A year after the festival hit the financial rocks, TIM HUGHES is delighted to be packing his sleeping bag and heading down to Hill Farm for the return of Truck Festival – which is now under new management
TOMORROW up to 5,000 music-lovers and artists will pitch up at a South Oxfordshire farm for what promises to be one of the highlights of the summer.
Truck Festival has attracted local music fans since the event was first staged at Hill farm, Steventon, 14 years ago. And the event’s irresistible mix of new and established, local and international, bands and down-home country charm is as much a draw now as it was when it was launched.
But this year is different.
Last August Truck founders Robin and Joe Bennett were forced to call time on the event after a killer combination of crippling costs and lower than expected revenue left a “gaping hole” in its finances, forcing them to call it a day.
Bands and festival-goers alike were left lamenting the demise of an event at the heart of the local music scene. So all were delighted when, earlier this year, it was revealed that Truck would be taken over by the team behind the successful Y Not Festival in Derbyshire.
This weekend’s gathering follows a whirlwind few months for new festival organisers Ralph Broadbent, James Goodall and Simon Mawbey. But not only have they rescued it, they have managed to pull together what should be a vintage Trucking year – with a line-up to die for.
Yet much of what has always made Truck so endearing remains – with the Rotary Club flipping burgers for good causes, the vicar selling ice creams and good organic ale on offer at the bar.
“We have tried to put on a festival which captures the best of Truck,” says Ralph, “The barn is back and so are the Rotary Club and vicar with his ice creams. But we have also brought a fresh approach – so we have also got a beach bar, complete with boat and deck chairs, and a cocktail bar in a shack.
“And the line-up is amazing.”
He’s not kidding.
Despite a late start, the lads have managed to pull together a clutch of former Truck stars, hot new things and popular local heroes. They include The Temper Trap (see opposite), The Mystery Jets, Theme Park, British Sea Power, 65 Days of Static, Villagers, The Low Anthem, Guillemots, Little Comets, Three Trapped Tigers, King Charles and funny man Tim Minchin.
Representing homegrown talent are Fixers, Spring Offensive, Old Grinding Young, the Black Hats Kill Murray, and The Dreaming Spires – featuring Truck founders Robin and Joe.
The action on stage will be accompanied by the intriguingly-titled Kingdom of Jammalot, for up-and-coming artists; a new Ladybird kids area; and drama from the Oxford Playhouse – who hold court in their own Plays Out tent. Oh, and Saturday will be fancy dress day – with the theme of wild animals.
“It will be like the best years of Truck, with a fresh edge,” says Ralph.
Other than the main stage, most of the action takes place undercover – which may prove a blessing in the highly unlikely event of summer rain – and the barn is back – two years after being effectively shut down by zealous council officials.
Its return, with afternoons of music curated by The Big Scary Monsters & Alcopop labels and a line-up of late night DJs, has been universally welcomed by al those who have grown up moshing to quality rock accompanied by a faint whiff of dung.
So much so, in fact, that tickets, which have actually gone down in price, have all but sold out.
Among those itching to get to Hill Farm are Theme Park – who play what they describe as “dance pop with a groove and lots of rhythm”.
“We are really looking forward to it,” says the band’s Marcus Haughton. “We’ve done a few shows in Oxford and it’s always been good – and it will be great to bring it into a field.”
Marcus will be playing alongside his twin brother Miles, and friends Louis Bhose and Oscar Manthorp, who will go on to play the Reading and Leeds Festivals later this summer.
“It’s going to be fun and I’m sure people will have a very good time – and dance,” he says. “And I hope the sun will be shining.”
While optimistic about the weather, Ralph admits it has been a nerve-wracking ride.
“I was apprehensive but the feedback has been great,” he says. “We have stuck with the format and the only changes have been positive. It’s really important to give people what they want.
“The most important thing is that people have a good time and want to come back next year.”
While Robin and Joe are no longer directly involved with the running of Truck, they have been on hand to offer advice and help with the transition.
And despite the exaggerated reports of its demise, Ralph says the depth of support for the festival has made its organisation a joy.
“It has been quite easy as so many people love Truck,” he says. “We’d never have been able to start a new festival and attract 5,000 people.
“I’m really excited,” he goes on. “We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time working really hard and it is all culminating in what should be a great weekend.”
WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR:
- Mystery Jets – quirky and fun, Eel Pie Island’s most famous export have been delighting festival crowds since 2006. Frontman Blaine Harrison’s band are Truck veterans – and will have the crowd singing along to their brand of uplifting pop.
- Temper Trap – soaring, widescreen pop from this Melbourne five-piece whose hit Sweet Disposition made them global stars.
- British Sea Power , left, – Thoughtful, provocative and compulsively listenable - these nature-loving history-buffs are one of the UK’s best festival acts and a sight to behold live. Their show follows the release of last year’s valhalla Dancehall album.
- Black Hats – These Oxford power pop/ indie rockers combine all that is great about live music - oozing Mod-style swagger, with ferocious guitar riffs and edgy post punk energy.
- Guillemots , second left – Soaring vocals, rousing choruses and creative flights of fancy from Fyfe Dangerfield’s Mercury-nominated Anglo-scottish-Brazilian-Canadian four-piece.
- Fixers , second right – Oxford’s psychedelic rockers are the antidote to anyone jaded by modern music. Exhilarating and dreamy in equal measure. They are the future!
- Flights of Helios – Seb Reynolds experimentalists peddle dreamy electronic soundscapes of jaw-dropping beauty.
- Spring Offensive , right – the best band in Oxford? Possibly. Check out their crashing blend of gorgeous guitars, explosive rhythms, haunting melodies and dark lyrics
- Dreaming Spires – It wouldn’t be Truck without an appearance by Robin and Joe Bennett’s sun-kissed West Coast harmonies. Britain’s answer to the Byrds. Show them some love!
- Dead Jerichos – smart threads, sharp hair and jagged riffs and propulsive drums from this attitude-laden bunch of Drayton lads.
Truck Festival runs tomorrow and Saturday .
Check for tickets at truckfestival.com