FILM: Django Unchained (dir: Quentin Tarantino, cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson)

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Quentin Tarantino’s style is thoroughly patented. Just watching the bold red title credits of Django Unchained haphazardly flash is enough to thrill the QT-versed viewer – these signal the beginning of another wonderfully videosyncratic movie.

Content with a back catalogue of culture savvy bloodfests, the filmmaker has now begun to stamp his trademark on a range of classic genres, retelling history via his own delightfully twisted scripts. 2009’s war epic, Inglourious Basterds, saw Tarantino point his violent streak in the best possible direction: at Nazis. His latest offering presents another ideal scenario for fervent racial redemption.

Django is a post-modern take on the Western genre. It spotlights the appalling bigotry of the late 19th century whilst simultaneously riddling it with smokin’ bullet holes. There’s even an original soundtrack that mimics those of the classics, celebrating its African-American protagonist in a way that Sergio Leone never could.

Jamie Foxx plays that protagonist. Django is the perfect cowboy, silently smouldering with a passion for justice; fuelled by a pure hatred for the era that oppresses him and his captive wife (Kerry Washington). It’s a role with numerous standout moments, but it can’t compete with that of his charismatic liberator, Dr. King Schultz. Christoph Waltz acts with such magnetic energy that we barely even question the unlikeliness of a German character in this terrain. Testament to the actor’s show-stealing performance in Basterds, it was a part no doubt written specifically for him (hey look – Waltz rhymes with Schultz!). Every ounce of loathsome malevolence that was found in Hans Landa is spectacularly reversed here, as Schultz heroically defies the white-man stereotype and becomes this film’s greatest hero.

Such a team of vengeful do-gooders needs an epitome of evil to trample their righteousness all over, and the masterful pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson fulfils that requirement. The former plays an aristocratic plantation owner who delights in the ‘sport’ of Mandingo fighting, pitting his slaves in death matches against those of similarly sadistic golden boys. The baby-faced superstar both fascinates and revolts in his Tarantino debut. Meanwhile, Jackson is among the director’s most called upon talents, but his role as a heavily prostheticised elder slave departs spectacularly from the ‘Bad Mother Fucker’ he pioneered in Pulp Fiction. Just as Schultz is celebrated for his objection, Stephen becomes a hated villain for embracing the tyrannical system he’s oppressed by.

Tarantino’s discerning eye knows exactly the type of edit that will take his audience by surprise, regardless of how well read they are in his canon of work. In Django, this is no better proven than via soundtrack. Raucous modern-day hip-hop interrupts a traditional hoss-ridin’ montage, whilst a harp recital of Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ accompanies a graphic flesh-tearing slaughter sequence. It’s these little jolts that keep one hooked throughout the film’s rump-numbingly long duration – these, alongside the director’s notorious injection of black humour, best exemplified in a farcical scene that involves the KKK and their vision-hindering hoods.

Blood-soaked mise-en-scene and N-word excess (a genuine contextual tool in this case) will inevitably rattle more than a few cages – this filmmaker has heard it all before, though, and it’s admirable that he won’t let the naysayers filter his vision. What Django Unchained provides is true cinematic entertainment. The gratuitous violence, the knife-edge dialogue, the effortlessly cool aesthetic, the inevitable cameo – this is the handwriting that comprises the QT signature, and it’s impossible to refrain from grinning as he wildly scribbles over the errors in human history.

FILM: Rust and Bone (dir: Jacques Audiard, cast: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure)

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Jacques Audiard has previously exceled in portraying the psychological drama that pervades through physical strain (A Prophet, The Beat That My Heart Skipped), and it’s promising that in Rust and Bone he continues to explore these themes in the most everyday contexts to common cinema-goers - family, friendship, love and work. 

Schoenaerts plays Ali, a reluctant father struggling to find work and care for his energetic five-year-old son, Sam (Verdure). Moving in with his sister Anna (Masiero), he manages to make a meagre living by working various shifts in security jobs. Brawny rather than brainy, we soon discover that Ali is a hell of a fighter but an incompetent caregiver.

Meanwhile, Cotillard’s Stéphanie lives for her working hours: training orca whales and performing with them in elaborate Shamu-style productions. Outside of this, she’s a pretty face who’s bored of being pushed around by a demanding boyfriend, freqenting seedy nightclubs on her own to procure the attention she craves. It’s in one such setting that her path crosses with Ali’s, who happens to be the sympathetic doorman when a night on the tiles turns rotten. The two somehow manage to exchange numbers in their turbulent time together, despite a remarkable lack of chemistry (“You look like a whore”, Ali offers in one of their first exchanges).

