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Truck Festival – Hill Farm, Oxfordshire

Truck Festival returned after a three year absence, owing to he obvious cancellations due to the COVID restrictions we have all experienced over these last few years. This year saw the festival celebrating its 25th birthday and man did it throw one hell of a party for the 25,000 revellers that descended on Hill Farm in Oxfordshire! The line up was fine blend of the established, the unsigned, local artists and everything in between! A big draw for me to the festival this year was how represented indie and post-punks band were represented across the various stages. 

Thursday started with a seamless arrival at the festival and a quick tent set up in the Zodiac fields before heading over to the main stage to catch Brooke Coombe. The Scottish singer/songwriter has recently just toured this year with Miles Kane and had come highly recommended to me to go and check out. The first of many visits over the weekend then proceeded as I headed over to the This Feeling tent to check out the Lock-In lads. I photographed them late last year and they always bring a great energy to their gigs and tonight was no different. I then darted back over to the Main Stage to take in Black Honey’s set, opening with ‘All My Pride and playing one of my other favourites ‘I Like The Way You Die’.  Indie newcomers The Native were next up on the list for me back over in the This Feeling Tent, these lads have recently just signed to This Feeling Records and are on for big things. Lead singer Charlie has a fine voice especially exhibited on the tracks ‘Blindside’ and ‘Changes’ – a song that has been on heavy rotation since its release a few weeks back. The Main Stage headliners this evening were none other than Stockport’s finest, Blossoms, and one of the most finely dressed bands on the circuit right now. Blossoms are a band who have This Feeling to thank for initially providing a platform to showcase their talents. The band have recently released a new album which meant there was plenty of new material for the band to work through which was placed nicely together with the more established numbers we have all come to know and love; particular highlights included ‘The Sulking Poet’, ‘Your Girlfriend’, ‘There’s a Reason Why’ and of course’ Charlemagne’! My night didn’t finish there as I had yet another quick stop back at This Feeling to catch the lads from Planet who were over all the way from Sydney. Vocalist and guitarist Matty Took is the younger brother of Johnny Took from DMAs.

Photo Credit: Tom Ogden (Russ Leggatt)

A lot of editing ensued early doors on the Friday before we headed over to The Market Stage to catch the Mercury prize nominated Yard Act. Yard Act gigs are known for their rowdy mosh pits and today was no exception with the crowd that had turned out to see them – lead singer James Smith announced they were from Leeds which didn’t get the best reception (all in good jest though!) The talented Lauran Hibberd was up next on the main stage with her indie pop numbers that will soon be released on her debut album in August called ‘Garageband Superstar’. One of the stand out performers for me over the weekend, without a shadow of a doubt, was Fitzroy Holt, I had heard this guy was good but I don’t think I was prepared for how good he would be live! Fitz’s voice and range were incredible and you could be forgive that his band had been playing together for a good 40 years they were that tight. The tent began to fill up very quickly as the set went on – feast you ears around his latest single ‘Medicine’ when you can and if you get a chance to see him live then take it! This guy will blow up soon!

Just Mustard have produced one of my albums of the year so far with ‘Heart Under’ – the eerie vocals of Katie Ball ringing out across the Market Stage tent in the early evening gave me goosebumps. Sea Girls pulled a big crowd of their devoted contingent and have seen a huge rise since I last saw them. I was most intrigued to see Sigrid on the main stage, admittedly not knowing her music I was most definitely impressed by her performance and the singalongs from the excitable crowd. A complete contrast was to ensue to finish the day with the infectious and rowdy The Skinner Brothers over at This Feeling Stage – I love the energy this band bring from the off encouraging everyone to begin moshing! Lead singer Zak shouts to those outside the tent to get themselves inside as its going to go off and that it did! Over on the main stage Bombay Bicycle Club traversed their way through a hit ladened set that we have known to love from them over years with particular favourites ‘Shuffle’, ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing but You) and finishing with ‘Always Like This’.

Sam Fender
Photo Credit: Sam Fender (Russ Leggatt)

A jam packed Saturday was on the cards with a lot of the bands I have been listening to these last few years playing across the multiple stages at Truck including Courting, whose single ‘Tennis’ has been on heavy rotation since its release early this year. A first visit to The Nest to see a few numbers from Coach Party was fun, I remember the band’s previous incarnation as Jeph a few years back at a gig supporting Boy Azooga. Dead Freights packed out their set, the Southampton rock ’n’ rollers arrived on stage in day of the dead style masks and proceeded to fire tequila from water pistols into the crowd – Batman is a tune of theirs to add to your playlists. 

