Tag Archive | "Indietracks"

Alpaca Sports – Sealed With A Kiss

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Alpaca Sports – Sealed With A Kiss

Posted on 06 March 2014 by Joe

Why would anyone set out to provoke a reaction of “well, it’s alright I suppose” when they release an album? This is the question that rolls around in my mind as I listen to the sadly unoriginal debut from Alpaca Sports.

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Full of the usual indie pop C86 references and lyrics like “I used to kiss her just for fun”  and “every tear is a lesson learned” there admittedly isn’t a terrible track on this album. Trouble is there’s nothing that truly excites either. The nearest it comes to raising heartbeats is She’ll Come Back for Indian Summer, which is a great pop single but seems lonely, surrounded by the other nine, far weaker tracks.

There are hints of a more innovative band underneath. The violin  on Just Like Johnny Marr is good and a little different. But overall I guess they didn’t get the memo, that admittedly is still in my head, that indie pop bands are allowed to be original. I get the crushing sense with this album that I’ve heard it way too many times before.

We saw them at the Indietracks Fesival last year and they seem like nice people. They were enjoyable live as well. But compared to bands at that event such as Making Marks, who blend country sadness with pop expertly, Alpaca Sports are in serious need of a spark of originality in the studio to elevate out them of the bubblegum blandness they have found themselves in.

But if you like your bands to sound like lots of other bands and don’t really care what blokes like me think then do check them out. There’s a good band somewhere in Alpaca Sports. I do hope they discover their own sound though before getting into the studio again.

5/10

By Joe Lepper

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The Spook School – Dress Up

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The Spook School – Dress Up

Posted on 16 November 2013 by Dorian

The Spook School is a great band name, it is simple but has so many possible meanings. It could be a school for ghosts, or a school for spies but is most likely to refer to the  Glaswegian late 19th century artists group. Whatever it refers to, it sounds good and fits the bands resolutely indie guitar sound pretty well.

The Spook School - Dress Up

Dress Up may not quite be a great album, but it is a very good one and is one of the most promising debuts I have heard this year. What we have is some quality raucous indie guitar pop showcasing some excellent songs and an infectious energy.

The first third of the album is a real joy, with track after track hitting the mark perfectly. Best of all is the double hit of ‘I’ll Be Honest’, one of the best fuzzy pop songs I’ve heard in a long time, followed by ‘You Make It Sound So Easy’ which is a lovely piece of C86 indie, complete with jangling guitars and “ba ba ba” backing vocals.

Some problems with the album surface around the halfway point, ‘Can You Trust A Man Who Thinks Matt Damion’s Really Cool?’ is not a very funny or interesting cultural reference, and crucially isn’t a very good song. This example, like a few of the songs in the second half, sound like they would be a lot more fun live, and The Spook School were one of my favourite acts at Indietracks last year so I know they can deliver on stage.

There are still some good songs in the tail end of the album though and the bizarrely titled final track ‘Who Ya Gonna Call? Goat Buster!’ is one of the best things on the record.

I started this review saying that this wasn’t a great album, and it maybe it isn’t,  it is a very enjoyable album that loses its way a little on, in old terms, the second side. It is, however, a very refreshing album with a selection of excellent tracks that I think people should buy. The Spook School are clearly a great band with a bright future and I hope that this album is a taste of things to come.

7/10

By Dorian Rogers

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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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UK Music Festival Guide 2013

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UK Music Festival Guide 2013

Posted on 27 February 2013 by Joe

With Glastonbury back after a year off, 2013 is set to be one of the busiest for UK music festivals. Some of our favourite small festivals are also still going strong as we take you through our guide to the best festivals in the UK. We’ve also found space to showcase possibly the worst festival line up we have ever seen. Sadly this year is the first where we will no longer be endorsing the All Tomorrow’s Parties events. With the line-ups becoming increasingly predictable and question marks still lingering in our minds over a recent festival postponement and financial woes we’ve decided that there are better and more reliable options elsewhere.

The Great Escape

May 16-18

great-escape-2013-500x303

Taking place at venues across Brighton and Hove, on the Sussex coast, you have to be very queue tolerant for the more popular acts. The event does include a lot of leg work to flit between venues but such minor ordeals are worth it for this festival, which prides itself on showcasing the best new talent around as well as a sprinkling of familiar names. This year’s line up includes Merchandise, Bastille and Phosphorescent. Once again we will be reviewing this event. For more information click here.

Glastonbury

June 26-30

glastonbury 2012

As usual tickets sold out swiftly for this year’s event, especially after it took a break last year to give the fields at its Worthy Farm, Somerset, home  a break. It’s worth checking the website though for details of returned tickets that usually become available around Easter. So far this year the line up rumour mill has been churning faster than ever with David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac and Arctic Monkeys all in the mix for a headline slot. After attending our first Glastonbury in 2011 we were amazed by the sheer breadth of music on offer, with the new band-focused BBC Introducing Stage and the John Peel Stage among our favourites. Whatever the bill it promises to remain the best festival for music fans on offer this year. As with 2011, we will be once again be covering the event. This year will be extra special for us as our co-editor Joe Lepper has been one of the judges in the festival’s emerging talent competition, which has a main stage slot as its prize. For more information click here.

