Last weekend saw the self-proclaimed ‘Godfather of the small festival’ scene return to Oxfordshire for its 21st birthday, with Friendly Fires, George Ezra, and Courteeners headlining a warm Summer weekend in Steventon.
Pick of the bunch, surprisingly, was The Amazons who – despite having released only one album – had enough creativity in their relatively brief set to keep the attention throughout. With a discography as quantifiably limited as theirs, they’d have been forgiven for being a bit hit and miss, but the pacing of their set was spot on, with indie rock anthems occasionally stretched across double their original length. An interlude of 20th Century Boy by T-Rex wrapped within Amazons’ own Little Something (which shares a similar chord pattern) was a particular highlight.
The Amazons then, with a 45-minute set, were able to pad it out with enough fresh ideas to make their mark. At the other end of the spectrum, George Ezra – a fantastic musician with a great new album – didn’t quite have enough material for a headline set. Playing for an hour and a half on Saturday night, the length was more than what he’s ready for at this stage of his career.
Ezra performs his lesser-known songs with the same delightful energy and exuberance as the chart-toppers
Give him a few years and another album and it might have felt more like time well spent, but in reality, a substantial amount of his set was dedicated to lesser-known songs that people couldn’t really sing along to. When he wasn’t performing those (admittedly with the same delightful energy and exuberance as his heavy-hitters), he was talking at length, telling stories of how each individual song came about. At least I think he was, I couldn’t really tell given that his microphone was too quiet to hear beyond the first 15-20 rows.
Having a frontman who can engage with his audience should be commended, but it requires a fair bit of patience when the majority of the crowd can’t actually make out what he’s saying. His music fitted the overall vibe of the festival very well, but I can’t help but feel a shorter set would have been more suitable.
Ezra wasn’t the only headline act to suffer from one or two shortcomings. Courteeners, whose set was largely excellent, was interrupted by long pauses due to the heat. Lengthy periods of silence between songs followed by statements of “sorry Oxford it’s bloody boiling up here” from Liam Fray didn’t attract much sympathy, given that every other artist had coped with it well enough earlier in the day.
Courteeners could do with having a fan on stage next time they play on a hot summer’s weekend
Nevertheless, while frequently wiping the sweat off of his hand mid-song, the Mancunian persevered and gave festival-goers a night to remember and savour with favourites such as Cavorting and Not Nineteen Forever ending the weekend in memorable fashion. Other than a solo section that went on a bit too long, the band shouldn’t be faulted for their performance. They just need to make sure they have a fan on stage to cool them down next time.
Other highlights at the festival included The Sherlocks and Jake Bugg, while Little Comets were the best surprise of the event.
Editors didn’t offer much in terms of spectacle, and Everything Everything were no better than they were when they played at Truck two years ago, but there was enough variety in the line-up overall to keep people interested throughout. Circa Waves had a brilliant Friday night, and besides indie rock there were a decent number of stages dedicated to other genres of music to cater for all tastes, keeping in mind the site’s small size.
The aroma of cow manure makes The Barn Stage an acquired taste for metal fans
The Barn Stage has to be seen to be believed, hosting hardcore metal bands in a genuine barn which smells much like you would expect a barn to smell. I’m not sure if it’s the acquired taste of music or the aroma of cow manure that put people off from visiting it, but it didn’t seem to be at the top of most spectator’s agendas.
One strange omission from last year’s festival was the punk rock tent which had played the likes of Blink-182 and Green Day through a speaker. There also wasn’t enough seating, but fortunately with the weather as fine as it was there were no problems with sitting on the grass to eat the welcome selection of food on offer. Had the rain poured down like it did last year, it would have been a different story.
This was my third consecutive year attending Truck Festival. To provide a different perspective, I asked Daniel Wright (who happens to be my brother and a Truck-attendee for the first time) for his thoughts on the event.
DW: “The main thing that took me by surprise was how small the festival site was, despite being able to attract big names and headliners for each night. This proved to be an advantage though as it was very easy to navigate and didn’t take much time to go from stage to stage, checking out the different genres of music along the way. The atmosphere was brilliant, despite the humid, sticky weather which I think we Brits are now slowly adapting to.
Little Comets hadn’t been on my radar, but their performance encouraged me to check out more of their material
Even though some of the bands we saw hadn’t been on my radar, that didn’t stop me enjoying them, with Little Comets being a particular favourite. Their performance has led me to check out more of their material. Even the security staff were in a party mood, talking to us at the front while smiling and throwing back inflatable balls when they went over the barrier.
I know the festival had problems last year with organisation, what with the mud causing havoc and everything, but this year it seemed to be a lot better as I never felt crowded out or had to wait too long for anything. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the festival and would definitely go back next year given the chance. Don’t believe all of what you read or hear regarding trouble at festivals – everyone goes there for a good time so see for yourself!“
It’s incredible to think that 21 years ago a small group of music-lovers came together to put on a festival from the back of a truck. Within such a short space of time, full credit goes to the organisers for being able to attract some of the biggest names in indie rock to the main stage over the last few years.
Nerve would like to thank Truck Festival for inviting us to cover the event this year.