Tag Archive | "The Spook School"

Indietracks Festival 2019 Review

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Indietracks Festival 2019 Review

Posted on 05 August 2019 by Dorian

Indietracks is a pretty unique event, in many ways. Most obviously in that it takes place at a heritage railway, but also in terms of what it means to the people who attend each year, and the way it is organised. The people who attend are passionate about the music and the event, and the organising team bring together a wonderful mix of music each year that manages to simultaneously follow a comfortable pattern and throw in some really delightful surprises.

Trains

You get a few industry veterans (Bis, The Catenary Wires, Tracyanne & Danny), some Indietracks mainstays (Martha and a tearful farewell to The Spook School), bands that are just starting out (Cheerbleederz) and bands that are starting to generate some industry buzz (LIINES, Porridge Radio).

There is also a lot of variety of band style considering that most people would see the indie-pop scene as being fairly straightforward in terms of musical focus. There’s black feminist punk (Big Joanie), Euro-J-Pop (Kero Kero Bonito), surf instrumentals (Surf Muscle), pop-punk (Fresh), Hong-Kong shoegaze (Thud) and hard-to-define-pop (The Orielles).

I could write hundreds of words giving my personal view on the dozens of bands I saw but what would be the benefit of that? I know from just the experience of myself and my colleagues over the weekend that everyone will find different things to like from a festival like Indietracks. Be that the different bands, or the owls, or the train sheds, or the miniature railway, or perusing the merch stalls, or surviving the falling speakers at the campsite disco.

So instead I’ll leave you with my personal three favourites from the weekend and a selection of pictures of the event. If you’ve never been then I urge you to give the festival a go next year. If you’ve been already you don’t need me to tell you how much fun it all is.

So, in no particular order, my top three:

Advance Base

Advance Base

This, like most of my favourite music over the weekend, was entirely new to me. I’d heard of Owen Ashworth’s previous act Casiotone for the Painfully Alone but never listened to them. I also knew that he’d recorded work by The Magnetic Fields but never listened to any of those tracks either. In some ways it sounded exactly as I would have expected, downbeat, synth driven and built around some great word-play. What I hadn’t expected was such a beautiful tone to his voice, and so much emotional weight to the songs.

Seazoo

Seazoo

Seazoo play a type of music that has defined my record collection for most of my adult life, noisey(ish)-indie-guitar-pop. They aren’t breaking much new ground but the older ground they are covering is pretty great. They’ve got good tunes, they play well and they seem thoroughly nice. They have just the right quantity of quirk to their sound to make things interesting and I’ll definitely be visiting their recorded output.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep

I don’t think many people would argue with Stealing Sheep being the most polished stage performance of the weekend. Matching outfits, vocoder vocal introductions and synchronised moves sit alongside some pretty slick pop songs. It is joyous stuff and goes down a storm with the crowd. I loved every minute of it and ‘Joking Me’ could well be the song of the year as well.

Bis

Bis

 

The Orielles

The Orielles

 

Cheerbleederz

Cheerbleederz

 

Surf Muscle

Surf Muscle

 

Fresh

Fresh

 

Big Joanie

Big Joanie

 

Martha

Martha

 

The Spook School

The Spook School

 

She's Got Spies

She’s Got Spies

 

Thud

Thud

 

Kero Kero Bonito

Kero Kero Bonito

Words and pictures Dorian Rogers

Share

Comments (0)

Indietracks Festival 2016

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Share

Comments (0)

Indietracks 2016 Q&A

Tags: , , ,

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.

Share

Comments (0)

Indietracks Festival 2014

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Share

Comments (0)

The Spook School – Dress Up

Tags: ,

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

Share

Comments (0)

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here

Charts