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Truck Festival Is Once Again A Favourite

These days there a lot of contenders in the festival mix and we're all pretty lucky with the choice we have. One that always stands out is the ethical and super friendly Truck Festival and this year was certainly another triumph...
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6 - Truck - The Cribs023 The Cribs[/caption]

Since ATP announced the end of their UK holiday camp festivals my favourite festival spot has been wide open. I’m still p*ssed off at ATP for the gap they have left in my life, but the folks over at Truck Festival sure help to ease my aching heart. Set in Hill Farm (which is actually a working farm the 362 days a year it’s not a festival site, evidenced by the slight manure aromas lingering in the air) in Steventon, Oxford, Truck Festival is truly a celebration of music and it’s fans, that is lacking in pretense and rich with enjoyment.

The emphasis here is on a good time for all rather than a good profit for its organisers.  With weekend tickets priced at just £74 as well as the ability to take your own food and drink (yes, even alcohol) right in to the arena to enjoy whilst watching the bands. This means you are less a captive audience with no choice but to get royally ripped off and are instead a relaxed audience with no choice but to do what you bloody well want.

It’s no surprise that this greatly adds to the atmosphere; less moaning, less queuing at the bar missing bands and less being-too-skint-to-eat. It’s not just being a cheapskate that makes me love Truck Festival though, the line up is always exciting too.  With bands to discover, acts you’d forgotten, firm favourites and unfortunately, the obligatory ticket-selling Radio 1 friendly  rubbish *coughWhiteLiescough*.

The strength of the line up was witnessed immediately on Friday with the first band we watched; The St Pierre Snake Invasion. Listening to the band’s discography before the festival made me excited to see them live, their sound sits somewhere between McLusky and The Bronx but with even more aggression (if you can imagine that).

With intimidating, noise-rock almost post-hardcore guitars, crashing drums and painfully sharp lyrics, they are everything I like my music to be; loud, opinionated and rousing. Somehow they managed to take it to another level live, they were certainly at home on the much-loved Barn Stage amongst the smell of cattle, where they opened up our weekend with energy aplomb and a mind-blowingly intoxicating performance. I think I’ve found my new favourite band, but I have to say it was slightly annoying that the first performance was likely to be the best performance of the weekend... where do you go from there?!

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1 - Truck - Snake Invasion (5) The St. Pierre Snake Invasion[/caption]

The factual answer to that is to the Truck Stage to watch some hazy-grungey-pop from Big Deal and then back to enjoy the comforting smells of the Barn, which was sound-tracked by Australia’s DZ Deathrays this time. Aside from the obvious bands (The Cribs, Gang Of Four, Blood Red Shoes), this was the band I was looking forward to the most.

I’d listened to them a lot (a lot) in the run up to the festival and decided that they sound a lot like some great bands – Death From Above 1979, Pulled Apart By Horses, Blood Red Shoes, Violent Soho etc. I continuously had (still have) a couple of their songs on rotation on my internal-soundtrack; ‘Gina Works at Hearts’ and ‘Cops Capacity’ in particular.

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DZ Deathrays DZ Deathrays[/caption]

Taking on the Barn Stage they almost had the full works; energy, style and excitement but they were lacking something important that led to a disappointing set... good sound. I’m pretty sure I saw guitarist Shane Parsons whack his guitar amp up just before they started which is great theatrics, but what’s the point in great energy and performance if no one can hear the damn songs?

It wasn’t terrible, it was just really disappointing knowing that behind the incoherent wall of noise was a decent band we couldn’t hear. It’s usually best to trust the sound guy for sure, but I'm still listening a lot and would love to catch them again and hope for better sound next time.

After the DZ Deathray disappointment, I turned to Blood Red Shoes to pick things back up again. Unfortunately a bit of a technical delay meant we could only catch part of their set but what we did see of the performance was as slick as ever.  I’ve seen BRS live countless times and always enjoy them and this was no different, albeit brief.

Drummer Steven Ansell had previously been up on stage as a drum-stop for DZ Deathrays which had clearly put him in the spirit, and him and Laura-Mary gave a passionate, energetic performance and it was great to see them own the Barn Stage. And boy do they have some dedicated fans!

