Kansas girl Piney Gir returns to her roots at Oxfordshire’s Truck Festival

RAISED in Kansas but adopted by Oxfordshire, singer-songwriter Piney Gir has come a long way since we first saw her, beaming away on stage at the earliest Truck Festivals. Those shows – when the stage at Hill Farm, Steventon, really was the flatbed of a truck – epitomised the festival’s golden age. They were intimate affairs where the audience seemed largely composed of bands who had just played – or were about to – and their friends.

Set up by talented brothers Robin and Joe Bennett of the band Goldrush, who then lived in the village (Joe still does), Truck was a resolutely un-commercial meeting of minds timed to celebrate Robin’s birthday. And the most popular guest at this overgrown birthday bash was Piney Gir. Her Country Roadshow gigs were sing-along, grin-along delights – a beam of Midwestern sunshine in the Vale of White Horse.

And they were presided over by a singer with a smile as bright as a Prairie summer sky. Oxford Mail: Piney Gir, bringing it all back home

Much as happened since then. Truck is no longer run by the Bennett brothers and is, in many ways, unrecognisable. And Piney has also gone onto bigger things, releasing seven albums, and performing as part of backing group Roxys with Supergrass legend Gaz Coombes.

Last month she was sharing the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury with Oasis star Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds, immediately before Paul McCartney’s headline set. Her appearance,saw her perform to a good chunk of the festival’s 200,000-strong crowd and millions more watching on TV. This weekend, though, Piney will be back at the place she began – and on a somewhat more diminutive stage.

Oxford Mail: Piney Gir and Roxys Roxy, Roxy, Roxy… “I think Truck Festival is great,” she says as she prepares for Saturday’s show on Truck’s Veterans and Virgin stage – a little corner of the old Truck amidst the hedonistic circus of the new.

“As the Kinks would say, it’s ‘protecting the old ways, preserving the new…’ that’s what Truck means to me. “I know it’s changed a bit since Goldrush split up and it was sold, but I played a few years ago with Gaz Coombes and guested on stage with Ralfe Band pre-Covid, and both times I had a brilliant experience. It’s always been an amazing festival with great community spirit and it will remain close to my heart.

“I can’t wait to play in that field again with my friends!” Oxford Mail: Gaz Coombes and band./ppPicture courtesy of Piney Gir World’s strongest band: Gaz Coombes and friends Piney’s Trucking history started back in 2004 when her debut electro album Peakahokahoo was released on the Bennetts’ Truck Records label back in 2004.

She toured supporting Erasure with Abingdon music producers A Scholar and A Physician, before launching The Piney Gir Country Roadshow the following year with album Hold Yer Horses – which picked up a five-star review in the Guardian and was one of the NME’s top five albums of the year. A solid part of the Oxford music scene, which graced the late lamented Cellar, The Zodiac (now O2 Academy), Jericho Tavern, Port Mahon and The Bullingdon, and she curated stages at Truck. Always deliciously offbeat, one year she assembled a giant quilt, each square fashioned by a festival go-er, which was auctioned off for charity.

Another time she hosted line-dancing lessons, with participants joining her on Truck’s main stage. In 2007 she went to South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, with Goldrush. “It was Goldrush who set up Truck Festival in the first place,” she says. “They started the whole shebang!”

Oxford Mail: The band’s guitarist Garo Nahoulakian is now her producer, co-writer… and life partner. Garo collaborates with Gaz Coombes, along with fellow ex-Goldrusher Nick ‘Growler’ Fowler, Mike ‘Mickey Sticks’ Monaghan, and Tomas ‘Tommo’ Greenhalf as well as Piney with Roxys girls Emma Brammer and Amy Ashworth.

So how did she end up on stage at Glasto? “Noel spotted us singing with Gaz Coombes when he supported him at Edinburgh Castle in 2018,” she recalls. ” Noel told the NME that he ‘stole’ us away from Gaz, but in fact we continue to sing with both legends.”

They were christened Roxys back stage at Later… with Jools Holland after singing and providing percussion for Gaz. Nile Rogers , who was also playing Later with Chic, approached Piney, Emma and Amy in the hall and gestured toward them saying “Roxy, Roxy, and Roxy, who knew sleigh bells could be so sexy?” The name stuck.

So, what was it like to play The Pyramid Stage? “Surreal, but of course it is!” she laughs. “I never dreamed I’d play to such a huge audience on a globally acclaimed stage like The Pyramid Stage. I’ve played Glasto a few times, but that was by far the biggest crowd I’ve seen.

“From the stage, I could not even see the end of the masses. The faces kept on going and going; the flags upon flags were beautiful from up there. We had the sunset slot and that golden hour was a really special experience.

The huge amount of people singing along with Noel’s hits was really cool too. Those songs mean a lot to people; it just felt like a whole lotta love. “I couldn’t stop smiling.”

Saturday’s show sees her joining an 11-piece band – ‘These Go To 11’.

The all-star line-up includes members of Gaz Coombes’ band (Garo, Growler, Mike, Tommo and Roxys), Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Roxys), Palace (Tommo), Willie J Healey’s band (Caspar Miles), Premium Leisure (Chris Barker), The Auteurs (Barny Rockford) and a very special guest.

“It’ll be chef’s kiss!” she grins.

  • Piney Gir plays Truck Festival on Saturday at 8pm on the Veterans And Virgins Stage.
  • Her latest EPs, Alchemy Hand and Astral Spectra, are out on Reckless Yes Records