TRUCK FIFTEEN (2012)
With new organisers in place, the team from Y-Not festival in Derbyshire, perhaps the surprise for many was how much things were just like they used to be, the elements all in place but also moving with the times; the barn, after a year off, was back, and this time with a new roof covered in pristine solar panels. I saw members of the Low Anthem, after a storming set, queuing along with everyone else for a Rotary Club burger, Tim Minchin leading unlikely singalongs, the farmer’s daughter serving legendary banana smoothies to hungover teenagers of all ages, some of whom were probably wearing nappies back when this all started. I’d like to remember all those who have been part of it, some every year, some just for a short while, and those like Simon, the original leader of the Truck bar, who are no longer here, but who shared many special moments at Hill Farm. The convoy just keeps on rollin’, just as they would want it to.
TRUCK FOURTEEN (2011)
There was so much going on at this festival, and so much quality music, with headline sets from Gruff Rhys and Bellowhead and even a solo set by Phil Selway of Radiohead. A standout for many was Fixers’ set on the main stage, positioned in a different field for the first and perhaps only time, with singer Jack wearing a strange false beard. It was certainly a time of flux – the old dead tree that had stood by the stage for 13 years was now thoroughly rotten and finally had to be taken down, and there were some well-publicised difficulties behind the scenes; but the heart and spirit of the festival was very much present in the big top stage on the Sunday night as the Truck All-Stars, a gang including The Magic Numbers, Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne, Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou and The Dreaming Spires, performed Fleetwood Mac’s album “Rumours” in full, because…. well, why not? perhaps the finest moment was ‘Guitar’ George Borowski, who we’d had the pleasure of ‘discovering’ when he attended the previous year as Teenage Fanclub’s guitar tech, romping through “Don’t Stop” as 2000 people in the tent grinned uncontrollably.
TRUCK THIRTEEN (2010)
A diverse and interesting line-up with Mew and Teenage Fanclub headlining alongside many returning heroes – 65 Days of Static, Blood Red Shoes, Stornoway. Fionn Regan appeared with some Truck regulars in his band – he’d played at the festival in it’s early days too, and he was this year’s mystery appearance, being listed as Near Fog Inn. Teenage Fanclub and Fionn joined in the aftershow sing-song, leaving a small tent spellbound as they sang some of their best tunes. We recall one of the Fanclub leaving at 5 or 6 am having injured his foot kicking a bottle. No glass on site gentlemen! Bellowhead stepped away from the folk circuit and found that their music was much appreciated by the Truck crowd too, so much so that they returned to headline the following year. We finally got Mercury Rev to play, and in true maverick style, Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper decided to play an instrumental soundtrack to the Kenneth Anger movie “Lucifer Rising”. Look it up, but not if you’re at work. Jonathan decided not to be on stage at all, operating the sound desk instead, and those that could get in to the barn were treated to either the best gig ever, or the worst, depending on who you asked. That’s the way we like it. Because of council limits that year, the barn capacity was rather low, which had become a problem; when Ms Dynamite played, the queue stretched round the block, but it was worth it for those who did get in, by all accounts. I couldn’t get in. The Friday night opening was becoming popular, with BBC Oxford Introducing running a packed-out stage on that night (the festival itself was still Saturday & Sunday).
TRUCK TWELVE (2009)
Starting out playing garage rock, naturally in your parents garage, you need good simple pop tunes to play, and talented peers around your age to look up to. Growing up in Oxford, we had some kids called Supergrass who went to number one whilst barely past their GCSEs, and over in Belfast they had Ash. Now, years later, we had both of them at Truck, a little older and wiser, but still rocking and both with an arsenal of great tunes. Gaz Coombes was by now joined in Supergrass by his brother Charly, who had appeared at the very first Truck with his band Tumbleweed. He’d also played on the inaugural Truck them tune, “Truck 98″. Someone must have a copy. Danny Goffey, Supergrass drummer and modern-day Keith Moon, arrived with a dog, but no lead. Of course, it’s a no-dogs festival, but an exception was made and a lead was borrowed from the farmer. Gaz and Danny also found time for a set by their Hot Rats side-project in the barn. Ash’s Tim Wheeler was thrilled to join in with Damo Suzuki of Can’s all-star jam on the main stage, pronouncing that he’d never taken part in a jam session before – certainly not one in front of thousands of people. Also joining in were Mark and Loz from Ride, a string quartet, Jason Sebastian Russo of Mercury Rev and all sorts of others, making an undulating racket you’d be unlikely to hear on the main stage of any other festival. This year’s ones to watch: Wild Beasts, Fanfarlo, Joy Formidable, Pulled Apart By Horses, and a secret set by Funk Tanker. You work it out…
Steventon’s own broadcasting legend ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris presented a stage, with notable sets from the Incredible String Band’s Mike Heron and Gary Louris & Mark Olson of The Jayhawks. Standing in the chill-out lounge for a sing-song as the last campers went to bed, we had Gary standing on a chair singing ‘Blue’ to anyone who would listen.
