This weekend, Truck Festival returned to Hill Farm in Steventon, Oxfordshire to celebrate its 20th birthday, and this year was another sell out. The festival has grown steadily over the years but perhaps none as much as 2017, after it sold out incredibly early and left many desperate to find a way in. This years line-up featured a mixture of noughties indie headliners (who I’m pretty sure have all featured on The Inbetweeners’ soundtrack at some point) and a generous selection of emerging talent across the stages all weekend. With a brand new arena layout and general camping based in a separate field, it was obvious that this would be a stand-out year for Truckfest. Long queues upon entry to the festival did not seem to dampen the mood of festival-goers, but sadly the unrelenting rain and mud that followed did its best to.
The first band I caught over the weekend was an indie four-piece, Blackwaters, whose loud and raucous stage presence tempted passers-by and were impossible not to compare to that of Slaves – they certainly looked the part too! At The Rockin’ Chair stage, The Mariachi’s introduced themselves with ‘you may know us from the Doritos advert’, which most of us do. Their set of covers incited huge sing-alongs from the crowd which were memorable enough on their own, such as I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) and the infamous Don’t You Want Me. The band may not have brought the Mexican sun with them, but they certainly provided an escape from the downpour.
London-duo Slaves also took to the sodden stage to perform a selection of hits. Despite having to skip Feed The Mantaray after forgetting how to actually play it, they sounded as polished as punk could be. The set brought a huge crowd at the main stage, and it seemed the festival-goers, mostly teenagers, were here to see them. Unfortunately for Friday’s headliners Franz Ferdinand the same can’t be said, as unrelenting rain resulted in a rather disappointingly small crowd. The classic indie band opened with 2004 hit The Dark Of The Matinée which sounded effortlessly tuned. We managed a few more songs before the rain became nothing short of a monsoon and shelter was all that was on most people’s minds.
Saturday morning rolled around and with it came the mud – which the organisers clearly weren’t prepared for. The Nest stage had been taken over by London collective So Young, who pulled out all the stops with their line-up of upcoming talent. Dead Pretties, LIFE and Abattoir Blues all provided angsty performances that proved punk rock is absolutely not dead. Superfood, who opened with old favourite You Can Believe, have been away on hiatus and have replaced half of its members, but somehow managed to pull a crowd as big as if they had never went away. For both Superfood and The Magic Gang, crowds spilled out into the rain and left the tent a sweaty micro-climate for Londoners Yak. They delivered an energetic set of distorted psychedelic rock as charismatic front-man Oliver Burslem – who resembles a young Mick Jagger – can’t keep away from the crowd.
The only band to drag me away from the Nest on Saturday were Strange Cages, Brighton based four-piece whose psychedelic rock is as heavy and mesmerising as watching them perform. Playing in The Barn (in association with BIMM), the growing crowd were drawn in by the impressive drums and catchy riffs. Bam Bam Boom was impossible not to move to, as the stylish frontman drawled over distorted guitars – these guys are definitely ones to watch.
At just gone 10pm, as the rain slowed to a patter, legendary four-piece The Libertines took to the stage. The band opened with Time For Heroes as a flare was lit in the crowd and sing-alongs broke out. The set relied heavily on material from latest album ‘Anthems For Doomed Youth’ and old favourites What A Waster and I Get Along were dropped, which was a shame. A lack of interaction with the crowd and large gaps between songs means the set failed to gain much energy in comparison to their usual performances. However, this did not stop everyone getting involved for the triumphant set-closing Don’t Look Back Into The Sun.
One huge improvement to the festival this year was the increase in late-night entertainment which seemed to be missing in previous years. Introducing a brand new 3,000 capacity dance tent, Palm City, definitely rectified this. The Saloon and The Rockin Chair also stayed open as late as 2am, and were always full of singing and dancing. The silent disco (which cost £5) was the only disappointment; we only visited on the Saturday but were not impressed with the tunes.
On the final day, some campers decided to leave early as a result of the relentless rain. However, those who stayed were rewarded for their patience as the sun finally made an appearance and, at times, it almost felt like summer again! Hotly-tipped Sløtface took to the Market Stage to perform a set that sounded like it came straight from the 90s. Next up, Tigercub played The Nest, with their grungy rock finally getting the recognition it deserves after years of appearing as supporting acts. Songs from their debut ‘Abstract Figures In The Dark’ merged well with earlier tracks and created a really unique sound.
On the Main Stage, Maximo Park were happy to be returning to Truck for the first time since their early years. With the sun beginning to set, the group played tracks from their new album ‘Risk To Exist’ as well as favourites including Books From Boxes and Girls Who Play Guitar. Running out of time, the band begrudgingly dropped Get High (No, I Don’t) for Apply Some Pressure, claiming that they are people-pleasers after all! The crowd danced more than I had seen all weekend and the choice paid off – for us at least!
By Sunday evening, it seemed that those who braved the swamp-like conditions were thoroughly rewarded as The Vaccines emerged to an adoring crowd. The band performed an effortless set of non-stop hits, sung back to them as enthusiastically by the crowd! Ending with Norgaard as fireworks went off in the sky was a triumphant end to Truckfest’s 20th anniversary, and almost enough to make us forget the troubles with mud and rain.
Overall, Truck Festival is becoming unrivalled with its impressively wholesome line-up of classic bands and emerging talent, and for that I cannot commend them enough. Some fine-tuning on technical issues and perhaps a re-think in regards to the growth of the festival will ensure that Truckfest doesn’t lose its local charm that has made it this popular. What’s for sure, we refuse to let the worst weather in the festival’s history stop us from returning next year!