I then managed to catch Do Nothing, Sports Team and The Murder Capital – three bands who have fallen into the post punk category that is dominating guitar based music nowadays. Sports Team lead singer Alex Rice bounds on stage donning a matador outfit and during the set decides to climb up the side of stage, keeping the security on their toes for his next move. The Murder Capital explore the darker side of life with the evocative tunes and join the superb contingent of bands that are currently flying out of Ireland. I loved the intensity of their performance especially during ‘Don’t Cling to Life’ – it was hard for my to concentrate photographing as all I wanted to do was watch in awe. Kelis brought her milkshake to the yard on the main stage and one big party with it too – this was before The Big Moon (the happiest band!), The Kooks and Shame took us through to the main event that was the boy from the North East, Sam Fender. Fresh from selling out a 45,000 capacity Finsbury Park a few weeks prior, Sam arrived at Hill Farm in fine form. You could feel the energy of the crowd building all day and I have never seen so many Newcastle United football shirts dotted around a festival before. Prior to coming on stage we had heard a rumour that Sam would be bringing a special guest out with him, our minds were bouncing around thinking it could be The Boss – Bruce Springsteen and possibly Geordie legends Sting or Jimmy Nail! Sam started with “Will We Talk’ before the rumours were then put to bed when the special guest was introduced to the stage who was none other than Shaun Williamson aka Barry from Eastenders and Barrioke fame! Barry and the band duetted on ‘Getting Started’ with Sam saying that ‘never did he think he’d get the opportunity to duet with such a legend’ – you could see Barry was absolutely delighted to be on the stage in front of such a crowd. Sam manoeuvred through the usual numbers (Get You Down, Saturday, Seventeen Going Under) with ease throughout the night and had to stop the crowd on a number of occasions as it was getting rowdy, he did also admit that he wasn’t feeling in top form today but the crowd had hoped to lift his mood. ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ was coupled with a huge firework finish to bring Saturday main stage to a close!

Photo Credit: Serge Pizzorno (Russ Leggatt)

Enola Gay set the bar high for Sunday by playing a rip roaring set over at The Nest and could have easily packed out that tent 3-4 times over. This definitely wasn’t the set to forget my earplugs for, not only did my hearing take a battering so did my face – it felt like a layer of skin had been ripped off given the intensity and velocity of the set! Grandmas House continued in a similar vein over on the Main Stage with the raucous guitar riffs and pulsating drum beats in the warm summer sun – man, was it a hot one on Sunday! I took one last trip over to my favourite tent (This Feeling if you hadn’t already guessed!) to catch some of Megan Wyn’s set – the welsh singer/songwriter has been hotly tipped by some major publications and has also played some of the big festivals (Great Escape & Isle of Wight) as well as touring with the likes of John Power (Cast & The La’s). I followed this up with a trio of firsts getting to see The Magic Gang, Jade Bird and Orla Gartland – Orla’s music was completely new to me and clearly I have been living under a rock given how packed out the Market Stage was for her set. 

I had been slightly apprehensive of seeing Kasabian again without Tom as the frontman, after having seen them a number of times over the years and also again with Serge as the frontman. Tonight completely dispelled that apprehension! The tension was building nicely in the crowd for the band’s arrival and this was helping fuel my buzz having been given the opportunity to be in the pit for their set. As soon as Serge and the band hit the stage it was 100mph – Serge was bounding up and down, pacing like a lion stalking his prey and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. The start to the set was ferocious which included Underdog and Club Foot – Kasabian continued to steamroll through the hits with ‘Shoot the Runner’, ‘eez-eh’, ‘Empire’ and ‘Vlad the Impaler’ before moving into the encore of ‘LSF’ and ‘Fire’ which provided a mass singalong to the backdrop of the closing firework display which was epic!

This was my first Truck Festival experience but it certainly won’t be my last! Truck is a unique festival amongst all the many in the UK – its a comfortable size, a great layout with easy access to everything and has a bias towards a indie based lineup! Long may it continue! 

Early bird tickets tickets for next years festival have just been released and can be found here.

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