Stéphanie’s medicore life takes a cataclysmic turn after a fateful accident at work: one of the film’s most soul-hammering scenes shows her waking up in a hospital, naïve to the fact that both of her legs have been amputated. It’s played out in painfully accurate, slow duration: rarely does a perfomance evoke such hopeless comiseration in its audience as Cotillard’s whilst she lies heavily bandaged, shrieking in terror on the floor.

Stéphanie’s agonising journey back to normality is only possible after she reaches out to the unlikely Ali. Ironically, his brashness in the face of a sensitive situation is the therapy she craves. Helping her to leave the house for the first time in weeks, brave the sea and swim, the young woman rediscovers something she can still do. In stark contrast to the clinical coldness of her ward, breaking waves at the beach are beautifully feral. Naked and finally alive again, Audiard’s heroine paradoxically reveals that a swollen beauty shines through life’s ugliest scenes.

It’s the beginning of a tense but poignant relationship. There are obvious hurdles as well as submerged ones: “is is alright if we don’t kiss?”, Stéphanie requests as they enter into an emotionally binding sex scene, framed as a pity fuck. Vivid insights into both characters’ lives lead us to the conclusion that every bout of conflict is stemmed from Schoenaerts’s erratic, selfish male specimen. Ali is only at one with himself in moments of brute physical release, erotic or otherwise. His newfound career as a tooth-spitting, bloody-nosed street fighter is a fitting metaphor for the way that he treats those closest to him, although one of the film’s fistbiting final scenes reveals the fragile, misplaced empathy motivating his every action.

Rust and Bone is, at its core, a story about mankind’s  ability to carry on through immense hardship; how one is able to find ultimate solace in even the most flawed relationship. It’s also an ode to the remarkable biology of our race, repeatedly demonstrating how the body struggles on and fights for life even when its owner doesn’t want it to. Commanding a gritty and bitingly realistic narrative through the channel of two award-worthy actors, Audiard delivers these powerful lessons with colossal grip, and once again affirms his talent as a master filmmaker. Engagingly constructed, visually jarring and, most of all, a reminder of cinema’s rare power to describe the human psyche through extreme circumstance.

(Original review published in Spires Magazine

LIVE: Slam Dunk Wales (Featuring Taking Back Sunday, Motion City Soundtrack, Say Anything & More), Cardiff University, 28th May 2012 



Various live events have endeavored to provide the UK with an alternative music line-up rivaling the stateside Vans Warped Tour, perhaps none more successfully than Slam Dunk. The festival, which hosts its two largest events in Hatfield and Leeds, has this year expanded to previously uncharted territory - namely Cardiff University’s Student Union, so that Welsh fans might receive their annual dose of summer pop punk. It’s certainly the weather for it.

Kicking off this evening’s affairs are Cardiff regulars Straight Lines. Although their catchy brand of Biffy-esque guitar-slamming has scored them big points within and beyond the competitive South Wales scene, tonight’s performance seems to lack any real spark, perhaps no thanks to the apathetic splatter of fans who arrive early enough to see them play.

Another local act, Save Your Breath, fare better in the smaller, downstairs room. Sauntering onstage to an unlikely choice of intro music (Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’), the band promptly explode into hardcore D-beats and gang vocals, scoring an impressive singalong for their opener ‘Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy.’ The rest of the set continues at much the same pace, reaffirming the Newport band’s place as strong contenders in the UK’s burgeoning pop punk revival.

Returning to main-stage, our first American import seem to have warmed up the troops considerably. Mixing modern pop leanings with devilish streaks of sex-driven classic rock and funk, The Audition easily win over the crowd, vocalist Danny Stevens charming the mostly underage audience with horny anecdotes and promiscuous gesturing. He’s got a decent voice, too, expertly leading the outfit through one of the most professional performances of the night.

