Those who’ve drifted to this page in search of comprehensive, band-by-band coverage of the eleventh annual Truck Festival, held at Hill Farm in Oxfordshire, would do well to click away and save themselves any disappointment. My first-ever Truck – I know, how have I not been before? – was one of glorious sunshine and plenty of cheap(er than usual) beer, and therefore more time was spent socialising on the grassy slopes, supping the sweetest nectar and letting sounds seep in an ambient manner rather than forcing myself to the front of packed tent stages for five minutes of one act before dashing to the next, notebook in hand.
A pleasant, pretty relaxing two days, then, in the company of some truly fine bands from across the spectrum of radars wholly commercial and distinctly underground, genre bases skipped like lily pads. Notes were made, of course, but you couldn’t call them complete. Looking over them, they’re the dots necessary to build an outline of the festival; colour to the edges of the sketch below by adding your own comments, and letting other readers know who your hits and misses of Truck 11 were.
A lift on Saturday with Okkervil River’s agent and a journalist from Mojo opens my eyes and ears to some of the more shady areas of industry gossip, but my lips are sealed (insert your own smiley here). Arriving on site a little later than anticipated I miss This Town Needs Guns set, which, according to some who caught the post-punk Oxford foursome, is their last-ever. It's not - one member is leaving - but attendee comments along the lines of “amazing” and “superb” would have made for an accurate, if rather too brief, eulogy. They’re followed by London oddballers Buttonhead, but I’m still trying to find the car park as they play a set of avant-pop and tonal drones.
This Town Needs Guns
Lovvers need little introduction to regular DiS readers – a firm supporter of the grungy punk four-piece for some time, I’m obviously drawn to their mid-afternoon set in the Barn (one of five stages at Truck). Frontman Shaun isn’t quite at his antagonistic best, but he still throws his all into a highly physical performance that features on MySpace now efforts ‘No Romantics’ and ‘Wasted Youth’. At their best they’re one of the finest, fieriest live bands currently on the circuit, and while all cylinders aren’t quite engaged for Truck they’re still a great start to my festival experience. Guitarist Henry grins throughout, spinning wildly down in the photo pit while his vocalist climbs the stacked PA. It’s good, clean, dangerous fun, and my heart is pounding in appreciation.
Jonquil are running late on the Market stage, but I creep in just long enough to hear the start of their sweet alt-folk set before scrambling through the packed-tight tent to catch Rolo Tomassi attracting epic chants of “Rolo! Rolo! Rolo!” over at the Barn; the room is absolutely rammed. The Sheffield five-piece blitz through a set almost completely comprised of tracks from their forthcoming Hysterics debut, lead screamer Eva taking time out from her barking to deliver the odd line of sweet and clean vocals. The place goes nuts for the one song from the band’s self-titled 2006 EP, a double-speed ‘Film Noir’, and the as-yet-unreleased ‘I Love Turbulence’ is already a crowd favourite alongside seven-inch single ‘Beat Rotter’. Crowd members snarl the opening line to the latter before the band on stage combusts, brilliantly.
Youthmovies take the stage while Rolo are removing their equipment, and the resulting improvised ‘tween-sets jam isn’t entirely successful, but ensures the Barn remains full during the traditional break (to get, among other things, some thoroughly good chips). The local heroes receive the sort of reception that should greet the return of local heroes – they’ve not played live for months – and there’re almost tears in my eyes at the sight of head-tossed-back admirers singing every word frontman Andrew Mears utters right back at him, whatever the tangle of metaphors at play. It feels like a heavy emotional moment, the crowd’s amazing appreciation fuelling the band’s energetic performance, and afterwards guitarist Al English tells me it’s shows like today’s that make any other shit a band at their level ensures absolutely worth it. He feels vindicated, he says. I feel electric for their whole performance, especially during a mouth-agape-excellent ‘Last Night Of The Proms’, and leave tingling. In this state I probably shouldn’t crack a beer open but, when in Rome…
On the main stage Emmy The Great charms all who’ve assembled to hear her sweet folk strummings – I know she’s always been bubbling just under the surface of the mainstream, but if the success of Laura Marling and Noah & The Whale is anything to go by she could well find herself making good on all the promise before long. Daedelus endures a beer spillage over his laptop – chucked from the crowd, not spilt by the LA electro artist himself – but ultimately comes up trumps in the Beat Hive tent; his mixing of cuts from his recent Love To Make Music To LP beside samples of well-known numbers, particularly a Nirvana catalogue classic set to blistering beats, warms the initially reserved crowd to his wares and, come the end of the set, cries for an encore are welcomed.
