No two festivals are the same. Which is lucky since we would be stringing our genitals up by the linings of our straw hats if they were. Truck Festival, however, seems to hold a beautiful sense of naivety about it, pretty impressive considering its 11 year jog since its first outing in 1998. What seems to set it apart is its strong sense of community spirit. Throughout the weekend many of the acts expressed their respect and admiration towards Truck organisers, Robin and Joe Bennett. And with ice cream supplied by the vicar and food from the snowy members of the local rotary club, you can’t help feeling you’re a part of it.
Following an early morning sprint from the more fresh faced end of the car queue, I managed to make it to the heavily odoured cowshed for Oxford’s pop darlings, Alphabet Backwards. Headed by the eccentric James Hitchman with his merry entourage, from appearances you may be excused for thinking you’re in for another melancholy strangling of your sanity with tales of first loves and heartbreaks. Thankfully not. Alphabet Backwards’s brand of energetic lo-fi poptro found the entire cowshed transfixed as we were taken into the rather alternative musings of Hitchman’s brain box. ‘Disco Classic’ was a particular favourite with its synth heavy, building intro. ’80’s Pop Video’ was one of the most involving tracks of the entire festival with the crowd taking over, to ad lib a bizarrely synchronised clapping solo, halfway through. Looking around found many a laughing face or tapping foot whilst the 5-piece bounced around the stage. In the words of Alphabet Backwards themselves, “pop’s not a dirty word”. Thank god for that.
After aimless wandering, I found myself back in the cowshed for the highly anticipated, Youthmovies. It’s hard to argue that they don’t know what they’re doing but amidst the thrashing guitars, flashing lights and smoke machines, it’s also hard to see much else beyond that. The proclamation that we were watching the best band in the world found me wondering whether the farm fumes had projected me to a mediocre parallel planet. If you’re into turned backs and guitar noise you’ll get on well with it but I couldn’t help feeling it was a bit like watching other people eating food when you’re hungry. Strong cheekboned lead singer, Andrew Mears, who was once involved with ‘math rock’ tyrants, Foals, is clearly a talented soul, confirmed after I later heard him deliver a rather intricate poetry reading possibly to an audience that didn’t understand. But there certainly wasn’t enough water around Youthmovies to go floating any boats. Or trucks for that matter.
These New Puritans, with skinny-framed Jack Barnett emerging in a shimmering gold roman-esque shirt, which seemed rather fitting considering the thumping drums which at times, sounded like a call to arms. As Barnett delivered his rap-esque vocals I couldn’t help think this is what Linkin Park would sound like if they were from the UK and just a bit more cool. Don’t let that put you off though. In fact don’t even use it as a comparison. ‘Numbers’ played on our human desire for repetition, perfectly wrapped up in a stupidly named parcel of electronic nu gaze. Whatever you call it though, I dare you not to be stirred at least a little.
Truck isn’t exactly spacious but preceding Noah and the Whale, it was chlaustrophobic madness. Crowd control had to make a forceful announcement that if people didn’t move, they were out. Fun fun fun indeed. After a 25 minute wait they finally arrived. Following the onslaught of skinny kids with 80’s haircuts, the cutesy summer strawberry pop was hideously refreshing. Exactly what you’d want to listen to before taking off all your clothes and dancing in long grass with a childhood friend. Naturally, ‘5 years time’ was a favourite, sending limbs all over the place although it’s a good idea to not write them off as some kind of one hit wonder hippy outfit. A lot more lies beyond the band than just a youth celebratory summer anthem. Frontman, Charlie Fink, holds faint similarities to the early Johnny Cash with his collected swagger, well groomed hair and waistcoat/tie combination. This mixed with the love heavy vibe and modern mish mash of jazz and folk rock made me wonder why I’d want to be anywhere else.
I was starkly unimpressed by all the bands named as headline acts. Lemonheads were uninspiring and I would of been equally entertained had someone just stuck a CD player containing their album, centrestage and pressed play. After seeing ‘It’s a Shame about Ray’, I had to go and flog a dead horse for a while. Camera Obscura delivered gentle sugary pop melodies to a laxidasically sprawled audience. Coming across as completely inoffensive in the good sense. But it was within the smaller acts that the most exciting, raw and breaking performances came.
Pivot delivered the most lip biting, mind blowing set of the weekend. Not an attack you’d usually experience at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. Seemingly gentle chaps turned into thrashing electronic noise warriors, pulling at the very bottom of the hairs in my neck before tearing them out. Comparisons could be made to a heavier Metronomy or a more broken Soulwax but it would be a weak attempt at pigeonholing something than shouldn’t be. Richard Pike tribally howled his way through a few sections whilst brother and drummer Laurence pounded at the quaking drum kit with such force that I thought a heart attack was only a matter of time. Definite highlight. Their album ‘O Soundtrack My Heart’ comes out August 20th although it’s hard to portray the passion and power that they play at, through a disc or music file.
Young hearts, Orphan Boy, a 3-piece from Manchester were one of the most exciting and promising of the weekend, only stumbled upon whilst I tried to find the person who had my plastic cup of warm cider, which rapidly paled into insignificance. There were few bands at Truck you could claim had any relationship with progressive post punk, but Orphan Boy more than made up for the lack of it. Thrashing their guitars into their vigorous yet half polished anthemic delights, they had the controlled arrogance of musical greats, creating a sound similar to The Fall if you stuck them in a pan and mixed them with a pinch of Arctic Monkeys. I couldn’t help feeling they weren’t getting the reaction they deserved but the few that were there shared my appreciation.
It was then time to put away my dog eared notebook and effeminate pen and get involved in a good ol’ game of wallet fishing before jumping in a skip, picking up paralytic drum and bass kids and then passing out in someone elses shirt. Holy truck. Ouch.
- Truck Festival 2011: Saturday Review
- Review: Truck Festival 2011
- Festival Preview: Truck
- Festival Review: Truck 2010
- Wood Festival 2011: a special preview interview with founder Robin Bennett