Friday night had ended with rain cooling things down, and it rained all night, which is not great when you are under canvas, but this is the UK so we are used to it. I woke up on Saturday and the rain was still falling. The outlook did not look that good, and we wondered if Truck Festival was going to become a mud fest. The organisers and staff had done a great job of laying down hay and covering potential muddy areas due to footfall.
After writing up most of the first two days we headed out for the first act of the day. The rain had finally stopped and the arena was in pretty good shape. We had noted that The Market Stage and The Nest had some great acts on, so we made The Nest our first port of call. We stopped by the Truck Stage as The Oxford Symphony Orchestra were playing an impressive full orchestra version of Imagine.
First on at The Nest was Hot Milk, a pop punk four piece from Manchester who have previously supported You Me At Six. You instantly knew that Hot Milk were going to engage with the crowd as Tom Paton, the bassist, came on stage first and led a hand clap for the rest of the band to come on to. Han Mee was constantly addressing the crowd, and her enthusiasm was infections. Han Mee’s vocal was strong and Jim Shaw, on guitar shared vocals throughout the set. This was a band who were enjoying what they were doing and it showed.
I was really looking forward to the next act on The Nest stage, as I have been a fan of Sean McGowan for a long time, but had not seen him live before. He started with Mind The Gap, with drums pounding out the distinctive beat. If this was to get our attention, it worked. After a rendition of Come Unstuck, he gave us an interesting fact. Less than 12 hours ago he had been on his hands and knees clearing up vomit in a pub. He told us that ‘Needless to say I feel great to be here now’.
After a song called Life’s Too Short To Take To Long, which included him singing acapella, showing off the richness of his voice, he told us of an ambition he had. He told us it was his first time at Truck, and he had always thought maybe one day I will get to Truck. ‘So it’s great to be here’ he said, and you knew he meant it. That is the thing with good troubadours, when they tell stories they let you into their world. It was great to have finally seen Sean, and it will not be the last.
I ventured up to the Truck stage for a while but the draw of The Nest was too great. Press To Meco, a three piece Alt Rock band from Crawley and Croydon. They were first timers too. They told us that they were going to get us ‘Warmed up for Don Broco’ and they did a pretty good job of it. Press To Meco, like Hot Milk were a very engaging band who interacted with the crowd and were enjoying the experience.
Like a lot of the bands I have checked out at Truck, Fur were new to me, but I will be following them with interest from now on. Although this was their 4th time at Truck, Fur are a band that seem pretty fresh and new. The four piece from Brighton who combine 50s and alt-indie melodies. The sound is reminiscent of the Merseybeat from the 60’s and they have the look to go with it.
The lead singer looks like he has stepped straight out of the Cavern Club and into a timewarp. There is great range in his voice, and on some songs, you might think that there are both males and female voices. I will be following Fur with interest and they are well worth looking into. During the set a young lad walked in front of me with a blue plastic water pistol and fired a shot into his mouth. I suspect that it was in fact a “firewater” pistol!
I had to tear myself away as I wanted to see The Murder Capital on the Market Stage. I had heard their single, Feeling Fades, and thought it sounded similar to Fontaines DC. I was not prepared for what I was going to see and hear. Like their countrymen, Fontaines DC, The Murder Capital hail from Dublin. As we waited a figure took to the stage and pressed two peddles. A deafening fuzzy guitar feedback loop filled the tent. The band swaggered onto the stage, two with cigarettes drooping from their lips who surveyed the crowd with scowls.
They started playing though the menacing feedback, and gave a brutal performance. It was great! The percussion is the heartbeat of this band and drives everything. The Murder Capital are captivating to watch, if not very scary. Halfway through the set, James McGovern, the band’s frontman, lit up another cigarette on the left hand side of the stage, paced to the right hand side then when he got to the centre again he squatted down looking straight into the crowd, adding to the brutal atmosphere. The band played an extended instrumental to give him time to finish his smoke, and then he was on the mic again.