TRUCK ELEVEN (2008)
We were excited to get The Lemonheads to perform their album “It’s A Shame About Ray”. For some, the set was a little flat, but we enjoyed it very much. Perhaps remarkable that they could play at all, given the variety of medications that had to be found before Evan Dando could go onstage. He’d arrived a day late, completely missing a scheduled warm-up gig, even though his two band-members and long-suffering tour manager were already in Steventon. A few hours before showtime nobody was really sure whether Evan would arrive at all. But he did, just about. For the second year in a row, there was a legendary rock keyboard player on site: this time, Ian “Mac” MacLagan, of the Small Faces, the Faces, and even (for a time) the Rolling Stones. He was playing with his own band, and stood appreciatively at the side of the stage will other acts played. What a dude. Danny and the Champions of the World made a very memorable first appearance proper on the truck stage, accompanied by many bearded and face-painted types including Romeo of the Magic Numbers and the giant furry Truck Monster, newly installed as the festival mascot. Maps blew the cobwebs off the barn during a day curated by Sonic Cathedral, making clear their shoegaze roots with an epic cover of Ride’s “Leave them all behind”, while Rolo Tomassi holy-roared the place down, linking their set with that of regulars Youthmovies with an improvised freeform jam. Yacht were incredible and got everybody dancing, while Dodgy got everyone singing (in fact, such a large crowd gathered outside the market stage singing :Staying Out For The Summer”, etc, that the following year the stage had to be moved. Some promising newcomers Noah and the Whale and Laura Marling played.
Get Cape returned to headline, preceded by Frank Turner and Rival Schools’ Walter Schreiffels, for some reason playing as Blimey & the Governors. In those days it was hard to keep up with exactly who was playing where and when, as everyone was so busy having Truck fun. If you can remember it, you weren’t there.
TRUCK TEN (2007)
This one will go down forever as the flooded one. There will probably have to be a book about this so we’ll keep it brief-
Tickets sold out in a couple of days, and expectation was building- but then, on the day before the festival was due to start, freak floods hit the area and the brook running through the farm burst its banks, rapidly submerging much of the already-built festival site under many inches of water. By the evening, many houses and roads in Steventon, and indeed in Oxford, were also severely flooded.
Music legend Garth Hudson (of The Band/Bob Dylan’s band) and his wife Maud had already arrived at Heathrow and were on their way. They were due to to play with a band consisting of Goldrush and Grand Drive, who were also present waiting to rehearse, and to celebrate Garth’s 70th birthday; they arrived into total chaos. While Radio 1 announced that the festival was cancelled (or rather, postponed), the plucky team threw together a last-minute benefit at the now-closed Oxford Brookes Student Union venue, mostly featuring American acts who had already arrived, a few Oxford bands and the odd stray DJ.
Of course, Garth & Maud played, with a great many going them onstage, and Brian Jonestown Massacre played a typically loud droning set; Mark Gardener and Andy Bell, Ride’s twin singer-songwriters, made an odd appearance, sitting onstage with BJM on an old sofa, while Anton Newcombe announced he would come and help with any replastering that needed doing after the floods.
Sure enough, many of the organisers’ homes were severely damaged and time and energy was used up attempting to clear up the mess; but while the Brookes benefit was a great help, the festival still had to be re-staged that September. Some bands dropped out for scheduling reasons, but many appeared. Some bands had become a lot bigger between July and September, notably Foals, who were due to play the small Trailerpark tent, but their set had to be pulled for safety reasons (hundreds trying to get into the tent). Fortunately, James Rutledge (a.k.a Pedro) gave up his spot in the barn so Foals could have a triumphant homecoming show which you can find on Youtube somewhere. Also in that tent were F@*&Buttons (now officially sanctioned Olympic opening ceremony sound trackers). Garth & Maud came back for the rescheduled event, and Idlewild appeared (having been on our wish list since 1998), with the singer Roddy Woomble arriving from a wedding reception moments before he was due onstage. It’s hard to be totally sure who played, as the printed programmes from the July event were re-used! Some promising local newcomers Stornoway joined in too, playing the flood benefit, featuring a trumpeter wearing a horse’s head, and the rescheduled festival.
