Technical issues have meant we’ve been quieter than usual this week, but hopefully with all those resolved we can get back to normal service. It is a shame as we spent the weekend with middle sprat wallowing ankle, and sometimes knee, deep in swampy mud at Truck Festival.
Truck has been a bit of a Mackerel family institution for a few years now, a small(ish) friendly and well run festival with an eclectic musical line-up and tea and cakes served by the local WI. This year’s musical line-up was a bit bigger and more mainstream and it was clear that, on arrival, the atmosphere was quite different.
I’m told Truck has been bought out by a much larger, much more “business focused” company and it certainly felt that way. Gone were the days of sauntering up to the entrance, a friendly chat and in you go – now we had sniffer dogs, unsmiling ticket checkers and most unforgivable of all, a two hour plus queue to get in (others queued for twice as long). It set the tone for a weekend that could be viewed in two distinct parts – music that was brilliant and organisation that was not.
As the rains came, and came again, and again and again over the first two days the entire site including the camping fields turned into a horrific mud bath. Given the forecast was known for a few days (at least) I was anticipating some kind of contingency plan from the organisers especially as tents quite literally began to submerge in thick, syrupy mud. I expected wooden or metal walkways to be put down on the main paths, maybe open a second entrance to the main arena to spread the footfall a bit, and as we were on a farm, lots and lots of straw to go down to try and soak up the worst of the mud.
Literally nothing was done and a “who cares and fuck you” attitude prevailed. A few token and totally inadequate bales of straw at the entrance and that was it. Otherwise it was sink or slip or swim, and for lots of people that meant sink (and slip for pretty much everyone else).
It was such a shame as musically the festival was brilliant. Friday set us up with contagious indie pop from Big Moon and Hinds on the main stage, British Sea Power’s soaring, cinematic rock in the Market Tent (complete with giant dancing bears) and a fabulous set of infectious punk rock from Dream Wife (who were unrecognisable from the band we saw at the Great Escape a year or so ago). Headliners Slaves and Franz Ferdinand were both excellent in the driving rain that failed to dampen the spirits of the audience and created possibly the slippiest, sloppiest mosh pit ever.
Saturday was spent almost entirely in the Nest whilst the rain hammered down outside and vendors’ stands began to resemble a mud wrestling carnival. The visceral drive of Dead Pretties was an unexpected discovery whose set began brilliantly but tailed off a bit towards the end – almost as if the set would have worked better in reverse, before LIFE took the stage and created mayhem with a brilliant set of angry punk that somehow melded the Dead Kennedys, Sleaford Mods and the Fall into a perfect combination. Abattoir Blues’ crunchy, grungy rock maintained the tempo if not quite the intensity before the Crows racheted things up again with an excellent set of energetic post-punk. A brief excursion to somewhere near the main stage where Sundara Karma’s psych-inflected rock went down extremely well before a return to the dry of the Nest for a fabulous set from Yak complete with crowd surfing guitarists and a perfectly judged set of brutally infectious, needling guitars and pummelling percussion. Suitably impressed, middle sprat slogged off to watch the Wombats whilst I stayed for headliners, and once fictional band, Moonlandingz who were a revelation – fronted by the Fat White Family’s Lias Saoudi and backed by Sheffield experimental outfit Eccentronic Research Council together with Fat Whites’ Saul Adamczewski. Their spaced out, motorik rhythms and funky indie-disco melded perfectly with a nightmarish, sinister edge that created a cosmic wig-out of epic proportions. We slowly waded back to our damp tent to the strains of a Libertines greatest hits set.
Sunday saw us back in the Nest with middle sprat for the screaming guitars of Weirds’ industrially tinged grunge led by a frontman who could teach Paddington a thing or two about hard stares. On the main stage Cabbage showed just why they are causing such a stir as the next big indie thing, a brilliant set of sardonic, krautrock tinged indie and a fine line in insouciant showmanship being greeted rapturously by the big crowd. Back in the Nest our first experience of singer-songwriter Kevin Devine was a joy – much more in line with previous Truck discoveries, his was a wonderful collection of songs and a fabulous voice and made for a welcome change of pace – a little oasis of Americana amid the loud guitars and crashing drums. It was back to the guitars and drums for All Them Witches who were slightly one-paced and predictable compared with previous fare. Back outside to watch a surprisingly (for me) engaging and uptempo set from indie stalwarts Maximo Park (middle sprat’s set of the weekend), and then, joining the huge crowd, for the Vaccines – closing the Festival and pleasing the masses with a collection of mostly energising mainstream indie anthems. The contrast was great at times, one truly terrible new song that sounded like something Fleetwood Mac would have knocked out and rejected in five minutes juxtaposed with sing-alongs to Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra), Post Break-Up Sex and If You Wanna.
They left the stage early, fireworks went off and we exited en-masse through the claggy mire flanked by unsmiling security and a question mark about the future of the heart and soul of Truck…
Ten of the best songs we heard at Truck
10 Vaccines – Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)
9 Dead Pretties – Social Experiment
8 Maximo Park – Apply Some Pressure
7 British Sea Power – Waving Flags
6 Dream Wife – FUU
5 Kevin Devine – Another Bag Of Bones
4 Yak – Hungry Heart
3 LIFE – Popular Music
2 Cabbage – Uber Capitalist Death Trade
1 The Moonlandingz – Black Hanz