If you could get anywhere near the tent then Fontaines D.C. were pretty good inside it at End Of The Road

Glastonbury has the 'Legends Slot', EOTR has 'Big Top Sunday'

It’s been a beautiful day, sun shining; spending it inside a stiflingly humid festival tent is one of those quirks of human nature that doesn’t really make sense. This slot on the final day of End of the Road is beginning to carry a little weight, though. Written in the Big Top’s starry ceiling: this is the rare Festival experience you have to treat with the urgency of any other date on an artist’s tour. Walking around the site, you can see cans of Campbell’s Soup flanking the band’s logo on every other t-shirt on display; a barely advertised album signing at the Rough Trade tent earlier draws more of a crowd than many smaller stages that weekend; don’t turn up half an hour early and you won’t get in.

Last year was the same: when IDLES played at this time in 2018 on the week of releasing Joy as an Act of Resistance, glasses would steam up by just walking within a ten metre radius of the Big Top. It was the performance that turned this twilight set into an inverted commas headline act. It carries through a year later; regardless of what the rest of the evening has lined up, the time has come to realise that we’re in the final hours of the weekend. Reality’s onset is imminent, the real world is coming soon and it’s a bit more shit than this.

Fontaines D.C. feels like the only band right now that could fill last year’s expectations. Forget that their debut album Dogrel has been out for almost half a year now, and that the quintet has seemingly played it live every night since its release. Forget too that sitting down in the evening sun with a picnic blanket and a few drinks to watch indie titans Deerhunter is even an option barely a minute away. There’s a tension on site that seems to dissipate only at the opening guitar lines curling around ‘Chequeless Reckless’, with everyone excreting the same anger and sentimentality.

‘Sha Sha Sha’ follows, playing into an easy call and response of punching fists without hint of lethargy. The colloquial snarl of ‘Too Real’ hits everyone: the Festival’s crowd-surfing postal service, the four-year old boy on his Dad’s shoulders flinging a straw hat across his shoulder. The penultimate tune comes too soon, but with none of the lassitude you’d expect from a band surely exhausted from a relentless album cycle. It’s a blistering new one called ‘Televised Mind’ that plays like a shaming of those too readily drawn into a commercialised, propagandised existence, as the infamous “they” want you to live it: “dopey line for the televised mind/ wash your collar.”

There’s no feeling short-changed that they end fifteen minutes early with ‘Big’ and head off to watch their compatriots in The Murder Capital play the Tipi at capacity. The succinct, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nature of Fontaines D.C. is how these songs were built to be played. The only words being muttered as the crowd pours out into the open air is that this was a definite highlight of the weekend.

Photography: Sharon Lopez

Fontaines D.C., Big Top @ End of the Road, Sunday 1 September 2019