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Interview: Indietracks 2019

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Interview: Indietracks 2019

Posted on 29 May 2019 by Dorian

Indietracks is back this July for another weekend of pop music at a steam railway; and we’ll be there to enjoy one of the most enjoyable events in the music calendar. We caught up with one of the organisers, Beck Conway, to find out a bit more about the festival and what makes it so special.

So many small festivals come and go. How do you think you manage to stay successful?

B: We’re lucky to have an amazing community around Indietracks and people come back each year and also spread the word about us. We try not to stand still and the musical scope of the festival has evolved festival over the years to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in DIY indie/pop music.

The first time I ever heard of The Spook School was seeing them at Indietracks. This year they play one of their final shows. How does it feel to see a band go through their whole lifespan with the festival?

B: I feel like the Spook School are the beating heart of Indietracks – they’re so loved by everybody and it’s been fantastic to see them develop and become this incredibly important band since I first saw them opening up the main stage at Indietracks in 2012. I really don’t want them to leave us but I’m glad the festival and the Spooks get the chance to say goodbye to each other.

Out of the lesser-known acts playing this year, who is the one you’d pick to be a big name in 5 years?

B: I’d like to see so many of the bands playing this year have the chance to become big enough to make music full-time and get their songs out there. If I have to pick, I think Foundlings and L I P S are both new bands who make incredibly catchy, polished pop which is really radio friendly – Alvvays-esque. If a band was going to get huge on the back of their live shows – Kermes would take some beating. I saw them recently and Emily, the singer, hopped off the stage and wandered around the venue mid-set! I’ve seen Fresh quite a few times over the years and they’re really evolving into an incredible band that you can imagine following the same trajectory as Martha.

Indietracks 2019

It you were invited to run a version of the festival in another country what would the dream country and venue be? Or wouldn’t work anywhere else?

B: The randomness of Indietracks taking place on a heritage railway is a huge part of its charm and we couldn’t (and wouldn’t want to) organise it without the Midland Railway. However, it would be amazing to have an Indietracks with guaranteed good weather! If we could find a heritage railway in Spain that can hold a music festival, perhaps we could collaborate with some of our Spanish pals to create Indietracks en Espana!

If you could only see bands on one stage (outdoor, shed, church or train) then which would you pick?

B: This is hard! On the indoor stage, it has to be the Spook School’s final Indietracks show. I don’t think there’s going to be a dry eye in the house! I’m really excited about seeing Child’s Pose and Current Affairs in the church – both are quite new bands with amazing releases under their belts already and are incredibly poppy but loud (my favourite combination!). I’m obsessed with Kero Kero Bonito at the moment and can’t wait to see them close the outdoor stage.

What is your favourite non-music related thing that everyone who visits the festival should make a point of seeing?

B: I really just love the way that the festival site looks when the sun goes down – the big sky, the lights illuminating the trains. It’s really magical to wander around at night. Riding on the steam train is also pretty cool and free for festival-goers!

If money was no obstacle who would you book?

B: Bikini Kill!

You said you had 500 applicants this year. You therefore can’t put everyone on. Have you ever rejected someone that you really wish you’d put on the bill?

B: All the time! Although we’re looking for bands that make music we love when we curate the festival, we also try to create a balanced line-up with different types of artists – louder bands, quieter bands, solo performers etc. We do make a mental note of bands that we like but don’t pick for one reason or another so we can come back to them in future. There are quite a few bands on the bill this year who have applied before but weren’t previously selected.

You don’t have to name names, but have you ever booked anyone that you’ve regretted putting on the bill?

B: No, I don’t think so. I can’t remember a time when I regretted booking a particular band – we do really agonise over who we want to book so it’d be unlikely we’d get it that wrong, I think.

A few years ago myself and some friends rode the miniature railway on the site. It appeared to be driven by J Mascis. Are you able to confirm or deny if he works for the railway?

B: I’m not able to confirm or deny this – you’ll have to conduct some further investigations this year.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.indietracks.co.uk.

Beck Conway was interviewed by Dorian Rogers

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Preview: Indietracks 2017

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Preview: Indietracks 2017

Posted on 05 June 2017 by Dorian

Indietracks is one of the highlights of our musical calendar, and 2017 doesn’t look like it is going to buck the trend of friendly vibes, steam trains, owls and great music that we have come to expect over the years.

We have written about the festival many times in the past, so go here if you want a flavour of what to expect.

Indietracks 2017

The bands on the bill this year are the typical mix of new and old with some familiar faces alongside festival debutantes offering up a really strong line-up across the three days. The Tuts, The Wave Pictures and Endersbys Room have all been Neon Filler favourites at previous festivals, and there are dozens of acts we are less familiar with playing over the weekend.

Darren Hayman played a great set here last year and he is back again with Emma Kupa playing as the Hayman Kupa Band. Kupa is very busy over the weekend also appearing in Mammoth Penguins and Friends as well as being one of the festival organisers.

There are plenty of new bands to discover over the weekend with Luby Sparks, ME REX and Milk Crimes all having formed in the last couple of years. There are veterans playing too, with The Orchids and Milky Wimpshake adding a few years to the bill and Monkey Swallows The Universe reuniting 10 years since they last released an album.

Indietracks 2017 line up

(Clockwise) Cate Le Bon, The Tuts, The Wave Pictures, Monkey Swallows The Universe

The headliners are strong this with Martha bringing some lively North East power-pop to the stage on the Friday night, and Cate Le Bon closing the festival on the Sunday night with her distinctive “Television meets John Cale”  approach to songwriting.

It is The Wedding Present on the Saturday night that are the pick of the bunch for me, even though they are a band I get the opportunity to see in my home town several times a year. I remember picking up their debut album, George Best, 30 years ago aged just 15 and it remains one of my favourite records to this day. This is a band that, with their appearance on the legendary C86 cassette, helped to define what indie-guitar-pop was. David Gedge may be the only consistent member of the band, but his weary tales sound pretty good to this day, and their most recent release Going Going was one of their best.

Me and Gedge

Me and David Gedge in 2012

We spoke to some of the Indietracks team (Nat Hudson, Beck Conway, Jasmine Allen, Andy Hudson and Emma Kupa) to find out a bit more detail on what makes the festival tick.

Lots of festivals have come and gone over the years, with small festivals often disappearing. Indietracks is in its 11th year. What do you think is the secret to the festival’s success?

Beck: Without a doubt, I think it’s the atmosphere and community spirit. The festival has such a lovely, relaxed and friendly vibe and I’ve made so many friends there over the years. I can’t wait until July to catch up with everybody again!

