Another weekend of almost pure sunshine fixed the woes of last year’s Truck Festival mud bath. Over the three days of the 2017 festival the rain barely stopped in Abingdon, Oxfordshire leaving the whole site flooded with mud by the end of the weekend. With a heavy downpour for only an hour on Friday night there was more worry that the crowd would drown in sweat this time around!
Truck’s organisers had taken note of all last year’s issues and looked to solve them in the simplest ways possible. The two main issues were congestion getting into the site, and the distance between stages. To solve this Truck Festival were delighted to open for the first time on a Thursday, running for four days from the 19th to the 22nd. The queues to enter were almost non-existent, and music on two stages allowed for a nice chilled night for those coming early.
The site had also been compacted slightly. Stages were a little closer together meaning a quicker walk between sets. The area in front of the Truck Stage also appeared to be smaller. I’m not sure if the capacity had been reduced at all, but during George Ezra’s headline slot the field was possibly the busiest I’ve seen it.
There was no Palm City area this year, instead there was a Palm City takeover of The Market Stage after the bands had finished until early hours. The Market Stage appeared to be slightly smaller this year and had switched places with The Nest, which was the place to go for the slightly heavier music.
The Barn was the place to check out the up and coming acts, many of which will end up returning in future years for slots on the larger stages. They probably could have done with airing it out a little longer, as the smell of the animals was still a little fresh! There was also the Veterans And Virgins tent, The Magners Tent and The Rocking Chair with comedy and cabaret.
Thursday night began with local band Little Brother Eli. These guys impressed me last year, but the crowd seemed to be setting tents up still, so the atmosphere was a little muted to begin with for them and Kanadia.
By the time Bad Sounds and JAWS the tent was a lot fuller. Bad Sounds sounded great with their throwback hip hop style, and JAWS as always had the tent in full party mode. I’m surprised JAWS didn’t get a slot on the main stage after completely filling the Market Stage during their set last year.
Indie-rock band Peace headlined this night and was the perfect way to close the stage on a pretty relaxing first night. Just before heading off for an early night I caught Avalanche Party and Trampolene in The Barn.
Avalanche Party caught my eye at 2000trees last week, so I thought I’d check whether it was a one of performance! Luckily, they’re just as electric on a smaller stage as frontman Jordan Bell writhes around on the front of the stage staring creepily into the darkness. Trampolene provided some good captivating rock and roll and left The Barn rocking until the early 9:45pm finish.
For Truck’s first Thursday opening it was a success, however seeing some of the stages incomplete did make me worry that they hadn’t prepared themselves in time. Although it didn’t affect the running of the event, it just didn’t look great. Finger’s crossed next year they set up a day earlier.
Friday kicked off at 1pm and most of the day was spent wandering around the site checking out a lot of acts I’ve not previously heard. The Truck Stage had a good run, firstly with the brilliant all girl rock band PINS. Bad Thing is a cracking song that I’ve had on repeat non-stop since!
Little Comets, Circa Waves and Coasts filled the middle slots on the Truck Stage showing off their varied rock styles. All three bands sounded good and seem to have some dedicated followers who lined themselves up at the front nice and early for their sets.
De La Soul should have been warming up the crowd for Friday’s headliners Friendly Fires, but unfortunately the heavens opened and I was too much of a wimp to leave the press tent to catch them!
It had just about worked down to a little drizzle for Friendly Fires, so I braved it briefly for the St Albans indie-rock boys. Frontman Ed Macfarlane jumped around bare footed as the slightly damp crowd danced the rain away.
On the Market Stage Friday’s stand out act was Goat Girl. I’d recently picked up their self-named debut album and thought their set was really good. Their fun guitar work and haunting vocals makes the four girls stand out from many other acts around at the moment.
Fizzy Blood and Fang Club were the pick of the bunch in The Nest on Friday. Both bands are slowly working their way up to the bigger slots at festivals and pulling in some decent crowds with their heavier rock music.
I’ve been waiting to see Calva Louise for a while, so made a dash to catch the three-piece indie-rock band in The Barn and was pleased when they announced their debut album is on its way. Definitely a band to keep a close eye on in the coming months.
What better way to start your Saturday morning off with a warm up session with Mr Motivator. The 65 year old (Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either!) fills the Truck Stage area with a huge crowd following his fitness instructions as he flows out line after line of inspirational words leaving everyone with beaming smiles. Bringing him back to morning TV will solve many of the world’s issues. Actually, just make him Prime Minister.
It was a busy day on all the stages today. flirting impressed on the main stage as front woman Poppy Warring perches herself down on the front of the main stage with a microphone in one hand, and a loudspeaker in the other. This was the first festival slot for the “anxiety-pop” band, and they took their opportunity well.
