Truck America Festival

With Mercury Rev, The Sadies, White Rabbits...

After 12 years America got its first taste of Truck at a resort in the Catskills about three hours outside of New York City. A more modest affair in size and lineup than the forthcoming Truck in Steventon this July, the Full Moon resort was perfectly situated for the comparatively small event.

The entire weekend made for a remarkably relaxed experience. While the weather in the Catskills in early May is usually akin to that of Oxfordshire in the summer, the days were unseasonably warm and the nights crisp, making sitting in an unheated converted barn after midnight a pleasant experience. Set times were spaced out so that no bands overlapped, and there was just enough time to walk from the main tent across the street to the bar or down a mulch path to the barn.

Brooklyn’s Forgetters summed up the feel of the festival perfectly when they asked ‘how they were doing’ for time left in their set. The soundman pleasantly replied ‘okay.’ Frontman Blake Schwarzenbach said, ‘Everything is “okay” up here. “What time is it?” “Okay o’clock.”’ Cheesy banter aside, it was a notably mellow affair.

Founding brothers Joe and Robin Bennett managed the festival with admirable energy; not only did things run smoothly to the observer, but at least one of them was present at every set to either introduce a band or encourage the audience to shift their locale to see a different act. The Bennetts also managed to perform with their own band, the Dreaming Spires, as well as sitting in with many of the acts over the weekend. The most notable of these was with the mini-orchestra backing Mercury Rev, with Robin on flute and Joe conducting. The highlight of the weekend and the largest crowd, Mercury Rev’s set still had the intimacy of a crowded club gig. And there has perhaps never been a man who looked more pleased with life than the broadly grinning Jonathan Donahue did onstage.

As Full Moon has hosted music events before, there wasn’t the same level of culture clash as, say, when ATP takes over Kutscher’s. The converted barn and the ‘Roadhouse,’ basically your average bar/club but with a pitched ceiling and wood panelling, were cosy settings with great acoustics, whether it was Willy Mason strumming his guitar or space rockers Hopewell bashing through their back catalogue.

If Truck America grows as the original has, it’s difficult to say whether it could maintain the familiarity it exuded this weekend, or indeed if a place like Full Moon would be able to accommodate a crowd of the scale of Truck UK. But as it is, Truck America is mostly a holiday weekend, with a chance to see a few bands.

Words and photos by Amanda Farah

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