Nat: I think it’s the friendly, relaxed atmosphere and the sense of community. A lot of Indietracks goers come back every year, and it’s always wonderful to see so many friendly, familiar faces as well as new ones. I also think our mix of established and up and coming bands also attracts people – Indietracks is always a good opportunity to discover your next favourite band!

The Wedding Present were my introduction to indie pop 30 years ago. What was the point that you realised your love of the music?

Beck: I was a big fan of indiepop bands before I really knew what indiepop was! I found a couple of Field Mice records in a charity shop when I was about 15 and started to realise the wonders of Fortuna Pop after getting into Bearsuit and The Aisler’s Set. I used to run a clubnight in Manchester years ago where we’d play those bands alongside stuff like Dressy Bessy, Helen Love and Hefner. I don’t think I ever really understood that all these seemingly disparate bands fitted together under the umbrella of ‘indiepop’ before I started coming to Indietracks!

Nat: Like Beck, I was a fan of indiepop before I really knew what it was! As a student I was a huge fan of Hefner, Stars of Aviation, Marine Research, Belle and Sebastian and similar bands. I moved to London in 2004, met friends who were into similar music and ended up going to the How Does It Feel To Be Loved? club night. Through that I ended up discovering lots of new and old indiepop bands and eventually became involved with Indietracks.

Jas: Although music was always a big part of my life, I first discovered ‘indiepop’ by attending DIY clubnights and gigs at University. A bunch of my friends were involved with a society called Burn the Jukebox – which encompassed a variety of genres. I was always drawn to the more indie, electro, pop end of this. After University I ended up dating someone in a band, and that has been a great way of discovering bands by attending gigs, and of course that’s how I also discovered Indietracks.

You have some new faces on the Indietracks team this year. What are they bringing to the festival?

Nat: Myself, Andy and Emma Cooper are still part of the organising team, but this year we’ve also welcomed new members Beck Conway, Jasmine Allen and Emma Kupa. They’ve been in bands and have also been involved with organising the Sweet Revenge club night in Manchester and the Cambridge indiepop all-dayer, so have loads of experience of putting on indiepop events! They’re also all regular Indietracks goers, so know the festival and are really keen to help make it the best it can possibly be. We’re so lucky they volunteered to get involved – they’ve done so much of the work this year, and have brought lots of energy and enthusiasm to the team too!

Beck: Along with Jas and Emma, I’ve been a massive fan of Indietracks for years and I think that’s a really useful perspective that we bring to the organising team. We have a good sense of what people really love most about the festival and what new ideas might work well.

If you were put on the spot and had to pick your one must watch act this year who would that be?

Emma: Frankie Cosmos

Nat: Lucky Soul

Andy: Cate Le Bon

Beck: I think I’ll have to pick one of our international bands because you never know when they’ll be back in the UK – I’m really looking forward to Luby Sparks who are travelling all the way from Japan to play for us!

Jas: It’s difficult to pick one, and I often enjoy the smaller bands the most. However, The Wave Pictures have a lot to offer – they are an incredibly versatile band with lots of talent and a large back catalogue.

Words and interview by Dorian Rogers

Indietracks is on from the 28th to the 30th July at the Midlands railway Centre in Derbyshire. Go to www.indietracks.co.uk for more details and to buy tickets.

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Indietracks Festival 2016

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Indietracks Festival 2016

Posted on 20 August 2016 by Dorian

Friday

As with our last trip to Indietracks we underappreciated the length of the journey from the south coast up to Derbyshire. Traffic jams for most of the route meant that by the time we’d pitched tent and set up for the evening that we’d already missed one of the three acts playing on the first evening.

Indietracks

Simon Love was in full flow at Indietracks Festival 2016 when we arrived on site, in the midst of a set heavy on tracks from his most recent album. Love does seem a little distracted, but puts on a  good show replete in white suit shirt and tie. It’s an irreverent, fun, and slightly shambolic set to start the weekend.

Simon Love

Simon Love

The Spook School have established themselves as Indietracks’ stalwarts since I first saw them play way back in 2012. They are as engaging as ever, although the many distractions of the site see me moving from shed to train to bar and back during their set. They’re an intriguing band with a lot to say, quietly spoken between songs and outspoken within them. Although they’re sound is primarily spiky pop punk there is a real variety to the mood. Some songs are really pretty downbeat, but that doesn’t stop them playing ‘The Vengabus is Coming’ as an encore.

Spook School

Spook School

Saturday

The first full day starts wearily; we camped far too close to the disco tent. Sleeping through a rowdy singalong of ‘The Hymn for the Cigarettes’ isn’t possible. A midday walk around the site followed by an invigorating ride on the miniature railway sweeps some of the cobwebs away.

Beard

Dirtygirl start things off in an “interesting” way, they are pretty ramshackle and don’t seem quite ready. There is a rawness to the band that I appreciate and an honesty to their songs, it isn’t for me. Vaccaciones from Spain are more like it, but also pretty ramshackle I have no idea what they are singing about but I like the sound of it and their senthusiasm seems to drag some sun from between the clouds.

In the Church Wintergreen get an immediate few marks on the obscure instrument bingo-sheet by having an Autoharp and harmonium on show. The bands start is delayed by a lot of tweaking to their set-up, and more endearingly by their violin player still being on the train. Indeed with harmonium and melodic also on the stage they are close to a full house. The band sound pretty good and remind me of a more classically English Efterklang. The only problem is that even with the extended set-up they don’t seem t be able to get the sound set-up quite right. The set breaks down half way through and the band do start to lose the audience a little. One to revisit on record I think.

Wintergreen

Emma Pollock on the other hand gets the sound rust right for her early evening set. The songs from her excellent new album, In Search of Harperfield, sound appropriately punchier live and it proves to be one of the sets of the weekend. Great songs and years of live experience prove to be the magic combination here.

Emma Pollock

Emma Pollock

Although Saint Etienne are the official headliners it is obvious that The Lovely Eggs are the band that the Indietracks crowd want to see most. The crowd is huge and rightly enthusiastic about the duo’s set, They play a nicely dirty take on indie pop punk and the audience goes wild.

Lovely Eggs

The Lovely Eggs

Even though the outdoor crowd is always a bit less rowdy than they are in the train shed, they seem pretty excited about Saint Etienne. They play a pretty great set high on hits, a well chosen selection of album tracks and not too many new songs. There is a lot of comfortable cosiness about them these days, but they are still a pretty great pop band and a fitting end to the day.

Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne

Sunday

Due to the unusually dry weather Indietracks 2016 for me is all be about the open air. So after a brief watch of City Yelps we head out again to get a seat on the grass for Witching Waves. The band play a fairly typical indie punk set, but there is thing wrong with that. They have some really good tunes and their on-stage nervousness is endearing. Wanderlust hits again halfway through the set though as we head for our (only) train based gig. Sadly we don’t get to see the band as some people (cheats!) were already on board and it fills up sooner than promised. Our photographer did get a place so he enjoyed Gavin Osborn and the rest of us had a pleasant train ride. The report came back that he was pretty brilliant, so one to catch in the future.

Gavin Osborn

Gavin Osborn

The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy have nice instrumentation and arrangements but a tendency to be rather dreary, a lot of which is down to the slightly flat vocal style. We go to watch Girl Ray as part of a rare venture indoors and well worth it. Tuneful vocals and catchy tunes are what I’m looking for and they deliver that perfectly.

Back in our place on the grass Haiku Salut seem perfect in the late afternoon and have a very strong sound. The second time Efterklang have come to mind this weekend, plus a bit of the Yann Tierson thrown in. No festival singalongs here but some very beautiful atmospheric music (Possibly the prize for most instrument changes also).

Darren Hayman arrives on stage in power trio format and takes no time to pillory Bill Botting for forgetting a bass strap. It is a well structured festival set and Hefner make an appearance as early as song 2. It is beautiful stuff with a number of recent songs from the  Thankful Villages and Chants for Socialists albums. A sore throat seems to cause Hayman a few problems but performing ‘The Hymn For The Cigarettes’ as the last song shows he knows how to play a festival.

Darren Hayman

Darren Hayman

I remember Comet Gain but don’t really remember their music, and noting in their set sounds familiar to me. I really like the overall sound, but I struggle to really get into the set without any familiar reference points.

Comet Gain

Comet Gain

Watching the last steamroller can crush of the weekend and stroking the tiny owl do mean arriving late for The Aislers Set. They’re another band I know little of, but I can tell they are a band I would have loved if I had discovered them first time around. It would have been nice to have had a band I was a fan of finishing the weekend, and you can’t fake that feeling.  But on the night they sound pretty great and seem like a pretty decent Indietracks finale.

The Aislers Set

The Aislers Set

So ten down and hopefully many more to come. There is nothing quite like Indietracks and it still holds the prize for being the friendliest and most relaxed musical event of the year.

Words: Dorian Rogers | Pictures: Nic Newman

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Indietracks 2016 Q&A

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Indietracks 2016 Q&A

Posted on 25 May 2016 by Dorian

Indietracks is one of our favourite festivals and after a year off (and we missed it!) Neon Filler will be back this year to enjoy their 10th birthday.

We caught up with husband and wife Nat and Andy Hudson, two of the festival organisers, to ask them ten questions about ten Indietracks.

train

1. Let’s start with the obvious question. Why have an indie pop festival at a heritage railway?

Nat: Indietracks was actually first started in 2007 by a guy called Stuart Mackay, who used to restore trains at the Midland railway, and we’ve all gradually become involved since then. He originally started it as a fun way of bringing his own favourite bands to the railway after seeing other music events being held there, starting with a one-night event and then eventually turning it into a weekend festival. To be honest, I think the respective worlds of indiepop and steam trains intertwine perfectly, and I can’t imagine it being held anywhere else now!

2. The festival is celebrating it’s 10th birthday this year. Is anything special planned?

Andy: Yes, we’ve a few things planned – I’ll let you know about a couple, and we’ll keep some a secret. Firstly, we’re screening a documentary about Indietracks made by the acclaimed film-maker Jeanie Finlay. Jeanie’s previously made some great films including The Great Hip Hop Hoax and Sound It Out, and her Indietracks film is beautiful, funny and heart-breaking. We’re also going to have a 10th birthday disco on the Sunday night, playing some of our favourite songs from the last 10 years of the festival and hopefully sharing some cake around. One of the other ideas will be spectacular if it works, but we’re keeping it a surprise!

3. What are the 10 best performances you’ve seen at Indietracks?

Nat: Argh, it’s too difficult to say! I’d struggle to put performances in any kind of order, but sets I’ve enjoyed in the past include La Casa Azul, The Go! Team, Euros Childs, Darren Hayman, The Wave Pictures, Camera Obscura, Allo Darlin’, Stars of Aviation, The Hidden Cameras and Haiku Salut.

4. What 10 acts would be your dream guests at future Indietracks?

Andy: Kenickie – every year for the next 10 years! To be honest, we’ve always managed to book tons of our dream guests – Saint Etienne, The Aislers Set and The Spook School headlining is a dream line-up for us this year. And we’re still pinching ourselves that we’ve booked people like Helen Love, Teenage Fanclub, The Pastels and The Go! Team in previous years! Just as importantly though, our dream line up in future years will be finding the next new fantastic indiepop bands – we want to find the next Allo Darlin’ or the next Standard Fare. So, alongside Kenickie, my 10 dream guests would include 9 amazing artists that I’ve not heard of yet!

Allo Darlin

5. Outdoors, shed, church or train?

Nat: If you’re asking me which I prefer, then it’s just too tricky to choose! I’ve seen sets I’ve loved on all of those stages at some point! If I really have to choose though, I really love the church – it’s such an intimate atmosphere in there. Haiku Salut’s lamp show in there in 2013 was amazing.

6. If someone was thinking of attending Indietracks what would you say to persuade them?

Andy: It’s a relaxed and fun festival where you can dance to fantastic bands, ride steam trains and meet some real-life owls! It’s a very friendly festival where we hope everyone feels safe and welcome. And you’ll be raising money for a fantastic steam railway charity!

7. Richard Osman promised to attend. Did he make it? Or do you think he’ll be there this year?

Nat: Haha! He was very kind to me when I appeared on Pointless with my sister-in-law and allowed me to talk on national television about Indietracks which was great, but sadly I’ve not seen him since. He did mention he might come along the year that Allo Darlin’ played but it didn’t happen, and to be honest I can’t imagine it ever happening – he’d probably get mobbed!

8. It is a pretty unique location, what things do you recommend people do when they aren’t watching bands?

Andy: I’d definitely start with a train ride, either on the steam trains or on the narrow-gauge railway that runs through the countryside. We’ve a series of art and craft workshops for both children and adults, as well as discos in the evening. Then there’s the other railway attractions, including a couple of museums, the signal box, restored station and vintage railway memorabilia shops. Finally there’s a nearby country park, a miniature railway and we have an owl sanctuary on site.

9. Campsite or hotel?

Nat: The Golden Valley campsite is fantastic – it has brilliant discos, beautiful surroundings and lovely food. However, although I have to admit that although I camped in 2007 I’ve stayed in the Travelodge ever since then . I’m not a particularly good camper, and after spending the weekend running around I definitely need a comfortable bed to sleep on!

10. Will the owls be there this year?

Andy: Yes!