Emmy The Great
At the Market stage a big crowd has gathered for some acoustic Dodgy action – seriously – but I’m up for floating between attractions. In the Pavilion tent the evening’s comedy programme peaks with a set from Ian Boldsworth, aka Ray Peacock, sees the occasional actor – he’s been in Doctor Who, you know – play out a Star Wars Light Sabre battle with a stoned audience member (quite what he remembers the next morning I’m not sure I want to know) before a heckler at the rear of the tent is demolished across a 15-minute rant where Peacock lays into his shortcomings to painfully weak retorts of “Yeah, but you’re fat”. Yes, he is, because “eating pussy is fattening”. Everyone falls about themselves, and Peacock turns to a friendly face and says, “See, I told you that’d get a laugh”. It’s a tour-de-force of improvised comedy, and a great start to the evening proper’s entertainment. (But does mean I completely miss Noah And The Whale, by accident rather than design.)
These New Puritans promise “something different” as Barn headliners (well, before the night’s rave begins, the bill-within-a-bill topped by aging boilersuit types Altern-8), and the London-based foursome deliver numbers from their Beat Pyramid LP to warm applause. It goes over the heads of some younger audience members, but deep-locked Kraut grooves carry echo-soaked vocals, and the visual focal point of Jack Barnett in his fairytale body armour remains captivating throughout. They’re refreshingly original, and sweeten the slightly sour taste left by the band that precedes them, the lively but inspirationally-lacking Dead Kids.
These New Puritans
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Okkervil River’s slow start builds to a euphoric climax on the main stage. I might not completely ‘get’ the Austin-based country-rockers yet, but the audience’s reaction as they dip into their catalogue for cuts from The Stage Names and 2005’s Black Sheep Boy (a sing-along take on the title track) suggests whatever I’m missing to date may soon smack me about the face. Munch Munch aren’t their leap-around selves, quite, on the Market stage, but a small audience is nevertheless appreciative of their Animal Collective-goes-Monty Python efforts, which seem to peak around the bonkers-brilliant track ‘Endolphins’. I’m thinking of having their ‘Wedding’ as the first dance at mine. My wedding, that is. No, you can’t come.
Someone has proposed to Eva Tomassi. She shows off her newly acquired ring; it's not quite out of a cracker. “Are you drunk?” “A bit… want some?” She’s drinking some hideous-looking comedy vodka drink that only 18 year olds seem able to stomach. “No, thanks… Have fun.” Off she and assorted Tomassis roll. They look completely at home at Truck. The young crowd makes a hell of a noise – presumably many are local and this is the one place they can cut loose without their parents around. Still, despite the incessant and inane chatter from the hordes, Truck is a friendly, welcoming festival (even if I would have slept better without the wee-hours bleating). Halfway through my first this is totally apparent. And those chips are well nice. Anyway.
The Lemonheads are billed as performing on the main stage for a solid hour and a half, but when Evan Dando and company leave the stage for the final time around the 55-minute mark, after two encores, those that grew up loving the played-in-full It’s A Shame About Ray trudge away disappointed. Dando could have employed a so-so impersonator of himself up there, and the vocals would have been a billion times better – you can’t count the bum notes on the fingers of the assembled many, as there are simply too many. The truly hardcore sing along to ‘My Drug Buddy’ and an almost-set-salvaging ‘Bit Part’, but those that remember 1992 in full colour – i.e. they were old enough to have bought The Lemonheads’ most-celebrated album at the time – can’t hide their feelings. This could have been really special. But it was a sideshow attraction, car-crash entertainment amusing for all the wrong reasons. It’s a shame… about Evan.
Sunday comes too quickly – I’ve barely slept as the temperature dropped to what felt like minus a fucking lot overnight. I drifted off about six, and it’s now nine. I’m DJing in two hours. Breakfast is a cup of tea – one pound deposit for the mug – and a jam and peanut butter roll. And then… the Beat Hive.
