FESTIVAL REVIEW - Truck Festival 2017

Leah Hamer

‘Where are the tent poles?’ This Rebel’s experience of Truck Festival began with those words.

After two stuffy train journeys from Stoke to Didcot-Parkway, followed by the winding queue and cramped proximity of the shuttle bus, furthered by a stifling walk to the entrance and yet another queue, we had finally arrived in the heart of Steventon. Bubbling with an overwhelming curiosity and anticipation, it all came crashing down with the unzipping of the tent bag. After several stages of confusion, denial and anger- laughter and acceptance shortly followed as we sauntered over to the onsite camping shop and said the inevitable words, ‘Can we buy a tent please?’ 

Truck Festival is renowned for being ‘the godfather of the small festival scene’. Nestled in the quaint countryside of Oxfordshire, it has been bringing together teenagers and indie music lovers for two decades now, and continues to grow with every year. In celebration of its twentieth anniversary, one hell of a party was in store.

Rain fired its way down from the heavens over the vibrant arena- packed out with glowing fairground rides, engulfing striped tents, sun-kissed hammocks, streams of stalls, all surrounding the almighty Truck Stage. Brummy grunge kids Jaws were the first band on the evening agenda, packing out the Market Stage- the centre of the hipster force field for the weekend. With their phenomenal cult fan base, Jaws had a crowd fit for a far bigger platform and gave a stylish and engaging performance, with hit tracks like Gold going down a treat. 
After grabbing an overloaded burrito from The Flaming Cactus Co, we caught the final moments of the anarchistic Slaves- a band that continues to have a captivating impact on fans across the world- to the right of us was an entire family wearing their merchandise- including an eight-year-old child and their liberal parents. 

As the night dawned on, the headlining noughties wonders, Franz Ferdinand, took to the stage. With the garish blue hair of Alex Kapranos blinding the crowd, they kicked in with Dark of the Matinee and immediately locked us all into their hypnotic spell of nostalgic indie-pop. A tight and catchy set, that didn’t rely on over winded solos or heavy effects, the tracks remained at a consistent tone, polished with some groovy overdrive and the courageous vocals of Alex- who flaunted himself around the stage with sass and power. With crowd-pleasers like Do You Want To, Take Me Out and This Fire- Franz Ferdinand were an incredible way to begin the weekend of celebrations. 

The music did not end with the goodbyes of the headliners, throughout the arena more intimate venues continued onwards until the early hours, including The Saloon Bar. Henry Senior Jr and The Champs drew in the crowd of drowned rats to watch their alternative instrumental rock. With a peculiar arrangement including a slide guitar and saxophone- the band gave us twangy, sleek rock n roll, as the audience danced and cheered. 

Saturday morning arose with the sunshine and promise. We waded through the river of mud to discover a ray of neon orange flapping across the Truck Stage. Mr. Motivator. Hundreds of tired festival goers had risen to lunge, jump, twirl, march and dance in their wellies to the charming commands of the legend himself. He had us screaming and shouting war cries, shaking our bodies and shimmying from side to side. Embarrassing dads made their children cringe, whilst competitive boyfriends out-lunged their girlfriends. In a wonderful feat of positivity and blatant silliness- everyone was uplifted and simply loving life. 

A return to The Saloon Bar followed to catch upcomers, The Americas- a three piece indie group who relied on a recording device to fill in for their lack of bass player. Cool and confident, they were a surprising and welcomed discovery. Over at the Market Stage, rising stars The Shimmer Band had taken their places in preparation for a godly set filled with impressive finger work, snazzy dress codes and an engaging persona at the hands of frontman, Tom Newman. After working their way up the venue scale in recent months, it is easy to see why they have been pipped as an act to watch. As fans eagerly await their debut album, there are whispers and hopes that the five-piece could follow in the footsteps of the likes of Blossoms. 

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The tourist elements of Truck followed- a colossal paint party (that essential turned into a mud fight, with speckles of yellow and pink dust), the obligatory photograph with the Truck sign, and a visit to Palm City to catch some flashing lights and dance music. Nothing But Thieves then arrived onto the main stage to force out the goose-bumps from our pores and tickle the hairs on our spines. Frontman Conor Mason coughed and admitted to being hungover, before blowing us all away with his unearthly vocal waltz. With tracks like Amsterdam, Trip-Switch and Sorry- Nothing But Thieves are a band that’s records resonate completely with their live performances. 

Over at the Rockin’ Chair Hip Hop karaoke was going down, with ordinary folk getting their swag on and attempting to rap like Jay-Z and booty-pop like Beyoncé- entertainment central. A trip to the Virgins and Veterans tent was next required where Thomas Truax was performing his endearing one-man-band-routine as a hearty veteran. 

Big contenders The Wombats were giving their pleasant pop routine at the Truck Stage, warming everyone up with their fun sing-along tracks like Techno Fan and Let’s Dance To Joy Division. They prepared the crowd for the dose of messy nostalgia that was waiting behind the curtains- The Libertines. Pete Doherty and Carl Barat spent years of their lives collecting a die-hard fan base that have followed the pairing throughout the depths of their rollercoaster careers. So today, the majority of fans will be so in awe of seeing their heroes live, that the band do not actually need to try anymore. They rock up with dirty rhythms and mumbled lyrics with their iconic tracks like Up The Bracket, Can’t Stand Me Now and Don’t Look Back Into The Sun and people are wild with ecstasy. Non-fans will hear out of time guitar bashing and drunk vocalists, but that’s not the point. Within their cult following- they have achieved the status of demi-gods that outsiders will never understand. They will be eternally worshiped.

Sunday morning called and so arrived the first and last dry day, as everyone began the slow pack up, readying the final journey home. Kicking off the day was Cassia- a fun loving three-piece who had the Market Stage overflowing. With popping, sweet indie tones and endearing melodies, they were reminiscent of an early Vampire Weekend. The picture of summer happiness and freedom, they could not be a more suitable festival band and have a promising future ahead. 

The rest of the day was spent jumping on space-hoppers in the Angel Gardens (no, we did not realise it was a children’s playground), bopping to the swinging 60s tunes of the Blue Rinse DJ sets in the Rockin’ Chair, and experiencing a spiritual healing for a wasp sting. The variety available in such a small space was marvelling. Cabbage then hit the main stage with their politician whacking and fight-the-power attitudes. The fellas are famed for their chaotic performances- normally one of them is hanging off the lighting stands or head-first in the crowd. However, they were bizarrely sober and tame- they would have perhaps been more suited to a more intimate venue where they had the ability to let loose. 

Maximo Park gave the penultimate performance of the evening, with their sparky and free willed frontman, Paul Smith providing snake hips and comedic prowess whilst dancing about in his blue suit and trilby. Playing a mixture of new tracks and old- they were tight, clean and catchy- the perfect preparation for the final show. To the regal theme tune of Game Of Thrones, The Vaccines entered the stage and performed their classic, indie-pop sensations- Post-Break Up Sex, Wetsuit, Wreckin Bar, all mixed in with their darker later work like Dream Lover. With charm and wit, Justin Young carried the band together in an exhilarating show filled with top-notch riffs, sing-along-anthems and bag loads of charisma. Ending with the stadium fillers, If You Wanna Come Back and Norgaard- the crowd was alight. 

As a spectacular blast of fireworks soared into the air, each crowd member held their loved ones and swayed together in the bittersweet notion that another Truck Festival had come and gone. Here’s to twenty more.