Owl

Nat and Andy were interviewed by Dorian Rogers

Indietracks takes place at the Midland Railway Centre in the heart of the Derbyshire countryside, and the festival is held on the weekend of 29-31 July 2016. more details, and information on booking, can be found at  www.indietracks.co.uk.

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Indietracks Festival 2014

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Indietracks Festival 2014

Posted on 09 August 2014 by Dorian

When going to camp at a music festival there aren’t that many things you need to ensure a good time. Enough money for food and drinks (and any merch you might desire), a sleeping bag and enough clothes to last the three days. What you do need however is a tent, and discovering that nobody in your party remembered to bring one after you’ve already driven the 130 miles between Brighton and Northampton is a bit of a panic moment. Luckily we live in an age of convenience and a quick online search, followed by a trip to the nearest Argos, saves the day.

Owl

The combination of a tent diversion and a three hour traffic jam on the M25 means that by the time we get to the festival site we have already missed three of the four bands on offer for the first evening. The good news is that the weather is lovely, the owls are out, the bar is open and we still have Allo Darlin‘s set to look forward to.

Allo Darlin

Allo Darlin

I love the type of bands that play Indietracks, but I can understand why a lot of them are a cult concern. Allo Darlin’ on the other hand have everything it takes to be one of the few bands on the scene that deserve a big crossover moment. The new songs they open the set with sound great, but it is the favourites from their last two albums that the festival crowd want. Each band member does their thing perfectly tonight, bouncy bass (playing the slap bass interlude on a cover of ‘You Can Call me Al’ is particularly good), skilled guitar work and a captivating front-woman. It is ‘Tallulah’ sung solo that remains the high point of their set, magical stuff.

The following day has a  much more relaxed start to it with a visit to the train sheds, the obligatory owls and then some excellent music.

First up is Ace City Racers, a bit noisier than expected with some of classic rock and roll in their sound. There is even a touch of Australian veterans The Hoodoo Gurus about their early songs. Skeletal Shakes offer us a sunnier more acoustic set on the appropriately sun drenched outdoor stage. They are nice enough but a very limp cover of ‘Heatwave’ does rather expose the bands limitations.

‘Heatwave’ would have been an appropriate track as part of Bill Botting‘s set on a very hot and crowded train. It is a performance that shows he has good enough songs and a good enough voice to stand alone away from Allo Darlin. The intense heat and some obvious nerves lead to some mistakes and fluffed lines, but you can’t not feel positively inclined to someone who plays a cover of ‘God Only Knows’ accompanied by a woman, babe in arms.

Bill Botting

Bill Botting

Escaping from the train to some desperately needed fresh air we catch the end of Thee Ahs‘ set. They have  have a cute sound, not entirely dissimilar from Go Sailor, but with less immediately memorable songs. The Yawns follow and are a more interesting prospect. Although advertised as a five piece they seem to have lost two members on route to the festival. Their mixture of drones and feedback may not quite suit a sunny afternoon but they do make for a refreshing change.

Laura J Martin

Laura J Martin

In the church the change of pace continues as we are greeted by Laura J Martin. Starting out at a piano playing songs that sound like a more cultured Gorkys. When she gets to her feet to play a whole mix of instruments things get a lot more frenetic and experimental. Playing a mixture of solo, and accompanied, the musicianship is of a consistently high quality. The looped elements of the songs are complex and recall Andrew Bird, with some arrangements that evoke Sufjan Stevens. Pretty great stuff.

I first heard/saw The Spook School at Indietracks in 2012 and they sound just as much fun two years later. Good songs played with enthusiasm is a winning formula, and they have a pretty good pop sensibility. It is their amusing drummer that attracts the most attention on the stage with his between song interludes, but the song ‘Something’, sung solo,  is a powerful moment.

The Spook School

The Spook School

Despite being a Brighton band I don’t remember any of The Popguns’ songs, so it is hard to be nostalgic about them. They play a pleasant set and get a good reaction, but I think familiarity would have added a lot to my enjoyment. Your enjoyment of Dean Wareham, inside the train shed, also rests to some degree on how well you know his work. I know a bit but not much, and the stage performance is rather a dry experience. However, the quality of the show on a purely musical level is pretty exceptional, and he makes a pretty good noise with his guitar. There are a some pretty captivating moments and you can see why he has such a legendary status, among those in the know at least.

Dean Wareham

Dean Wareham

My Gruff Rhys experience is rather blotted by an incident involving my nose and a horse fly. I’ll not not dwell on this but suffice to say that it wasn’t a fun way to miss the first half of his excellent set. This gig-come-lecture is based on his American Interior album and divides equally between his ancestral story and the songs from that album. He is witty and engaging, the story is interesting and the songs are of the high quality we’ve come to expect from the former Super Furry Animals front-man. It is a lovely end to the evening (musically at least).

Gruff Rhys

Gruff Rhys

Axolotes Mexicanos bring some very enthusiastic punk pop to the stage to open proceedings on the Sunday. Officially the sweariest band so far, but in Spanish so I only recognised a handful of the colourful sounding phrases. Enthusiasm wins over competence through a set that is low on musical skill but high in charm.

The Thyme Machine have a front-man dressed as a leopard, offer a comedy description of their home town (Lancaster) and also sing about their favourite seabird. Sometimes that is enough. On top of that we get a set of amusing songs in the tradition of Half Man Half Biscuit, songs that are available to buy on floppy disc in the merch tent. Between songs they distribute Tunnock’s tea cakes to the crowd (I manage to catch one) and fire glitter confetti cannons. All in all it is a surprise highlight of the day.

The Thyme Machine

The Thyme Machine

The afternoon is spent wandering between stages catching bits of Bordeauxxx, seeing The Hobbes Fanclub playing to a very enthusiastic crowd and heading off for a train-ride.  Indietracks is a unique festival in many ways and it is important to take the time to soak up the atmosphere of the whole site and take enough time to enjoy the various (warm) alcohol on offer.

Back at the main stage Sweet Baboo play a sweet and melodic set that sits really well in the early evening sun. These are good songs played well and with a distinctive voice. There is something about Sweet Baboo that promises more, and I think future albums will demand some attention.

Mega Emotion‘s performance in the Church is something else entirely, starting out with all three members singing and playing drums to an analogue synth backing. Through the rest of the set abrasive post punk guitars sit alongside a very 80s synth pop feel. Early Devo springs to mind as does the sound of Sheffield in the late 70s/early 80s.

Withered Hand

Withered Hand

Each festival really needs an act that can play anthems and Withered Hand are that band. They play brilliantly and the songs sound great tonight, the crowd getting behind the big choruses and impassioned performance. Recent album New Gods is heavily represented and ‘Horseshoe’, ‘Black Tambourine’ and ‘Heart Heart’ all go down as great sing-a-long moments with the audience.

