It’s one of our favourite little festivals and Indietracks 2015 has excelled. Features editor Sarah Lay brings you a few of the highlights of the Derbyshire festival.
There is the sweet taste of strawberry cider on my tongue as I lie back on the grass and watch clouds float across a summer sky. In the distance a train horn sounds, a smile breaking across my face, as on the main stage a ukelele is sound checked.
Yes, from sunshine to showers; steam trains with bands on board to steam rollers crushing cans; from a merch marquee to a birds of prey display; from bands playing in churches, in playgrounds and on stages inside and out – Indietracks 2015 retained its place in my heart as one of the quirkiest, small festivals on the circuit.
It begins at Butterley, a preserved station on a stretch of heritage railway, where we mill on the platform and away the train to the festival site a short way down the track. This train journey – by steam or on an old diesel – delights us all as we leave behind the everyday and step out at Swanwick Junction part of this small but inclusive scene.
And Indietracks delights year on year without having to swell its size or dilute its personality. It brings in new bands and it gives us the headliners, sure. But it also brings back bands who are being given the time to grow, a rarity in the current climate of aborting after first albums if the big time doesn’t beckon.
The indiepop scene though, much wider than the shade of jangling tweeness some would throw, seems to have that old fashioned tendency to nurture. This is not looking back with nostalgia, although C86 and classic indie artists are welcomed back too, but to support artists over time.
Evans the Death are just one of the bands who are are continuing to blossom in the scene. Louder Than War spoke to them at the festival in 2012 when they played the tiny church stage, high on the release of their debut. Now taking a mid-Saturday afternoon slot on the main stage we get tracks from their second long player and shout out suggestions rather than heckles when they realise they have a much longer set time than they’d planned for.
And we get the brand new too as Mammoth Penguins also take to the main stage, their debut selling well from their label’s stall in the merch tent. Released earlier in the month Hide and Seek is packed with roll and thrash riffs, bubbling bass line and bittersweet lyrics. It’s a perfect sing-a-long in the afternoon sun as we loll about on the green in front of the stage and wave merrily at those riding the narrow gauge alongside us.
Indeed, Emma Kupa‘s name is spoken in revered tones around the site, not only in relation to the songs she plays with this new band but for her solo set in the church that same evening. The queue winds down the path, past the playground, to the signal box waiting in the hope of getting in and hearing her sing.
In the engine shed, where the second stage and the real ale bar share space, we are treated to an intense set from Desperate Journalist. The post-punk quartet manage to conjure a fierce claustrophobia, closing their sound in and around us in the vastness of the shed; Jo Bevan’s vocal raising goosebumps on sun-warmed skin as they shimmer through tracks from their self-titled debut and leave us all wanting more.
The indoor stage hosts another of those bands that come back to Indietracks, a little more grown over the years, as Tigercats bring out their upbeat danceable side, the wooziness of recent releases downplayed live.
A damp Sunday does nothing to change the mood of the festival as we pack the trains, and the shed, and the church. By the evening the outdoor stage will be abandoned but for now we dodge between showers to find our new favourite bands or warm up with the comfort from one we already love.
We shake off the raindrops as we shimmy to Tuff Love and their beautifully bass-backed soft-focus harmonies. We crowd into the church for the fuzzy pop of Baker Island and the crashing riff and roll from JUNK.
There are a million magical musical moments crammed onto the small site, but as the engines return to their sheds and the signals are all turned red we’re already thinking about what next year will bring, about being back with friends and heart-ravingly good music in the hidden indie paradise that is Indietracks.
Indietracks takes place at the Midland Railway Centre, a Trust-run heritage railway. You can visit at other times of the year or donate to support their work. Find out more on their website.