Indietracks is a festival like no other. The first thing that makes it stand out from the crowd is that to get to the festival requires that you take a trip on a steam train transporting you to the site. From the off it creates a magical festival experience.
This continues when you get to the actual festival area. Its like being transported to another – much cooler – world. When attending most festivals style tend s to take a back seat in favour of comfort and/or general festival survival. Not this festival….Indietracks is the exact opposite. Everyone is effortlessly cool and every single person that walks past has either an item of clothing, a bag or a pair of vintage specs that I would kill to have in my collection. At Indietracks style is very much top of the bill on the main stage.
That’s not to say that the music suffers. The first sound of the festival that we hear just as we are getting there are The Smittens, a retro esque upbeat band but unfortunately we only manage to catch the end of their set as I would have loved to have sampled more of their vintage sounds.
Following on is The School, who seem to completely fill the all stage with their band members. Indeed, they seem to have almost as many members as the Polyphonic Spree. Their Camera Obscura-esque sound with vocal harmonies and violin and xylophone arrangements providing sweet music to tantalise the assembled fantastically dressed crowd. Having recently spying their album in the local record shop this will definitely necessitate a visit back there to purchase.
Headlining act bringing the music of the first night to a close is Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern. As soon as his set starts I’m amazed, and also it has to be said, frustrated that his talent has evaded me for so long. His early Britpop sound fused with Bowie-esque lyrics are right up my street. It’s no surprise that his sound is Britpopesque, in his previous incarnation in Hefner he was around in the early Britpop years and was championed by the likes of John Peel. As he treats us to ‘A Hymn for the Postal Service’ from Hefner’s back catalogue I realise that I have a lot of catching up to do and must take a bigger bag with me when I go record shopping after this festival…and this is only the first night.
Hayman’s music and words are raw and emotive and his occasionally sorrowful voice is accompanied by a melodic but haunting violin. Some of the tracks have a definite old school indie feel to them a track like the wonderful ‘Out of my League’ with its nod to the lyrical content of a band such as Pulp with self depreciating lyrics and tales of women who are way out of reach. It’s hard to understand why this song is not a staple indie anthem as from the crowds reaction it’s obviously one of their favourites and it has to be said, it’s one of mine too. Mr Hayman has made a massive impression on me and the rest of the festival certainly has a lot to live up to.
With the success of day one of the festival I eagerly anticipate what the second day has to offer me. First band of the that we catch are Silver Factory. Their jangly guitar sound being a welcome introduction to the day but once again we arrive just as a band are finishing . Steam trains are all well and good in ensuring that you arrive in style but to catch all the bands I have to remember to get up very early indeed and get the earlier train.
It’s then up to the quaint old church, a lovely small venue on the festival site that outside appearance just adds to the magical feel of the festival to catch The Were Wanda’s. The church acoustics suit the Wanda’s fifties style sound to a tee and the heavy bass and retro sound runs like a pulse through the evangelical eaves.
The Tiger Cats have a popular crowd reaction and have a rockier edge to their sound than most of the other acts gracing the Indietracks stages. ‘You are Sleeping’ gets rapturous applause from the assembled crowd who all seem to be enjoying the ride.
Last band that we see on the second day are Just Joans, who are a massive hit with both the crowd and lots of other bands performing at the festival. their obvious Scottishness shining through in their songs which is occasionally reminiscent of Scottish Icons Aztec Camera. Their influences seem many and varied however with Jarvis Cockers glasses getting a mention and also the “you know that I’ve been drunk a thousand times” refrain from The Wonder Stuff’s ‘Size of a Cow’ during their ‘Friday Afternoon” song. An eclectic mix indeed. The Just Joans are a fantastic fusion of all that was good about female fronted indie-rock in the mid nineties at times sounding like a whirlwind of Sleeper, Echobelly and Kenickie….and this theory is backed further when they do a cover of Kenickie song ‘Come out 2nite’ proving that gut reactions are sometimes right. The crowd go into mega singalong mode with ‘If you Don’t Pull’, which ensures that this catchy little ditty stays with me and has me singing it well into the night on the journey home. Although with their strong accents it did like they were saying something about needing more fibre in your diet but we won’t go there …..
On day three of the festival we manage to get there in good time. Just as well as we manage to catch Spook School who manage to deliver a set with far more oomph than the chilled and laid back sets that had been the staple of the Indietrack festival experience. The fast paced ‘Cameraman’ gets the crowd dancing and indeed for such an early set in the day they seem to be attracting an incredibly large crowd as word has obviously spread that Naomi, Adam, Anna and Niall are ones to watch. Keeping up the pace and enthusiasm, and egged along by interjections from drummer Niall throughout the set, they treat the crowd to a listen of their punchy single ‘History’ before departing the stage after doing a superb job in warming up the crowd.
