Truck is very small, and very British. With probably no more than 6,000 in attendance at the Oxford-ish based festival, home-cooked food served up by smiling old Rotary Club ladies and a distinct farmyard smell that comes from the second stage actually being a cattle barn for most of the year, the amount of twee folk generally speaks for itself. However, it still manages to have one of the better punk-leaning lineups of any UK festival that isn't the colossally awful Reading or Leeds, and Truck’s 13th year provided an absolutely incredible weekend.
After arriving on Friday afternoon and proceeding to drink heavily, as is the festival tradition, we were enticed over to the Market stage by an enthusiastic street team for one of the few bands playing on the first night of the festival. Promised fun times with local boys Dial F for Frankenstein, we decided we may as well head over as there was little else to do and were met with a catchy power-pop four-piece in the same sort of style as Canterbury and Straight Lines. Although nothing particularly new or exciting, first-night high spirits led to an insane amount of circle pits for a band no one had ever heard of, getting the weekend off to a roaring start.
Saturday morning began with lying in the glorious sunshine at the main Truck stage, nursing our hangovers to the Scottish freak-folk chaps in Meursalt. Sounding a little like Neutral Milk Hotel but probably more like a very drunk and miserable Frightened Rabbit (y’know, moreso than usual), they were the perfect easy start to the day. Then the sounds of Ace Bushy Striptease enticed us in to the Barn stage with their lo-fi pop-punk racket that came off as a mix between Johnny Foreigner and Beat Happening.
Essentially, though, we were just killing time until the two best acoustic performances of the weekend. The first, perhaps unexpectedly, was This Town Needs Guns, a band not easy to imagine in a stripped-down fashion. Playing in the festival merch tent/record store with just an acoustic guitar, bass, vocals and very occasional glockenspiel, we were treated to different interpretations of "Crocodile" and "Badger" (I think) from Animals and their older live staple "Want to Come Back to My Room and Listen to Some Belle and Sebastian?". It was ‘"Zebra," however, the rarely-played, eerily gorgeous glock-led closer to Animals that made the short set worth sitting bunched up on the floor of a sweaty tent for, along with tour stories about Native and, as always, Tim Collis’ almost inhuman talents.
We then had to dash across the site to the Market stage, arriving just in time to see Dave House begin his first song to a disappointingly empty tent that fortunately filled up over the course of his set. Although his third album, last year's Intersections, features a fuller band than any previous releases, Dave was playing solo, opening with "Lungs" and "Follow Me" before abandoning his newest record entirely for a set mostly made up of favourites from his debut, Kingston’s Current. Confessing that he hadn't played a good deal of those songs in years, they were still warmly received along with a few highlights from See That No One Else Escapes, making for some amazing sing-alongs with Dave pounding the stage with his feet and stepping away from the mic to let the crowd take over. You couldn't ask for a better set from (controversy alert) the UK’s best folk punk singer.
Wandering back to the Barn, we saw the end of Thomas Tantrum, who I honestly do not remember a single thing about because I was far too excited to be watching Tellison for what now must be the seventh or eighth time by now. A little excessive, perhaps, but Tellison live is always an amazing experience. Sounding like early Promise Ring brought up to date with Dartz! or the Automatic influences, their set was heavy on songs from their only-just-finished second record that promises to be an absolute stunner, but unfortunately meant that audience participation was low. Fortunately, the crowd more than made up for things during songs from Tellison’s debut, Contact! Contact!, with the handful of hardcore fans in attendance nearly tearing the roof off.
Thanks to one of the most unfortunate clashes I've ever experienced at a festival, with two of my absolute favourite bands playing at the same time, we raced over to the last.fm curated Village Pub stage to catch the end of This Town Needs Guns, playing a proper set this time. Worming our way to the front and diving into the mosh pit, we managed to catch a couple of new songs which sounded awesome, but nothing groundbreaking by the band's standards. When it comes to This Town, though, more of the same is by no means a bad thing.
