Future Of The Left, Los Campesinos!, Nedry, Dog Is Dead, Teenage Fanclub
Simon Jay Catling 25/07/2010
Morning Truck! Some observations about yesterday. I really did get pretty sunburnt. Bringing a pillow to a festival still doesn't equal any more sleep. There's not much point camping in the “party field” if you're going to have passed out by 1am. Onto Sunday ey, which even in these morning hours is already seeing a few people packing up to leave, a sad sight to witness at any festival. Granted, I'm sure all these folk have work and the like the next day but seeing them head off pricks the part of your brain that says “you're only here for the weekend y'know, your life outside still exists.” A mopey thought for all concerned.
Brontide however aren't concerned with such sissyness. My first proper viewing of Sunday at just after midday, they have a bleary-eyed audience to entertain and seem none too happy about the frazzled state we're all in, so the intensity of the skull rattling math-rock majesty they pummel into us from the off would suggest anyway. We're in the Barn, actually pretty cool at this time of day though just as pungent, and its very frame shakes as the trio swagger their way through a half an hour set, front man Timothy Hancock fixing us with a steely glare throughout as he cavorts his way through a full range of axe wielding poses. It's not all relentless though, sections fall away to bare minimums and the group rarely forsake melody completely, it's just more than occasionally they'll bury it in a big slab of heavy. And, aye, that is La Roux's drummer behind the kit.
From here I kind of want to head into the Market Stage where Radio 2's Bob Harris is curating, purely so I can hear his velvet tones. Instead though I loiter around the Beat Hive for the first time today whilst Glaswegian Miaoux Miaoux provides an altogether more soothing wake up than was being offered in the Barn. This state of blissed out reverie is furthered up at the Truck main stage. Flowers Of Hell are recommended to me just a couple of days before the festival and turn out to be a splendid proposition; a transatlantic chamber group founded by Greg Jarvis, they number ten today including brass and woodwind instruments. Their understated orchestration doesn't sit too comfortably with that chamber description in truth, in fact in many of their rising crescendos and recurring motifs lie the heart of shoegaze, so much so that they reach right back to the 60s and one of that genres very early fore bearers, the Velvet Underground, to perform a cover of 'Heroin.' Not that the generous smattering of five-year-olds in attendance seem to mind too much, they're dancing about gamely, completely oblivious to the seedy tones of what they're hearing. As a fan of the more chilled out end of the festival spectrum, I'm all for kids and families attending, and they do so in their droves at Truck; as is usual during these instances I wish my parents had been as cool as theirs when I were a lad.
The Village Pub is once again proving a sweatbox, Dog Is Dead's lead singer looks like he's about to faint, mopping his head frantically between songs. There's a chance he'd be doing so anyway mind, such is the exuberance of the Nottinghamshire group's glossy math-pop; harmonies ricochet back and forth between the five-piece, whilst songs like 'Glockenspiel' burst with such playful joy that the most cheesy use of a saxophone this side of 'Careless Whisper' passes by with barely a mutter. At the set's end the group confess how excited they are to be on before La Shark, even at this tender stage in their career though this group show far more potential than the proceeding Londoners.
Nedry have been making waves of late, partly thanks to the ongoing support of BBC Introducing's Huw Stephens, but mainly because their debut mini-album Condors is all kinds of awesome, a murky suburban trawl with just the slightest hint of light at the end of their breathy glitch-hop. Live, they override technical problems to imbue this sense of nocturnal uncertainty even more forcefully, not bad for 4:30pm on a sunny afternoon. In a startling set, the highlight is six minute opus 'Apples & Pairs,' a wistful day dream turned dark as lead singer Ayu Okaita immerses herself fully in the quiet intensity of the music. There's a strange bond between them on stage, a shy intimacy almost as though they're supporting each other through the bleak landscapes swirling out in front of them, and this simple presence juxtaposed with the scale of their sound, makes for something that captivates far beyond the sum of its parts.
