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Live Review: Truck Festival

Draped in a midday heat, revellers descended to Oxford’s own Truck Festival in Steventon on Friday. A festival renowned locally for its community and atmosphere, as well as nationally for being a prominent force in the UK’s smaller festival scene, Truck changed hands recently to those who run 2000 Trees, a change reflected in the music and the infrastructure featured.

First to see were Infinity-Land-Era-Biffy-Clyro…-esque three piece, Arcane Roots. Hitting The Barn with math influences, big choruses and impressive musicianship, the band put on a tight, focused and tense show. [4/5]

Heavy bluesers Wet Nuns were next, featuring one of the stranger set-pieces I’d ever seen – a single head on the middle of the stage, nicknamed ‘Mary’. Sludgy, heavy riffs accompany thundering drum with little to no care to virtuosity, instead caring more for the grooves and feel of the music than looking like good musicians. [4/5]

The last band of the barn, for me personally, were The Computers. An absurd blend of influences, imagine if Hassle Records had released Johnny B Goode, and you’re half way there. Bravely donning stunning suits for the occasion and playing with the tenacious conviction of a church band gone awry, a strutting front man pumped the crowd full of energy with his charisma, leaving the show to be spoken of all weekend long.

An unfortunate visit to the Truck Stage left some feeling disappointed, as one-hit-wonders Ash showed off a set of blankness, apathy and tedium. Like a slow taxi ride home, the band played no name tracks while the crowd lost their patience waiting for the big hitters. By the time that Burn Baby Burn hit, the crowd was fatigued and bemused by the performance.

Stick around, however, and bear witness to a stellar, emotional, euphoric show by fabled alt rockers Spiritualized. Playing in the gaze of a projector to set the stage, the band gave fans and non fans a fantastic journey through their discography, the morose, the joyous, and the deep. Lullabies juxtaposed by strobe lights and walls of noise, this set was awe inspiring. Perfect performance, perfect showmanship, perfect end to a great first day of festivalling.

Of course, Truck is not a festival solely focused on music. Comfortably residing alongside the stellar lineup of musicians are actors, live show performance, and a rich atmosphere of camaraderie, that rivals a lot of the time I’ve spent at larger festivals and gigs in the past. The linear map to the main stage from the campsite ensured that it was never easy to just go and see a band. There were distractions everywhere – a real priority assessment was required more often than not. Do I want to see Subways? I kind of want to go to a hoedown. Are Ash really that good? ‘Cause there’s a miming conga line over there… always something to do. To see. (Even to eat. ‘Festival Sushi’ is something I grimaced to see)

Sunday

So then to sunday. Candice Gordon set us off, gypsy stylings with Rock and Roll focus, Gordon’s writing and performances were amiable, yet the early morning crowd (or lack thereof) left a slightly underwhelming experience than was maybe possible. Maybe better to stick on a CD. [3/5] On walking back from Candice Gordon, I had stopped to sit with friends and overheard what seemed to be a brilliant set by The Bots, with aggression and precision, which I now really wish I could have seen properly.

Scandinavian rockers The Hives were the big wow of last years Reading for my friend group. Going in almost blind they were all turned on to the powerhouse band of loud rock music – could Royal Republic do the same? Oh yes. Did they? Oh, yes. I do not particularly rate Royal Republic on record much anymore for my own reasons, it seems cheesy and over the top. Yet, live, those are the features that make this band. Enthusiasm and cheekiness lead fun and cheeky songs, singalongs and solos. The beating down heat couldn’t keep these rockers from their swaggering Swedish cool.

To preface that nights headline performance by The Horrors, I felt the need to visit their close friends, Toy. At the Market stage, long hair and complex shoe gazing were king. Dazzling the afternoon set, Toy proved a fitting mid day treat for me and a great way to get excited for the set to come. [4/5]

Ireland’s finest Post Rockers And So I Watch You From Afar performed on the Truck Stage to a crowd of mass anticipation. Personally I didn’t really understand how an instrumental band can make headway at a festival. Festivals are for singing, throwing your hands up and dancing to the songs – how can you do that with no vocals? Well, I still don’t know. But take incredible technical prowess, complex songwriting and a never stopping devotion to working the crowd and you’re half way there. A band of few (if any) words, were talked about constantly for the rest of the day. [5/5]  

The sun was setting slightly and tiredness was setting in. No room for that though, I had to go see 3 bands in a row, with no time whatsoever in between them. The Subways were the first of that 3, proving a fitting start with infectious pop rock grooves and intense on stage dancing courtesy of the bassist. Hit after hit, chorus after chorus, this was a special performance as I went in blind. [4/5] 

Ohoho, but now the weekend was really coming to a close. A fever pitch of anticipation, at least for anyone moving toward the barn. It was time for a personal nirvana of a live show – Rolo Tomassi were going to take the stage. And they did – oh they owned the stage. Crushing their way through Howl, Echopraxia et al, the Sheffield experimentalists shook the whole stage to its bones. Led by the ever vicious and erratic Spence siblings, the heaviness at this set was bested only by its complexity. Sublime hardcore, and ever, horrendously underrated.

After that, what could possibly come next? Well, I guess I could go and see one of the UK’s brightest shining new stars, The Horrors. Shoegazing bliss, groovy jams and everything I’ve come to expect of the alt rockers. Having followed them since Strange House, I feel that The Horrors have truly worked their way to this point, and they’re a much better band for it. Strong, passionate performances encompassing their best tracks, dropping a few new ones in too, the only gripe was strong though. They have this annoying habit. They kept extending songs intros, outros, bridges to unnecessary level, becoming pretentious and ostentatious. The final track was twice as long as it really needed to be, and only half as interesting as a result of it. However all in all? Satisfied. Good performance.

To summarise? Truck is a joyous celebration of performance art. Not just music. But a celebration of expression. Definitely worth a look. One of the best weekends of my musical life – sincerely. William Sorenson

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Author: david

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