For those of us who have done many festivals it's a simple statistical certainty that we will experience some wet ones. And this was one of those. Initial morning (Friday) was dry for arrival and setting up so a small blessing but the persistent rainfall Friday evening and night meant the festival site, an Oxfordshire farm, turned into a muddy swamp which remained for the whole weekend. It would have taken a heatwave of Saharan proportions to have dried it out.
Fortunately the Truck site is not massive so even though moving around was rather slow, suitable footwear and a bit of planning meant activities were not curtailed. And.... guess what, we had an absolute ball.
The site was changed round a bit this year but the stage names remained pretty much as previous years. Main stage 'Truck Stage' sits in the main field at the bottom of which is the Market Stage, a sizeable tent. Other smaller stages, also tents, were The Nest which featured acts curated by So Young and Alcopop, and the Veterans & Virgins Stage, showcasing a mix of old and new. The Palm City tent was this year devoted mainly to DJs; likewise the Cattle Shed played host to DJs and a few heavy bands. The Saloon Bar was the haven for anyone with a penchant for Country.
Once again, excellent, very affordable catering provided by local Rotary/WI/Church organisations. Gives this festival a local, homely feel.
DAY 1 - Friday
British Sea Power - Market Stage
Having spent the afternoon setting up, BSP was our first set. An absolute must-see for me. It was raining so it felt like there were a lot of people inside the Market Stage tent out of curiosity (and to stay dry) and from the level of chatter I'm not sure they were necessarily converted. But for the many BSP faithful this was a good festival set featuring a selection of songs from their recent release 'Let The Dancers Inherit The Party', some old favourites 'Remember Me', 'Carrion ' plus a rarity, albeit a live favourite, Scottish Wildlife'. It doesn't matter how often I see this band. They always lift your heart.
Slaves - Truck Stage
Drew a large crowd with an enthusiastic hard-core. Caught them somewhat fleetingly while we crossed in front of the stage towards the bar. In the driving rain it felt a little bit like we were being shouted at.
Slate Hearts - Virgins & Veterans Stage
Local Oxfordshire band. Grungy guitars with sweeping vocals from the lead singer on bass. Lively band but I couldn't take my eyes off the drummer who had a marvellous fluid/languid style. Pulled Apart By Horses and Nirvana mash-up.
Frank Ferdinand - Truck Stage
If you had to define the phrase 'indie-pop sustainability' the words Frank Ferdinand would surely spring to mind. Countless good songs and a performance to match.
Low Island - Virgins & Veterans Stage
Trio. Synth, Synth, Synth. A good set of electro pop tunes. Vocal reminiscent of Spandau Ballet
DAY 2 -Saturday
Palm Honey - Nest
Funny how driving rain makes under-the-radar guitar bands suddenly very popular. The swollen crowd in the tent meant we missed half the set, but they finished with their customary elongated track featuring wildly thrashing guitars. Excellent band.
Dead Pretties - Nest
One of two finds over the weekend. Lead, bass and drum 3-piece. Second song was entitled ‘Confidence’ – they certainly had a lot of that, but with musical artistry to match. 3rd and 4th songs had quieter intros to well constructed songs taking the crowd to mosh-pit land. Angst ridden lyrics about how people should be kinder to one another. Rockin’ tune ‘Take It easy’ was preceded with a guitar pedal change which allowed us to enjoy an impromptu drum solo from the highly capable sticks-man. A small downside to the set was the over-zealous security that saw 3-4 security staff blocking the view at the front barrier in their mis-placed desire to oversee the mosh-pit. Not required in my view – even in the midst of frantic moshing, people are actually very kind to another.
Sundara Karma - Truck Stage
Very capable live band. Potential to take the baton from The Maccabees as darlings of the indie scene ? Time will tell. Humility is a wonderful quality in up and coming bands. When we saw SK recently in front of a more sparse crowd at BBK festival they expressed genuine gratitude to the crowd for turning out to watch them. Today a nod to the crowd assembled in a muddy field was pointedly lacking
Yak - Nest
Arguably the best set of the weekend. Certainly the most raucous. Guitar-playing crowd-surfing. Brilliant strobes.
The Rhythm Method - Market Stage
Described in the programme as putting a pop slant on popular commercial tunes this sounded interesting. It was disappointing. I made a withdrawal.
Hip Hop karaoke
Sounds like it shouldn't work but with many highly competent audience participants it made for an enjoyable and alternative half hour.
Wombats - Truck Stage
Really good set of tunes. Indie classics.
Libertines - Truck Stage
The highlight set of the weekend. Made all the more enjoyable as all nine in our party managed to get together. Once again Pete and Carl on extremely good form. Their on-stage chemistry truly makes them the John & Paul of this era. Played a never-ending stream of classics across their three albums.
Saturday evening rounded off with a quick sortie to the silent disco followed by a visit to the Saloon Bar where, at the 2.00 a.m. curfew we joined the crowd who en-masse refused to leave and joined together in a drunken rendition of Wonderwall.
DAY 3 - Sunday
Husky Loops - Nest
Went to see this band on a recommendation and glad I did. Probably the most striking couple of songs I heard all weekend, laced with screechy guitar which put me in mind of Steve Howe (Yes) in their weird heyday
Banfi - Truck Stage
Three piece. Melodic tunes vocal reminiscent of Jonas Bjerre (Mew) in places. But in reality this was non-threatening indie pop.
Dreaming Spires - Truck Stage
Even less threatening.
Girl Ray - Market Stage
Best stage intro of the weekend from lead singer Poppy Hankin “I don’t do much small talk, but it’s pretty fuckin’ muddy”. Tranquil, thoughtful songs. In yer face this isn’t. Some numbers showed hints of getting rocky but in all honesty this was a rather pedestrian set
Cabbage - Truck Stage
Very cross with myself for missing this band, purely on a scheduling error so only caught the last two songs. The crowd assembled in front of the main Truck Stage seemed to be enjoying it. Deservedly so
Tigercub – Nest
Very much in yer face. Guitars verging on heavy-metal in places. Drumming time-signatures deliciously at odds with the noisy vocal. Made for a highly interesting and entertaining listen.
Maximo Park - Truck Stage
Paul Smith is one of the true showman of our indie era. But blends his arty style with an almost mathematical account as he introduces each song. A good selection early on of excellent tunes from their 2017 album 'Risk To Exist' accompanied by unforgettable songs across all their back catalogue.
Vaccines - Truck Stage
Another great front-man performance, this time from Justin Young. The Vaccines have more hits than you think which they mixed with some very good new songs - catchy lyrics and synth hooks aplenty. A band on form and confident enough to play their marquee tunes early in the set: Wrecking Bar, Wetsuit, Post Break-up Sex. New tune 'Rolling Stone' a straightforward guitar tune was a stand-out.
This final set of the weekend climaxed with the farewell Truck firework display. A trudge through the mud back to the tent, not at breakneck speed