The Hidden Cameras

The Hidden Cameras

I don’t really know anything about The Hidden Cameras beyond having heard the name a few times over the years. One of those times being hearing how their set  was abandoned due to power failure at the Indietracks event in 2011. Technical hitches aren’t a problem tonight and the band look distinctive dressed in matching black kilts and gold sashes.

Their sound is full and has plenty of drama, with very nice arrangements, but my initial concern is that it lacks a little in fun. Like Still Corners last year they seemed to be overly serious for a final night headliner. But as they communicate more and the set progresses they relax and more humour and personality start to come through. I can’t confess to being able to remember one song they played, but they won me over with a strong and confident set.

The music finished there is enough time left to enjoy a last drink, an ill-advised burger and wish  a final farewell to the owls before heading back to our tent (which surprisingly survived the weekend despite a budget £20 price-tag). Indietracks remains a unique event in an increasingly homogenised festival calendar, and long may it continue. It is unlikely to ever be more than a cult concern but for those that choose this event to get their festival fix they are guaranteed a weekend to remember.

Top 5 acts of the weekend:

  1. Laura J Martin
  2. Gruff Rhys
  3. Allo Darlin’
  4. Withered Hand
  5. The Thyme Machine

Words: Dorian Rogers | Pictures: Nic Newman

To see more of Nic’s pictures from the weekend go to our Flickr page.

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Indietracks Festival 2013

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Indietracks Festival 2013

Posted on 08 August 2013 by Dorian

Has Indietracks grown up? It’s a worry, and this nagging concern has been, well, nagging us. A couple of years back the campsite was bursting at the guy ropes. People were camped right up to the indie disco marquee entrance, it was that packed.

This year, while not exactly an unbroken sea of green pasture, there was enough spare capacity for several games of French cricket. Would Indietracks itself be similarly roomy?

It turned out that we Indie-campers were the minority. These days the done thing is to bed down in the plushest of Butterley hotels and train it in. Indie kids are better off than we thought.

Or is it that they are not indie kids? What they are, is indie dads. It’s an oxymoron. It’s a mutually exclusive concept. You can’t mix happy making indie where anything goes and a dad’s panicky concern over his little ones. It’s bipolar.

Indie-dad leans out at you, holding his loved ones by the hair, when you are driving a little lost at two miles an hour making a turn and says in an incredulous tone “indicators mate”. Indie-dad is shocked that they let so many people into the shed to watch Camera Obscura, making it unsafe for little Jakob and Elvira. Indie-dad is up at 7.30am playing French fucking cricket whacking tennis balls at your tent.

We even suspect that indie-dad had a quiet word with the bearded chap that walks about in a full length dress every year before 2013, so that children are not exposed to such rampant transvestitism.

The most outre indie-wear this year was a tie-dye t-shirt and a couple of tutus. What’s happened to all the beautiful youths that used to pour out of their tents like coloured smarties out of a tube? That’s not the only thing that’s changed for 2013, making Indietracks almost unrecognisable. This year they had live owls on the Friday, as well as Saturday and Sunday. And, the model railway had been moved.

The only thing that remained constant was the fantastic atmosphere, and a line up of truly great artists. But then you kind of expect that anyway from this particular festival.

Friday

Big Wave

Big Wave

Glorious weather and a promising three act bill for the Friday night proved to be a great start to the weekend, a decent crowd of early arrivers sitting on the grass in anticipation. First up was Big Wave from Torquay, and the fresh faced act proved to be the perfect start. Slightly cracked vocals and a C86 influenced pop sound that was fun and just on the right side of noisy. Only a few hours after arriving at the site I had a new name on my “bands to check out after” list.

Up next was The Tuts, a band that had already impressed me with their songs online, and had a bit of a reputation following their invitation to tour with Kate Nash. Live they were even better, bursting with energy and putting on a really confident show. Musically they reminded me of Go sailor, only a bit punkier and with a very British sound. Dressed in matching outfits and offering a lot of irreverent stage chat, this was a first rate set.

Bis

Bis

Watching Bis start their set I was initially confused, how come they weren’t the same fresh-faced teenagers from two decades previous? It is always strange to see a  band make a come-back when you have seen so little of them in the intervening years. I also didn’t know what to expect from them, would they have anything to offer live and do they have enough good songs for a headline set? The answer to both these questions was an emphatic “yes” and this would prove to be one of the best sets of the who, weekend. Songs like ‘Eurodisco’, ”This Is fake DIY’ and even the theme tune from the Powerpuff Girls Movie are fun and skillfully played. I was left with the impression that this was a band that history hadn’t been kind enough to and a desire to check out their back catalogue.

The evening ended shortly after for us, after a biref trip to the train shed disco. The only place you’ll here Hefner songs following a chip-tunes version of the Smith’s ‘This Charming Man’.

Saturday

Finnmark!

Finnmark!

As the sun panned across the firmament, no self respecting shoe-gazer would be anywhere else but deep inside the train shed. And that’s exactly where our day began with Finnmark! whose billing belies their ability.

They are way too good to be an opening act and although they probably don’t yet have enough great songs in their canon, they are well on their way. Stark gnarling guitars, nerdishly simple keys, and the sort of drummer everyone wants in their band combined to propel their singer’s baritone vocals marching through the set like a Roman legion. Closer and new single Everyone’s Dying was a highlight but I’m Considering a Move to Sweden is that bit more special.

Our next highlight appeared in the church, in the form of David Leach – so slight that if you chopped him in half and found just foam, you wouldn’t be surprised.

Having slipped in at the nave to a packed venue, we arrived halfway through a number about maternal sexual fantasies. Bending over to empty the dishwasher, quiet nights cuddling on the sofa, it was already awkwardly steamy just from the sheer heat of being stuck in a tin church without that kind of oedipal prurience. So it was quite some relief to work out he was singing about his mate’s mum.

Leach is indeed a true wit and in the most fearless sense. His charm is not just wry songs about the perversity of our prosaic existence, it’s his delivery. If he could sit on everyone’s lap and sing them a song one by one, he’d do it, and he’d be there all weekend with a queue out the door. He’s just that engaging.

The Magic Theatre

The Magic Theatre

Then via a brief sojourn to catch the wild scratchings of the fantastic Tunabunny on the outdoor stage we took a ride on the Butterley Express for Owl and Mouse. Turned out we weren’t the only ones with that idea.

