Review: Truck Festival 2012

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My expectations for this year’s 15th Truck Festival were fairly high, so I went along to see what all the fuss was about. I was certainly not to be disappointed. The festival had a brilliant, packed line-up (including Mystery Jets, Tim Minchin and The Temper Trap), was an ideal size, a fantastic location and newly designated organisers, Y Not Festivals, had maintained the lovely village fete feel of the event. Held on Hill Farm in Steventon, friendly locals (including those from Didcot Rotary Club) happily served cheese burgers, curries, ice-cream, sweets and doughnuts at great value, and the weather wasn’t bad either, with the sun shining throughout! What a fantastic way to start the summer; this is how music festivals should be.

The first band I saw on Friday were Fine Union in the Barn stage (usually home to a herd of cows!), who delivered a solid set and had in fact won a competition to play at Truck. I met up with bandmates Tom and Connor who said “We’ve only just got 200 likes on our Facebook page! It’s one of the best venues we’re ever played, it’s got a great atmosphere, really friendly”.

Unfortunately, Oxford band Fixers played the most disappointing and, shall I say, plastered, gig of the weekend, but one of my favourite bands of the festival, Little Comets, made up for this. The 3-piece drew a big crowd on the second stage and delivered an energetic and eclectic performance, opening with ‘Worry’, to the crowd’s delight. The band clearly enjoy playing, with the lead guitarist having an endearing grin on his face throughout the set. After catching them backstage kicking around a football (they have ‘one touch’ competitions!), I sat in their Mercedes Sprinter ‘tour bus’ with them to find out what they’d been up to, and more about the forthcoming release of their second album. Softly spoken Geordie lead singer Rob told me “We’ve been doing recording during the week and festivals at the weekends. I think the new album is probably more chilled out, we’re a bit older and know a bit more about life. It’s not as fast paced, and not as musically insecure.” Look out for them in Portsmouth on 28th October, I’ll be there for sure!

Headlining the Barn Stage were Future of the Left, who certainly had a fondness for Truck festival (I’ve definitely developed one!). “We played here two years ago, and even though it smells like a barn, it’s a very enjoyable show”.

Comedian Tim Minchin was another stand-out performer for Friday, with songs such as ‘Prejudice’, ‘Cheese’ and ‘Woody Allen Jesus’ being particularly memorable. As the next day was wildlife themed, I couldn’t help but ask him what his dressing up animal of preference would be. He answered, “I guess I’d be a beaver. Because it’s funny. I wanna be a dam beaver!”. Yep, he’s funny both on and off-stage!

Headlining the second stage were Guillemots, who although had a few technical issues with the bass guitar, played to a packed out and lively tent. Following this, headliners of the main stage, Mystery Jets nailed their slot, with songs such as ‘Young Love’,  ‘Two Doors Down’ and newer release ‘Someone Purer’, reminding me why I like this band so much; the lyrics are such that the crowd unfalteringly belted them back at the band in unison. Something about their live performance makes you feel euphoric (Although it could also have been too much of the local cider…).

Saturday saw more generous helpings of consistently impressive acts. Local band Yellow Fever, barely out of school, had a receptive and eagerly dancing crowd and are certainly one to watch in the coming year. They told me the support they had was “a bit overwhelming” and that their influences come from “Foals, Alt-J, The Smiths, Kool and the Gang, everything!”.

Dog Is Dead later on had me drawing similarities with The Maccabees, and were perfect for early evening, with a happily bopping audience for them to play to. Another clear crowd pleaser in the Barn, (not just to do with the fact they gave out free cans of cocktails), were My First Tooth, who were lively and an exciting band to watch.

Lucy Rose, whose album is due to be released in September had a great set; “I had a really good time!” she exclaimed.  She’s been rather busy lately “We played a gig in Latvia yesterday and a gig in Norway the day before. I’ve been sleeping in a lot of sitting-up positions and getting up at 4 in the morning the last 3 days in a row”. Animal costume? She’d be a bumblebee. “They’re really good those outfits.”

However, by far the best performance of the Saturday was by Frightened Rabbit, it was an impressive set. I caught up with drummer Grant who said “We’ve been looking forward to it for a while, I’ve only heard positive things about Truck, it’s really nice to play smaller festivals. Everyone tends to be friendlier and less aggressively drunk.”

Temper Trap brought the festival to an enlightening close, playing their best known single ‘Sweet Disposition’ to finish their off the set. Dougy Mandagi’s vocals were stunning, and I certainly left Truck feeling very positive about the smaller festival and local Oxford music scene. I’ll be back next year for sure!

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