TRUCK NINE (2006)
Memorable for music media overload, Truck was poster-boy/girl for the micro-festival revolution and this year’s event was filmed for Channel 4 (and even MTV) and broadcast live on BBC 6 Music, who had their DJs stationed in the recording studio at the farm. Many of the bands who had played early sets at the festival were now on TV and signed to big labels – Young Knives, Fell City Girl, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, iForward Russia!, and so forth. Mystery Jets headlined and by now were very accomplished whilst still charmingly eccentric, while the Futureheads brought the Hounds of Love to the main stage and Hundred Reasons brought the hounds of rock, while Seth Lakeman played the fiddle and Chicks on Speed and 65 Days of Static pushed the boundaries in all directions. Not all at once. As much the stars of the event by this time were the charmers, oddballs and eccentrics who populated the smaller tents: Luke Smith, performing misanthropic but uplifting piano ballads with his dad, Dave the Drummer; the twitchy electronica of Nervous test_pilot, the home-made horns of Thomas Truax, Piney Gir’s country-dancers, Canadian Hip-hop-noir raconteur Buck 65, and so forth. A local band called Foals performed in a tent, another one to watch! Regina Spektor played a still-talked about set in the barn (she doesn’t like playing outdoors), turning the slightly pungent cowshed into a hushed cathedral, for an hour at least. We heard her set on 6 Music the other day, actually, still sounding great. Ninja Banjo Handjob played- can’t remember a thing about them, but what a name!
TRUCK EIGHT (2005)
Truck had developed a reputation for finding and promoting great music, but 2005 was probably the year the start aligned for two epic headline sets- Biffy Clyro, when they were still a few leaps away from their current arena-rocking status, headlined with a snarling main stage performance one night; then, the Magic Numbers closed the festival the very week their debut album reached number one in the charts (these things still mattered back in 2005!). Photos of the Numbers taken in hay barns at the farm graced the cover of NME the following week, too, and they would be back as friends and guests in the years to come. Perhaps even more memorable was the singalong in the Market Stage as the American songwriting legend Chip Taylor and his partner Carrie Rodriguez played “Angel of the morning” (yes, the same one sampled by Shaggy, but Chip wrote the song). Mystery Jets made an early and slightly chaotic appearance, multi-membered troupe Do Me Bad Things played, kicking off their moment in the sun with considerable flair, and Patrick Wolf made an early (and excellent) appearance. There was much debate about Brazil’s DJ Marky appearing in the barn, especially as he arrived rather late, but almost certainly Truck was the only festival that summer you could see both Chip Taylor and DJ Marky! The opening act on the main stage was a lad we’d found in Southend, Sam Duckworth, a.k.a Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – one to watch for the future! Eamon from British Sea Power, Marc from the Tenderfoot and Tom & Alex from Electric Soft Parade appeared for the first time with their indie supergroup Brakes, who found their loving second home at Truck Festival for years to come. Over in the barn, Towers of London – remember them? no? walked around looking silly, while iForward Russia! rocked the Trailerpark tent with their hand-numbered songs.
TRUCK SEVEN (2004)
“Ah, Truck Festival, now in its seventh year and still the perfect antidote to any bloated, highly corporate weekend-long rock event… ” (Drowned in Sound)
Quite a lot to report this year, so let’s go straight to the end of the festival; Simple Kid playing his very mellow country-rock including an unofficial anthem for the year, the suitably titled “Truck On”, followed by the Japanese power trio Electric Eel Shock, enticing the crowd (as is traditional, full of orange-shirted stewards having completed their final shifts) to “do the metal”, while their drummer stands up in rock triumph, wearing nothing but a well-placed sock. The next time we encountered them, in Hong Kong, the same thing happened and the poor guy ended up in jail for the night.
Norwich’s finest, KaitO made one of their regular and highly enjoyable Truck appearances – the guitarist Dave was a Norfolk pig farmer, while singer Nikki is now in Factory Floor. Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster headlined the first night most capably, continuing the Brighton invasion of Truck, having spend the whole day wandering around in full make-up.
TRUCK SIX (2003)
Fast-rising bands such as British Sea Power (hereafter, BSP) and The Futureheads graced the Truck, while founders Robin & Joe’s band Goldrush teamed up with Mark Gardener of Oxford legends Ride, who had arguable got the ball rolling for the Oxford music scene in the early 90s. The main headline set was billed as being by “The Brotherhood of Fish”, in fact a sort of deranged revue put together by recent Mercury Prize nominees The Electric Soft Parade, performing under an assumed name for mysterious security reasons. Quite a number of fairly eccentric Brighton musicians joined them onstage for various antics, and they still found time to play ESP’s own great tunes, although the stage ran several hours late, long into the night… we remember encountering members of ESP & BSP enjoying their trip to the country, gazing blankly across the fence into the eyes of confused sheep sometime around 5am. That’s festival fever for you.
