Friday, September 28, 2007

Ten: Truck Festival Saturday review

Possibly due to the Likely Lads-esque Truck F two months ago, there was an odd atmosphere around Truck Ten. Whether due to the colder air, the number of large acts who had to pull out (Brian Jonestown Massacre, Jack Penate, Future Of The Left, Frank Turner, iLiKETRAiNS, Euros Childs, Lethal Bizzle), the changing clientele - uni freshers' weeks took away a decent number of original ticket holders and there seemed to be a greater number of Reading Festival lads there - or the feeling that this was some sort of false ending to the festival summer we couldn't quite say, but that it happened at all is a great credit to Robin and Joe Bennett and everyone else involved, and to the Truck extended family of fans and regulars who kept faith throughout the wait. Despite its growing reputation, it still remains resolutely home brewed and under the radar, and that's how it should stay.

"Different, isn't it? No rain!" Babel's singer opined, apparently without irony even if it did stay dry all day, during the first set we saw, their occasionally rockabilly-infused folkiness easing us into the atmosphere and away from the overcast skies and wretched performance artists. The Trailer Park is already packed by the time we get across the field to I Was A Cub Scout. The beats are pumping, the guitars and keyboards are doing their electroindiepunk thing, the atmosphere in the tent is electric, the vocals are next to inaudible. A potential flyer of a set derailed by technology, and not for the last time.

While it was punters enjoying themselves that proved the fly in the folk-pop ointment during Monkey Swallows The Universe's End Of The Road set, it's very different noises off that disrupt the first song of this performance as the sound desk have left their talkback mic feed through the PA rather than the monitors, and Nat Johnson is clearly put off by it. When that's sorted out it's much the same set in a shorter timeframe as at EOTR but they seem to be enjoying it more, as are the two girls right at the front professing love throughout the first half of the set, Johnson moved to comment on their intoxication level once they've disappeared. The bilingual Ice Cream Man returns even though nobody in the crowd claims on Johnson's querying to know who Jonathan Richman is, as does the Take On Me steal, while Ballad Of The Breakneck Bride is introduced as "a happy song about a car crash, and we want to dedicate this to Ronnie Corbett, who as you may know died in a car crash late last night". Some people may have gone through the whole weekend thinking this had happened. Even though they have to abandon the last song as Nat's guitar has stopped working for the third time in the half hour, they should consider this even more people converted to the cause.

Back in the Trailer Park Fanfarlo have their own approach to expansive folk-pop. The trumpet and mandolin-wielding sextet, whom David Bowie has talked up, would be the product if Sufjan Stevens had grown up in Sweden and was latterly inspired by the Shins and Camera Obscura's lush retro-looking pop with a timeless edge, with hints of Neon Bible's lighter moments too. This is turning into a really good year for bands taking a C86 influence somewhere new and exciting, and Fanfarlo are right up there with the best of them.

Emma Pollock won hearts and minds over long ago as co-leader of the Delgados, and on her own in the Barn - we're obliged to mention at this stage that it's an actual barn - she more than holds her own too. Essentially her songs pick up where their last album Universal Audio left off, sounding like it couldn't be anyone else but their widescreen maxi-pop but with fewer strings, less Dave Fridmann bombast and a slightly more commercial bent. The songs from Watch The Fireworks played here - none of the old stuff - suggest it may be better than that band swansong, though, more focused and dynamic while losing nothing of the strong sense of broken melody that made every phase of the Delgados special.

After briefly happening across an acoustic set featuring assorted Actress Hands and Restlesslist members in the market tent being watched by five other people, and one of those is Brakes' Marc Beatty, and seeing the Marmadukes veer towards Levellers territory in the Lounge tent, the Piney Gir Country Roadshow provides a welcome break from, well, something. Kansas-heralding longstanding Truck associate Piney's proper old school country is delivered with a just firm enough mix of modernity and semi-authentic dusty barn dance to convince, and her voice couldn't be anything but playfully C&W. Joe Bennett helps out on fiddle, and Bath's own dance troupe the Panther Girls make an appearance for showstopper Greetings, Salutations, Goodbye along with enough punters who attended an earlier dance class to make the band bar Piney disappear entirely from view.

