For a while there, it looked like it wouldn’t happen. The very possibility of a 2012 Truck festival was cast into serious doubt when the Oxfordshire event’s promoters hit financial troubles in August of last year. In order to allow the survival of the festival – now celebrating its fifteenth anniversary – promoters Robin and Joe Bennett were forced to step aside and let the masterminds behind Y-Not festival to take the reigns. Returning to a two-day format on 20-21 July and still based at Hill Farm in Steventon, the cult king of the small festival scene looks to be about to make an impressive return.
Truck has long had a reputation for punching above its weight in terms of the artists it attracts and this comeback year is no exception, with Mystery Jets and The Temper Trap headlining Friday and Saturday respectively. Other heavy-hitters include Australian musical funny-man Tim Minchin, TLOBF 2008 “Album of the Year” winners Frightened Rabbit and post-rock Truck veterans 65daysofstatic, who last played the festival in 2010.
Once again, though, Truck’s lineup contains a whole host of acts which, while a little lower on the bill, promise nevertheless to deliver in spades. Foremost among the local prospects are Oxford’s own psychedelic journeymen Fixers, who put in a frankly incredible performance in the city’s O2 Academy a few months back and will hope to repeat the trick at Truck with further selections from their début LP We’ll Be the Moon. The slow-burning success of fellow local heroes Spring Offensive also looks likely to shed more sparks when they take to the indoor and faintly foul-smelling Barn stage on Saturday.
Among the artists playing the second stage are Theme Park: if the soulful Londoners (and forthcoming Bloc Party support band) can come anywhere close to their superb performance at Oxford’s Ley Lines festival last year, they will be more than worth a watch. In a slight reversal of the norm the Bennett brothers’ own band The Dreaming Spires will take to the second stage too, bringing along their own brand of earthy rock-Americana as displayed on debut Brothers in Brooklyn.
Maybe the only anti-folk artist who writes for a Cantonese language newspaper and makes Christmas albums with Tim Wheeler, Emmy the Great is one of the stronger solo prospects on the bill. Other highlights including soaring local experimentalists Flights of Helios, Ireland’s “disquieting” Villagers, and the Oxford reggae institution that is Dubwiser. But the most exciting prospect on the bill? Well, in the spirit of comebacks the return of angry Welsh firebrands Future of the Left to the Barn stage (after a riotous appearance in 2010) must rank among them.
While it remains to be seen how the return of Truck festival will be influenced by its new management, the lineup is one which befits the reputation of an event which despite these challenging times has reached the ripe old age of 15. Whatever the changes, some things remain constant at Truck – a fluffy black monster mascot roams the fields, the Rotary Club lay out the bacon butties, and great bands play great music. Come this weekend, the festival dark horse rides again – and long may it continue.