A group who seem to be struggling to juggle just how important their various parts are recently are Los Campesinos! They've always worked best when viewed as a collective, but with the recent leaving of Olli from the band without a great deal of explanation as to why, as well as Aleks' departure last year, the dynamic seems to have leant ever more in favour of front man Gareth. The quiet forcefulness of Aleks in particular is missed these days, Gareth's sister Kim not nearly as convincing in her role as offsetter to her sibling's scattershot angst. The songs are still good of course, 'A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me Stage…' is probably one of the finest things they've written whilst 'You! Me! Dancing!' warms the heart as over-excited fourteen year olds down the front start an indie-pop take on the mosh pit. But whilst it always was about Gareth, you previously had the feeling the rest of the band all had a say. Now it's hard to see exactly what the others influence on the group really is - the sneering comments of “this is the only festival we've played all year where we've actually wanted to see other bands on the bill,” and haughty delivery of lyrics from head Campesinos! seem to have the effect that it's predominantly his vehicle to spout and rage, and if that sort of self-indulgence was always what pushed you away from them, it's not likely that you'll be bother with them any time soon.
Future Of The Left on the other hand couldn't give a shit if you found them self-indulgent or not. Their lengthy diatribes between songs are now furthered with the addition of Oceansize and Kong's Steve Hodson on bass, his awkward humour perfectly in sync with Falco's razor sharp put downs (oh yeah, he's an utterly excellent addition musically too.) They shame us for watching them on “the Lord's day,” whilst some unsuspecting front rower is rounded on for wearing an army hat. You had to be there probably. The music is ferocious this evening, the group have beefed up to a four piece with the addition of Jimmy (“if you buy him a pint I take no responsibility for his consequent actions”) on second guitar and they sound all the better for it. 'Arming Eritrea' flashes around the barn with venom, the group then following up with 'Chin Music' giving movers down by the barrier no respite. The undoubted highlights though are “the only songs we liked from Suede's greatest hits collection;” they used to bitterly shy away from it but tonight we get both 'To Hell With Good Intentions' and 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues,' two complete sucker punches delivered with the sort of gleeful rage that perversely suggests that Falco's on as good form as he's ever been. As a man who missed out on the opportunity to see McLusky TWICE during my school days these moments are nothing short of exhilarating, though it says much for Future Of The Left that the two new songs they follow it up with don't seem like a let up whatsoever. They then finish with the gloriously unhinged live favourite 'Cloak The Dagger,' which sees the drum kit dismantled and bassist Hodson down the crowd front - a typically reckless end to a brutal set.
It's been a good weekend has Truck, as I sit and watch Teenage Fanclub play out to an initially modest crowd I reflect on a weekend that's put the concerns of punters above all else - affordable food, decent toilets, amiable security, how often do you get all these three things elsewhere? - and to boot it's been a really good line-up with a well of discoveries to check out upon returning home. By the end of their set the stalwart Scottish rockers are playing to almost everyone still in attendance at the farm and, like Mercury Rev the night before, you get a snapshot of the diversity of people who make up the intimate 5,000 attendance figure (plus a very drunken Dog Is Dead.) There's middle-aged couples of singing along to 'What You Do To Me' in fond reminiscence of old romantic trysts whilst their kids muck about in front of them, there's those who stayed out late last night, enjoying the come down after a weekend hard revelling, you also see a heap of band members hanging about, having played their set and decided to stick around for the weekend - Esben & The Witch seem fixed to the Beat Hive all weekend, whilst Future Of the Left and, to his credit, Darwin Deez are also spotted checking out what else is happening at the festival. It's a wonderfully united atmosphere which larger festivals used to strive for before the desire to squeeze as much money from people as possible got in the way. As the Bennett brothers come out to thank us all for attending it seems like it should be the other way round. Happy 13 Truck, you're the most pleasant teenager I've ever spent company with.