The final song was dedicated to Boris Johnson, and was their latest single Don’t Cling To Life. It was not the first song to be dedicated to him throughout the festival, but it was probably the harshest. Towards the end of the song James leapt into the crowd, and completed it whilst crowd surfing.
Once he was back on the stage and the song was over, the band sauntered off, leaving us with the same deafening fuzzy guitar feedback loop, that they had walked on to. The Murder Capital were one of the best bands at the festival, so make sure you venture out and see them, unless you are of a nervous disposition. Take a friend for moral support and back up. The brutalism is very different from any other band, and is mesmerising.
Slightly shell shocked, I returned to the Truck Stage to see Vistas, an indie band from Edinburgh. Huw Stephens, BBC Radio 1, has said some good things about this band and they aided my recovery with some nice Indie Pop with catchy choruses, hooky guitars. They were completely different from the previous band, from shade to light. I did try and see the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, who hail from Perth, on the other side of the globe. The Nest was so packed, presumably in part due to the name that I was, unfortunately, so far away that I could not see or hear them. The assembled masses seemed to enjoy their set though.
So it was back to the Truck Stage to see another act that Huw Stevens is a big fan of, Ten Tonnes, aka Ethan Barnett. Despite all our worries about the weather, and stories of very wet festivals around the country, it now seemed to be brightening up. As Ten Tonnes were playing their first number there was a stampede coming back from the Nest. Last year Ten Tonnes had supported his older brother George Ezra and Stereophonics. As Vistas before him, he played melodic indie pop, which got the crowd dancing, warming the crowd up ahead of Don Broco.
It was clear from the start that the rather pedestrian Truck stage would liven up as Don Broco’s frontman, Rob Damiani, made sure that the crowd were going to play their part in the show. He strutted on the stage throughout their opener, Pretty. Then he yelled ‘Let’s start as we mean to go on’, and organised the mosh, before going into You Wanna Know.
Don Broco’s energy fired up the crowd, and as it became clear that Truck was going to get away with it, as the weather brightened up, the crowd were determined to shake away any pessimism and have a good time.
During Everybody, Rob jumped into the pit and onto the barrier to cheerlead, well, everybody! buy the time that they closed with T Shirt Song, with its mandatory waving of T shirts, Don Broco, had given the crowd a harder work out than Mr Motivator would be likely to do the following day.
The final visit of the day to the Nest was to see Fatherson, from Kilmarnock, who have supported acts such as Biffy Clyro, Frightened Rabbit, Panic! at the Disco, Feeder and Enter Shikari. If the previous performance had been a workout, then this was a karaoke. All the songs in the setlist were performed with power, but also were multi tempo, with Ross Leighton on guitar and vocals, constantly throwing his head back and forth.
It was obvious from Making Waves that with Ross feeling every word he sung, there was a real connection with the crowd. Fatherson have a healthy following and I am sure that they had a few more converts. Given the energy that the acts generated in the Nest, I was surprised that the poles were still standing. Perhaps one of the production crew checked them out at the end of the night! The Nest had been the place to be.
I had been looking forward the next two acts all day. First it was the legend that is Johnny Marr. Wearing his trademark jacket and his low slung guitar, Marr came onto the stage without a fanfare. He opened with three numbers before addressing the crowd, sandwiching The Smiths song Big Mouth Strikes Again between his solo numbers, The Tracers and Armatopia.
Then Marr asked the crowd ‘Are you ready for a big night’ when the crowd responded positively Marr said ‘ Well do something about it! I haven’t come all the way from …………Banbury for nothing’. The jacket was off and he now stood in a floral shirt. There was lots of sitting on shoulders, including a celebrity. Yes, Spiderman was in the audience in full superhero garb and seemed to be enjoying it. Then the unmistakable riff of How Soon is Now? started reverbing out. The crowd went nuts for this crowd pleaser. The brilliant performance of The Smiths iconic song, proved, if proof was needed that we were in the presence of a legend.