We lingered to watch the delightfully twee local band Boat to Row before heading to the Truck stage to get bored out of our minds by Stornoway’s folksy ramblings. We gave up and crammed in to the Barn stage as Darwin Deez was finishing his set. For some reason, he’s being heaped with buzz for his insanely average brand of indie pop, probably because of his supposedly "unmissable" live show which basically involves the curly-haired Deez and his band dancing around like twats to backing tracks of pop hits in between songs. We were only there for 65daysofstatic anyway who, and there is no other word for it really, absolutely DESTROYED. On their most recent album, We Were Exploding Anwyay, they've finally ditched the post-rock shtick for a more up-front electronic/dance sound which translates to the live setting better than can be believed. This was the fifth time I had seen 65 and this was their best set yet, turning the crowd into a heaving, dancing mass with circle pits breaking out every few songs. Classics like "Retreat! Retreat!" and "Radio Protector" stood perfectly side by side with newer tracks, including the absolutely epic set closer "Tiger Girl," which saw everyone except the drummer bent over keyboards, forcing devastating sounds from the keys.
Battered and bruised, we ended Saturday night by watching headliners Mew play to a surprisingly small crowd whilst lying on the ground. With a blinding light show, their set shone during moments from Glass Handed Kites but otherwise got entirely too repetitive to hold our attention as we dozed off on the grass.
Sunday morning was kicked off with Brontide, a mathy instrumental post-hardcore three-piece, heavy on the loop pedals, bass distortion and thrashing about. Impressively energetic for a noon set, they woke us up for perfectly for Ireland’s BATS. Almost unheard of over here, their set proved that they really don’t deserve to be. A militantly atheist mix of math and hardcore much like Blakfish used to have, but with more of a screamo slant, BATS’ fury was almost unrivaled at Truck and go down as the best discovery of the weekend. Highly recommended.
It was then time to calm down with Sparky Deathcap, probably better known as a new member of Los Campesinos!, but with a fair amount of beautiful yet ridiculously depressing songs of his own. His loop-drenched set was unfairly cut short for such an amazing performance.
Stopping by Nedry’s set to see if their dubby electronic pop lived up to the buzz they've been receiving here (it did), we all excitedly raced over to see Los Campesinos! play the Truck stage. For some in our party this would be the fourth or fifth time, but for others it would be the first, so we enthusiastically wandered up to the barrier and waited there far longer than was really necessary for the band to come on stage. Having just released the strongest record of their short career and one of the best records of the year, it was more satisfying than ever to watch them spit their hearts out on stage. Gareth remains one of the best frontmen in the country, climbing on the monitors, pounding on a glockenspiel and diving into the crowd. An incredible live band that give a pure emotional beating to any crowd lucky enough to see them.
As soon as they were done, we tore across the site to get in to the Barn for Future of the Left who were due to start any minute. Whilst not a band I’m particularly familiar with (I honestly had no idea who was actually in the band), by the end of their set I was completely converted. Treating us to two Mclusky songs--they told us they were Suede covers, the jokers--as well as the best between-song banter all weekend--utterly tearing into an obnoxious dude in an army helmet--their set was non-stop intricate fury, resulting in one of the greatest stage "trashings" I've ever seen. As the final song was closing, Falkous started taking all the drums off the riser as they were still being played and strewing them about the stage. Everyone swapped instruments, with the second guitarist playing two guitars at once, and the bass player running along the barrier with a snare drum, handing sticks in the the crowd for people to batter away with. Ridiculously brilliant.
It was Fucked Up, though, who would steal the stage, the evening, the show, the whole festival. Attracting a surprisingly young crowd that included a worrying amount of rather small underage hip girls (who, fair play to them, handled themselves admirably in the roughest crowd of the entire festival) as well as a higher concentration of Black Flag and Ramones shirts than was seen anywhere else all weekend, Fucked Up went on to prove that they deserve their reputation as one of the best live bands in existence both in and out of punk rock. Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham lasted only a couple of songs before getting shirtless and bloody, spending a few songs at the barrier passing the mic before diving in to the crowd and smashing his way around the Barn with a crowd of excited kids following him.
Bigger, better and more brutal circle pits than those seen anywhere else broke out left and right. In between songs, Abraham has an amazing rapport with the crowd and the Fucked Up live experience is (and this cannot be said enough) one not to be missed at any cost.
Absolutely exhausted from possibly the greatest run of bands I've ever seen in a row, we slumped in front of mainstage headliners Teenage Fanclub for a while before retreating to drink our remaining cans and finally sleep. Truck 13 was, in short, a perfect festival.