GLOBAL superstars Foals returned to their Oxfordshire roots for a headline set at the county’s Truck Festival, which was hailed as “probably the greatest headline set” in the the festival’s 22-year history, write Harrison Jones and Tim Hughes

The four-day event drew to a close last night with indie act Two Door Cinema Club, whose set ended with a dramatic firework display. The show followed a headline-grabbing show by Oxford’s Foals on Saturday and Mercury Prize winner Wolf Alice who rocked the main stage at Hill Farm, Steventon on Friday.

The festival, which attracted a capacity crowd of 18,000 also featured sets by former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, alternative electro-rockers Public Service Broadcasting, punk act Idles, singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi and indie-rock acts Spector and Nothing But Thieves.

They were among more than 100 bands and artists – including many from Oxfordshire.

Two high-profile acts, Fontaines DC and Shame, pulled out at late notice, with Mystery Jets replacing the latter as Saturday’s headline act on the Market Stage.

But it was newly Mercury Prize-nominated Foals who drew most attention.

Oxford Mail:

The band last played Truck 12 years ago – packing out the festival’s distinctive cow shed.

They subsequently shot to international fame, headlining Reading and Bestival, and playing Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage.

Saturday’s set saw the band of Yannis Philippakis, Jack Bevan, Edwin Congreave and Jimmy Smith, delighting the crowd with a career-spanning set –Yannis diving into the audience on occasions to sing along with fans.

He also paid tribute to festival-goers, saying it was special to be back at Truck in his home area after years away.

Festival director Matt Harrap said: “After five years away, Foals returned to Oxford and delivered probably the greatest headline show Truck has ever seen.

Read more: We're thrilled to welcome back Foals' says Truck organiser

“We hope it meant as much to the audience as it did for us. Foals Forever.”

Another populuar artist, who quickly became a fans' favourite was singer-songwriter Kate Nash, who appeared on stage in a frilly nightdress, ripping it off at the end of the set to reveal a leotard, and diving into the crowd for her song Foundations.

As has become a tradition at Kate Nash gigs, fans threw lemons (which are mentioned in the lyrics) towards the stage.

Having left the stage, and with fans already leaving, she then returned to dance around and thow hats into the audience, bringing people running back into the marquee for a sing-along to the song (I've Had) The Time Of My Life.

Lucy Silver, from north Oxford, has been to more than 15 Truck Festivals and described it as one of the must fun sets she had ever seen.

She said: "I couldnt stop smiling. Kate is an impressive singer but she also knows how to have fun - and came in true festival style with that ridiculous dress and that amazing finale when she went into the crowd was bonkers - and brilliant!" 

Truck has grown from a small, local event set up by Steventon musician brothers Robin and Joe Bennett, to an award-winning festival capable of attracting global acts and around 18,000 fans.

The critically-acclaimed and highly anticipated Idles set was a highlight of the weekend for many, thrilling crowds who turned out in force early on Friday to watch their rowdy, politically charged brand of rock and roll.

The Mercury Prize-nominated act were one of the best attended artists of the weekend, despite their relatively lowly place on the bill.

Oxford Mail:

Parts of the main stage crowd appeared unimpressed with the sound system at times, and during Foals’ much anticipated homecoming gig, chants of ‘turn it up’ could be heard. Organisers said they had not received any complaints about the sound.

Foals guitarist Jimmy told the Oxford Mail that the festival was close to his heart and that he was once sick with nerves before a gig here 17 years ago.

Read more: Foals' Jimmy Smith: 'I was sick with nerves'

He said: “It feels amazing to be back. Some of the very foundations of our band were laid at Truck.

“We recorded our first demo there so that’s where it all started.”

He added: “Back in the day, Truck used to be the platform for pretty much every Oxford band.

“I’m so glad it’s still alive.”

Persistent rain dampened some spirits late on Friday night through to Saturday morning, but the dry weather returned on Saturday afternoon, with a dramatic sunset on the final night.

First-time ‘Trucker’ Chloe Dunscombe said: “I like the small, friendly vibe of the festival. I thought Nothing But Thieves, Red Rum Club, Yonika and Feet were great.”

Oxford Mail:

Her friend Holly Elizabeth added: “It’s really good for a mix of up-and-coming local acts getting a platform to play and massive bands.”

Last night’s line-up also included You Me At Six, Kate Nash and The Futureheads, while Oxford favourites The Epstein, Brickwork Lizards, August List and Long Insiders brought  Oxford music scene followers into the Veterans & Virgins stage  which showcased Truck Festival favourites alongside newcomers. 

Truck festival founders Robin and Joe Bennett no longer run the event but were busy performing over the weekend. The Bennetts' set with the supergroup Bennett Wilson Poole was a highlight. Joe, who still lives in Steventon, was also in action yesterday, playing with anthemic soulful country-rock band The Epstein.

The band's frontman Olly Willis, from Binsey, Oxford, paid tribute to Joe, Robin and to the event they created, saying: "It is great to be back on this field, a place we played so many times and made so many good friends."

The Futureheads, who headlined the event in 2006, also spoke fondly of the festival's origins, saying: "The last time we played this festival was on a stage on the back of an actual truck. It has really grown and it's great it's still around. Support it."

Other fan favourites included Wolf Alice's strong set and the show by Public Service Broadcasting, who had also previously played the festival last time in the barn - an actual cow shed.

The band of J Willgoose esq and Willgoose, performed hits Spitfire, Signal 30 and Everest - also throwing in cosmos-themed songs Go! and Gagarin from their album The Race for Space to commemorate the anniversary of the moonlandings

Thousands of pounds were raised for good local causes, with various community organisations being given stalls.

Farmer Alan Binning who owns Hill Farm, is a member of the Didcot Rotary Club, which served steak sandwiches and bacon butties to hungry revellers all weekend.

They were joined in a charity food tent by other local good causes selling everything from capuccino to real ale, macaroni cheese and Thai curry. He said: "It has been a very good year. Everyone in our food tent reported good takings and we had run out of a lot of things by Sunday night.

"This has been great for all the good causes raising money here some of whom really depend on what they can make this weekend."

Mr Binning was critical of organisers two years ago after a dreadful 2016 edition which saw the site reduced to a treacherous mudbath because of heavy rain, poor planning and a lack of remedial action. He also then acused organisers of sidelining the charity-fundraising food tent, which was traditionally at the heart of the festival, and threatened to end the event.

However, he said lessons had been learned and the event was now on a solid footing for the future.

He added: "The festival seemed very well run and the layout is great. It went through a difficult 'adolescent' period but the balance is now right and I am very happy with it.

"Organiser Matt Harrap is great at what he does. He's very impressive."