Midland Railway Museum, Ripley, Derbyshire
6-8 July 2012
It’s the second of our live reviews of the indiepop / twee / cutecore festival Indietracks. This take on the weekend and the bands on the line-up is from our reporter Declan IOM. You can read our earlier round-up here.ÃÂ
Indietracks is a small festival held at a Steam Railway museum in Derbyshire. Catering for the now ageing indie kids who were common in University Towns in the 80’s and 90’s with floppy fringes, 70’s sports bags and obscure badges. Sadly only the badges and bags remain.
I’m not really part of this scene anymore, but I still can’t resist a jangly guitar and a well executed harmony. In my absence it seems to have come to accept and even embrace its inherent tweeness. Hence this festival, to which one arrives by steam train, are served fluorescent cider by Uncle Albert & the Campaign for Real Ale, can admire rescued owls and parrots and participate in Make Your Own Record Sleeve craft workshops.
The festival is staffed predominately by elderly volunteers from the museum – when a train isn’t due, Uncle Albert pops out from behind the bar and transports you in a vintage bus; Allo Darlin’ spend much of the weekend in the merch tent. Surprisingly this draws an International crowd with Spaniards, Swedes, Americans and Japanese in attendance.
Getting there is a bit more problematic and on the first night I’m let down by more modern technology. Google maps plotting the route from my hotel to festival through a country lane and up a private road that is part of Derbyshire Constabulary’s Headquarters. I retreated and followed the roadsigns instead.
All of which meant I missed Friday night openers the Smitten, a band I gather were well received by the Indietracks regulars.
But I do catch Cardiff’s The School who play pleasant, Spectoresque girl pop presence of strings, a trumpet, and the traditional Indie guitar, bass and drums they make surprisingly little noise for a large band.
Their sound gets a little lost in the echo-y rolling stock shed, that serves as the second stage on Saturday and Sunday but tonight serves as refuge from the downpour with the bands brought inside.
Headlining former Hefner leader Darren Hayman is almost the archetypal accomplished indie pop singer. He sings well crafted songs of the lovelorn, loveless and lovestruck, in a strong but nerdy voice. There seems to be a slight maturing of his craft since the Hefner days, as if the Comp sixth-form intellectual has returned to teach Geography.
Surprisingly my favourite tune that Hayman and his band Secondery Modern played was a contemplative instrumental from his forthcoming LP Lido – “a tribute to London’s open air swimming pools.”Â
An enjoyable, but not groundbreaking, set.
Day Two kicks off with a run of pleasant female fronted band.
Vacciones are Spanish indie popsters. Who’d have thought such a thing existed. I rather enjoyed their spirited set.
Recent Louder Than War New Band of the Day Evans the Death follow with some slightly dark guitar pop. It’s Lush meets Curve in a mildly diverting fashion.
The Proper Ornaments are next with their pleasant girly indie pop. I keep thinking they’re doing a cover, but it’s not – it’s just another C86 rehash of the Buzzcocks’ guitar sound.
Next up Tender Trap are the most accomplished of this sequence of tuneful, jangly bands with female vocalists. The problem is that by this stage all these bands, all of whom are quite good, are starting to sound the same. I’m running out of synonyms for pleasant and yearning for a discordant guitar or someone to yell “Kick out the Jams”Â!
(Although, I suppose, it is fair to ask what I expect an Indiepop festival at a steam railway museum with workshops on cake decorating and friendship bracelet making to be like other than a bit twee.)
The Rosie Taylor Project are the day’s first act of the with a male singer this brings a welcome touch of variety. Tuneful and harmonic, the addition of a lone trumpet. Their assured performance was played before a crowd in the train shed, swollen by a sudden downpour. Video below of their performance of “The Sun on The Right”Â at Indietracks. Meanwhile on the mainstage Liechtenstein‘s agreeable goth inflected pop struggles to hit the mark.
Bart Cummings is the first act I see in the Church Stage, an old tin chapel that the Midland Railway team have purchased and relocated to the museum. The set begins with just Bart accompanying himself on electric guitar. Later he is joined by his former Shapiros colleague Pam Berry, who begins with a jaunty version of the Hollies Bus Stop. Sadly, both singers come across as nervous and I get the impression have not performed regularly in recent years. Despite this there are good songs and moments of beauty amongst unpreparedness.
Glaswegians, the Just Joans are confident and positive and sing humorous songs with titles like “Durex Puppy”. Enjoyable and fun. Early Creation stars the Jasmine Minks up the tempo and inject a vigour into the tweeness. It was needed.