Sea Girls have been getting a bit of radio time recently and they have a great chilled out sound like The Kooks. I’ll be seeing them again before the end of festival season and I expect a lot more of them in the future.
I was slightly worried that having two solo male artists back to back would be slightly boring, but Jake Bugg and George Ezra banished that fear. Both artists have brilliantly distinct voices that stand out from anyone else around and their upbeat pop music gets everyone going. I’ve not seen a crowd react to a song as they did to George Ezra’s Paradise. Arms up in the air they didn’t stop bouncing through the whole song.
The setup on the Market Stage for Drenge was a weird one. A giant octopus and some jellyfish floated around through the smoke filled set. The trio have a brilliant grungy sound that switches the audience from chilled one minute to moshing the next.
Hotel Lux have a great sound, but the slow pace doesn’t make for exciting viewing as frontman Lewis Duffin scuffles his feet around the stage staring into the crowd before heading to his microphone every now and then. Lady Bird are a little more exciting in The Nest with their heavier sound, but neither can come close to the stage show that is HMLTD!
Formerly Happy Meal Limited, but now just HMLTD. There really is no one else around like them. They look different, they sound different and it’s absolutely enthralling to watch. Some people will hate them and I think they’d be quite happy with that as they appear to set out to get a reaction from the crowd with their superb mix of tunes and 80s style vocals. If you’re going to see a band this year make sure it’s HMLTD. You will not be let down!
The Scruff are always entertaining to watch as they took to the warm and still slightly smelly Barn. The four-piece band seem to improve each time I see them, and hopefully their catchy songs and fun performances get themselves the recognition they deserve!
Sophie and The Giants impressed with a sound not too dissimilar to Florence + The Machine. Sophie Scott’s voice is spectacular and stands out and it bounces around the hard walls of The Barn. Unfortunately, I only caught a handful of their songs, but I’ll be looking to see them again for a full set soon.
By the time Sunday comes I’m completely drained. The sun has completely taken it out of me and the other photographers as we slowly lug our heavy bags and cameras around. I decide to get a lot of shade today and just pick a handful of acts to catch so I can avoid rushing around. This all works fine until about 5:45pm when I decide I want to catch everyone!
The afternoon starts with the brilliant sounds of Oxford Orchestra as they work their way through some classical and rock sounds allowing the crowd to create the now annual mosh pit.
Hey Charlie smash it in The Market with their cool performance. They look great in their matching outfits, and their rock tunes are sounding amazing. They’ve picked up some top support slots this year and it’s thoroughly deserved. I joked at how many male photographers had managed to make their way to the photo pit for this set.
I love Blaenavon and their album That’s Your Lot is one of my favourites at the moment. Their lyrics are beautiful and I was expecting a chilled out performance. I was wrong. They sound so much heavier live. Bass player Frank Wright comes out with sun cream all over his face and bounces his way around the stage throughout their main stage slot. Much livelier and a bigger sound that I was expecting. Quite possibly the best set of the weekend.
You know what to expect with The Amazons as they seem to have pretty much the same set at all their gigs. It works though as their live shows are always top notch and are one of the best live acts to watch at the moment.
Magic Gang drew a big crowd to The Market and are picking up a huge following. Don’t be surprised if the regular Truck performers eventually work their way up to a headline spot.
Not only do We Are Scientists sound good, but they appear to be the nicest guys in the world! Whilst sound checking bassist Chris Cain took the time to chat with some young lifelong fans at the front and sign shirts for them. The band seem to have been around forever, but they are and fresh faced as ever.
I’ve never really listened to Editors, but was pleasantly surprised at how many of their songs I recognised. The English rock band have six albums out now, but Munich is probably their standout song and I’ve realised I should be listening to them a lot more!
The Courteeners headlined the Sunday night and they had a load of hardcore fans down the front, but the crowd seemed to have thinned out a lot by the time their slot came. I’m not sure if it was the heat that had taken it out of people, or whether the young crowd just weren’t that into hanging around for them. They sounded good though as the remaining festival goers finished the weekend with fireworks.
Overall it was a brilliant weekend spend at Truck Festival with plenty of great acts to check out. It’s family friendly and the general crowd are pretty young so there aren’t loads of drunks wandering around.
Standout acts from the weekend for me were Blaenavon, Goat Girl and HMLTD, who all sounded fantastic. Hopefully next year’s line up will be just as strong.
I should also mention the annual paint fight, where the organisers drop a bucket of paint powder in the middle of the field…and RUN. Chaos ensues as the air turns into a huge colourful rainbow. Nobody is safe!
Tickets are out already and at less that £100 I’d definitely advise people to jump on the Truck Festival bandwagon and book up for next year!
Review and Photography of Truck Festival 2018 by Paul Lyme