Truck Festival 15 – Saturday 21st July

Day Two starts off at the Jamalot stage, a new addition to this year’s Truck, with ‘mafrobeat’ 4 piece, Nairobi, whose interesting use of different rhythms and time signatures and strong vocal harmonies make for a lively start to the day. With just one guitar, at times, they can sound somewhat sparse, but make up for it with effective use of a loop pedal later in the set. Also at the Jamalot stage are new-comers to the Oxford scene, Duchess, who play a set of upbeat, danceable, afro-tinged pop, backed by three(!) percussionists using a variety of djembe’s and woodblocks. They get a pretty impressive crowd, considering it’s half 12 and most people are too busy nursing hangovers with greasy rotary club burgers to come out and actually watch any music.

We walk over to the 2nd stage just in time for alt-Americana act ToLiesel. Having previously seen them acoustic, I was surprised at quite how good they were in full band format, taking a set of well written, if slightly nondescript songs, to new, vast, melodic levels. The sound was tight, the harmonies anthemic, and frontman Jack worked the crowd as if he’d been born to do so.

For reasons I’m still to fully uncover ( though I’d put money on a mixture of sun stroke, dehydration and last nights rotary club veggie burger) I spent most of Black Hats’ set throwing up in the toilet by the main stage, which is, in terms of quality of accessible entertainment, not a bad place to be throwing up at all. Throbbing bass lines, Young Knives-esque vocals and distinctive slick rhythms are probably only accentuated through the walls of the small plastic box I called my home for that half an hour.

Due to my not wanting to stand up again for fear of falling over, we opt to stay at the main stage and watch Kill It Kid, which turns out to be an awful decision. At first, I hate them because the frontman takes it upon himself to thank the audience for “coming out to see a guitar band today, because guitar music is dying’” – which, (based solely on the rest of the bands on this year’s line-up), it definitely isn’t. Then I hate them because, it transcribes, they’re terrible. Excessively distorted guitars, a ‘totally rad’ rock attitude, and grungy vocals, their sound amounts to nothing better than a 5th rate Black Keys tribute band. It seems they’re genuinely deluded enough that they believe it’s the downturn of the genre, not their own painful mediocrity, that has lead to their lack of success.

Nottingham’s Dog Is Dead, play a sunny set of jangly indie pop numbers with rousing 5 part harmonies and saxophone sections, that go down well with the massive crowd they’ve drawn – none of whom, despite today’s fancy dress theme being ‘animals’ – appear to be dressed as dogs, dead or otherwise.

No dead dogs in the barn for Gunning For Tamar either, but top marks for effort to the girl with the pretty scary looking horse mask sat atop someone’s shoulders. Their set is typically intense and melodic, heavy on tracks from their recent Time Trophies EP, but with a few new ones chucked in for good measure, including new single ‘Dark Sky Tourism’, which, on first listen, promises more of what GFT do best.

Back on the main stage, 65daysofstatic frontman Paul Wolinski has the crowd eating out of his hand, getting them to duck, jump, and perform an elaborate series of hand movements at his every whim. Musically, however, their set is an epic mix of post-rock instrumentalism, with massive layers of wavering guitar that drop into subtle piano sections and ringing reverberating outros.

Lucy Rose, over at the 2nd stage rather lacks conviction, her twee, wispy folk is all very nice, and charming, and inoffensive, but not remotely memorable or substantial, and not enough to keep us interested.

We get to the main stage just in time to see the last song in The Low Anthem’s set, full of majestic horns and emphatic reverby vocals, and immediately regret not arriving earlier. Never mind, to the barn for Johnny Foreigner, who are pretty much made to play venues like this. Despite being plagued by technical difficulties throughout their set, when it finally kicks off, yelping vocals, rambunctious guitar interplay and crashing drums combine to a brilliantly chaotic disarray of noise pop.

British Sea Power have adorned the main stage – and part of the crowd – with a selection of greenery, which, I’m later told, is a tradition of theirs. In addition, they’re joined onstage by a large black bear, (obviously), that the whole band seem largely unaware of until it starts wrestling with the guitarist at the end of the set. Big, effects laden guitar riffs accompany violins, horns, booming drums and earnest vocals to create colossal soundscapes evocative of the imagery their name alludes to, before they finish with the huge chorus’ and drawn out instrumentals of last track ‘Carrion’.

Closing the 2nd stage are Glasgow’s Frightened Rabbit, whose stadium sized rock anthems could fill a tent 10 times the size of the one they’re playing to. They have the crowd join in to great effect as a ‘human accordion’ during fan favourite ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’. Encompassing guitars and pounding drums wrap around delicate bells and melodic harmonies, perfectly illustrating FR’s ability to merge pretty and powerful, shown once again through frontman Scott Hutchison’s voice, which has an amiable raucousness that transcends lazy Simon Neil comparisons and puts Frightened Rabbit distinctly on a path of their own. It’s a testament to the band’s slow burning popularity that nearly the whole crowd comes in entirely unprompted at the end of set closer ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’.

Though marginally better than last years festival headliners The Dreaming Spires, The Temper Trap are a rather insipid choice considering the calibre of some of the other bands on the line up. If I was more cynical, I’d spend this part of the review listing things I’d rather be doing than watching The Temper Trap, but the spirit of Truck gets to me, and I’m happy sitting at the back of the field on a hay bale, discussing dream festival line-up’s, past and present, and waiting for them to play ‘the song that everyone knows’, which they do (milking it somewhat with – what feels like – a 6 hour intro), but then they’ve only got one song right? So you can’t blame them.