Review: Indietracks Festival
Published on July 10th, 2012 | Theo Gorst
After the cancellation of Cheshire’s Cloud 9 Festival, its organisers were led to conclude that it’s become “incredibly difficult for many small, independent festivals and has proved to be too challenging for us to overcome”.
With this in mind, few would raise an eyebrow if Indietracks – situated at the Midlands Railway Museum – were to fall by the wayside. Indeed it hardly bodes well that it lacks any populist appeal (something that keeps the ‘Big 5’ afloat), instead serving as the smallest of small, twee-est of twee and certainly the niche-est of niche of all festivals. And yet those who pay the indie-pop weekend a visit will be pleasantly surprised to see not a festival in ill health but one going from strength to strength.
The weekend does however start ominously with severe weather warnings taking the surrounding area by storm, so it’s with great trepidation that the couple of thousand festivalgoers begin Friday evening. First act The Smittens do their damnedest to dispel all weather related worries yet their sound equates to the sonic equivalent of eating a bag of sugar: initially fun, yet its unrelenting sweetness proves somewhat trying.
Thankfully up next is the meatier proposition of The School, before former Hefner front man Darren Hayman brings the evening to a close. Debuting new tracks from his concept album exploring open air swimming pools, his instrumentals prove immersive as the thousand-strong crowd opting to dive in could attest to. After Friday’s festival frivolities Rocksucker returns to the campsite ready to bed down, yet over the sea of tents we can hear the strains of Kenickie’s “Come Out 2Nite” and duly investigate. Where one usually expects the likes Blur, Primal Scream and Gary Numan at an indie disco, here the Unpop team greet you with Belle and Sebastian, The Primitives and Neutral Milk Hotel, all of whom help to cap off a grand Friday.
An early draw on Saturday is Slumberland and Fortuna POP! recent signings Evans the Death; ripping through tracks from their terrific debut long-player, the London five-piece are a particualar highlight of not just the day but the weekend, with “Telling Lies” sounding marvellous due to its onslaught of Coxon-meets-Malkmus guitars. It wouldn’t be an indie-pop festival without Amelia Fletcher, and conveniently her fourth [and longest going] band Tender Trap treat the main stage to an indie-pop masterclass, with cuts from their pending new record sounding every bit as good as vintage Heavenly. Whilst a packed Church Stage sees Pam Berry preaching to the converted, we once again return to the main stage to see Atlanta Georgia’s gold-bears, who play with an urgency that leaves both Rocksucker’s heart and ears pounding.
Whilst showcasing brilliant new acts like Joanna Gruesome, The Spook School and the especially excellent Hobbes Fanclub, it’s the pulling power of the reunited Go Sailor that’s one of the weekends main draws. Playing with vim and vigour, the trio are clearly thrilled to be back together and as such give glorious renditions of classics such as “Fine Day for Sailing” and “Together Forever in Love” before ending with a triumphant “The Boy Who Sailed Around the World”. Against the background of sinister clouds Veronica Falls deliver a storming set, mixing new numbers with the gothic fuzz-pop tracks that made their debut such a beguiling record, and the London quartet’s headline slot is a heart-warming success story having been first on the bill last time they graced the Midlands Railway Museum. (Click here to read Rocksucker’s interview with Veronica Falls drummer Patrick Doyle!)
On return to the campsite Rocksucker’s appalling dancefloor stamina becomes apparent, and as “Young Lovers Go Pop!” resonates into the Derbyshire night, we suitably pop off to bed.
Thankfully the weather never came good on its promise to deliver floods of biblical proportions, although angry clouds menacingly shadow the festival site, and after a ride on a steam train Rocksucker heads towards the vintage noise-pop emanating from the main stage to find 14 Iced Bears playing. As if to accompany the weather Sea Lions – who deliver a set awash with melancholy bedsit-pop – are led by Adrian Pillado’s thundering vocals. Pillado’s baritone isn’t too dissimilar to Calvin Johnson’s voice, which conveniently brings us to the Indoor Stage where This Many Boyfriends [named after a Beat Happening song] rip through a set with an undeniably frenetic energy. “Young Lovers Go Pop!” is as anthemic as indie-pop gets and as such sees the audience respond positively.
Later on Love Dance play a disappointing set at the Church Stage, a 19th Century church erected for railway workers; they describe their sound as “straight-up Scandinavian middle-class pop”, but perhaps a more apt description would be “middle-of-the-road pop”. Thankfully they’re followed by the ABC Club who deliver a heavenly forty minutes with a particular highlight being the rolling riffs and alluring vocals of “Scattered Light”.
Like Go Sailor before them Allo Darlin’ look elated to be playing, and thankfully for us it’s just as fun being in the audience. Playing tracks from both their debut LP and their magnificent recent record Europe, Elizabeth Morris’s voice is pitch-perfect and backed by unbelievably tight musicianship. Fittingly “Capricornia Skies” proves to be perhaps the weekend’s sing-along moment. Finally, enter The Vaselines; flanked Belle and Sebastian members, their sound is fleshed-out and their crunching garage-rock is simply irresistible, indeed the clouds seem to disappear in appreciation.
Smaller festivals may well be disappearing at a rate of knots, yet on the evidence of this weekend past, Indietracks is going full steam ahead.
For more information on Indietracks Festival, please visit www.indietracks.co.uk/