Back with a new site, a record attendance and the usual abundance of bands, Truck 14 once again unleashed the monster, bringing those in attendance a wealth of local talent. Whilst Alphabet Backwards and the Young Knives hit the main stage, it was the bands featured in the Last FM tent (curated by BBC Introducing, Blessing Force and the Truck Store respectively) which packed most weight.
Spring Offensive held no prisoners on Friday evening, etching a thumping beat into heavy riffs, Every Coin and A Let Down mark them apart as one of the more inventive bands on the local scene, who grow in confidence with every gig. Meanwhile on the Saturday, Rhosyn fused intricate melodies over operatic vocals, and The Cellar Family reinstated the Saturday morning hangovers with their throbbing rhythms. Their not heavy enough to be metal, not light enough to be rock sound blended perfectly with the haphazard stage creation of the Blessing Force crew. This could only be topped by Sunday’s Islet, a band who generate mayhem on stage, yet simultaneously create the most carefully crafted music. Whilst it’s full of whooping, hollering and a fair few primal screams, their ability to swap instruments mid-set once again marked them out as a force to be reckoned with.
Highlights from the Truck stage came in the guise of Caitlin Rose, Tunng and Bellowhead, three disparate bands, worthy of merit in their own right. Whilst Bellowhead fuelled their way through Whiskey Is The Life Of Man and Yarmouth Town, more than justifying the several billion ‘best live band’ awards they’ve won I for one was disappointed that the later slot meant no repeat of last year’s conga. Caitlin however, was the perfect antidote to a few days on the cider, and as her husky vocals fell on the half sleeping crowd, the likes of New York City and Shanghai Cigarettes had just enough weight to keep our attention, whilst being blissful enough to ease the aching heads.
Meanwhile Tunng seemed to merge the two in the middle, fusing poetry with up-tempo medleys and despite the somewhat bleak content of It Breaks and Don’t Look Down Or Back it’s not long before the majority of the crowd are on their feet. On the other hand, Fixers seemed to emit varying responses, from wild acclaim, to mild disdain, sadly for them I fell on the second side, their synthetic pop-rock sound merging all the songs into one. I’ll give kudos for the beard and guitarist with the broken hand but that is pretty much where my accolade ends.
On the Wood Stage, there was some super group doubling going on. Heidi Talbot guesting with Kris Drever, who was also joined by John McCusker for a haunting rendition of Steel And Stone (Black Water) and the timeless Shady Grove before rounding off with The Poorest Company complete with Roddy Woomble. Kris then returned the favour for Heidi’s set, giving sympathetic accompaniment to Bedlam Boys and Tom Waits’ cover Time. To my delight Heidi’s vocals were mixed in well and her voice shone through, especially in the sing-a-long Music Tree.
The Clash tent hosted Cherry Ghost, who didn’t disappoint with renditions of Thirst For Romance from their first album and We Sleep On Stones from their second. They reconfirmed that dark Americana still has its place, representing the Heavenly Records line up. Label mates St Etienne create a similar resurrection for indie-dance and whilst the bass beat at times over shadowed Sarah Cracknell’s voice, the audience seemed un-phased. New songs blending into the old, though it was the classics the audience were after, Dial My Number, Nothing Can Stop Us and Only Love Can Break Your Heart all receiving rapturous applause.
With an outing of new material from two thirds of Little Fish in both the Cabaret and Merch tents, there was a glimpse of a more stripped back acoustic rendition of new single Wonderful and a rare outing of Am I Crazy at audience request. Haphazard yet charming, true to form Juju’s charisma and voice carried the set. Band mate Ben Walker also took his chance to shine with a host of twitter inspired songs, including the epic tweet ‘In the ‘quiet’ camping at 7.30am a dad loudly coaxes his kids to shit in a potty to the sound of a car alarm #truck14’.
Sadly The Go! Team were the main disappointment of the weekend, best surmised by the small child seen walking away at the start of their set, hands gripped her ears and a look of pain on her face. Whilst the use of a typewriter was an ingenious twist, given that the majority of their sound was built up on samples it seemed somewhat superfluous. Still, once again Truck held its own, with its laid back vibe and its commitment to keeping it local, proving (as ever) that independent festivals have the most soul.