The sleepy Oxfordshire village of Steventon will likely not ring a bell for most music fans, but once a year it becomes overrun with festival goers as they head to Hill Farm for Truck Festival.
Dubbed “the Godfather of the small festival scene”, Truck consistently brings an unforgettable line-up to the beef and arable farm, and every year seems to outdo itself in terms of what is on offer. Highwire Magazine ventured into the countryside on July 19 to watch the action unfold.
In a bid to make the entry process a little more streamlined, this year Truck offered Thursday entry for a small fee. To make the add-on a little more appealing, they lined up a series of excellent bands to play to those who came for the extra day. Once everyone had settled and taken a drink for a job well done, the music began.
JAWS played over on the Market Stage; a rare appearance for the band this year as they have been working on the follow-up to 2016’s Simplicity. Lead singer and guitarist Connor Schofield oozes cool and did so even as the temperature skyrocketed, making the tent in which the stage was housed become somewhat of a sweaty mess. They played a selection of tracks from Simplicity and also their debut, Be Slow, but no new music yet… that will hopefully be something fans can look forward to at the end of 2018.
Fellow Birmingham band Peace followed on shortly after, performing a set that gave the audience a taste of their recently released third studio album, Kindness Is The New Rock and Roll. Not forgetting about where they came from, however, they treated onlookers to their sizzling cover of Binary Finary’s ‘1998’ and closed their set with the incredible ‘Bloodshake’, which saw the crowd bouncing and screaming along to the distinctive guitar riff.
Over at The Barn, Trampolene offered a unique mix of music and poetry that had the small crowd gathered before the stage absolutely mesmerized. Lead singer Jack Jones, who has worked with the likes of Pete Doherty, has a quality about him that most could only envy. He can light up a room no matter the size and that was exactly what he did as the band hammered through their Truck Festival set.
Back at the Market Stage, the night ended early with DJs playing classic indie anthems that festival goers could have a little boogie to before bedtime.
Friday began early as the sun beating down on to the campsite made it near impossible to have to lie-in. As the Friday entry folk filed in, a number of food trucks offered everything from cheese toasties to veggie fry-ups so Truckers could get their sustenance for the day. Our first pick of the day was PINS, who took to the Truck Stage mid-afternoon and blasted onlookers with all-girl awesomeness. Lyrically they leave a lot to be desired — their songs are quite repetitive — but their style and sound is something that no doubt see them go on to achieve success.
Truck boasted an eclectic lineup this year, so it was easy to find yourself checking out a delightful indie rock band one minute (Circa Waves, with a big personality and even bigger choruses), and a punk-tinged female-fronted outfit the next (Calva Louise, sounding effortlessly cool and similar to Wolf Alice). Other favourites of ours from Friday included Coasts, Fangclub and Who’s Alice? who all made the Truck Festival experience all the more incredible. Unfortunately, it started to rain heavily going into the evening, making it difficult to do anything but crawl into your tent and hope for the best…
Saturday brought the sun back to dry off Truckers and their soaking wet belongings, as quite a few people found that their tent had flooded overnight. There was no need to worry, however, as the day was packed with a variety of awesome bands to shake away the bad weather blues. Bloody Knees brought the heat to The Nest, where they put on one hell of a punk show and warmed the sizeable crowd up for the rest of the day. Dream Wife was on shortly after at the Market Stage and enchanted their audience with pop-tinged indie that has a very important message. ‘Somebody’ is particularly striking, bringing attention to the hot-button issue that is sexual assault of females by musicians.
The achingly awesome Black Honey followed on directly after and treated those who had filed into the Market Stage tent to a brand new track. ‘Midnight’ is the lead single off of the band’s upcoming debut album and had the crowd going wild with its prominent bassline and otherworldly lyrics. This was just the icing on top of the cake that was the set, which had everything from old favourite ‘Corrine’ to their most recently released single ‘I Only Hurt The Ones I Love’.
Highwire Magazine’s highlight of the weekend was HMLTD, who’s quite frankly bizarre brand of alternative rock had everyone present at The Nest absolutely spellbound. They draw influences from all sorts of places; Nick Cave, The Human League and The Mighty Booshcome to mind personally, but there’s really no guessing what truly drives this thrilling new band. Vocalist Henry Spychalski has absolute command over his audiences, and this continued to ring true during HMLTD’s set at Truck Festival. No matter what your tastes there’s just something about this “London-based art collective band” that makes them impossible to dislike.
Later on at the Main Stage, Jake Bugg delivered family-friendly fun including his smash hits ‘Lightning Bolt’ and ‘Two Fingers’, then soon enough it was time for the headliner of the day — George Ezra. The Hertfordshire singer-songwriter found fame with ‘Budapest’, but its some of his other material that really made his Truck Festival headline set sparkle. Performing material from both 2014’s Wanted on Voyage and its follow-up Staying at Tamara’s that was released just this year, Ezra had the huge crowd singing and dancing along to even some of his lesser known tracks. It was a perfect end to a perfect night, and luckily the rain held off to allow the evening to be pleasantly warm. Anyone who wanted to continue the party headed off into the Market Stage tent to enjoy drum ‘n’ bass sets from the likes of Dimension and Skepsis.
By Sunday it was clear that campers were starting to run out of energy after two or three nights of sleeping on the ground. Once the music started, however, this seemed to be long forgotten as some of the best acts had been picked for the final day. The Night Café charmed those who crowded into the Market Stage tent, performing a number of tracks from their recently released Bunkbed EP, and they were followed shortly by The Amazons over on the Truck Stage. These guys have gone from strength to strength since they dropped their debut album last year and have managed to cultivate quite the following despite having very limited material to play with. Their punchy guitar-heavy indie rock has seen them settle well within the scene and so it was no surprise to see the number of people who turned up for their set.
The Magic Gang have been riding a rather successful wave since they released their eponymous debut album back in March of this year. They had a respectable early evening set on the last day of Truck Festival and took great pride in putting on a spectacular show for their adoring fans. Tracks like ‘Jasmine’ and ‘How Can I Compete’ are well known by many, but it was the addition of deep cuts such as ‘Caroline’ and ‘Slippin’ that won the Market Stage over. A particularly touching moment came with a cover of Frank Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, making use of vocalist Jack Kaye’s ability to sound like a 60’s crooner.
A heartbreaking clash between Bang Bang Romeo and The Courteeners rounded off Sunday, but we had no problem with running between The Barn and the Main Stage to check out a bit of each band’s set. The latter would be known to most as one of the indie kingpins and so it’s needless to say that they put on an excellent show to close out Truck Festival’s Main Stage efforts. Bang Bang Romeo, however, are considerably less well known and therefore were an interesting pick. Their sound is inspired by the 60’s and 70’s glam rock scene and they’ve opened for the likes of The Struts in the past, making them an odd-one-out in their surroundings. This didn’t stop them from graceful rocking out, however, and proving themselves to be a fantastic end to the festival… or not, if you were one of the festival-goers who went to the Market Stage to check out Kurupt FM and co.!
All in all, Truck Festival 2018 was an experience that its attendees will be talking about for years to come. The rainy evening and excessive temperatures be damned — there’s nothing quite like the brilliance of a small festival like this one. Hopefully see you again next year, Truck!