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Blood Red Shoes Blood Red Shoes[/caption]

The Cribs were a great way to round up a fun-time Friday. They’re not my favourite band by any stretch but they sure are fun to drunkenly dance in the dark with your friends to. They could teach a class on being cool, performing well and writing a good, catchy indie-pop anthem. I think the set I saw them play at Latitude a few years ago was better, but this one was sure as hell entertaining and I don’t think I’ll forget the fun I had watching them.

Just as we thought it was all over, we stopped by The Veterans and Virgins Stage to see Oxford’s own Poledo and what a surprise they were. The judgemental side of me (hey, we all have one) saw a bunch of young kids on one of the smaller stages there and assumed it would average at best. Wrong! The sound coming from the stage sounded a bit like Built to Spill jamming with Dinosaur JR/Sebadoh. They weren’t quite there creatively – the bass needs a bit more imagination, but for a band still in their infancy they were really impressive and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on them.

Saturday’s proceedings were kicked off by Radstewart who had road-tripped to Oxford from Cardiff. The consensus here was that they sounded just a little bit too much like Pavement, the front man even moved just like Stephen Malkmus and his floppy boppy ways, but also that a young band choosing Pavement to imitate is way better than most young band’s choices! That’s made it sound like they weren’t enjoyable but they really were, they gave a great performance that I’d watch again and are again another band to keep an eye on.

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Radstewart Radstewart[/caption]

The rest of the afternoon was spent darting between the Truck Stage and Barn Stage we caught a great performance by the super cool Superfood, the not so cool Dodgy (don’t ask, my friends were keen...) and  a spontaneous stop to see Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly’s Sam Duckworth gave a meaningful and earnest performance in The Barn, which was worth the last minute trip across the field even if we only managed a few songs before shooting off elsewhere.

You can forget headliners and crap-music-fan favourites White Lies (I’m a terrible journalist and didn’t really watch them), Saturday’s main event was definitely Gang Of Four. Yeah yeah, there’s only one original member and <insert pointless bleating about them being more of a tribute act here>, but firstly, it works for Mark E. Smith with The Fall and secondly, they put on a bloody good show damnit.

Honestly, I was so surprised by how good they were, I don’t much care that Andy Gill was the only original member on stage. New(ish) front man John Sterry put on an exciting performance (and daaaaaaayum did you see him in that suit?), and the new bass player was on point – in fact the band as a whole were lively, slick and I had so, so much fun watching them. Especially John Sterry. Sorry-not-sorry.

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11 - Truck - Gang Of Four012 Gang Of Four[/caption]

The weekend’s music ended on what would later seem to be a bad decision; choosing Roots Manuva over Andrew WK. That’s not to say that Roots Manuva was bad particularly but certainly not great at time keeping. For what seemed to be no real reason, some guy was conducting a very meticulous, slow un-festival like sound check 30 minutes after Roots Manuva should have started.

The lateness, teamed with a boiling hot tent and security allowing my plus one (hey hubby) to watch from the side of the side but not my disabled friend in a wheel chair (when asked where he could watch from, we were rudely told the platform-less back of the tent. Great, thanks), meant we could only stomach a couple of songs. I have to say, once the show started, the atmosphere in the tent was incredible and Roots Manuva sure put on a good performance, but I found the waiting around and rude security pretty intolerable.

Unfortunately we left it just a bit too late to catch Mr Party himself, Andrew WK, in action (which my friends annoyingly raved about. I really hate missing out) and opted to see a few songs of White Lies’ set. We promptly left and went to the awesome Silent Disco instead – wise move, enough said. Sorry White Lies.

All in all, despite a few slight disappointments which are inevitable at any music event, Truck was as awesome as ever. There new and improved recipe - which included a paint fight, food and drink festival, fair ride and a carnival - meant there was a lot to enjoy and we’ve all come away with some exciting new bands to watch out for.  There were some memorable performances from some previous favourites, as well as myself and my friends having one of the best weekends we’ve experienced for quite some time. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no one’s performance topped The St. Pierre Snake Invasion’s set and I doubt anything will for a while. Thanks to Matt and Oli at Count Often for being awesome. All pictures (c) Sara Davey Photography -
full set can be viewed here - click!