Truck 13 review – Day 1

Wow. This weekend we went to Truck 13, my 8th Truck festival. If you’ve never heard of it, Truck is a small music festival held in Oxfordshire. It was the creation of two brothers, Robin and Joe Bennett, who wanted to be able to play in their band at a festival, but knew they’d never be picked for Glastonbury – so they created their own mini-Glasto! Truck is a fantastic mix of music, covering everything from rap to folk, and it’s really family-friendly too. The locals get involved as well – the Oxford Rotary Club man the food stalls and bar, and the Steventon vicar sells ice creams on the sweet stall!

Anyway, we had a fabulous time at Truck 13 last weekend. Here’s a quick rundown of who we saw.

For the first time ever, we decided to camp. Now, we only live about half an hour from the site, so I’ve never seen the point, but the kids really wanted to camp this year and eventually I gave in. Big mistake, because the campsite was really noisy, I remembered just why I hate camping so much, I got about half an hour’s sleep all night, all I could think about was my warm cosy bed just 30 minutes away and some drunk managed to fall INTO our tent, not only breaking it but possibly breaking Steve’s ribs too. Gah. So that was the only downside of the weekend. Thought I’d get that bit over with quickly!

The upside of the camping thing was that we were there nice and early so had time to set up the tents and have a good wander and a beer before the music started. First stop of the day was the Village Pub stage to see Silent Alliance, never heard of them but they were fabulous and definitely in my top 5 acts of the weekend! Quite an 80s influence both in look and sound, with a touch of the Killers about them, all good stuff in my book. I’ll be looking out for their album (as they apparently forgot to bring any CDs with them!)

We then popped out to the smelly old Barn stage for a quick look at Ace Bushy Striptease, simply because of their intriguing name. Was a bit too loud and shouty for me so early in the day though!

Then back to the Village Pub for Alphabet Backwards. We saw this local (Didcot!) band last year and they really impressed us; this time they packed out the tent and had everyone up and dancing, really fun! Good to see a band enjoying themselves so much too.

After that we caught the end of Charley Coombs and the New Breed‘s set. Charley is brother of Gaz Coombes of Supergrass fame and in fact Charley played with Supergrass at Truck last year. His new band is very new but sounded really established, a similar-ish sound to Supergrass I reckon. One to look out, for definitely! (And talking of Gaz, he was there with his family, watching his brother play – and we’re convinced he was wearing exactly the same outfit he wore on stage a year ago!)

Next came an act that’s been on the line-up every year I’ve been to Truck yet I’ve never managed to see it. Of course, it’s the madness that is Thomas Truax. Completely nuts this guy is. He plays instruments made of old gramophones (the Hornicator) and bicycles and washing machines. His music is unique – as well as playing the odd contraptions he yodels, howls like a wolf and is generally very entertaining! Glad I finally managed to see him!

Before we came to Truck, Steve had bought a few CDs from bands who had been announced as playing, and I’d listened to a few on Spotify. So our next on the list was the first of the bands in the Battle of the Shoes competition. Before the festival, Steve really liked the sound of this lot; I wasn’t impressed and preferred Blood Red Shoes. Anyway, we saw Good Shoes first and they were better than I expected …. Steve really liked them …. but I still wasn’t entirely won over. Sorry!

Next up was the Bennett Brothers’ latest incarnation, Dreaming Spires. When they started Truck they were in a band called Whispering Bob, then that became Goldrush who were a huge favourite of mine. Sadly Goldrush has gone, I fear, and the brothers went on to do various other things. The Dreaming Spires are in a similar vein to Goldrush – country-tinged rock – and very pleasant, but I do miss the old songs!

After a beer and a bit of a wander round we found ourselves outside the Beat Hive listening to some atmospheric electronica coming from Active Child. Very nice. We were actually there waiting for Mr Shaodow – personal (Facebook/Twitter) friend you know! LOL – and his crew. I’ve seen Mr Shaodow a couple of times now. I’m probably not his target audience – I’m not really into rap and am obviously approaching middle age rather than one of da kidz – but I actually really like what he does, it’s intelligent stuff and when he and his mate LeeN do their freestyling it’s impressive and sometimes very funny! So we threw some shapes and suggested mad topics for freestyling (SHEEP!!)  and were banging to Mr Shaodow for a while, which was very cool!

Next I wanted to see a trio of bands in the Barn – Darwin Deez, 65 Days of Static and Mercury Rev’s Clearlight Orchestra. The queue to get in was enormous though so I decided not to bother. Ah well. Instead I caught the end of Stornoway‘s set – seen them before, they’re okay but don’t hugely excite me – and then was completely blown away by Bellowhead! Now, Steve and I had both listened to some of their stuff on Spotify and decided it really wasn’t our cup of tea – sea shanties, I ask you! – but seeing this stuff live was a whole different story and we were up and dancing, it really was one of the most spectacularly entertaining sets I’ve ever seen. I’ll definitely look out for them and see them live again!

And so we came to the final act of the day (on the main stage anyway) and the one I had been looking forward to most of all … the mighty Mew. I first came across Mew when I was working part time at a local radio station and the manager there gave me a stack of demo CDs to sort through. One of them was “Am I Wry? No!” and I simply adored it. I bought their first album, “Frengers” and it is still one of my favourite albums ever. I then saw Mew a couple of times live, at Reading Uni and Oxford Zodiac, and was mesmerised by the rich soundscape, dream-like visuals  and almost ethereal vocals that were perhaps the most important instrument in the band. I’d been raving about Mew to the family and was really REALLY excited about seeing them on the truck stage. …. Oh my, what a disappointment. I don’t know if the sound levels were set up incorrectly or if the band just weren’t suited to playing outdoors, but the vocals were completely inaudible at times – you only knew the guy was singing because you could see his mouth move – and without the vocals the rest just sounded messy. There were a couple of good moments – Wry and 156 were okay and Comforting Sounds was a fitting finale (though the following encore was not so good) but overall I was just left deeply disappointed because Mew just seemed to be, well, a bit average really. Bah humbug.

So that was the end of our first day at Truck. 12 bands, one fabulous new discovery (Silent Alliance), one big disappointment and lots of sea shanties and dancing! Not a bad start to the weekend.

More to come after the sleepless night that was Truck camping!

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