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Gig Review

Magic Numbers / Forward Russia / Do Me Bad Things, etc Truck Festival 8 (Sunday)
Steventon, Oxfordshire

Article written by Ged M
Aug 1, 2005.

It’s terrible to wake up at a festival in a tent, with heavy rain bouncing off the thin canvas. Lucky we were in a hotel then. Even so, it’s dispiriting to find the rain still coming down heavily when we arrive on site. We seek cover and watch The Half Rabbits, who are part post-rock noiseniks, part doomy indie kids in the Interpol/Editors mode. They’re worth catching as a support act if you see them around (they’ve played with the likes of Editors, House of Love and the Paddingtons) but 11am, Sunday isn’t particularly flattering to anyone. By the time we see the September Gurls
on the main stage the rain is torrential and it’s a bit too much to hear Daniel Black singing his light and poppy West Coast sunshine anthems as we become steadily more waterlogged. Even the sound combination of the Exile-era Stones, Allman Brothers and Byrds can’t keep us outside at that point.

Though it smells quite badly of its recent occupants, The Barn That Cannot Be Named has the virtue of being dry. Trademark start well, being unafraid to pop out from behind their synths and actually perform. It sounds like a punky Depeche Mode fronted by Neil Hannon, the music accompanied by charming and conversational lyrics. It takes a sharp turn downwards, however, in the direction of the Pet Shop Boys and the lyrics become a bit too arch so we thank them for their time and move on. We catch Sarah Hawley (she’s offering shelter from the storm) but learn only that she has a great rock voice, the band sound a bit like MASS but the songs are very average.

I split from the others for a while to catch Chris T-T in the Acoustic Tent and strike gold. He mixes social commentary with surreal humour, a sort of Billy Bragg-Robyn Hitchcock hybrid. He’s often funny, usually caustic and sometimes poignant, with a brilliant anti-hunting song which gets laughter and cheers. When his set finishes with the rousing “Drink Beer”, it seems the first glint of sunshine has appeared. We see Winnebago Deal but their two-man heavy metal assault leaves us cold, bored and slightly deaf.
We’re actually waiting for the Black Madonnas and their scuzzy blues rock. It’s worth the wait because Leo comes on like an extra from Deliverance with his facial hair and trucker cap and goes through the full set of rock poses, while the band play loud and dirty Yardbirds-effect rock’n’roll, complete with monster riffs and pulsing voodoo rhythms. Even though it’s an old song, set-closer ‘Judas’ is as much of an adrenaline shot this year as it was last Truck.

Brakes play for about half an hour and cram in as many songs as they can from the album, and add a brilliant Camper Van Beethoven cover. Seeing ‘Cheney’ in a live context makes you realise it’s not just a novelty number; in fact, all the songs take on a life beyond their recorded versions when they’re performed live. Another candidate for best band of the weekend.

I used to have an Action Man jungle explorer outfit similar to the one that Piney Gir is wearing. Well, apart from the skirt and fishnets… For her first time on the main stage, Piney plays her electronica set, accompanied by a Scholar and a Technician, and is then joined by her Country Roadshow chums. It’s great pop music with a show-off twist; for ‘Nightsong’, she invites assorted Schlas and friends to hold up huge prints of the chorus to encourage audience participation while she strips to her nightgown. It’s good that the sun came out an hour ago or she’d be wearing her Damart thermals.

Do Me Bad Things must have Jose Mourinho-like problems with squad rotation. How do you give all five vocalists a run-out? DMBT solve it by using the equivalent of specialist strikers: Chantal Brown belts out the blowsy soul numbers, Mark Woods runs on when the song needs a Paul Rodgers old-bluesy voice, and Nikolai Prowse
pops up in the hole when you need a Freddie Mercury character in cock-compressing trousers to wail theatrically. The music is a combination of Van Halen, Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan. It’s not my bag but their onstage combinations keep your attention and, in ‘Time for Deliverance’, they have at least one great song. As they’re one of the bands who expand to fit the space available, they’re perfect for festivals.

!Forward Russia!’s set confirms the febrile music scene in South Yorkshire at the moment . They’re Shellac-style noise-merchants with post-punk twists and the singer is totally committed to every song; keep up that intensity though, and he’ll be an emotional husk by Thursday.

Nearly everyone left on-site watches The Magic Numbers. They’re the only band given permission to exceed their timeslot (“the Magic Numbers can play for as long as they want!” declares Robin Goldrush when Romeo frets about timing).
The Numbers are a beautiful conundrum: they play feelgood and unashamedly retro pop music and they’re thankfully normal looking but they haven’t done anything world-shattering to date. Yet they inspire Doherty-like devotion from younger fans and approval from the sternest music critics. What they seem to have is presence and the ability to project it: who couldn’t warm to the Magic Numbers’ delight at playing live? It also helps that they have heavenly harmonies, which assist them through a relatively unsuccessful (and blasphemous to some) version of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, although they make better use of said harmonies and heartstopping melody on their first outdoor performance of ‘Hymn For Her’. Right now, no-one can follow the Magic Numbers and thankfully no-one has to.

That was Truck Eight. More than a series of performances, there was a sense of communities within a local community, and all proceeds – with little fanfare - go to charity. If they can keep it as intimate yet fun as this year, Truck Nine is likely to be even better.

photos (except for September Gurls) courtesy of Bob Stuart at Underexposed

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