Indietracks

July 26-28

web_indietracks

New bands, twee-pop and steam trains. That’s the quick review of this excellent small festival that we have attended at its Midland Railway, Butterley, Derbyshire location for a number of years now. Over the years Neonfiller.com favourites such as Teenage Fanclub, Allo’ Darlin’, Tigercats, Darren Hayman and Pains of Being Pure At Heart have graced the stages scattered around its steam railway museum location. For more information click here.

Greenman

August 15-18, 2012

greenman

Set in Glanusk Park, Wales, this three-day event offers an enticing blend of folk and alternative acts. This is another we are looking to attend this year, especially as the line up includes the likes of Veronica Falls,  Edwyn Collins, This Is The Kit, The Pastels and Fuck Buttons. For more information click here.

End of the Road

August 30 – September 1

End Of The Road

The laidback setting at the Larmer Tree  Gardens, North Dorset makes this one of the best located festivals on the UK circuit. Nestled at the end of the summer holidays the weather tends to be drier (although don’t hold us to that) and this year’s line up is one of the best we have seen. Headliners are Sigur Ros, Belle and Sebastian and David Byrne & St Vincent, with other notable acts already booked including Matthew E White, Jens Lekmen and Frightened Rabbit. For more information click here.

Festival Number 6

September 13-15

the prisonner500

As stunning locations go they don’t get better than this festival, which takes place across the welsh seaside town of Portmeirion, where The Prisoner was filmed. With events taking place in bandstands and other famous settings, there will also be  lots of Prisoner worshippers (above picture by Arthur Hughes) on hand in addition to an eclectic mix of old and new acts. Be warned though, festival goers at last year’s inaugural event warned us that camping conditions, on a rather unsettling slope, could do with some improvement. At the time of writing the line up for 2013 had not been unveiled, but with New Order, Spirtualized, British Sea Power, Field Music and Stealing Sheep among those who played in 2012 we are expecting a similarly impressive line up for 2013. For more information click here.

And this year’s worst UK festival line up….

V Festival

August 17-18

v-festival-line-up-2013

V Festival, seemingly the music festival for people who hate music, has outdone itself with its traditional line up of mediocrity this year. Not only do we not want to see a single act, but we would actually pay not to go. With Beyonce and Kings of Leon headlining the organisers are no penny pinchers but certainly have questionable taste. Elsewhere for those festival goers looking for something bland for the car stereo there’s Beady Eye, Jessie J, The Script and Olly Murs. To top it off Scouting For Girls, who I always thought were a joke band, are also on the bill….albeit a little lower down and nestled next to Deacon Blue and Ocean Colour Scene. If this appeals then feel free to visit their website here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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The Smittens – Believe Me

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The Smittens – Believe Me

Posted on 18 July 2012 by Joe

Fresh from an enjoyable set at this year’s Indietracks festival, Vermont’s The Smittens are this month releasing their fourth album Believe Me. In true indiepop fashion, the release will be on clear 12’ vinyl on Fika Recordings, limited to 500 copies and complete with a digital download code, a recipe for cider-glazed doughnuts and a bag of rooibos tea (we kid you not). You can also buy a digital download version only but the former format sounds a lot more interesting.

Believe Me showcases the best and worst aspects of the band. They craft  bittersweet indie pop, have genuine emotion when they sing and seem like a lot of fun. The problem though is that in sticking to the twee-indiepop path they have chosen to walk  so rigidly, they sound  just too similar  to their obvious influences, most notably The Magnetic Fields and Scottish twee-sters The Pastels . Along the way they have seemingly forgotten to be their own band.

We had a similar problem with Allo Darlin’s new album Europe this year. Sure the songs were good and the musicianship was great, but we’d heard it all before.  If you want to hear what our benchmark is for interesting, original indie pop  then Isle of Dogs by London’s Tigercats, or the self-titled debut by Brooklyn’s Hospitality are pretty good examples.

Anyway, back to The Smittens. Even though it sounds a lot like The Magnetic Fields and doesn’t push the boundaries of indie pop one jot, it’s still a fine and nice listen.

Typing, texting is an enjoyable ditty to start with with, some nice (that word again) three part harmonies and keyboard arrangements but by the second track Burning Streets of Rome I’m finding myself drifting a little; I’m not thinking “what a good song”, but “gosh, doesn’t Smittens singer Max Andrucki’s baritone sound an awful lot like The Magnetic Field’s Stephin Merritt.”

I’m back with them by the third track, Turn The Music Up, which has a good enough riff to keep me interested. And from fourth track First Bus till the end I’m less cynical, feeling pretty darn guilty about thinking they were just a Magnetic Fields rip-off and starting to warm to their sunny take on the whole indie pop genre. As much as I hate the word twee, The Smittens are surely up there with the twee-est bands around, although  they prefer the word ‘bubblegum’ to describe their pop, whatever difference that makes.

Despite my reservations I like this album,  and from what I can tell from those who have seen them live, they seem a likeable bunch as well, which is just enough to make up for their career- crippling lack of originality. The doughnut recipe and tea have also helped sway me.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

 

 

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Go Sailor – The Boy Who Sailed Around The World

Posted on 16 July 2012 by Dorian

This clip, recorded live on 7th July at Inditracks 2012, is of Go Sailor performing ‘The Boy Who Sailed Around The World’. It is an uncharacteristic song in that it is their only track where Rose Melberg and Paul Curran switch places, with the latter handling the guitar and lead vocals.

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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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