Owl and Mouse, fronted by Australian Hannah Botting, proved the perfect act for a crowded, sweaty guard’s carriage aboard the event’s steam train venue. Botting’s voice on tracks such as Don and Anna, a bittersweet tale of Don Draper’s plutonic relationship with the widow of the man whose identity he stole, and their 2013 single Canvas Bags, proved even more beautiful and tender live.  We named them one of our Top Ten Bands To Watch Out For in 2013 for good reason.

In the hot-box church venue The Magic Theatre presented another change of pace. Stories about Victorian seamstresses set to sampled strings,  time travelling lovers are sung about in a song that sounds like late XTC, albeit with soft female vocals. A brief technical failure even brings an unplanned Russian folk song – these aren’t just any run-of-the-mill indie band. The corer of the band were almost famous in a previous life as Ooberman  and a mid-set run of their songs was very popular with the crowd.

Why have I never seen the Wave Pictures before? And why don’t I own any of their records? Their connections with other artists like Darren Hayman and, on the evidence of this set, a brilliant batch of songs makes them right up my street. The sound is great, and brilliant played with African guitar noodlings, showy drumming and steady bass supporting David Tattersall’s witty intelligent songs. This is three piece pop at its best and I’m already planning on picking up their albums before they finish their final song.

At this point our coverage enters something of a climatic hiatus. With clouds pouring over the horizon it was pretty clear a mad dash was needed to secure the tents and grab a coat. Damn indie-dad and his luxury hotel room.

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura

Just get back for Camera Obscura. That’s all that mattered.

We needn’t have rushed. Having been relocated from the outdoor stage to the train shed there was a significant wait for the main event.

It meant the venue was indeed packed to the steel girders, making for a fantastic sound. By the time they came on the audience was visibly rabid with enthusiasm.

After all, with a new album Desire Lines to promote and an enthusiastic home crowd, this was going to be a shoe in for the highlight of the entire festival.

So why the long faces? A set bristling with favourites: “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken”, “Tears for Affairs”, “French Navy”. What a band, what songs, what a voice.

And yet there’s this disconnect between this joyous stuff going in the ear and sight of these dour-faced static people on stage. They surely can’t be one and the same.

A great gig frustrated – even the set ended with the last song as the encore. No extra treats.

Did they have to get home early? Are they in fact indie mums and dads?

Even so, Camera Obscura loomed large over everything on Saturday – theirs is such a complete sound you can’t fail but be drawn in. Like Father Christmas finding out his missus is having an affair – you feel mildly concerned he lacks his ruddy cheer, but at least you’re still getting the presents.

Sunday

Enderby's Room

Enderby’s Room

After the downpours it was good to wake-up to relatively clear skies and the possibility of an unbroken day of music ahead. A more relaxed plan was also a relief as so few of the people playing were familiar to me and a day of discovery is always a pleasure.

Seabirds provided a pleasant, if unexceptional, start to proceedings with a set of upbeat poppy songs. The band played them well and it was an encouraging start from a band who had only played a handful of live sets previously.

Back on the train Enderby’s Room showed their level of experience (members of Darren Hayman’s band and Owl and Mouse on show) with a short but accomplished batch of songs. The instrumentation, vocal harmonies and melody was the perfect accompaniment to a gentle train ride and their soft folky sound was as good as anything else I’d hear all weekend.

The cavernous train shed space is far less intimate, but still a pretty unique venue and Alpaca Sports, the Swedish act backed by a collection of British musicians they have assembled from other bands, fill it with an insanely chirpy set of songs.

Kid Canaveral

Kid Canaveral

The Soulboy Collective, viewed from the church pews, are a little more distinctive. The male members in matching Fred Perry jumpers and a (slightly samey) Northern Soul drum beat on every track sets the scene. The band sound like a more Euro version (the band hail from Germany) of St.Ettienne but miss the polish of that band by some distance. They sound like a studio act and struggle to get the timings right throughout the set. It isn’t until the final song that it all comes together, and at that point they sound pretty wonderful – the whole church clapping along. One to watch, but by no means the finished article.

Out in the open again the pace switched back to rock guitars with the power-pop sounds of Scottish act Kid Canaveral. The songs and style was likeable and had plenty of energy, a great soundtrack to a sunny afternoon. To top it off was an amusing anaecdoete about strong cider and vomit, what could be more festival appropriate than that?

The winner of the “most band t-shirts worn” competition must have been won by Martha, a punky four-piece who themselves were wearing a uniform of matching black and white t-shirts. Shouted vocals sound pretty good sometimes and it was easy to see why they are developing such a following. A decent version of Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ is a lot of fun and the final song stage invasion (including the ever present Tuts) is one of the highlights of the weekend.

Still Corners

Still Corners

Helen Love’s performance is one of the most puzzling shows in my many years of gig going. I do get what it is all about, I understand the Ramones references and the deadpan (borderline bored) delivery. I like the plain faced cultural reference points and repetitive lyrics. I also think the show presentation (complete with glitter confetti canons) was a nice change from the straight-up kids with guitars at most of the festival shows. What I don’t get is the music, which is (I’m struggling to find a polite way to say this) terrible. It is like music I’d expect to hear on CBbeebies, how I imagine the Wiggles live on stage would sound. But the crowd love it, easily the best audience response of the weekend, so who really cares what I think?

Due to a delay to the running times on the indoor stage, difficult to avoid at a festival, it is a relatively small audience that greets Still Corners for their headline outdoor set. The band are a big noise new on Sub Pop and it is a pretty impressive show. The sounds is very atmospheric, the projections and lights effective and the voice and instrumentation sound like nothing else I’ve heard over the weekend. It is a little downbeat for a headline act, but no less pretty for it and it is a shame that more of the festival wasn’t there to finish their weekend on this particular musical high.

And so this year’s glorious weekend of wall-to-wall steam-powered Indie drew to a close.

The only negative for Indietracks 2013 is that we think indie-dad quite enjoyed it and might come back.

Will we be going next year? Doubtless. It’s such an inspired concept and comes with a guarantee of great music and moments at every turn.

But maybe we’ve grown out of camping after trying to find the toilet in a roaring downpour at 2am. Maybe next year we’ll get a hotel. Maybe, maybe next year we’ll bring the kids.

Words: Matt Whipp, Dorian Rogers and Joe Lepper | Pictures: Dorian Rogers

This review was written by two indie-dads and an indie-uncle. No offence intended to any indie-dads, indie-mums, indie-aunts, indie-uncles, indie-grandparents, indie-kids or indie-toddlers

Our full Indietracks 2013 gallery on Flickr

 

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Indietracks 2013

Posted on 30 July 2013 by Joe

Here’s a short film Neonfiller.com’s Joe Lepper made of his time at Indietracks 2013. No words, thought it best to use the excellent track Tut Tut Tut by The Tuts, one of the highlights of the event. Thanks so much to The Tuts for letting us use their track.

