In Review: Truck Festival

(Photo by Jack Kimber)

Now well into it’s twenties, Truck Festival is constantly growing. Located down South on Oxfordshire’s Hill Farm, 2018’s events have confirmed that it’s self declared title, “The Godfather of the small festival scene” is more than deserved.

This past weekend saw a complete sellout year for Truck, welcoming three huge headline acts in the form of Friendly Fires, George Ezra and The Courteeners to what was to become a delightful, feel good weekend on an intimate scale. And, if those names aren’t quite enough to excite you, maybe the first ever addition of a Truck Thursday is. 2018 saw the festival extend to a four day event for the first time in it’s history, welcoming the mighty Peace to the year’s headliners.

Aside from the big names we all know and love, Truck must be appreciated for it’s incredibly strong selection of new and upcoming artists. Not only giving festival goers a chance to introduce new music into their lives, but offering said new artists the invaluable experience of playing on a big stage; all while managing to provide an equally gender-balanced lineup (something which many festivals should be aspiring to).

Kicking off the weekends events were one of Birmingham’s finest exports, Sugarthief. Taking over This Feeling’s stage at The Barn just an hour after gates opened, the laidback, feel-good vibe created by dazed melodies and catchy choruses managed to draw in a strong crowd for such an early slot. Drifting through their almost nostalgic feeling indie-rock set with the likes of new unreleased tracks Good Luck I Hope You Make It and Modern Man, it’s easy to spot the potential Sugarthief possess. There’s a down to earth confidence to their stage presence, and as the first set of the weekend closed on early release Joy Affair, the four piece looked more than deserving of bigger stages and later slots.

Clearly Thursday’s lineup was put together with some favouritism for the Birmingham music scene, not that that’s anything to complain about. Later in the afternoon the sweet sounds of Jaws drew in the first big crowd of the weekend as they gained full control of The Market stage.

Anyone who has attended a Jaws show before knows the kind of chaos that unfolds, and of course at a festival that chaos is no different. Opening with the sparkling synth of Surround You, it took mere seconds for heads to bounce over toward the front of the crowd. The fascinating thing with Jaws is how their live set transforms their mellow, melancholic sound into mosh pit making festival anthems, with barely even a word spoken between songs. There’s a power possessed by Connor Schofield and co which simply makes you feel good, and there’s not a lot more you can ask for than that.

Continuing the Midlands theme, Thursday’s headline spot kicked off with the UK indie scene’s theme tune as Peace started proceedings with the infamous drop of 1998 (Delicious), wasting no time in getting every head in the packed out tent bobbing. As Harry Koisser swaggered around The Market stage something simply felt right. What better way to spend a sunny evening in the Oxfordshire fields than dancing to the sound of Wraith and Follow Baby?

Packing all of the fan favourites into their set, Peace have proved themselves as a band more than capable of playing headline slots. Even the slower, darker feel of new releases like Magnificent and Under Liquid Glass earned a reception which would suit a main stage slot; and as their reign drew to an end with chants of “we spit blood in the sun, we spit blood in the ocean” there was a feeling that Peace are truly back, and there’s no better band to kickstart a weekend.

Friday got off to an energetic start with the infectious girl power of Girli commanding an almost full tent over at The Market stage. Combining her honest lyrics based on life experiences with a raw, addictive confidence which can only be described as inspirational; the sound of new track Pink which Girli wrote about playing those boys who actually think they’re playing you was just a highlight of the set.

Bouncing around the stage with her own hype woman DJ Kitty, Girli is the kind of influence any millennial girl needs in her life. Outspoken, confident and energetic is the theme of any of her live shows, and as chants of “I’m a hot mess” drew her Truck take over to a close The Market stage was vacated with a refreshed, hyped up feeling of knowing that girl power truly is best.

(Photo by Ben Gibson)

I doubt there’s many festival goers who are yet to catch a Circa Waves set. That infamously upbeat Scouse quartet are the perfect fit for any main stage, which of course made them a must see on Friday afternoon. Kicking off proceedings with Wake Up, it was mere seconds before floods of glittered up faces came sprinting towards the Truck stage and pints started to fly.