It’s still a league below what comes next, though: Say Anything, whose touring presence in the UK has evidently been craved, attract the evening’s first mass audience. The Californian six-piece do not disappoint, opening with the anthemic ‘Belt’ and rousing fans into an impassioned chorus from the first lyric that slips past frontman Max Bemis’s razor tongue. Momentum only builds from here, and the band’s short set whirls by in a hurricane of genre-bending energy, elements of theatrical pomp, new wave and indie-pop working their way into an otherwise steadfast rock show. Closing numbers ‘Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too’ and ‘Alive With The Glory of Love’ are fitting finales that showcase both Bemis’s incredible showmanship and his band’s virtuoso tightness, setting an unreachable precedent for the following bands.



Indeed, Motion City Soundtrack fail to fill the boots of their predecessors. Theirs is an eccentric, hook-laden take on the pop punk genre, one that ordinarily ebbs and flows with dynamic edge, but that tonight feels more than a little muted. This is no thanks to the inaudible nature of their trademark Moog keyboard, leaving the synth-led likes of ‘Make Out Kids’, ‘Time Turned Fragile’ and ‘My Favorite Accident’ stunted and unsatisfying. Elsewhere, Justin Pierre’s singing fails to project upon the expectant crowd, dwarfed by the deafening treble-centric tones of guitarist Joshua Cain. Despite a diverse set-list containing multiple crowd pleasers, there are only a few moments of real excitement here: first shining through mid-set in the form of new single ‘True Romance’ and returning for the double-headed crescendo of ‘Everything Is Alright’ and ‘The Future Freaks Me Out’, thankfully ending the performance with some much-needed zeal.

The headliners are up next, and after a tedious forty-minute void, Taking Back Sunday emerge on to an instrument-strewn stage. They prove themselves to be worth the wait, bursting immediately into two album-openers - first the aggressive ‘El Paso’ from their latest self-titled effort, followed by ‘You Know How I Do’, the leading track from now-legendary debut album Tell All Your Friends. It’s a significant introduction, given that the band’s newest additions (guitarist/singer John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper) feature in both of the original recordings: between numerous line-up changes, side-projects and album releases, the band now stood before us are the original, reunited members of TBS that formed early-millennium in Long Island, New York - albeit with a decade more playing experience.

It shows. The band rampage through a diverse range of material, spanning their five albums (although curiously skipping past New Again). Of particular prominence are songs from Tell All Your Friends - clearly the band wish to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their first album, and the nostalgic audience aren’t complaining, with the surprise inclusions of ‘Timberwolves at New Jersey’, ‘You’re So Last Summer’ and ‘There’s No “I” in Team’ proving set highlights. Although notoriously unpredictable in the live environment, frontman Adam Lazzara owns the stage tonight; his trademark mic-swinging antics remain secondary to a consistent vocal performance. This is no more evident than in the last song of the evening, emo classic ‘MakeDamnSure’ - if you can hear it over the audience’s thunderous approval.

MUSIC: Motion City Soundtrack - Go



Motion City Soundtrack have certainly earned their reputation as a tour-de-force in alternative music. The feats of playing extensively worldwide, releasing numerous critically-acclaimed LPs under the legendary punk rock label Epitaph and even starting their own record company (The Boombox Generation) warrant plaid-ribboned medals of honour, proving the band’s veteran status in contemporary music. All of this is coupled with a fiercely loyal fanbase, who have eagerly awaited new material ever since the release of their 2010 full-length, My Dinosaur Life.

Its follow-up, Go, should certainly please those hoping for an album as consistent as its predecessors. Each track here follows the formula that MCS have come to be recognised for: the foundations of crisp, clean rhythm guitar and infectious pop sensibility are constructed around vocalist Justin Pierre’s trademark tones, with distortion and vintage Moog sounds joining the sonic structure on most occasions (for a stellar example, see the album’s lead single, ‘True Romance’). This is a style that was first pioneered on the band’s mainstream breakthrough Commit This To Memory: clearly pleased with the success it brought them, they’ve stuck with it ever since.

And therein lies the problem. Releasing a couple of safe, listenable albums prior to now has kept the band afloat, whilst eccentric live performances, culture-savvy lyrics and a distinctive vocal style mark them out from their denim-clad peers. But idiosyncrasies will only get you so far, and there’s nothing particularly new or exciting on Go to freshen up this increasingly stale recipe. ‘The Coma Kid’ is catchy indeed, but would also have been at home on the previous album, whilst the likeable-enough likes of ‘Timelines’ and ‘Floating Down The River’ might have been substituted for songs on Even If It Kills Me. In fact, whilst scouring the archive, MCS would have been better off taking some personal inspiration from their unhinged debut I Am The Movie; its stompbox-heavy mentality could have introduced some gutsy guitar-work to the otherwise neutral flavours that begin to sour around the mid-album mark.

