5:15am. Alarm was blaring. Not had enough sleep but still sprang out of bed. That energy was the pull of Truck Festival 2022.
This was the first year I’d been to the event, despite it being the 25th anniversary, and it was also a total treat to be invited as press by the fabulous Zeitgeist Agency team*. With camping included in accreditation, it was a test of my tent-erecting dexterity and going a morning without washing my hair, too. But with major household names on the billing such as The Kooks, Sam Fender and the legendary Kelis, it was an opportunity to witness mesmerising artists dazzle on a main-stage environment. And what a festival it was…
After multiple trains and buses, the Record Weekly team of two was at Hill Farm, Oxfordshire, wristbands donned and ready to go. Mullet-watch began almost the second we arrived, though the bucket hat brigade was out in full force as well. We sauntered down to behold the start of Saturday’s action, as low rumbles of deep tan’s quirky riffs filled my ears, ice cream vans and almost sky-scraping flags in bright colours set the scene. An abundance of hospitality vendors lined the perimeter of the site, which increased our giddiness levels as discerning foodies.
First up was the Oxford Symphony Orchestra, which entirely enchanted the growing crowd that we were all too happy to join. I can’t adequately express the goosebumps we both felt as every violin string was gently struck, which pulled emotionally at us in turn. We were to the side of the stage at this point, in the press area — where we spent a fair bit of time over the weekend — as photographers darted in and out of the photo pit ahead of us. It was the first real snapshot of what was to come and we couldn’t have been more excited. Sweaty and overtired, granted, but very much excited.
To its ongoing credit, Truck Festival not only excels at curating line-ups that showcase a mix of genres — which is no doubt why the Oxford Symphony Orchestra had hooked so many — but it also does a stellar job of making people feel safe. This year, they had partnered with UN Women, who occupied a designated safe-space tent run by pink-t-shirt-clad Guardian Angels. You couldn’t miss them; they had such a presence inside their tent but all across the site, too. Their mission was simple: to make everyone feel welcome and looked after, with a no-harassment policy that added a level of complete comfort to the environment. We saw flower crowns being hand-crafted for people to wear, but we opted for the obligatory festival face glitter. Turquoise to complement my ridiculous orange sunglasses? Obviously.
A nod to my earlier point about food — I know this is a music blog, but I don’t know what to tell you about the quality and breadth of the stalls. Just wow. I wasn’t saying no to a cheeky Biscoff number from Project Doughnut, that’s for sure. No regrets on the immense falafel pitta I had later in the day either — that fresh-as-a-daisy salad very nicely offset the sugar calories.
I’m not ashamed to say a Red Bull and an oat flat white lifted my Saturday, too. But if there’s something else remarkably food-related that deserves a mention, it’s got to be the lad who had a tortilla wrap signed by The Big Moon at the merch stand. Props for creativity but not so much longevity.
Without making myself sound 86, there was a distinctly youthful flavour to the festival. I got the sense that, whether you were a devout fan of a band or not, you threw yourself into the mosh pit: that was the rule. I don’t think I can be far wrong, but Courting quite rightly had a clear and genuine following, which sort of goes against that statement. But stick with me. The roaring-along of words as they wheeled out hit after hit was sensational from an in-crowd engagement perspective. Through their catchy hooks and token cowbell-bonging, their sound was compelling and the area by the stage began to swell with bodies.
In spite the moshing teens ahead of us during Courting’s set, we’d actually cooled down a bit between stage-hopping prior to Coach Party’s performance. But once they got going, the Nest stage became muggy. The Isle of Wight-hailing four-piece supported The Mysterines (I know, buzzword bingo again) back in March and I’ve been on a steady diet of their tunes since, so I was naturally on a non-negotiable quest to witness their alternative masterclass again at Truck. And they were even better than previously. They began with ‘Weird Me Out’ to suitably set the tone, but left it until much further in to unleash ‘FLAG (Feel Like A Girl)’ — two total favourites of mine. I can’t recall whether they played ‘Nothing Is Real’ back at the Brudenell, as it wasn’t out then, but boy, it was outstanding as the Oxfordshire breeze swept through.
As we wandered through the crowd and to the press tent, we caught a few bars of Baby Queen. An amble through the dressing room area awarded us with a glimmer of Alex Rice in a commendable, matador-esque black outfit with rather ornate-looking gold detailing, before Sports Team put on an absolutely staggering display of energetic indie late afternoon…
They can almost do no wrong. Everyone was pumped and riled up as ‘Here’s The Thing’, ‘M5’ and ‘Kutcher’ so evidently stole it for the audience. But through the matter-of-fact, on-the-nose lyrics of their entire setlist and Rice’s Spider-Man-style climbing of the stage, the band just delivered showmanship and attention-seizing displays second after second. I would gladly see them on a weekly basis.