The plucky riffs of early track Get Away continued the feel-good atmosphere which comes with any Circa Waves set; and as expected from any song of theirs each and every piece of the setlist packed a singalong chorus, leaving no surprises as Kieran Shuddall’s voice led the loudest crowd we’d heard over the first two days. There’s no better festival combination than a bit of cheery indie pop and a sunny afternoon, leaving a smile on the majority of faces.

A clash of stage times between Pale Waves and Circa Waves may have left most minds split, but as icon in the making Heather Baron-Gracie took to the stage alongside her bandmates there was little doubt that the Manchester quartet are more than capable of filling stages even bigger than The Market stage. The same glittered faces spotted sprinting to catch Circa Waves could again be seen hurdling towards The Market stage as the sweaty tent filled all the way out.

Pale Waves’ performance on Friday easily dispelled any controversies about their quality and performance. Playing a half hour set consisting of hit after hit, it was obvious that the quartet have come into their own. From Television Romance to New Year’s Eve, every person in that tent was captured in singalongs and sways; certifying Pale Waves as a band deserving of the success they’ve achieved.

Saturday’s line up was by far the strongest of the weekend, naturally creating the dilemma of multiple clashes and leaving us rushing from stage to stage in the hope of catching everyone we’d planned for. Fur managed to avoid being part of said clashes as they filled the frighteningly early 11:30am slot at The Nest. Despite that dreaded slot, the youthful, jangly sound of the Brighton based quartet managed to gather a solid crowd and provide a welcome breakfast soundtrack.

Early singles Trying and If You Know That I’m Lonely made the highlights as the four swayed about the stage. Even despite their early wake up call of 4am, Fur’s nostalgic slacker pop sound oozed a feel of a truly exciting band who no doubt will be returning to bigger stages at Truck in the not so distant future.

It’s no secret that 90% of festival lineups are scarily lacking in gender equality when it comes to lineups. It’s a subject which has caused plenty of debate; are there just not enough female artists in the UK? Are the female artists on offer just not good enough? Well, Truck’s Saturday line up along offered some of the strongest talent this country has to offer, and a good 60% of that talent came from the girls.

Making their main stage debut, the ever growing Anteros took to the Truck stage on Saturday afternoon to an adoring crowd. As Laura Hayden danced her way to the centre of the stage wearing a hypnotising silver jumpsuit it was obvious that these guys really are headliner potential. Opening with the bouncy beat of Cherry Drop, Laura took control of the stage in a way that a solid majority of bands should be aspiring to.

Introducing Bonnie, Laura took a seat at the edge of the stage to give an empowering speech on being a woman. As she explained how she wrote Bonnie about being happy in her own body and not comparing herself to others, she mentioned how the band would usually invite girls on stage during the song, unfortunately unable to do so at Truck due to health and safety.

Instead, Laura made her way along the barrier, still managing to hit every note flawlessly as she hung over the crowd possessing the most genuine smile you could ever ask for. From start to finish, Anteros were pure fun. The kind of band any booker should be fighting for, and an inspiration to us all.

The girls continued to reign as Saturday continued, with Black Honey playing The Market stage later in the afternoon. Strutting across the stage with the the confidence and swagger of a true rockstar, Izzy’s powerful vocals had no issue ensuing mass singalongs and mosh pits throughout the likes of Corinne and Somebody Better.

Speaking of their upcoming debut album, the quartet introduced new track Midnight Honey; a brand new and unheard part of the album. Despite debuting a new track at a festival being a risky move, Black Honey pulled it off in magnificent style. As the set flowed on there was no doubt in Black Honey’s potential, providing huge choruses one after another alongside the performance of a main stage band; the quartet’s rapid rise is more than deserved and sure to continue.

The loveable down to earth charm of Marika Hackman is a welcome addition to any day. Remaining on The Market stage after her line check, I’m Not Your Man opened what was easily one of the most enjoyable sets of the entire weekend. Combining charming with feminism led lyrics, Marika’s early evening set was nothing short of feel good.

