or in one piece. I don’t feel remotely prepared for it. They’re just not really a big thing in Australia, not the way they are here anyway, and I don’t really know what I’m doing. Mostly people have universally been insisting that I will need hand sanitizer and gloves. I swear, if I am cold at any point, I will cry. I hate being cold. Well, I say I’ll cry, I’ll probably just steal hoodies off my camping buddies. Bet I’ll be super popular by the end of the weekend!

I should be ok though…right? I mean I’ve been camping before, albeit not at a festival. And I am horrendously broke. And ok, things aren’t off to the best start with it being 12.30am and me needing to be at work in less than 8 hours, not to mention that I spent most of today feeling like death warmed up. But! It’ll be ok! Positive thinking. My lovely, wonderful flatmate, king of the flatmates that he is, has lent me his new tent so I will at least not be constructing a home from some plastic bags and castaway boxes. Small mercies. Since it is a new tent, I will spend most of the weekend paranoid about anyone even looking at it funny. But hey, it’s not Reading. I doubt I need to worry about anyone setting it on fire while I sleep (sorry but that festival sounds so feral.)

Anywhoodle, I’ve done the important things like charge my old ipod so I’ll have travel music at least. I’ve also purchased the necessary train and bus tickets. And I’ve consulted the timetable to make sure there are no major clashes – there aren’t. My three must-sees are Daughter, Frightened Rabbit and Sigur Ros. Woo, Sigur Ros! I think I have enough clothes as well, whether they’re warm enough is a different question. My bag is too small and it is mostly filled with food. Priorities, I have them. With that sorted, my main concern now is just locating my aforementioned camping buddies when I arrive – hopefully everyone’s phone batteries will survive the first day at least.

I’m taking off after work tomorrow and will return in a questionable state on Monday. Wish me luck! Or avenge my demise! Whichever is more appropriate.

Music: Hell – Tegan and Sara