TRUCK 2002 was billed as ‘I am Five’. The dynamic Jetplane Landing, who exemplified the festival’s independent ethos, headlined the main stage, while the festival’s penchant for Americana (perhaps it’s the rustic setting) meant gothic country twosome The Handsome Family appeared on the main stage, and indie heroes Seafood featured in the sweaty confines of the new Trailerpark stage, appearing for their third year in a row, while many bands from Truck Records appeared, including the Four Storeys, Black Nielson (who still faithfully washed out the cowshed each year), and Fonda 500. That year was also notable for an appearance by Young Knives, very early in their career, and bangin’ drum & bass sets in the barn from Kenny Ken and DJ Zinc!
Quite a few regulars from the preceding years again feature heavily; the diverse local scene in Oxford was giving rise to a great many bands, and Truckers had started their own label, working with several of the festival regulars with some success. The Rock of Travolta closed the show with their epic instrumental rock, preceded by Goldrush (previously Whispering Bob), and both bands attracting national airplay and interest. Black Candy’s nu-metal was the main draw on the main stage, with Nottingham’s Six By Seven providing a dash of class and chart-conquering John Otway hurling his guitar around the main stage. In the barn, Menlo Park amazed with their dashing suits, big hair and general showbiz.
Tickets were a cosy £15. The fantastic Grand Drive played, featuring future Champ Danny George Wilson and his brother Julian.
A definite step onto the national stage with this year as the festival expanded, with a very diverse lineup. Indie darlings of the time Seafood headlined the Saturday and brought with them a scale model of Stonehenge to place in front of the stage, which was a flatbed truck with a scaffolding roof. The legendary Blue Aeroplanes filled the Truck stage on the Sunday with numerous members, some of whom were very tall indeed, while Inspiral Carpets frontman Tom Hingley, who had grown up in nearby Abingdon, also appeared, and fellow Abingdonians Unbelievable Truth headlined. Jim from the band wrote the most enduring Truck theme tune, “No Sleep Til Steventon”, which must be due a revival. The festival CD was now a regular feature, and came out on the fledgling Truck Records.
Rothko headlined the barn with their line-up of 4 bass guitars, and the barn also featured a debut for The Edmund Fitzgerald (some of whom went on to become Foals). A full day of metal in the barn, now titled The Barn That Cannot Be Named, on Sunday, with band names including Defenestration, Brutal Delux and the unforgettable Waste Monkey.
(at this point the festivals were still numbered by year. But clearly, the millennium was coming to a close…)
The headliners King Prawn were fronted by a man with an expansive beard and wearing an orange tunic of some kind. The line-up is a mix of local country-rock, heavier stuff, and grunge/indie. And Frigid Vinegar- remember “Dogmanaught 2000″? we were all obsessed with the year 2000 and the millennium bug in those days, though it eventually passed without incident.
A lot of the bands on the Truck stage had featured on the Oxford-based Shifty Disco singles club, a CD-single subscription which released a different artists each month, including Four Storeys, Dustball, Samurai Seven, Whispering Bob (featuring the festival organisers), ATL?, Overground – in fact, pretty much all of them.
Southampton’s Orko played in the Barn (still the small side-barn at this point) and arrived early to help clean it out and sweep the farmyard. A friend of theirs had a few ales at the local pub and careered his car into a fence at the farm on the run-up to the festival, nearly getting the whole thing (and probably all subsequent festivals) cancelled. Members of Orko became Truck regulars and label signings Black Nielson, and 2 of them are now in Co-Pilgrim.
The Barn on the Sunday was already ensconced as the home of metal, with local heroes Black Candy and Mindsurfer appearing, while Saturday was more indie, with bands travelling from as far afield as Reading, Southampton and Wokingham.
The first Truck festival.
Headlined by the very noisy Nought, who also posed for the cover of local music magazine Nightshift holding a miniature Truck. They were also the first band of any note to accept an enthusiastic teenager’s request to appear. The shield logo was based on a Route 66 road sign to suggest the Truckin’ lifestyle (which the organisers had of course never experienced). T-shirts were printed on the family kitchen table. One oddity on the bill of mostly local bands is the New Yorker experimental rock group Fan Modine; they featured Jeff Buckley’s drummer amongst their number, and had been sent our way by David Stephenson, part of the Rocket Gallery which was stationed on the farm at the time. That certainly set the precedent for American bands playing a big role in the event. Gathered round our kitchen table with Roo Bhasin (now of Fixers) trying to get bands to play, we had written to Grandaddy, amongst others, and they had sent back a reply saying they’d love to, only they lived 3000 miles away.
Tickets were £3 advance, with profits split between Amnesty International and Helen & Douglas House.