Quite simply, this Minnesota five-piece seem to have lost their ability to write stand-out tracks, the kind you might have previously shown your friends as a convincing argument that pop punk isn’t dying. One can’t shake the feeling that by their fifth album, a band of Motion City’s calibur should be taking more risks than this - when ‘not bad’ becomes the norm, perhaps it’s time to shake things up. They haven’t done that, and the result is an album that’s about as exciting as its sepia-toned, Instagram-esque album cover: pleasant enough, but depressingly overdone.

UPDATES AND STUFF

Hey guys! Just thought I’d check in with a personal post, hope you don’t mind. Things are pretty crazy at the moment: I’m only a couple of days away from sitting my last ever exam as a student at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism. It’s a weird feeling. I’ve really loved my final year, it’s been my best year at uni by far, but I also can’t wait to readjust to life beyond academia make an official start on my goal of writing for a living. I’ve never felt more ready for it.

At this year’s Cardiff Student Media Awards, myself and a couple of friends were prized ‘Best Quench Section’ for our work editing the student magazine’s Film segment. It was a real honor to win, especially with such tough competition from the other sections, and after two years on the team it felt so good to see my efforts validated in the form of a nice shiny trophy. The award was judged by Rod Stanley, editor of Dazed & Confused magazine, so I’m also really pleased that my work’s been seen and gratified by such a big name in culture journalism!

I don’t think I can understate the personal importance of my getting involved with the student media - it’s by far been the highlight of my life as a student and a real catalyst for the progression of my work, as well as the means of making some fantastic, lasting friendships and unforgettable memories. And I’ve eaten so much free pizza during my time as a student, for which I have Quench to thank. I love me some free pizza.

You might have noticed that I took a bit of a break from posting on here between March and recently (apologies for that: I was preoccupied being a busy, busy third-year), but now I’m back with a vengeance, ready and poised to fill you in on the eternally exciting realms of music and film with reviews, previews, interviews and anyotherviews that take my fancy. I’ve got some HUGE plans for this summer and beyond - watch this space!

Finally, thanks so much for reading my lil’ ol’ blawg, it means a lot to me that people check it out and even follow it from their personal Tumblr accounts. In return for your loyal support, I’ll do my best to ensure I write the best content possible and refrain from boring you with self-indulgent life updates… starting now.

- Matt

INTERVIEW: Said The Whale

As Said The Whale invite their Welsh fans to share a final post-tour drink before heading home to Vancouver, I take the chance to speak with singer-guitarist Ben Worcester about his band’s experiences on British soil, as well the overwhelmingly positive reception to their latest full-length, Little Mountain.



Stood outside the venue in Cardiff with a pint and a smile, there’s no questioning that Ben Worcester is a musician who’s passionate about what he does. Still, there’s a way to go before his band will find itself playing larger venues than this in the UK. ‘Playing over here is so much fun, but if putting in the hard work and touring your ass off constantly counts for something, we’ve got a few more years of coming here before the shows are comparable to Canada. We’re only just starting to tour in the United States and the UK. After five or six years touring back home, it’s neat to branch out, go elsewhere and start again. The only difference is that instead of starting from square one, we’re starting with 300 shows under our belt. That makes things a little easier for us!’

Judging by tonight’s reception, Little Mountain has made a lasting impression on fans. ‘It’s amazing,’ Ben enthuses. ‘When you release a new record you really hope that people are going to enjoy it and appreciate it in the same way that they might have appreciated past albums. So far we’ve seen people singing along to all the new songs as much as the old ones. Everyone’s got their favourite and usually they’re all different.

'I feel like we’re having a lot of fun playing the new material. That’s great, because it’s still new to us; it’s fresh and we’re having fun.’

Now on album number three, Said The Whale decided to take a refreshingly different approach to music promotion: filming a music video for every number on the record and independently uploading them online. With each video providing its own unique perspective on the track at hand, what inspired the band to commit themselves to such an artistically challenging project?

‘We have some pretty huge influences back home in our little circle of musician friends – our good friends in We Are The City created a video for each of the six songs that are on their EP, High School. Their videos coincided to make one story – ours are all kind of separate, but we were just looking for an opportunity to work with the same producers, who call themselves ‘Amazing Factory.’ They filmed all of the videos and worked with us to get ideas and brainstorm before setting off and recording them.