Weirdly kids start dancing – like, properly dancing – around midday. I can only guess that they’re too young to drink and, unlike many folks strewn around on the grass outside the tent, they’ve no hangover to battle through. Mystery Jets, MGMT, Bloc Party, Black Kids – I keep things kid-friendly until Death From Above 1979’s ‘Romantic Rights’ which, for the first time ever, clears the floor. That and Snoop Dogg. Weird. On the plus side, I learn that Fuck Buttons’ ‘Bright Tomorrow’ sounds great rising up from the end of Radiohead’s ‘Idioteque’. Bonus.
Kyte grace the Barn with their epic shoegaze-tinged euphoria-rock, and an early-doors crowd laps up their waves of soothing sonics. The Leicester band are on a Sunday bill curated by Sonic Cathedral – yesterday local promoters Vacuous Pop controlled the Barn stage – and later in the day The Early Years prove, beyond any doubt, that they’re truly one of the best bands of their ilk in the country. Steady-building post-rock shades and tones are layered upon each other, vocals slight in the mix but everything adding to an ethereal whole underpinned by solid rhythms of Germanic precision and repetition. Explosive come their climaxes, these songs sound great in a confirmed space but could fill far larger venues with ease. Could happen, could happen. Especially if MBV hit the road again and want some suitable home-grown support.
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The Early Years
With the sun turning previously pale skin various degrees of red, Birmingham indie-pop trio Johnny Foreigner take to the main stage (shortly after I’ve made off with a couple of cold cans from their rider – I’ll pay you back, promise likes!). Their set’s cut short as everything is running over, but a beyond-enthusiastic crowd – check out the height they’re getting when they leap along! – are given a fair run-through of highlights from the band’s Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light LP. “This is a song we like so much we’ve put it on everything we’ve released,” says frontman Alexei Berrow of ‘The End And Everything After’, but it’s the now-regular double-header of ‘Hennings Favourite’ and forthcoming single ‘Salt, Peppa & Spinderella’ that gets my own senses buzzing, and a big dumb grin plastered all over my face. They leave to some heartfelt _woots, and cross my path all of… well, not very long after their set at all.
Warp-signed Australians Pivot get the Beat Hive bouncing to their Battles-y mostly-instrumental dance-rock, but on this showing aren’t totally convincing. In their defence they’re clearly not enjoying the best sound up there, monitors not balanced to their absolute liking, but at least album-previewing single ‘In The Blood’ sees a few nodding heads of recognition make their move in the now-boiling-hot tent. An Australian version of Scottish electro-indie-sorts Errors? Yeah, ish, only lacking in the cool specs department. Fighting With Wire bring the main stage to life with some stadium-suitable rock that owes much to Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro, while Ulrich Schnauss suits the Sonic Cathedral vibe perfectly.
With the need to leave for London again nagging away at the grey matter, I catch fleeting glimpses of a handful of other acts – Frank Turner, Maps, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – from a distance, and only call in for the long-haul at Let’s Wrestle, on the Pavilion stage. They’re not in the festival guide, so I’m half expecting to find some cabaret troupe by the same name or something when I see them listed on the on-site information boards. But it’s the London trio I find, belting out their recent Single of the Week ‘Let’s Wrestle’ alongside quirky sing-along numbers from their In Loving Memory Of… EP. My personal highlight? Always ‘…Man With Pica Syndrome’, although despite my love of the song I’m yet to take a bite of rust to see if it is, indeed, “alright”. The trust isn’t quite there yet. Alexei JoFo comes along, telling me last time he heard them he wasn’t particularly impressed. His opinion is changed over the course of a short, sharp and amusing-of-banter set, his only fear that the band’s drummer keeps looking over like he wants to kill him. He’s fine. Honest.
And then, as Sam Duckworth’s voice drifts over the hills, my borrowed tent is forced back into its case and I make for Didcot and a train home (annoyingly missing YACHT, who headlines the Beat Hive – genuinely peeved about that). I’m a lot happy, a little dirty, slightly groggy, and completely in love with Truck. And tired. So_, so tired. _Bravo.
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