Set at the Midlands Steam Railway Centre, Derbyshire, the event spans four stages: an outdoor stage, a train shed, a steam train and the station chapel. The clip below features a host of bands including The Magic Theatre, Bis, Camera Obscura, Owl and Mouse, Enderby’s Room, Fever Dream and of course The Tuts.

 

 

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Indietracks 2012

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Indietracks 2012

Posted on 15 July 2012 by Dorian

Indietracks 2012 was my first experience of the “indiepop at a heritage railway” festival and, for reason that should become obvious, it is unlikely to be my last.

Arriving at the campsite, independent from but close to the festival itself, I was a little concerned as the rain bucketed down upon us. The rain soon stopped and sun returned, a sign of things to come with sun primarily dominating the periodical heavy showers over the weekend. Arriving at the festival site itself, the charming Midland Railway Centre, we found that the bands had been driven inside by the inclement weather and would play on the second stage in the cavernous train shed.

Train

Evening on site

The first night of music was limited to just three acts, but it proved to be a pretty satisfying evening’s entertainment none the less. First up were The Smittens, a technicolor blast of cheerful pop from Vermont. Sitting somewhere between Architecture In Helsinki and The Magnetic Fields they put on a good show and open the festival in an appropriately quirky manner. Next up The School set a high bar for the most members in a band with their sweet vocals and soulful 60s pop sound. Belle and Sebastian are a clear influence, or at least the band are coming from a similar musical place.

Finishing the night, and turning in one of the sets of the festival, saw Darren Hayman and the Long Parliament turn in a crowd pleasing mixture of new and old favourites. A new line-up sees Allo Darlin’s Bill Botting move to guitar,  Tigercat’s Giles added on bass and the addition of a keyboard and harmonium player. This backing band could well be the best in his career and the songs, including a version of The Bee Gees ‘I Started A Joke’, sounded brilliant throughout. A closing version of Hefner favourite ‘Painting and Kissing’ goes down a storm and sees Hayman hammering his guitar during the extended outro.

Tigercats

Tigercats

Day two saw the standard pattern begin in earnest as we flitted between the outdoor stage and the train shed to catch the best of the acts. First up outside was the pleasant, if a little generic, pop of The Birthday Kiss. They suffered, as most outdoor acts did, from a smaller crowd as people prepared for rain and headed inside to the guaranteed dry safety of the train shed. (One suggestion for the organisers would be a beer tent near the outdoor stage to encourage people to stay there even if the clouds threatened). First act inside was more interesting as Vacaciones brought an energetic punkiness to their sweet Spanish pop tunes. Flitting back outside we caught a little of the Evans the Death set, a band that impressed me a lot more live than they had done on record.

The outdoor music was cut short as we decided to catch the next round trip on the steam train (free to all festival goers). This proved to be a relaxed and picturesque experienced and meant we got to catch one of the train carriage gigs happening throughout the weekend.  Marc Elston‘s  brand of acoustic songs may not be anything new but it sounded pretty good played to a toddler heavy audience in one of the moist unique festival venues.

Back on stationary ground we headed to the front of the shed to see if Tigercats could live up to the high expectations their debut album had created. They didn’t disappoint turning in a really confident and energetic set which included the bulk of the album. The strong tunes and interesting arrangements supported by a great rhythm section including the best drumming performance of the weekend.

A detour as we crossed the site ended up with a guided tour of the narrow gauge rail shed by one of the Midland Railway staff. It was interesting to find out about the trains, but also to see what a partnership between the Indietrack’s team and the centre staff the festival was. Something that may go a long way to explaining the excellent atmosphere at the festival. He really seemed to enjoy having the festival saying “We are in our 6th year and we are just about getting the hang of it.” adding “We have never had any trouble, except once when a local wandered up the track.”

Returning to the music (via the Burrito van – some of the best festival food I have ever eaten) we made our way to the stage to see one of my most anticipated acts of the festival, Go Sailor. Go sailor are one of those bands that most people will never hear, but are a firm favourite with those that know them. Lead by Rose Melberg (more on whom later) they play a pure high energy guitar pop that is the sound of happiness, despite the bittersweet lyrics. The crowd should be bigger but again the rain comes and people (those without umbrellas at least) are sheltered in the shed.

Go Sailor

Go Sailor

Later in the shed comes the first real disappointment of the festival as Summer Camp fail to live up to the hype. Their whole sound seems too slick and too studied, lacking any innocence or authentic enthusiasm. Reports suggest that the second half of the set was better than the first, but by this time we are enjoying a drink in the train carriage bar and it passes me by. (At this point it is worth mentioning what good value drink was at the festival, and snacks as well. You never felt that you were being fleeced at any point on site)

Headliners Veronica Falls do a better job and it is nice to see a big crowd at the outdoor stage as the sun descends. They walk a neat line between upbeat and dour and it is a reminder to me to check out their album when I get home.

Day three proves to be the most varied and eclectic mix of the weekend. It is apparent though that what a loty of acts have in common, be it the endearing noise of The Spook School or the pitch perfect vocals of The 10p Mixes, is a DIY ethos that reminds me of the first wave of punk. If you can’t guarantee money from music sales then you can generate a fan base by handing out handmade CDs to the crowd.

The Spook School

The Spook School

The rest of the day is dominated by indie veterans who set a pretty high standard for the younger acts. Brighton C86 survivors 14 Iced Bears prove to be the latest victims of the rain adjusted crowd syndrome but their melodic psychedelia sounds pretty good to those that stick it out. Stevie Jackson also suffers from the opening clouds but does a better job of keeping hold of the crowd. He plays an engagingly eclectic set that moves from pop to blues to an appropriate cover of Dillard and Clark’s ‘Train Leaves here This Morning’. His song sounding much better freed from the shadow of Stuart Murdoch on the Belle and Sebastian records.

Super stylish surf pop from Seattle residents Orca Team takes a little while to warm up the crowd in the train shed. By the end of the set it seems clear that this is one of the bands to watch from the festival and they might turn in to something that little bit special in time. One band that seems fully formed, at the busiest outdoor daytime show of the festival, is Allo Darlin’. With two excellent albums to draw from they move from pop gem to pop gem for the partisan crowd. With a rock solid rhythm section (including the engagingly bouncy Bill Botting), a fantastic lead guitarist and a front-woman with real star quality they are the “band most likely to” on the bill.