‘Of all of them, my favourite is probably the video for ‘Big Sky, MT’, which really reminds me of the personal story that I was telling in that song, interpreted through someone else’s eyes. To see it acted out in a video by strangers who still manage to get the intended message across was quite beautiful.’

In actual fact, the video’s have proved more than sentimentally rewarding: it’s evident that their viral presence on the Internet has really paid off for the band. As music-listeners make the transition from the ashes of MySpace to YouTube, these online videos provide a means for fans worldwide to listen for free and spread the word about new material, helping to bring additional punters through the door each night. Ben concurs: ‘These days people go to YouTube to listen to music, so instead of looking at a photograph or a screencap it’s cool that there’s an actual video to go along with each song.’

The success that comes with being able to tour internationally means that Said The Whale have taken the vital step of quitting their day-jobs, but Ben stresses that the decadence of rock ‘n’ roll stardom is some way off yet. ‘Having a steady income would be amazing, but we don’t have enough time to have jobs. I guess that means we’ve achieved our first goal of playing music full-time – when we are home, it’s usually just for a few weeks at a time, so it would be unfair to any employer to ask them for a job only to take off straight away and leave them hanging. We’re lucky in that way, but none of us are at all wealthy. We still feel like we’re working when we’re on tour.’

Having visited the UK a few times, will the Whales be returning again?  ‘We’d love to come back soon. Last time we were here we did the same thing: fourteen days, twelve shows. It’s good to just blast around and play in different places every night, but this time we managed to hit mostly new cities that we had never been to, so we’re not overlapping yet.

‘It makes me curious for next time when we do overlap, to see who comes back, who brings their friends and if the crowd grows. Even small shows prove worthwhile when you tour: if ten people were there, maybe next time there’ll be fifteen or twenty, the time after maybe thirty or fourty – crowds tends to keep growing the more you play. We didn’t really get to see if that worked on this tour, but it was cool to meet new friends and see new places, and we hope to revisit those same places next time around!’

After a performance like tonight’s, it’s no wonder Ben and his band plan to spread their empire to our shores. Post-gig, we raise a glass to their successful British voyage, and the many that are likely to follow.

ALSO ON SAID THE WHALE:


 

LIVE: Said The Whale, Buffalo Bar, 20th May 2012

Cardiff’s Buffalo Bar feels distinctly Canadian tonight – the usual dominance of singsong Welsh accents has been replaced by yodelling yokel tones of the Great White North. Discussions at the bar include the rare joy of seeing a mountain lion on the highway and how easy it is to drive from Scotland to Manchester, compared to the epic commute between Vancouver, British Columbia and Regina, Saskatchewan.

The reason behind all this Canuckery is that Said The Whale, one of the brightest hopes for Canada’s burgeoning indie-music scene, are in town on the last date of their UK tour.  Preceding them are their national brethren Library Voices, a tom-thumping, booty-shaking hybridisation of retro rock and analogue synth noises. Their dynamic, sax-infused sound goes down fantastically with the modest crowd, some feat considering their musical differences with the headliners.

As Said The Whale take to the stage, though, they make the transition seamless – the distorted bass sounds and razor sharp keyboards of opener ‘Heavy Ceiling’ build an easily crossed bridge towards their own distinctive but varied take on indie music. They continue to weave fluidly between catchy powerpop (‘Loveless’, ‘Camilo’), acoustic-driven folk (‘False Creek Change’, ‘Big Sky, MT’) and balls-to-the-walls alt-rock (‘We Are 1980’, ‘New Brighton’).

It’s a testament to the band’s tightness that such a mishmash of genre-traits works to their favour. Co-frontmen Tyler Bancroft and Ben Worcester keep things fresh by trading off on vocal duties throughout the set – specialising in infectious contemporary jams and introspective folk serenades respectively. Both provide curious lyrical anecdotes and genuine gratitude to the small audience that came out to support them.

Revelling in an encore, the band mix things up even further by letting drummer Spencer Schoening take centre-stage to sing the beautifully succinct piano ballad ‘Seasons’. This is followed by a fan request – ‘Out on the Shield’ – before the band kill the PA for the finale: an unexpected, unamplified performance of maritime lament ‘Curse of the Currents.’ It makes for a hauntingly memorable closer to a beautifully crafted performance, one that the delighted viewership will doubtless tell their friends about for the next time Said The Whale visit our fair country.

