Truck Festival 2017 @ Steventon, Oxfordshire, 21-23/07/2017

Truck Festival 2017It was the illustrious Fleetwood Mac that first claimed, "Thunder only happens when it’s raining." Truck Festival 2017 stood testament to this, with plenty of both to churn the crowd and the ground into an uncontrollable mud bath.

Yes, there was mud. Lots and lots of mud. Artists talked about it, middle-class kids moshed through it like some tribal rite of passage, and giggling children made angels in it. Wherever you went, there were two things you couldn’t escape – the mud and the music; the rain and the thunder, just as Fleetwood Mac predicted.

This was to be my first wet festival of the season and for mid-July, that’s a phenomenon. But like all hardy British campers, I took it in good grace, helped along not an inconsiderable amount by the plethora of bars dotted about the site ready to warm the cockles and provide respite from all that mud.

The weather you might say was inevitable when you consider that before the rain had even begun to take hold on Friday, we were treated to a storm of a performance by the Hot 8 Brass Band, a New Orleans funk, hip hop and jazz ensemble on the Truck Stage. These phenomenal funksters powered their way through a set that was just shy of a rain dance in terms of its passion and ferocity. Bright, young things, confused by the juxtaposition of brass and beat, jumped headlong into growing puddles collecting around the open field so that by the time headliners Franz Ferdinand hit the stage little was left of either grass or freshly-glittered skin.

Saturday morning broke like a crust of dirt as people peeled themselves out of their tent for the full day’s line up. Music kicked off unforgivingly at 12pm sharp; that was all that was sharp however, as I spied the rather delicate creeping crowds heading for their breakfast and to help raise a bob or two for the food tent’s chosen charity, Teenage Cancer Trust. In 2016 the festival raised over £8,000 for the charity – how’s that for justifying that extra slice of pizza!

Music started for me in the Nest tent; an ear-bleeding set by Yorkshire noise makers, Life. I was to witness for the first time this weekend (but not the last) a strange hive-like movement by the audience that pulled out into a perfectly formed circle only to run, crashing into each other with arms and fists flailing in fury every time the music peaked. It was an exhilarating if not unnerving sight but they all helped each other up at the end and dusted each other down with affable smiles and laughter – so no harm was done! I was later reliably informed that what I was seeing was a circle pit. There you go, I learn something new every day.

The noise continued in the Nest tent with my hidden gem of the weekend, Crows. Front man James Cox knocked out a full-throttle rock set, writhing and convulsing on stage in too tight-black denim, before running head first, somersaulting and landing with precision on the arms of the expectant audience. To suggest anarchy might sound over indulgent but from the faces of the stage-crew as they dragged performer and microphone back from the baying crowd, arguably accurate!

Taking a break from the Nest stage and shaking the high-pitched droning from my ears as their drums continued to vibrate, I head over to the remarkably dry Market stage for a whimsical set by the bewitching Puma Rosa. The contrast in both tempo and decorum made for an almost tea and biscuits moment but that was to be short lived as it was back to the Nest stage for a special performance from Yak.

It was the lead singer and uncanny Mick Jagger lookalike Oli Burslem’s 30th birthday over the weekend. Boy did he make it a night to remember. The sound-check alone was something you’d pay good money for with peppy renditions of Motown tunes and mouth-watering cake-inspired soliloquies. A measure of true stardom is the ability to step on the stage and immediately command the audience. Burslem did it with just a Victoria sponge and a cheeky wink. More crowd surfing and a haphazardly thrown guitar (that security only just managed to wrestle from the determined audience) later and Yak bow out to cheers and cigarette missiles thrown to an expectant birthday boy.

Saturday ended in a quandary with Loyle Carner on the Truck stage and The Moonlandigz on at the Nest both vying for my patronage. As splitting myself in half wasn’t an option I had to make the dash between the two tents, ankle deep in mud, praying that I wouldn’t land face first before I could find shelter. The mad dash was well worth it though. Loyle Carner was his usual eloquent and inviting self, pushing prose like pethidine on the washed-out audience (the Truck stage was the only stage exposed to the elements). Likewise, Valhalla Dale’s own, The Moonlandingz finished the night in an ethereal glow. Johnny Rocket barely conscious, tilting from one side of the stage to the other while the rest of the band played something resembling rock, only the Blackpool kind, complete with kitsch synth riffs and dad jokes. As they stood arms and legs in a scissor-like motion I couldn’t help but wonder whether their tinfoil socks had made it through the mud intact? Undefinably bonkerishly brilliant.

Back outside and I could glimpse The Libertines in full flow back on the Truck stage. I tried to push my way through the congealing audience but soon abandoned any chance of getting close enough for Peter Doherty to be anything more than an ironic dot. Instead, I headed home whilst I still had the chance to rinse off in the still torrential rain.

At some point Sunday morning, the rain stopped. The deathly silence was unsettling, enough to wake me and peek outside to see a warm dawn greeting those that had decided to brave the rain for the after and after after parties just winding down with the dawn chorus.

Sunday was a much more relaxed affair. Families finally gave up trying to keep their kids clean, teenagers retreated to the Oxygen tent to rid themselves of a two-day blistering hangover and the music offered something of the unknown with a few firm favourites to pique the waning energy.

Let’s start with the favourites and it’s an all-girl line-up at the Market stage with Girl Ray and Honey Blood both dragging huge audiences for two very different but equally charming performances. I have seen both bands a lot this year and they never fail to impress. What’s more, their timing on the day’s programme meant that they were a beacon of comfort and familiarity for a tent-tourist such as myself seeking new and unseen bands to pad my musical pedagogy. And seek I did.

London’s experimental electro-rock three-piece, Husky Loops wowed at the Nest tent creating an awful lot of noise for their 2 pm timeslot. Brighton’s Tigercub dialed it down for a caustic performance from their new EP Evolve or Die. Frontman and guitarist Jamie Hall strong-arming the audience into participation in a way that was both a little bit terrifying and overwhelmingly entertaining.

Next up, Cabbage on the Truck stage whipped up the crowd with a politically motivated romp that once again elicited a round of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”, something I have heard so many times this summer it has become almost a pastiche of its original intention. It might have been a better set had it been anywhere but the Truck stage but unfortunately both due to technical failure (we lost the microphone for some time during the set) and the stage being exposed, Cabbage’s raw and distinctive sound was carried away on the breeze, leaving me feeling nothing but a little damp.

All Then Witches, however, more than made up for it back at the Nest, my alma mater tent. Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, All Them Witches bought something of the wild-west with them on this, their last stop of their current tour. Never fear, they will be back on UK soil in the Autumn. Drummer Robby Staabler entered stripped to the waist, a sign that this was going to get sticky very quickly. They didn’t disappoint. The set was 45 mins of proper head-banging rock, sweat, and tears that would keep my head buzzing well into the morning.

Truck Festival 2017 got its name because organisers wanted to ape the Mid-American trucking lifestyle, the freedom of Route 66 and proper rock music. Although the festival has grown in both size and breadth of musical offering there is still something of this original essence lurking behind the tent flaps of stages such as the Nest and Market. All Them Witches was pure truck through and through and it's reassuring to note that despite the award accolades, the multiple stages and year on year growth, Truck Festival has lost none of its freedom. Keep on trucking!


One Response to “Truck Festival 2017 @ Steventon, Oxfordshire, 21-23/07/2017”


  1. Truck Festival 2017 @ Steventon, Oxfordshire, 21-23/07/2017 – Live List - 01/08/2017

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