British festivals are a wonderful mixture of fashion oddities, clunky rides, awful weather, expensive food and brilliant bands. Truck Festival’s line-up and activities certainly was one of the choice cuts of the 2017 circuit, so Birmingham prince of indie Sam Lambeth and Thame sass queen Caitlin Stanway-Williams spent three days welly-deep in what Truck, and the festival experience in general, had to offer.
Never has there been a greater contradiction than a British festival. Taking place in ‘summer’ time, the reality is far different than the beach-addled beauty of Benicàssim or the chasm-wide culture of Coachella. They are more akin to a Dystopian wasteland, replete with mud, MDMA and (shudder) Chris Martin. I had also never reviewed an entire festival before. I was determined to make the most of this opportunity, and soak up everything Truck had to offer. Except the Mandy, of course.
The optimist, or fool, in me packed sun tan lotion but not wellies. Luckily, Caitlin was a more weathered attendee than I and was able to provide a spare pair. For a festival with a vehicular moniker, transport directions were unclear. Signposts were vague and we ended up driving interminably down a long straight road. It struck me that maybe Steventon had passed an amendment banning junctions. Eventually we did a three-pointer and found ourselves in the Zodiac Fields, the camping equivalent of adding bacon to your burger. As we pitched our tent against a promising portrait of blue sky and rolling green hills, we thought maybe the weather would hold up. Maybe.
Once again, directions were fairly unclear when it came to defining queues, establishing the alcohol imports and even where the festival site was. I began to think security, as kind as they were, had been bought to the site blindfolded, Beirut-style, and had no knowledge of what they were manning. We became good friends with the security guard protecting our fields, although he refused to have a photo with me on our last day. Perhaps he was ex-SAS. Or just couldn’t wait to be rid of my chumminess.
The first objective was to go to the press tent. The guys at Carousel PR were incredibly helpful and friendly throughout the festival, and they informed us my dream interview with Franz Ferdinand was looking unlikely, as Alex Kapranos was, like a floppy-fringed Danny Glover, “too old for that shit.” I was disappointed, but I found out that we had confirmed interviews with VANT and Maximo Park.
Those interviews wouldn’t be happening immediately, though, so Friday could be about getting familiar with the festival. The clientele were a healthy mix of young roustabouts and more seasoned seshers, two of which I soon became ingratiated with. I’d like to think it was my aloof posture, but it was probably my red denim jacket and flower garland combo that alerted a cuddly Londoner into sidling over and asking what band I was in and what time my slot was. I was tempted to say I was Idris Elba having some downtime before my DJ set, but we told him we were a bongo duo called Phunkyard. He promised he’d Facebook us. Later, an American drenched in tie-dye and tousled hair promised me a guest slot on their Virgins and Veterans stage performance. He asked me to guess which category he fell into. I felt no answer would flatter him.
The Big Moon were the first band we saw, a group with wide-eyed sentiments mixed with quaking indie riffs. ‘Formidable’ was a soaring slice of uplifting rock, while their cover of ‘Beautiful Stranger’ was wonderfully eccentric. During the latter, I was randomly approached by a slight girl, accessorised by round shades and an even rounder spliff, asking if I could lift her. Perhaps I had seemingly supple shoulders or a reliable gait, but I found it odd out of everyone in the crowd she turned to me. Nevertheless, I obliged, and felt it polite to introduce myself while she awkwardly wrapped her legs around my neck.
‘T-Shirt Weather’ blasted out from one of the stages near our tent, but that kind of meteorology, like Circa Waves themselves, was a product of a bygone era. We were now being firmly rained on, meaning our cosy tent was beginning to succumb to the severity of the downpour. Luckily, Hinds lifted our spirits and struck an early case for best band of the festival – ‘Warts’ lopped along on a wonderfully wonky riff while ‘Bamboo’ was a stately slab of lazy fuzz.
We caught some of Jagwar Ma, who proved to be a wonderfully immersive experience, and found ourselves the object of affection from two Truck veterans, a couple in their late 40s who seemed to admire our younger zeal. As a thank you, Caitlin poured wine from a bag into their mouths with gleeful abandon as they politely, and quickly, swallowed the contents.
Franz were the band we had been most excited to see. We almost didn’t make it, as we spent a large portion of the evening embraced in our tent damply, and drunkenly, clinging to one another as droplets of rain began to penetrate our hitherto waterproof surroundings. Franz were fantastic, of course. The hits were in full force, while new songs ‘Paper Cages’ and ‘Huck and Jim’ slotted seamlessly amongst the haunting ‘Stand on the Horizon’ and the dance-tinged ‘No You Girls’. It was hard for the crowd to really get engaged with the rain pouring so heavily, but the frenetic ‘Michael’ and ‘This Fire’ had some shimmering in the showers.
The plan was to watch Idris Elba after a quick segue to grab more booze, but once we’d gotten into the tent, we realised braving the conditions was too much to bear. We slept at a strange angle to avoid the pools of water that had already punctuated our pillows, and even when we drifted off we found ourselves awoken with aplomb when a rogue cyclist jumped the fence, rode relentlessly around the campsite and attempted to climb into our neighbour’s tent. He was escorted off the premises as he loudly threatened to call his father.