ALSO ON SAID THE WHALE:


 

FILM: American Pie: The Reunion (dir: John Hurwitz, cast: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Seann William Scott)

It’s been a long wait since the last PROPER American Pie film. We’re not talking lame-o straight-to-video ‘band camp’ spin-offs here, but proper, original cast: Stifler vs Finch, Jim’s embarrassing Dad, people shitting themselves and fornicating with pastries. This is what made us all fall in love with the franchise when we were thirteen, obliviously watching kids much older than us frolick around at house-parties, boasting about blowjobs and doing ‘keg-stands’ without really knowing what those things meant. Now, twelve years since the first film, the cast have grown up and so have we. But beneath the veneer of responsible haircuts and long-term relationships, a storm of vulgarity and humiliation is brewing…

As its name suggests, The Reunion focuses its plot around one last hurrah for the misfit group of high school besties. Since The Wedding, Jim (Biggs) and Michelle (Hannigan) have become parents, whilst the rest of the gang have taken up careers in architecture, sportscasting, investment banking and worldly bohemian wandering. Heading back to their hometown of East Great Falls, all assume a typically average high-school reunion, but we know that this won’t be the case - it’s an American Pie film - and the cast don’t dissapoint, with hilarious and cringe-inducing performances rivalling Britain’s own answer to the franchise, The Inbetweeners

This still isn’t as good as the first couple of films: because the action centres around thirty-somethings, the puberty-centric embarrassment occasionally feels a touch misplaced. That said, the cast’s alleged maturity also works to the film’s favour in some scenes, mercifully accenting a relatably awkward adjustment to adulthood with appropriately farcical humor. 

Fans of the early-2000s teen-movie staple will appreciate some knowing nods to previous films and enjoy meeting the character’s ten-year-on doppelgängers. Mostly, though, it’s the belly-laughing crudeness of its most mortifying scenes that warrants The Reunion a worthy sequel - this unashamed immiturity is what drew most of us to the originals. Your parents probably still hate you watching it, and this alone is proof of its success. 

PREVIEW: Truck Festival

For an affordable, accessible and unique weekend of music and fun, look no further…
 

When? 20-21st July
Where?
Steventon, Oxfordshire
How much? 
£69 (weekend ticket)
Who’s playing? The Temper Trap, Mystery Jets, British Sea Power, Tim Minchin, The Low Anthem, Villagers, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, 65daysofstatic,  Frightened Rabbit, Future of the Left, Guillemots, Little Comets, Emmy The Great, Lucy Rose, Three Trapped Tigers, Tellison, Tall Ships & more…

As the days grow longer and the fantasy of post-exam life becomes reality,  summer rears its beautiful face - with it, the promise of countless music festivals. The wild last-night riots and expensive price-tags of more commercial weekends aren’t for all of us, though, and the UK’s legendary independent circuit provides some equally memorable weekends that are far less likely to end with your new tent being set on fire.

Truck is one such festival. 2012 will mark its  fifteenth year, and it looks to be an incredible one: headlining the main-stage (which resides on the back of a giant haulage truck - hence the name) are The Temper Trap and Mystery Jets, above a tasty assortment of acts from electroacoustic songsmith Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly to post-rock powerhouse 65daysofstatic. To attend will cost you 69 mere quids: a fraction of the admission for more mainstream festivals, and one that will also give you access to the festival’s camping facilities.

The modestly sized Hill Farm (just beyond Oxford) pays host to it all, giving the festival a distinctly local feel - a livestock barn is annually transformed into the stomping ground of delightfully shouty alt-rock bands, twiddly mathcore musicians and raucous raves, all whilst the local rotary club provide catering and the vicar sells music-loving punters ice cream. If that’s not enough, you’re pretty much guaranteed a cuddle from Truck Monster, the festival’s furry mascot.

Although it consistently manages to attract an impressive roster of established names, the real magic of Truck is flitting from stage to stage, sitting outside in the Oxfordian sunshine, drinking local cider and immersing yourself in the array of lesser-known artists who make up the bulk of the festival’s line-up. If you’re a fan of underground music then it’s likely that you’ll recognise the monikers of some exciting DIY bands across the board. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like taking a chance on a previously unheard act and discovering the new soundtrack to your summer, annoying your tent-mates by humming their closing number for the rest of the weekend.

For more information, check out www.truckfestival.com