Truck Festival USA, Full Moon Resort, Catskills, NY
Wednesday 09 June 2010
In terms of setting you'd be hard-pressed to find somewhere more idyllic: a collection of rustic cabins nestling around a frothing creek in the mountains. Were all this not enough, the sun decides to shine. All weekend.
A highlight on Friday is Willy Mason, who plays at one in the morning in a lofty barn. His care-worn voice accompanied by just guitar is perfectly suited to the hour and there's a magical moment during an aching "For the Need of Love" when two moths start chasing each other in a dusty beam of light 30 feet above Mason's head.
The following day sees the Jayhawks' Gary Louris playing a sparse, gorgeous set of acoustic songs before being augmented by a pick-up band featuring festival organisers Robin and Joe Bennett on guitar and bass. Having rehearsed just once that afternoon, no one looks more surprised and pleased than Louris when they tear into fluid versions of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me", "I'd Run Away" and "Blue", inspiring the day's first mass outbreak of dancing.
Saturday-night headliners Mercury Rev are accompanied by an eight-piece chamber orchestra. The highlights of a stunning, ethereal set include "Car Wash Hair", "Tonite it Shows", "Opus 40" – with the packed tent singing along to the line "Catskill Mountains, buried dreams" – and a perfectly realised cover of Jackson Browne's "These Days", much closer in nuance to Nico's aching, bereft take on the song than to the original version.
Having spent much of the weekend playing in various backing bands and dealing with logistical problems Robin and Joe finally take their turn in the spotlight around midnight on the Saturday with their new band Dreaming Spires. Their tremulous, hugely melodic pop music is well worth the wait, too: Big Star by way of Gram Parsons and Teenage Fanclub.
A surprise guest on the final day is Michael Lang, promoter of the original 1969 Woodstock, held just along the road, who pronounces the event "Very, very cool. No sponsors... all about music in the country!" and, fittingly, the night ends with about 30 of the hardcore gathered around a blazing campfire to join in massed ukulele and acoustic guitar versions of the works of Neil Young, The Band, Springsteen and, um, Katy Perry.
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