Next up are 14 Iced Bears, who on first hearing remind me very much of my nineties favourites Teenage Fanclub and i’m not surprised when looking around I spot Teenage Fanclub T-shirt adorning many of the people in the crowd. 14 Iced Bears are good at what they do, very good infact, with their swoonsome vocals and swirling guitars being a big hit with the crowd. Popular song ‘Cut’ is a poignant break-up song and the brollies go up as the skies weep along with the song. More upbeat by comparison ‘Balloon Song‘ is bouncy and uplifting (if you pardon the pun ) and despite the weather taking a turn for the worse the warmth of atmosphere of both band and crowd makes it feel like a scorching summers day regardless.
As a former member of Belle and Sebastian, Stevie Jackson is already a familiar face to a lot of people in the crowd. Here to promote his fabulously titled ‘I Can’t Get no….Stevie Jackson‘ album, he is already preaching to the converted and is greeted with a warm reception. The Fifties feel of ‘Don’t Hang that Picture on Me’ with its velvety vocals and slow and deliberate lyrics make this an intriguing opener, and occasionally making him sound similar to fellow Scottish crooner Edwyn Collins.
Stevie gets the crowd to shout ‘No Rain’ in a Woodstock-esque attempt to stave away the now persistent rain, which sadly has no effect other than to make the rain pound harder. Harmonious ‘Press Send’ tells the tale of the confusion caused by not knowing whether to tell someone your feelings or not and the fifties vibe is back as the chorus of ‘Don’t send, Do send’ produces a crowd singalong as if in defiance to the crap weather. ‘Daddy was a Mod in the RAF’ shows the lyrical brilliance of Stevie as he talks of “daddy getting bombed on purple hearts” and being “out of his brain on a plane”. Another album gets added to the ever growing list I’m compiling…
There’s just time to grab a bite to eat and nip over for a mosey around the vintage stalls and a mooch around the merchandise tent where we purchase a copy of Stevie Jacksons album on vinyl from the man himself after his triumphant set on the main stage. Indietracks festival is so much more than just a vehicle for delivering music it’s like a cool retro infused bubble containing new and exciting experiences.
Attracting possibly the biggest crowd of the festival, and accompanying their vast sales in the merchandise tent from what I saw, are ‘Allo Darling. Lead singer Elizabeth’s tomboyish appearance being totally at odds with her wistfully girly vocals and the crowd are on their feet and dancing from the start. Their track ‘Darren’ paying homage to fellow Indietracker Darren Hayman to which I’m sure he is both flattered and extremely pleased with the resulting song. ‘The Polaroid Song’ continues the upbeat theme with its carefree nature echoing the crowds obvious good mood.
With their ‘Dreaming’ track you can appreciate just why they have commanded such a large crowd as the luxurious tones of the male vocal adding both texture and depth to the song and then slowing the pace slightly with quiet melodic ballad ‘Some People Say’ where Elizabeth’s soft vocals are lifted by the breeze into the crowd.
Continuing the mutual love fest that surrounds Indietracks ‘Allo Darling do a blasting cover version of Just Joans ultra catchy ‘If you Can’t Pull’ thus ensuring that the song stays with me for at least another twenty four hours! For an Encore ‘Tallulah’ showcases all the best things about the band with Elizabeth’s crisp vocals captivating the crowd and the raw beat of the percussion punctuating the air. It’s hard to see how anyone will top it …..
However headlining act the Vaselines are determined to give it a good try. They will need no introduction to people of a certain age as back in the day they were championed endlessly by no other than Kurt Cobain who covered Vaselines songs on many occasions.
It’s not long before we hear one of these tracks, the wonderful ‘Molly’s Lips’ with its sleazy guitars sounding as good now as it did all those years ago, quickly followed by ‘Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam’ with both tracks greeted with huge cheers and crowd singalong.
The onstage conversation between Eugene and Frances (who informs us with saucy innuendo that today is her birthday today) is worth any ticket price alone and they act like an old married couple. There are many references to them once being a couple and their love / hate flirtatious banter is at time hysterical or maybe it’s just to build tension and anticipation for their next song ‘Sex with an X’ with its chorus of “it feels so good it must be bad for me” being a cheeky and catchy take on the relationship situation and the “let’s do it, let’s do it again” adding further tantalising thoughts as to what would have inspired these lyrics. To be honest they do the whole ‘did they / didn’t they’ bit with more tease and intrigue than The White Stripes ever did.
Their post-punk sound is incredibly infectious and is a sounds that a lot of today’s bands seem to strive to emulate but do not reach the heady heights of the masters such as The Vaselines, who do this sort of thing effortlessly and on ‘No Hope’ their dual vocals compliment each other perfectly whilst fast paced ‘Dum Dum’ is taken to my heart immediately due to its likeness to early Primal Scream tracks with its spiralling guitar sound .
Ending their set with Divine cover ‘You Think You’re a Man, but You’re only a Boy’, it’s easy to see that the crowd don’t want to let them go their set had been both glorious and joyous and a fitting birthday celebration for Frances.
Indietracks 2012, you have been fabulous, enlightening and most disturbingly will probably cost me a fortune in hunting down of the back catalogues of the various artists that have entertained and tantalised me in equal measure. Sometimes the smaller festivals produce the most treasure.