It’s been 13 trucks since the Oxfordshire festival first opened it’s proverbial doors and over that time it’s risen to become the boutique festival that other boutique festivals aspire to immitate. It’s steadfastly independent and it still maintains it’s unique ethos despite increased capacity and line-ups that are slowly edging in to the mainstream. The local rotary club still makes the burgers, the main stage is still the back of a Truck, and the vast majority of it’s visitors are still there because they want to watch some awesome music in a field.
And so it’s only right that we kick the weekend off with Dave House – Kingston’s DIY folk-punk hero who commands the attention of a small but enthusiastic crowd from the Market Stage. He’s un-erringly likeable and despite occasionally clunky lyrics, his songs wrench spontaneous gang-vocal sing-alongs from the loyal front row.
Part of the magic of truck is finding bands you never new existed, and there’s a spark of that feeling as we wander in to The Barn to find Thomas Tantrum midway through a set of sometimes brilliantly catchy, sometimes infuriating indie-pop. Their tunes are spikey and charismatic, but they can’t quite hold the crowd’s attention, and the back of the barn thins out pretty quickly as we wander out in to glorious sunshine.
Over at the Village Pub Stage, Good Shoes have filled the tent to bursting point so we mostly have to listen through canvas, but their blend of angular guitars and infectiously danceable rhythms have got the assembled crowd wrapped around their finger. Comparisons to The Futureheads are well founded, but similarities are clearly forgotten in the flurry of limbs and yelps of enthusiasm from the front.
Bored of staring at the back of heads belonging to people who are clearly enjoying themselves much more than us, it’s back in to the barn for a brief blast from Tellison. They’re showing off cuts from their new record, allegedly finished the previous week, and initial signs are incredibly promising. ‘Edith Wharton’ stands out from the pack of new tunes before they head into a handful from their exceptional first album. They’re a highlight of the weekend, but it’s cut short by a date with some local boys who have managed to squeeze even more bodies into The Village Pub.
This is something of a homecoming show for This Town Needs Guns, having been away touring the world for the best part of the last year, and the people of Oxford know it. The foursome turns out an impeccable set of tunes mostly taken from Last year’s sophomore LP of sorts ‘Animals’. ‘26 is dancier than 4’ nearly brings the tent down, but we’re left craving older material.
Sheffield’s 65daysofstatic were born to play The Barn at Truck, and their set of near industrial beats and synths just wouldn’t work out in the blazing heat. The queue to get in stretches the width of the field, but proves a worthy investment of time when we’re inside and things finally kick off to chants of ’65, 65’ from the capacity crowd. ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ Inspires intrepid early crowd surfers, and the synth heavy contributions from this year’s ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’ go down perfectly in what would feel like a warehouse party, were it not for the faint smell of cow shit.
Wearied by tedious folker’s Stornoway and Bellowhead who are entertaining an audience comprised mostly of families on the Truck Stage, we retire to the campsite to recover in time for the days headliners.
Critics would say that Mew aren’t a headline band. They certainly deserve to be, as tonight’s closing set proves, but their pull isn’t in the same ballpark as last years Truck stage headliners Ash and Supergrass. Consequently they struggle to keep the crowd at full strength and some wander off to see if Ms Dynamite is really playing in The Barn. They’re missing out though, as the Danes roll out an exceptional set that tops off an impeccable day.
Highlights mostly come from Fourth album ‘And The Glass Handed Kites’, but breakthrough single ‘Am I Wry? No’ from 2003’s ‘Frengers’, is head and shoulders above the rest. They’re completely entrancing, with an almost ethereal performance that is Epic in the fullest sense of the word, whilst never straying into the bombast of the likes of Muse. ‘Introducing Palace Players’ and ‘Repeaterbeater’ from last years ‘No More Stories…’ LP are proof if proof were needed that they haven’t waned with time.
Sunday arrives in haze of memories of the brilliant Dub Step DJs in the Village Pub, and empty wallets as evidence that even independent festivals aren’t crime free. Spirits un-dampened, we’re upright in time for Nottingham’s Fists who take to The Village Pub stage sporting boy-girl vocals reminiscent of Blood Red Shoes (who’ll pack out the Truck stage later in the day), but with an eclectic approach that’s missing elsewhere.
Also from Nottingham, Dog Is Dead are a rare beast in that every member of the band can, and does, sing perfectly. Often it feels like you’re watching a ramshackle choir that have picked up various instruments and formed a band. They’re entrancing, and quite frankly, Brilliant.
Guitar and Laptop wielding Nedry are one of only a handful of bands in the usually affluent Beat Hive that catch our eye in the Truck program this year, so we make the trek across the Market Field to catch their set of Clicks, beeps and Ayu’s otherworldly vocals. The Tent’s packed, but it’s totally worth it with tunes off their debut LP ‘Condors’ taking pride of place.
We’re back in The Barn just in time for Pulled Apart By Horses who are tearing the place apart. The four-some are commanding an unfair amount of accolades this summer, but it’s not that they don’t deserve them. Their performance is frantic and athletic with front man Tom Hudson determined to embed himself in the front row. ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’ and ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’ have the audience baying for blood, and they get it in gallons.
It’s a strange time for Future Of The Left, who follow PABH on to The Barn stage. It’s clear that something’s been lost along with Bassist Kelson Mathias, and Steve Hodson (Kong/Oceansize) can’t quite replace it. Though the banter is still hilarious, the chemistry isn’t quite right yet. Pulling surprise Mclusky tunes out of the bag along side the best slices of FOTL’s two albums is just what the doctor ordered though, and the audience love every minute of it.
We top off our weekend with Blood Red Shoes, who easily fill the stage despite their understated band dynamic. They’re here pushing new album ‘Fire Like This’, and though the tunes are solid, there’s nothing new for us here. Thankfully the singles from 2008’s ‘Box Of Secrets’ still stand up as impeccable slabs of brutal boy-girl guitar pop, and are they save their set from falling in to anti-climax.
TRUCK is one of the UK’s best and longest standing independent small festivals, a village fete meets Woodstock with a cutting edge musical policy sharp as your suit, free of any sponsorship or corporate agenda. You can find out more about truck here