Rain, mud and paint ruled supreme at this year’s Truck Festival, with sets from Will Joseph Cook, Maximo Park and Jagwar Ma among the musical highlights as the festival returned for a triumphant 20th year.
The award-winning festival, which first took place in 1998, has grown exponentially in recent years, now spanning three days and eight different stages. Tickets sold out way back in March, and anticipation was high, with fans queuing for up to two and a half hours to get into the Oxfordshire-farm site.
The site itself was reduced to a swampy mess due to periodic outbreaks of heavy rain throughout Friday and Saturday, but this didn’t stop punters enjoying the wide variety of genre and decade-spanning music on offer.
Kicking things off on Friday were American Country-pop band Loud Mountains, a band that have made Oxford their adopted home since moving to the UK. They’re followed on the Main Stage by sets from female indie rock and roll bands The Big Moon and Hinds.
As the rain continued to fall, Kent punk act Slaves took to the stage, fresh from a surprise homecoming show in Tunbridge Wells on Thursday night. The raucous duo thrilled the crowd with hits from their debut album Are you Satisfied? and newly released second record Take Control, produced by Mike D.
Over on the Market Stage, Jagwar Ma were busy getting their groove on, playing their delicious brand of neo-psychedelic synth-pop to an exuberant audience, many of whom had sought shelter from the weather at the festival’s second stage. Highlights of the Australian trio’s hour-long set included debut single ‘Come Save Me’ and ‘Give Me a Reason’ from the band’s 2016 release Every Now and Then.
By the time Friday night headliners Franz Ferdinand took to the Main Stage, the light drizzle had progressed to downpour. Nevertheless, the Glaswegian five-piece were not put off, and belted through hits from their four-album discography including ‘This Fire’ and ‘Take Me Out’.
By Saturday morning, there was little grass to be seen around the festival site. Luckily Truck legend Mr. Motivator was on hand to lift spirits and blast away any hangovers from the night before. A huge crowd had gathered over at the Main Stage and wasn’t left disappointed, with the lycra-clad Jamaican-born fitness instructor leading a mass workout that had us breaking a sweat before the end.
Four-piece alternative band Indigo Husk were an early afternoon highlight on the Market Stage. Performing to what they described as ‘the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to’, the young dungaree-clad lads showed no signs of nerves and delighted us with infectious indie dance pop tracks such as ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ and ‘Misbehaving.’
Back on the Main Stage, Will Joseph Cook put in a mature performance beyond his years. The 19 year-old singer-songwriter has been highly tipped by Radio One DJs Greg James and Nick Grimshaw, and on the back of this performance it is easy to see why. Cook’s dreamy pop-synths and melodic, catchy vocals are more suited to a sun-kissed beach than a rainy field in Oxfordshire, but this didn’t put off the youthful crowd, who sung along to hits from debut album Sweet Dreamer in their droves.
With the rain showing no signs of abating, we sought cover at the Market Stage and caught some of 80s-inspired indie rock band Inheaven. The four-piece released their debut single ‘Regeneration’ on The Strokes’ frontman Julian Casablancas’ record label, and this short set gives plenty of evidence to suggest they worth keeping an eye out for in the future.
Pulling in one of the biggest crowd of the day were youthful indie sensations Sundara Karma. The Reading-based band ripped through a frantic half-hour set packed with tracks from their highly acclaimed LP Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect.
Mid-noughties nostalgia reigned supreme on Saturday night, with The Wombats warming up for The Libertines. Hits such as ‘Kill The Director’ and ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ from the trio’s fantastic debut A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation still sounded as fresh as they did when they were first released way back in 2007, although the band’s newer material was less enthusiastically received.
Main Stage headliners and indie icons The Libertines were at times, frustrating to watch. A lack of interaction with the crowd, coupled with heavy reliance on new material from 2015’s Anthem For Doomed Youth might have lost a less forgiving crowd, but the youngsters in attendance here appeared more than willing to tolerate Doherty and Barat’s antics. The set was saved by a touching rendition of ‘You’re my Waterloo’ and a rip-roaring encore featuring the genre defining ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun’.
Sunday began in a more relaxed fashion, with a performance from The Oxford Symphony Orchestra, whose eclectic back category includes everything from Star Wars to Abba and David Bowie. Over in The Nest, high octane guitar rifts and poignant lyrics about mental health and sexual harassment were on the agenda, as fuzz-rock duo Kamikaze Girls performed a short and furious set.
With the rain mostly holding off for the time being, we caught The Dreaming Spires perform on the Main stage. Brothers Robin and Joe Bennett helped found the festival, and the band were well-received, aided by the talents of The Truck Monster (the festival’s furry mascot) on the tambourine.
Following The Dreaming Spires on the Main Stage are the highly tipped Cabbage. Hailing from Greater Manchester, this grungy five-piece didn’t hold back with their political views, dedicating ‘Terrorist Sympathizer’ to hero-of-the-hour Jeremy Corbyn and singing songs about everything from austerity to dinner ladies.
Maxïmo Park, warming the crowd up before Sunday The Vaccines, proved to be the standout performance of the weekend. Basking in the glow of the Sunday night sunset, the alternative four-piece from Newcastle (who first played the festival back in 2004) led the crowd through a rollocking hour-long set including tracks from their latest release Risk To Exist. Looking every bit the archetypal frontman dressed in a garish purple suit, lead singer Paul Smith strutted his way around the stage, provoking mass singalongs to hits ‘Apply Some Pressure’ and ‘Girls Who Play Guitars.’
Rounding off the weekend, The Vaccines put on a superb show, featuring song from their three hit albums, as well as a smattering of new tracks. Of the new songs, ‘Your Love is My Favourite Band’ was the standout number; it’s catchy chorus and witty lyrics instantly recognizable as the work of lead singer Justin Young. The band’s loyal legion of fans were rewarded for their patience sticking out the weekend by frantic renditions of ‘Wreckin’ Bar’, ‘Post Break Up Sex’ and ‘Norgaard’ from the five-piece’s debut album, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines, before a firework finale brings the festival to a exhilarating close.
Words by James Beeson // @jdbeeson16