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Festival review: Truck Festival 2018


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Last year’s Truck Festival left many covered in mud in what was a quintessentially British washout, however, the summer warmth of 2018 left us all begging for shade from the hot Oxfordshire sun.

In a matter of years Truck Festival has grown from a small two-day event into one of the UK’s largest ‘small’ festivals – now spanning a total of four days (Thursday-Sunday) when purchasing an early access Thursday entry ticket. Still, despite the increasing size, Truck maintains the family-friendly aura close to its roots.

Sarah Koury

Opening its doors at 3pm, campers enjoyed a leisurely Thursday afternoon with music promptly beginning at 3:30pm. Perhaps this was a bit hasty when considering queues and heightened security checks to get onto the site, but still, with music taking place only on the Market Stage, campers were treated to the sounds of the first acts whilst setting up. As the biggest indoor stage at Truck, the Market Stage was host to a discovery of new talent such as Bad Sounds, whilst the famed iridescent guitars of JAWS played out before headliners Peace. Renowned for packing out any stage with their sun-drenched indie sounds, the Birmingham quartet were in fine form, treating the crowd to cuts from all three of their albums. The intimacy of Thursday entry was manifested in the dedicated crowd, who danced, sang, and moshed to classics such as ‘1998’, ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘Lovesick’; positively starting the four-day event.

Friday’s line-up was undoubtedly more plentiful, giving us the chance to explore what Truck had to offer. After making our way through crowds of glitter-faced festival-goers, the Main/Truck Stage was host to PINS, Little Comets and Circa Waves in the early afternoon. Circa Waves played to a packed-out floor of anticipated adolescents who would not let the heat of the beaming sun stop their party. Their contagious indie pop melodies had everybody dancing to ‘T-shirt Weather’, in what was possibly the most appropriately named track of the whole festival.

However, an English festival wouldn’t be complete without a bit of wet weather, and whilst later enjoying the sounds of Fickle Friends at the Market Stage, the rain came pouring down. Their unashamed pop sounds had a sparkling musicality, encouraging the crowd to dance along to their upbeat tunes – and mostly to stay under cover with them. Subsequently, the majority of the crowd accepted the first downpour we’ve seen in (perhaps) two months and were happy to splash around to icon status hip-hop legends, De La Soul. Infiltrating the stage prior to headliners Friendly Fires, a mixed crowd of both 16 and 50-year olds waved their hands and bopped to the three-piece's jazz-rap tunes. No other act could’ve entertained the crowd better as they pushed through the rain to stay the midst of the action.

Next, Friendly Fires gave everyone their fill of tropical melodies to close the first day of festivities. Tracks including ‘Jump in the Pool’ and new classic ‘Love Like Waves’ uplifted the spirits of those soaked head to toe, however, the relentless rain was definitely dampening the tone, with campers heading back to their tents before the set had come to a close.

Mr. Motivator was the only way to start Saturday morning at Truck. As the clouds cleared and the rain was no more hundreds got involved in aerobic fitness whilst he sported neon lycra as day to day attire. Slowly making our way through the site, we headed for The Nest – curated by So Young Magazine to bring the best in new indie and alternative. Gengahr notably filled the tent with their psychedelic indie dream pop in what was a brief but fan-favourite set.

Everything Everything later took to the Truck Stage as established indie-rock old timers, playing a collection of career spanning tracks before ending their set with the iconic, ‘Distant Past’. Crowds danced in unison before waiting in anticipation of Jake Bugg. Switching between electric and acoustic guitars, Bugg delivered a surprisingly uplifting performance. Audience engagement seemed to be his strong point; with families, friends and individuals all communally singing the lyrics of the 24-year old's tracks. Closing the set with ‘Two Fingers’ and ‘Lightning Bolt, the finale was appropriate to his musical talent.

With the crowd now warmed up for the headline act, George Ezra hailed the stage in perfect form. As a singer-songwriter, Ezra has immense versatility in a plethora of songs which prove easy listening isn’t necessarily bleak. With an infectious tone surrounding the arena, crowds danced ‘Cassy O’ and ‘Paradise’ as his band gave the tracks instrumental revamps. Fans were rewarded with interlude-like anecdotes behind 2014 album Wanted on Voyage and this year’s Staying at Tamara’s, spilling the secrets behind tracks such as ‘Budapest’ before bursting into song. Latest single ‘Shotgun’ ended the set in a karaoke sing-along fashion, bringing Saturday night to a close.  

Sunday morning was opened with the Oxford Symphony Orchestra filling the Truck Stage to exhibit the family-friendly village fete atmosphere Truck so nichely holds. Sitting under the warmth of the sun, crowds enjoyed instrumental covers of tracks such as David Bowie’s ‘Starman’. Later that afternoon Blaenavon took to the same stage, exhibiting their delicate indie undertones to an eager crowd. Whilst many acts at the Main Stage pull a passing crowd, Blaenavon notably had fans waiting for their arrival to hear tracks like ‘Orthodox Man’ and ‘Prague’.

Whilst most the attention was on The Amazons’ heavier breed of rock n roll over at the Truck Stage, The Magic Gang fulfilled an evening slot at the smaller Market Stage. Since their album release earlier this year, The Magic Gang have been consistently gaining popularity – proved in their Sunday performance with crowd’s shoulder to shoulder and spilling out of the tent. This buzzing atmosphere was given a more riotous tone when followed by RAT BOY. Despite claiming he was banned the first time they played Truck, Jordan Cardy’s punk tendencies fused with indie rock sounds to please a young yet involved crowd. ‘Get Over It’ allowed for a more danceable tone, but upon ending with ‘Left 4 Dead’, the space erupted into a mosh from wall to wall.

Ending just in time for final headliners The Courteeners, a dash to the main stage was greeted by ‘Are You in Love With A Notion?’. Subsequently, the pace slowed between songs as the Manchester icons appeared to have some issues on stage as frontman Liam Fray apologised and, like all of us, muttered about the heat. Still, the band’s decade spanning discography treated fans to songs both new and old throughout an hour and a half long set. The atmosphere felt more like a football match than a festival, with flares being sparked and colours adorning the air in the ultimate singalong of ‘Not Nineteen Forever’. An anthemic tone hailed throughout their performance, with fireworks launching behind the stage as the festival drew to a close.

All in all, Truck Festival continues to prove why it holds the title of best small festival. Whilst some might say it’s losing the familiar atmosphere of the two-day event it was three years ago, Truck preserves a beloved sociable environment whilst having a line-up potential other small festivals could only dream of.

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