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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Review: Truck Festival 2011

Once a year, a farm deep in the Oxfordshire countryside opens its gate and in rushes the most talented musicians of the moment, kids, babies, lovely people.... and a monster. We wouldn't miss it for the world.

Written by Cari Steel


Truck Monster Illustration by Barb Royal

Dancing like a loon to jungle music at 3am. Sitting next to a cornfield in the evening sunshine with a succulent burger in one hand and a cider in the other. No, for sale wait, getting some love from the Truck Monster…. no; feeling the love as the most perfect album in the entire history of recorded music was recreated live on stage…. I’m trying to sift through my favourite moments at Truck festival 2011, and I could sit here ad infinitum without coming any closer.

The weekend of July 22-24th is one of Summer’s prime time slots in the festival calender – if this was the telly, it would be the 7.30pm Eastenders or Corrie dilemma, so Truck has always run the risk of being overlooked by the bigger beasts of the festival scene, yet it has diligently carved itself a niche amongst good people who love great music. If I were to try to give Truck a unique selling point, I would say that it’s like attending the worlds hippest village fete (but with no pretentious ‘tude). Example? Next to the stage that Transgressive, Heavenly Records and Bella Union were curating the line-up, the local Rotary Club were serving up cups of tea and scones. At this rate, I wouldn’t have been surprised had I been served tea by a ray-bans wearing vicar.

This year, I brought a good friend who had previously only been to one festival (Glasto), so I was excited to see what she made of something a lot more intimate. Joining us for an all-too brief time was Amelia and her lovely boyfriend Tim, who I last saw at Wood Festival. Sharing the same ethos as Wood (which isn’t hard; they are run by the same family), Truck is a resolutely inclusive, family-friendly festival. Babies and tiny tots are held in high regard here, and are given plenty of fun activities and places to play, which must be a godsend for parents.

Illustration by Benbo


Amelia captures her crew in the early evening sunshine.


Photographs by Amelia Gregory

I noticed that Truck had expanded a fair bit, there were additions of a theatre space, a comedy and cabaret tent, (which I regretfully say that I didn’t give enough attention to – next year I promise!), as well as Wood Field, which was a little slice of Wood festival, curated by the Oxford Folk Festival and providing lots of environmentally friendly activities and workshops (and music of course)

Most of my time was spent by the Clash Stage. This was the place where Transgressive, Heavenly and Bella Union took turns in curating the days set list. I considered myself in safe hands with these three labels; the triumvirate of the independent music scene. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the people behind this. Not least because they nail it again and again and again. Transgressive had kicked proceedings off on Friday with acts like Gaggle, Peggy Sue, Johnny Flynn and Graham Coxon. Gaggle are a force to be reckoned with; I first saw the 20+ piece all-female performance art choir about a year ago at The Lexington and was completely transfixed. They exemplify everything great about being a woman; strong, loud, dynamic and passionate (with killer headgear), I found this photograph of Gaggle posing in the field above Truck to give you a sense of their presence.


photo by Andrew Kendall

Saturday was Heavenly Records turn to take care of us. When I was first really getting into proper music – after my Five Star faze – Heavenly were one of the first cases where I was intrigued by the label as much as the artists. Right from the get go, Heavenly had its finger on the pulse of the dreamy halcyon days of early 90′s indie-pop, underground and all matter of slightly letfield music. And they provided one of the biggest and unexpected highlights for me on Saturday night – Edwyn Collins. First of all, I had no idea how many songs of his I knew without actually realising who had sung them; of course his biggest hit was “A Girl Like You“, and his days with Orange Juice produced the glorious “Rip It Up And Start Again“, but apparently I’ve been singing along to many more of his hits over the last few years. Live, his set was faultless; it was energetic and fun and the audience were loving every minute. It was about halfway in that I suddenly remembered reading that Edwyn had suffered two strokes a few years ago and could not marry up the idea of suffering something so debilitating with the man on stage who was giving us such a wonderful show. After the weekend I learnt that after a stroke, a persons ability to sing can sometimes remain unabated. I left the set in absolute awe of this mans ability and talent.


photo by Andrew Kendall

Tearing ourself away from the Clash Stage for a hot second, we headed over to the Main Stage to catch Gruff Rhys who delivered a brilliant performance. I had never managed to see the Super Furry Animals live, so I was really happy to watch Gruff entertain us. Sensations in the Dark is one of those perfect songs where every second packs a punch – and it’s great to dance to. (Which we did of course).


Gruff Rhys Illustration by Barb Royal


Late Saturday night and the bars kicked into full swing, such as Kidstock (pictured above), home to several sambuca shots which fortified Anshu and myself for our next pit-stop – the Boxford dance tent. My lovely and kind friend Toby Kidd was DJing old skool jungle in a two hour set that led me to discovering that I can actually dance to jungle. (I’m well aware that photos exist that will disprove this belief, I’m just not going to show them to you).


Photo by Ian Taylor
Sunday was a blazing hot day and I spent the first part of the early afternoon watching bands from a horizontal position, whilst letting the good people at the Rotary Club feed me a late breakfast. (Not literally at the same time, that would be too sybaritic – even for me). Bella Union’s set was possibly my favourite over all, I loved Cashier No.9, who opened proceedings and have been playing a lot on 6Music recently. I hadn’t heard of Lantern’s On The Lake, but I really enjoyed their set – it was a mix of loud, jangly guitar and etherial shoe-gaze. In fact Lanterns took shoe-gaze to its most literal level – I didn’t get to see the lead singers eyes – she and her guitar were pointed resolutely at the floor, lost in the wall of sound that she was creating.

Alessi’s Ark is a favourite of Amelia’s Magazine and its contributors so I was eager to see her set as well. She has a sweet delicate sound that reminds me a little of Liz Fraser from Cocteau Twins, which is ironic seeing that the guitarists in the band founded Bella Union, the label that Alessi is signed to.


Alessi’s Ark Illustration by Barb Royal

While my friend went to chill out in the afternoon sunshine with a reflexology session, I made my way over to the Wood stage, where Rachael Dadd was performing songs from her new album Bite The Mountain. I’m feeling like a little bit of a Rachael groupie of late, having gone to both nights of her album launches, as well as watching the beautiful evening that she helped put on a few months ago to raise money for the Japanese tsunami appeal. So although I know most of her songs off by heart now, they still feel fresh with every listen.


Rachael Dadd Illustration by Tom Watson

The most epic part of the weekend took place on Sunday night. Over at the Main Stage, The Dreaming Spires were holding court. The band consists of Robin and Joe Bennett, the brothers behind Truck. Knowing these guys, I knew what they had up their sleeve after their blinding set, which made me very excited. So at 11pm, everyone rushed back to the Clash Tent, where alongside The Magic Numbers, Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou, and Sarah Cracknell of St Etienne, the band performed the entire album of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. From start to finish, every second was magical. The audience sang along for most of the songs, or danced furiously. Watching the album being performed live, it made me realise how sonically perfect Rumours is; the composition of each song is faultless. The songs were sometimes sung en masse, or the various bands would take it in turn to sing. Of course, it wouldn’t be Truck if the Truck Monster didn’t come on stage and dance behind the band, which added a suitably surreal touch to proceedings. It was one of those moments that can never be captured again, and I’m so glad that I got to experience such musical craftsmanship.
All of a sudden, the festival was over for me, as I had to rush home. My spies tell me that me that those who stayed danced late into the night (or early into the morning), drawing to a close a beloved festival that gets everything right.

Photograph by Ian Taylor


Some girls get all the luck. Photograph by Carolina Faruolo

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  1. [...] did this drawing for an Amelia's Magazine article on Truck [...]

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