But if there was one act that was the most iconic of the whole event, it was Kelis. I’d never had the pleasure of seeing her before but picture my jaw on the floor. I’m actually struggling to fashion articulate, coherent sentences as I recall the feeling of boogying along to banger upon banger, big old beaming smile plastered across my face. ‘Millionaire’ and ‘Trick Me’ were pure fire, of course — after all, they originated on 2003’s ‘Tasty’, an album so funky and fresh that it’ll categorically never get stale. But as someone who purchased a physical copy of ‘Flesh Tone’ in 2010 and might as well have worn the CD out since, I was overjoyed to dance like a maniac to ‘Acapella’ and ‘4th Of July (Fireworks)’. It was like electronically-delivered permission to rewind to my teenage self. The precise moment-stealing element? ‘Milkshake’ sung over Nirvana’s ’Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Yep, you read that right. Genius.
The second time I was rendered speechless came after The Kooks, who also provided a generous dollop of throwback vibes. As the setting sun cast a dimension-adding golden glow across the field, they contrasted classics such as ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’ and ‘Always Where I Need To Be’ with new gems like ‘Connection’. We timed it right to hear the oh-so-magical ‘Naive’ before Dinosaur Pile-Up.
And herein lies the point I was getting to: my socks being knocked off, royally. The Nest was Dinosaur Pile-Up’s oyster and the real moshers were out to head-bang.
Their slot brought with it a frantic, frenzied light show, too. Hearing ‘Back Foot’ was a big fat tick on the bucket list, but it was actually outdone by another berserk moment. During the earth-shattering ‘11:11’, the band summoned a well-managed mosh pit that adhered to a whirling, swirling motion so orderly that we became transfixed from the periphery. As the riff slowed during the break, it descended into a clashing of bodies — and that’s a vision immortalised in my mind. I can’t stop rinsing the track at the moment, so I’m also delighted that I got to congratulate Matt Bigland as we crossed paths with the band by the tour buses afterwards. Unreal. Unforgettable.
As we reflected on the majesty of DPU and chewed on churros, it had seemingly become suddenly dark outside, so the field was bejewelled with lights. The crowd for Sam Fender was seriously deep by this point, but the singer’s set endured some unfortunate false starts and pauses due to hiccups with medical incidents in the audience. We felt a tad sorry for him, but it didn’t seem to detract from the ‘Seventeen Going Under’ star’s warm reception and outstanding pipes doing great work. And ‘Spice’ was a ripper, too.
The whole day felt as though it went by in the blink of an eye. Late-night revellers continued well into the small hours, when our desire to retreat to the tent for some kip on the flat ground overruled the sense of fun that had forsaken us. Layers were donned, sleeping bags were zipped up and earplugs were inserted.
You’d think that would’ve secured hours’ worth of sleep, but no. Three at most. No bother; a new day called for an even brighter outfit change, a good scrub of the teeth and make-up application in a van’s wing mirror. When in… Oxfordshire.
We adopted a healthier start to the Sunday, with raspberry smoothies, roasted tomatoes on crumpets, and coffees as we enjoyed the sweet tones of a Kasabian soundcheck en route to charge phones in the press tent. The spirits were high among the Zeitgeist team and fellow freelancers and, once 12pm struck, everyone understood the assignment: Mr Motivator. Yes, the real man. I saw him swan out of the dressing rooms in his multicoloured, outrageously patterned leotard and out to the stage.
I don’t know about your Sunday workout but ours was done with the legend himself in the blazing sunlight. He peppered his set with motivational chatter, not just the exercises, and some of his speeches were particularly poignant and meaningful. The stark reminder that we “only [have] bad moments, not bad [lives]” was really something. The accuracy was certain and his very positive messages about not taking anything for granted were well and truly heard. Any aches from the tent setup the night before were suitably ousted, too.
As we queued for post-workout fuel/lunch (the barbecued jackfruit loaded fries deserve the chef’s kiss emoji), Sofy played the Nest and matched her trademark electro-pop with the zesty buzz of the sun-bleached audience.
Then came my third mind-blowing moment of the weekend: Enola Gay. I think I ought to introduce them as my new favourite band, actually. The Belfast alt-rock-rappers — or however you’d like to painfully pigeonhole them — were a no-brainer to see after watching some of their Southampton Joiners set via SNAYX’s stories earlier in the week. For me, it was somewhere between marvelling at the buoyant energy of their bouncing-yet-seated drummer, clack and pop of the effects pedals and their vocalist’s unwavering belting out of the lyrics that mesmerised me. Every ounce of their being went into their performance. And in case the importance of a bassist has ever been lost on you, he was the thumping backbone of the band right there, and you could hear it consistently.
By contrast, TikTok heroes THE HARA don’t have a bassist. This was my second time of seeing the trio and they were even more outfit-oriented than a few months ago at Leeds’ Key Club. Of course, robes were disposed of and frontman Josh was down to just his underwear at one point. That’s just how it goes. But the pent-up angst and hunger to mosh had been building due to a late-running start, which was palpably felt throughout the band and their supercharged delivery, too. They were a thrill to watch again and teased a new era for them coming soon as well…
We caught bursts of industry-leader talks in The Tap Room tent and joy-inducing sounds from a brass band, all before packing the tent up to the angelic tones of Alfie Templeman. Before we knew it, the shuttle bus was arriving and trains back to London were upon us, sadly leaving the prospect of swim school and Inhaler sets behind us in Oxfordshire. But what a weekend we’d had.
I’ve been attempting to resist the urge to type this, but it’s got to be said: we had a trucking good time. No two ways about it.
*With thanks to Zeitgeist Agency for the press access