Clearly, you cannot linedance to Blood Red Shoes, but that's not to say people aren't going to try some sort of response, from the soundman checking the mikes getting cheers to Steven Ansell leaving the stage at the end to shake the hands of the committed and ending up crowdsurfing. In the half hour in between Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter deliver a full-on set of their post-post-punk burnouts, belying any ideas about how much noise a guitar/drum duo who both sing can make. They're clearly enjoying it too, even if Carter's guitar cuts out during You Bring Me Down, and the album tracks previewed veer from all out percussive and delay pedal assaults to slightly more streamlined songs that almost signify a let-up. Having not got off the road in a good couple of years, they're hitting spectral paydirt.

As are SixNationState, just about filling the Barn the night after playing to thirty people, much to Gerry Del-Guerico's constant delight and surprise before repeatedly inviting everyone over to buy him a drink. The buzz about them hasn't reached anything like critical mass just yet but there's clearly something stirring as a result of word of mouth from, again, constant tour bus living. If Gerry's full throated vocals aren't done many favours in the mix, from the percussive start to the last drop of energy being wrested out of their full throttle falling apart skank-punk, even the laid back on record We Could Be Happy teeming with maniacal energy, now with the members' names in tape on their instruments. Take note, plenty of more lauded bands - SixNationState have heard Up The Bracket too, except they've taken its underpinnings and gone somewhere else, more inventive and willing, with it.

On the Market stage KTB, aka Robin and Joe's sister Katie, is no mean singer herself, possessing a dab hand at touching country-folk which sounds at times like Everything But The Girl's willowy acoustic phase. Meanwhile Brakes... well, they're Brakes, really, so refer to many previous STN reviews, just with Tom in particularly high spirits tonight and the singer from Cottonmouth duetting on as much as she can remember of Jackson. While all this is going on we're keeping an eye on the Trailer Park, which has an enormous jam outside at Foals' stage time of 7pm. At 7.20 there's still little movement onstage, although the band are milling about. At 7.35pm everyone suddenly starts streaming away. It turns out health and safety concerns have led to the slot being scrapped - there are security guarded barriers in place at the tent from then on - and while they play a set in the Barn later on in its stead we don't hear about it until the following day. This is the third time Foals have pulled out of a show we were supposed to see them at, and being actually at a festival that they're also actively present at and still not hearing a note out of them is some sort of new high water mark.

Emergency barriers are also brought in for ¡Forward, Russia! in the barn, although in sharp contrast to last year we actually manage to get into it ahead of the pack. A ridiculously kinetic live band at the best of times, the reverberations off the stone walls make their angularities and piercing guitar slabs all the more ominous as Tom Woodhead goes through his crash calisthetics routine. Half the set is of new songs, which are much the same in tune-crashing intent but for the most part also have structured build-ups and slow burns to generate an atmosphere before everything else crashes into it. One song "sounds like the Killers" according to Woodhead's introduction, although judging by the skyscraping FX pedal work, heavy riffage and basically white noise synth that constitutes its coda he may have meant it has the power to kill people. The last song is different again, an epic that's probably as close as they'll ever come to a power ballad featuring, if we heard it correctly, the key repeated lyric "time shits on now". Recorded ¡F,R! is like catching lightning in a bottle, but live they're as spectacular as ever. And they completely ruin Youthmovies, who are straight afterwards in the Trailer Park, whose fractured lyrics and riffs, jumping time signals and post-rock semantics can't help but immediately be compared in the negative. The Bennett's own Goldrush's laid-back psychedelic and country-influenced pop hiding darker lyrical concerns serves its purpose but, with obvious due respect, wasn't working right now.

Garth Hudson of The Band headlined. We know nothing about The Band, so retired early for the night.

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