From the very second she took to the stage, Marika oozed a cheerful charm capable of putting a smile on any face. Despite having pulled in a much smaller crowd than earlier artists, every person in the tent was engaged by the catchy rhythm of Time’s Been Reckless. Taking a brief break for her guitarist to swap t-shirts with a fan spotted in one of her t-shirts, Marika unleashed a wave of excitement with Boyfriend, drawing towards the end of her set with mosh pits and dismissing any worry that her laidback sound could be out of place on a festival lineup.

(Photo by Ben Gibson)

As darkness fell on Saturday night, a good 95% of Truck’s crowds made their way to the Truck stage for the man everyone had been waiting for. Riding high off the back of his fastest selling album of 2018, Staying At Tamara’s, George Ezra brought his charming personality and infectious choruses to the main stage for Saturday’s headline slot.

Uniting the most diverse crowd of the weekend, including babies clutching glow sticks, toddlers bouncing away on their parents’ shoulders and glittered up indie kids bouncing away down the front, George and his band bound onto the stage with a positivity assuring every one of us that the next hour and a half was going to be a fun one.

Right from the folk pop kick of Cassy O, a wave of happiness descended over Truck. The loveable thing with George Ezra is his down to earth personality. Preceding almost every song on the set with a story of how it came together, he managed to give his headline slot an intimate feel.

Recalling how hit single Budapest came together after he skipped his trip to the city to drunkenly watch Eurovision in Sweden, his Saturday night reign drew towards an end with the fan favourites everyone had come to see. Leaving the stage after Budapest, George teased that ridiculously catchy new hit Shotgun; eventually returning to put us out of our misery and create the loudest singalong of the weekend; no doubt leaving everyone in attendance stuck with that chorus in their heads for weeks to come.

As the sun continued to shine throughout the weekend, Sunday’s sleepiness was multiplied by the feeling of burning skin and an overwhelming desire for cloud; leaving things feeling a bit on the groggy side. But who better to spread a burst of energy and happiness than Blaenavon? As Ben Gregory played around on stage during their line check, it was obvious the trio were feeling excitable; creating even more anticipation for their Truck stage set.

Producing a half hour set packed to the brim with fan favourites including Hell Is My Head, Orthodox Man and I Will Be The World, Blaenavon also offered a taste of their new music in the form of Catatonic Skinbag. A heavy hitting new side to the trio we’ve not heard before, and a sound which is sure to cause chaos as soon as fans have got to grips with it.

Ending on Prague, Blaenavon truly gave their all to Truck, and looked truly grateful for the opportunity as they did so. Thanking the crowd multiple times before leaving the stage, the three are sure to have gained some more dedicated fans after such a passionate performance.

Gathering what was probably the biggest afternoon crowd of the entire weekend over at the Truck stage were rapidly rising rockers The Amazons. Stopping off at Truck to draw their debut album campaign to a close, the reception received from their crowd was easily enough to confirm the Reading boys are doing something right.

The likes of Ultraviolet, Burn My Eyes and Stay With Me could be heard being sung back by the crowd even from across the arena, and unsurprisingly brought a few mosh pits and flares with them. The Amazons are the perfect match for a main stage line up, from their addictive choruses and meaty riffs to their infectious stage presence; the four were a welcome fit for Sunday’s main stage line up.

The cheery drum beats and unmistakeable melodies flowing from The Market stage later in the afternoon could only be those of The Magic Gang. Packing out the tent with it’s biggest crowd of the weekend and leaving some forced to watch from outside; the Brighton boys’ dedicated fans were out in force.

Everything about The Magic Gang is exactly what you want from a festival band; pure fun. Disguising their self deprecating lyrics behind joyous hooks and charismatic melodies, there was barely a body in sight that wasn’t swaying at the very least. Inside the tent heads and hands bounced from front to back, with the unbearable heat incapable of preventing the madness of The Magic Gang. Ending on the huge sounds of All That I Want Is You, The Market stage emptied out a stream of sweaty faces, bringing with them a wall of heat which can only be the sign of a truly exciting set.

#truckfestival #review #festivals #georgeezra #anteros #sugarthief #blaenavon #themagicgang #marikahackman #fur #jaws #peace #palewaves #circawaves #blackhoney #theamazons #livereview #gigreview