Thursday, May 6, 2010

No Flash Photography, Please : A Day At TRUCK America

This past weekend, we performed at the first ever Truck America festival and I wanted to blog about it before the details get any hazier. A bit of back story seems appropriate, so here goes. Truck is an annual UK music festival that draws thousands of people each year to hear a collection of well-chosen bands over three days. The operations are handled by the brothers Bennett (Joe and Robin) and Joe's wife Claire. In three years performing live with The Brixton Riot at both live shows and music festivals, I have never dealt with a more friendly, courteous or organized group of people. They are the epitome of English grace and charm. From the day we were selected until the evening we left Big Indian, everything ran like clockwork.

Being within driving distance of New York, Hoboken, Philadelphia and Baltimore has allowed me to play a lot of shows without really taking a road trip, so this was a first for me. But not Matt - he got his wings schleping across the country in a short bus with The Love Scene. And as a result of his many mis-adventures, Matt has to be the most prepared musician I have ever met. His "survival pack" had everything imaginable - snacks, drinks, extra t-shirt, etc...but when I smelled the aroma of a disinfectant wipe coming from my passenger seat, I had no words. Baby wipes. Oh, so rock and roll.

It was a great day for a road trip, and the time passed by quickly. In fact, we were having such a good time, we overshot our exit. By 30 miles. It was then that we learned a valuable lesson about I-87 - you can't turn around (a fact that was reenforced at 1:30 AM when we attempted to retrieve Matt's car from the Sloatsburg reststop, requiring an extra 30 miles North just to head back South). For all the mockery that is heaped on New Jersey for our "jug handles", they serve a valuable purpose. After an aditional 20 minutes wasted looking for some way to get back on track, we settled for an illegal U-Turn.

Photo credit:

We finally arrived at the Full Moon resort around 4:30 PM and unloaded into the Roadhouse. The Roadhouse is a large, long and narrow room with a vaulted wood ceiling and wood paneled walls. It has a great live sound. Once again, the Full Moon staff and Truck people were friendly, informative and helpful. I was a little surprised by their no alchohol policy and the impromptu "beer search" that took place when we arrived. Our friends in Monogold had some of their stash confiscated, which prompted me to joke that I'm sure they could buy it all back at the bar, one can at a time.

After settling in, we walked around the grounds a bit. Full Moon is a beautiful place, with lots of open space, winding creeks and streams and lots of trees. The peaceful surroundings no doubt contributed to the friendly and laid back vibe - musicians, event staff and festival attendees all intermingled with each other, making it hard to tell the performers from the guests. Another thing that I noticed (and loved) about TRUCK - the musicians supported each other, sticking around to hear each other's set - a courtesy not often practiced in New York. I didn't get my chance to meet Neil Halstead of Mojave 3 and Slowdive (who reportedly spent Saturday afternoon chasing his toddler around. It would have been nice to discuss Vox amps and potty training in the same conversation). We spotted Gary Louris of The Jayhawks walking the grounds, but I resisted the urge to tell him how much I loved his guitar sound on Hollywood Town Hall.

"Give 'em the heater, Ricky!!!" Matt warms up with Steve and John H.

When we got back at the Roadhouse, Monogold was just getting started. I enjoyed their set when we played together at Maxwell's, but they were even better at Truck. They absolutely killed. It's amazing that so much sound comes from three guys. I was able to spend a few minutes with Robin Bennett during their set. He was an extremely gracious host and I'm glad I was able to meet him in person after several email exchanges. The Dreaming Spires were another one of the bands I wish I could have stayed for (one of many on a very long list), but unfortunately, our adult lives prevented us from staying the whole weekend. Our set was well received and even prompted some of the locals to dance a bit. We broke our unwritten rule of "one cover only" during our set, opting for a performance of Big Star's "September Gurls" in tribute to Alex Chilton and one of our personal favorites, "Inside Out" by The Mighty Lemon Drops for all of our English friends in the audience (which included author John Niven, who seemed to really like the idea of an American band covering The Mighty Lemon Drops). I've heard John on Steve Lamacq's 6Music show and it was great meeting him in person. I'll be reading "Kill Your Friends" on my next vacation.

I was really looking forward to Forgetters' set and they did not disappoint. They have great energy and raw stripped down sound. Blake is an excellent frontman and an all around nice guy. The original plan was to head home after Forgetters' set. That didn't even come close to happening, as we stuck around for The Joy Formidable, Nina Violet and even some of Wintersleep's set (all excellent). Finally, after several failed attempts to drag ourselves away, we packed up and started the long ride back to Jersey. Just like that, it was all over. But we had a fantastic time. In addition to thanking the Bennetts for their hospitality, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention John Herguth of Atlantic/Pacific who put in a good word for us. We owe you big.

PS - In usual TBR fashion, we were extremely lax with taking photos. Oh well. Better to be heard then seen.