Another solo number was next as he performed Hi Hello, what we did not realise was that he was only going to do one more solo number later in the set. This was obviously Easy Money. In a real crowd pleasing set he gave us all a sample of his rich musical history, in many guises. I was surprised to hear Getting Away With It and Get The Message from his days in Electronic.
I was even more surprised to hear his cover of Depeche Mode’s I Feel You, which he had covered for a Record Store Day. Johnny Marr threw in another couple of The Smiths songs for good measure. There was a lot of dancing and jigging to This Charming Man and a mass singalong to the closing number, There is A Light That Never Goes Out. This was an extremely good set and one of my favourite of the festival.
Really buoyed by Johnny Marr’s set, I trotted off to my first and last visit to This Feeling tent, where new talent was being showcased, to see the second band I really wanted to catch. I did not consider Red Rum Club as new, as Friend Of A Friend, which appeared in their setlist was released in 2017 and their excellent Matador album which was released back in January this year reached number 47 in the UK Album charts.
However they were a band I had wanted to see for a long time. The six piece from Liverpool took to the stage to big cheers and kicked off their set with a blast of Joe Corby’s trumpet and a rousing rendition of Angeline. Although there was plenty of room at the back initially, it seemed that everyone wanted to be at the front drawing from Fran Doran’s energy. By the time they had finished TV Said So more people were drawn in like moths to a flame, intrigued by their Spaghetti Western take on Alt Rock.
Fran said ‘If you don’t know us, we are Red Rum Club, if you do know us then thank you’. After Calexico, Fran noted that there were 4 people on shoulders and that at Y Not there had been 12. ‘Challenge’. After Hung Up, he said ‘You beat it already!’. The interaction between band and audience was fun and I think Fran was enjoying it. During Friend Of A Friend Red Rum got their first crowd surf. Truck was showing what they can do to. Honey resonated around the tent as the crowd yelled it with the band.
Fran commented that he was really pleased with the turnout as last time they played Truck it was ‘in a barn playing to 3 pigs’. As Red Rum Club closed with Would You Rather Be Lonely we were all signing along. Well we might as well as we could no longer see the band due to the amount of people on shoulders.
With the success Matador has had, and given that Red Rum Club are such an infectious band fronted by the very charismatic Fran Doran, it cannot be long before they are playing one of the main stages.
Against all odds the rain had stayed away and the crowd at Truck were in the mood to party on a Saturday night. It was not just any old headliner either. Foals were playing their first homecoming show in 12 years at Truck Festival. Also they are nominees for the Mercury Prize for their album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1.
Last time they had played was in the Cow Shed, that Red Rum Club had referenced. Now they were centre stage headlining on Saturday night. The stage was set with Palm trees at each side and the back graphics throughout the set were pretty impressive.
Their set was to include numbers from all five of their albums. They opened with On The Luna, but things really got going after Mountain At My Gates. Yannis Philippakis told the crowd ‘This is a special night for us, I hope it is a special one for you too’ and it was to prove to be special for everyone.
Everywhere you looked people were dancing as if no one was watching, which is the way it should be. Everyone had positive energy especially for numbers like My Number and In Degrees.
Yannis explained that Exits was ‘About how we are all screwed’. The band were really enjoying playing on the Truck stage, and are obviously a very different band then they were the last time they played here. The extended instrumentals and light show added to the hypnotic atmosphere.
Both the band and crowd were getting lost in the music. Just before the end of the main set which closed with Inhaler Yannis said ‘We’re going to play a song from our first record, we wrote it down the road and we recorded in that barn over there.” The lights went off and the band were gone, but the tale tale signs were there that they would return as stage smoke was being pumped out.
Foals took to the stage again for a three song encore of Hummer, What Went Down and Two Steps Twice. A cannon shot pink confetti and streamers on the revellers. A day that had started so grey and changeable had ended on a real high. This was a day that saw insanely good line ups on all of the stages but for me, even with such a momentous event as Foals headlining. The smaller stages, and in particular the Nest, had won the day.
Live Review by Tony Creek & Photography by Paul Lyme at Truck Festival Saturday 27th July 2019.