Standard Fare are the best band of the first two days. This is a confident group, clearly gig-hardened, they are vigorous and enthusiastic. The standout performances are on Philadelphia and Crystal Palatial. In Emma Kupa they have a self-assured singer, lacking in diffidence, whose voice rings out loud and true. Thrilling.
Moshi Moshi signing’s Summer Camp follow but fail to make much of an impression before headliners Veronica Falls jingly Rickenbackers take over. Standout moment of their set was a lovely melodic Stephen. This is before they made the cardinal festival error of saying “Well it’s not rained”Â, only for a downpour during the next song to thin the crowd out and put a dampener on those that remained.
The final day begins for me with reformed Peel Sessioners 14 Iced Bears. Playing their first ever outdoor gig, and competing with news of Andy Murray’s early progress in the Wimbledon Final, the veterans bring a beautiful psychedelic touch to the afternoon.
They are a good natured band – “Hope it’s not raining too much. There you go a bit of banter.” Firmly old school indie they turn down the tweeometre not afraid of guitar effect or an ATV influence. Rather fantastic.
Leeds’ T.O.Y.S. are in the Church. A trio with drums, bass, and tiny Yamaha keys, back a singer in the distorted Yorkist tradition of Gedge. They create a fabulous sound.
Closer – “not a Joy Division cover” has barrelling keys and an urgent rhythm. They are polished but remain exciting. Unusually for this weekend, here is a band that is prepared to let an instrumental passage breathe so it gets groove going.
In the front pew a guy is air drumming out of time. The drummer pointedly avoids looking at him. One of the weekend’s highlights.
Next I squeeze into the guard’s van of a steam train, for a short trip along a branch line, serenaded by Tender Trap. Backed only by an acoustic guitar and the rhythm of the train on the rattling along the track. The singers harmonise brilliantly and for the second song the crowd clap along. A lovely moment was “This love is hard enough”Â when the band’s kids sing backing. This could have been uncomfortable, even mawkish but the band carry it off with good humour and charm.
Back at the station and Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson is on the main stage playing genial acoustic pop. Standout moments included his country inflected cover of Gene Clark’s “Train Leaves Here This Morning”Â and his own comedic “My Daddy was a Mod in the RAF”.
He’s followed by This Many Boyfriends playing early Creation-esque rock that drops pop culture references with abandon. They’re not the finished article yet, but when they’ll be a band to reckon with.
The June Brides take the stage to remind us of a time when Indiepop didn’t necessarily mean whimsical and twee and Indie wasn’t a synonym for Dad Rock. Reuniting founders Phil Wilson & Simon Beasley the band are supplemented by violins and a trumpet. The great arrangements flirt with the epic.
New single (“I never thought I’d say that again”) – January Moon is strong and melodic and not out of place. Elsewhere there are delicate almost folky arrangements that at times recall the Mekons. They even get the crowd to dance. An accomplished and triumphant return.
Indietacks’ sweethearts, Allo Darlin’ follow, opening with the melodic charm of Neil Armstrong. Frontwoman Elizabeth accompanies the band on a ukelele. This is clearly her audience and she plays to them with considerable charm. Overall this was a beautiful set, the band played jangly but stylish music with a real passion and verve.
Between the top two acts on the mainstage I catch a bit of the Monochrome Set, whose guitarist is as the riddler. I’ve been an admirer of this band for a long time, but tonight isn’t really their night and they get lost in the echoy half full shed.
And so to the Vaselines. Misnamed in the introduction as The Vaccines – an easy mistake to make given that the younger band owe a lot to the headliners’ cheerful punky pop.
This is an exuberant triumphant gig, that on the hits (and more) from their earlier existence and adds songs from their 2010 comeback album – Sex with an X. Backed by Belle & Sebastian members, mainstays Frances McKee & Eugene Kelly attack their tunes with a joyful energy.
The three songs that Nirvana covered – “Molly’s Lips”Â, “Son Of A Gun”Â & “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam”Â, are bashed out in the first half. But this doesn’t matter, because for a band with a relatively small back catalogue the set contains plenty of winners – “Oliver Twisted”Â, “I Hate the 80’s”Â, “Lovecraft”Â etc.
Confident and flirty, there was more between song joviality during the Vaselines set than there’d been during the rest of the weekend, The Vaselines were smashing and a highlight of the festival. The band return for a quick valedictory cover of Divine’s “You Think You’re a Man”Â.
Overall, whilst I may have some qualms about the variety of acts on offer and maybe the tweeness of the indiepop community is not really for me, this was one of the friendliest festivals I’ve been to. There’s no Dalston hipster sneering, bands members watch their counterparts from the crowd and the festival staff are endearingly muddling through. I had a great time.
All words by Declan IOM. You can read more from Declan on LTW here.