Sadly I have to cut their set short to make sure of space in the church to watch Rose Melberg play a solo set. It proves to be worth it though as she turns in the performance of the festival to the hushed and attentive crowd. Her voice is sweet and gentle and the songs sad and lyrical, perfect for the setting. She is also the second act of the day to cover Kirsty MacColl’s excellent ‘They Don’t Know’, which sounds pretty lovely both times. I head to the merchandise tent after the set to pick up one of her solo albums to find the WIAIWYA record boss still wiping tears away from her set, I doubt you see that with major label bosses (who are also unlikely to man the merchandise stall).

The Vaselines

The Vaselines

Finishing the festival off in irreverent style is Kurt Cobain favourites The Vaselines, a band who recently returned after a 20 year hiatus. The banter between Eugene Kelly and the filthy mouthed Frances McKee (who offers herself up to the crowd and claims to have given Jesus a blow-job the previous night) is very entertaining, as is there messy alt-rock sound. Supported by some excellent guitar (supplied by Stevie Jackson) they rip through a bit proportion of their small back catalogue. They also prove Kurt Cobain right, ‘Son of a Gun’ is just a brilliant piece of music.

There are a dozen reasons to recommend the festival to anyone but the most indie averse music fan. The interesting setting, the variety of stages, the friendly reception from the railway staff and volunteers and the cheap and plentiful beer on offer. It really is a unique musical event and I hope it continues on in the same vein for years to come. With so many festivals struggling it is important that a few truly independent festivals survive, we don’t end up with bore-fests like Isle of Wight as the only options.

As we stand by the road waiting for our taxi back to the station a car pulls up, “I hope you enjoyed your weekend lads, come back and see us again next year” says the old boy behind the wheel. I bet you don’t get that when you leave V Festival.

Words and pictures by Dorian Rogers

See more pictures from the festival in our Flickr gallery.

Read our review of the 2011 Indietracks festival.

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Indietracks 2012: Latest News

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Indietracks 2012: Latest News

Posted on 05 July 2012 by Joe

Once again we will be packing our bags and setting off to the Midland Railway in Derbyshire to cover the Indietracks Festival this year.

To help you navigate through all the online stories and twitter feeds from the event we’ve decided to enlist the help of Infomous and create a news cloud for you to browse through. All the links in the blog and twittersphere over the weekend about the event will be updated here. Be sure to keep checking over the weekend.

 

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Indietracks Festival 2011 (July 29-31)

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Indietracks Festival 2011 (July 29-31)

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Joe

This year’s Indietracks, now in its fifth year, was frankly one of the great festivals on the calendar. It had moments of magic that you couldn’t architect through pyrotechnics, a well choreographed routine or bringing on a gospel choir – you simply had to be there.

Witness Edwyn Collins, Saturday night’s headline act. The generator fails on the main stage. The Hidden Cameras try an impromptu acoustic set nonetheless and somehow pull in one of the biggest crowds to the front as people gather to hear better. And their bombastic style translated beautifully to the hotch potch collection of instruments they could get their hands on and still get a sound out of.

The Hidden Cameras

So Collins is set up in the indoor stage following Milky Wimpshake who are blistering through a set in almost sheer darkness. The electrics are fixed. The normally boomy indoor stage produces a crisp clean sound because it’s absolutely packed with pretty much all 1,000 of the festival goers, and Collins comes on.

At least we think so. Victim of a double brain haemorrhage in 2005, Collins performs his set seated, struggling to muster much in the way of banter between songs, yet his voice still fizzes with power, his delivery upbeat. As the set plays out, we get the crowd pleasers – Rip It Up – and finally the Ivor Novello award-winning artist stands for his hit A Girl Like You. There’s a collective recognition that we’re getting a rather good deal for our ticket price in this three or four minutes alone.

Math and Physics Club

So, that was one very small part of the Saturday. Yet you’d have been more than satisfied if the day had ended on Math and Physics Club‘s sensational set of breezy, guileless songs, particularly ‘Lisa’, about the charms of a girl bass player. Apt given that The History of Apple Pie, who were on before them (successfully sounding not a million miles away from last year’s headline act The Pains of Being Pure at Heart) featured just such an asset.

The weekend had been building up quite nicely, what with Pocketbooks opening on Friday. Anther highlight was Suburban Kids With Biblical Names pulling off a great show as the headline – an almost trademark Swedish-indie sound (think Billy the Vision, even I’m from Barcelona) with some very cool, almost jazz (yes, I said it) chord progressions.

Indietracks site bathed in sunlight

But after Collins on Saturday, Sunday looked like a tough day to perform on. Highlights included Papa Topo (which I assume must mean Daddy Mouse), Majorca’s answer to a wayward piano lesson spooned into three-minute sparkly pop songs, if that ever needed an answer.

Sloppy Joe was the most unlikely of surprises, with the Tokyo band producing an incredible Smiths-y set – and drawing an enthusiastic crowd where there had just been bare grass in front of them as they opened.

Sloppy Joe

Madrid’s Zipper were great on the indoor stage, with driving fuzz-warm tunes carrying cutesy vocal lines that could have come from a kids’ TV show they were so upbeat. While in the church, MJ Hibbett singing with A Little Orchestra was a treat for those lucky enough to get an ear through the door.

And then Jeffrey Lewis happened. His band the Junkyard seemed to the ones in charge as they were setting up. Lewis looked like he’d wandered on from the audience. Until he took control of what was a tour de force. It’s supposed to be anti-folk, but that’s probably because he’s a genuine individual talent, a true auteur – what do you measure him against, except what he’s not. Making up the set as he went, he tore through songs, often starting them up himself and shouting titles to the bassist (his brother) and the drummer, daring them to keep up.

Jeffrey Lewis (far left) joined by Herman Dune (far right)

Songs map out his acrobatic thought patterns with engaging, rhythmic lyrics. Almost Sly Stone in their simplicity, Leonard Cohen in their sophistication and scope. You could cast aside his rap about killing mosquitos as a gimmick, but as a showcase for his literate wit it’s undeniable.

The audience were genuinely quite angered that they couldn’t weasel an encore out of him.

So how do you keep the roof off after that? Crystal Stilts turned the indoor stage into their own dark church of post punk. Singer Brad Hargett  swayed on stage like a reverend Bob Dylan, with tousled hair and shades, delivering the songs over a wall of noise. Between numbers he didn’t say a word. And the whole thing was utterly compelling.

Crystal Stilts

And then there was nothing left but Herman Dune. Looking like a Canadian Mountie lost in the Alps, the French troubadour delivered a masterclass of song writing. More folk than indie, certainly in sentiment, but there’s no doubt he was the perfect headline to an Indietracks that surpassed all expectations

by Matt Whipp

Indietracks have made available an excellent 40 track compilation, featuring the bands who played at this year’s event,  on a pay what you want basis.  All proceeds go to The Midlands Railway Centre that hosts the event.  Click here to download.

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