If repetition is the key to comedy then Beerandbands must be hilarious, because it seems like every other post is the one where I apologise about not posting for ages, and that I'll rectify this by posting more often. This is another one of those (sorry).
I do feel more invigorated and ready to write though; until the last week I'd not really been to many gigs, listened to much new music or immersed myself in anything worthy of bloggery really, but last week I went to see a few bands at The Maze in Nottingham (Cars Can Be Blue, Spook School, Big Wave, Tunabunny) of whom all were excellent, and then over the last weekend I made a return to Indietracks after skipping the last year. So yes, this is a blog about that festival (yeah I know I've done loads about Indietracks in the past too. What did I say about repetition? (keep up at the back).
We get there early on Friday and managed to go and have a swift one and a half at The Talbot tap in Ripley. It's a lovely pub, dead close to the festival site and worthy of a trip. Whilst on the little train that runs between Swanwick and Butterley we talked to a family (mum, dad and daughter) who were visiting for the first time. Whilst extolling the joys of the festival, we also mentioned how we had to go back every morning and feed our rabbit, prompting the daughter to tell us about a bunny rabbit toy she had and for them all to tell us how excited they were about getting to see The Pastels. It was nice to talk to completely new people at Indietracks albeit briefly and find them just as pleasant as everyone else who goes. Coming back we catch the latter half of The Tuts sets, who I'm not sure about but judging by the number of Tuts t-shirts on show for the rest of the festival everyone else loved them. Bis headline on Friday, and are what everyone wanted I think, close your eyes for a few seconds during Kandy Pop, and it's like it's that first TOTP performance all over again and that the last 18 (18? Jesus!) years haven't happened. Friday closes with sweaty after hours dancing in the disco tent to the djing skills of Show yr In Love who plays an excellent set which I dimly remember but definitely contained both Idlewild and Little Pink Stars by Radish.
Saturday dawns bright and harsh on hungover heads and tired feet, but a refreshing drive back to feed the rabbit and then a return to take the, always longer then I think, walk to the festival site is enough to wake me all over again. First up are The Art Club who I've not heard before. I don't know any of the songs but they make a very good impression on me. In some places they sound like The Sound, maybe a bit of Orange Juice/Postal Records stuff. A definite post punk element to them. They even do a quick little cover of 'Going Down' by the mighty Springsteen which was always going to curry favour in these parts.
There's time for a wander around and a catch up with people during which I feel like everyone seems a bit subdued which is odd for indietracks. I think I still remember it as knowing everyone there and everybody all sat together in one big group, and it's not quite like that, it can't be as so many extra people have taken the festival into their hearts over the years that it's not possible and it's a good thing too of course. I catch a bit of Pale Spectres who sound pretty great, and then dare to take a seat in the super hot tin church for Woog Riots. They're great, electro and silly and fun. They have quite a few interesting noise making machines (technical term) and almost spoken boy/girl vocals, songs about GG Allin and lo fi and the future. I want to say that they sound like Kraftwerk, but as they are (at least part) German that sounds lazy, but they do. Well like a kids reimaging of anyway. They end their set by turning off the euro beats and just playing with a saw and ukulele and the church goes utterly silent, and it's wonderful.
We sit down to watch The Secret History who I've been looking forward to, but for the most part they don't quite connect with me, but some of the songs, Johnny Anorak in particular, sound rocking and brilliant. It's while sitting down that the family mentioned above catch up with us again. The daughter eager to show us her toy bunny and the bag and pom pom pet she has made, whilst her mum extols how brilliant indietracks is and how much fun she's had including doing the cheerleading workshops. I think I take Indietracks for granted sometimes. Through gigs, and forums and doing this kind of thing for years, I know a lot of people who go and I know what to expect, and I know that all the people I see every year are going to have the best time. So it's lovely to be reminded that the festival provides for everyone, not just those involved in the indiepop 'scene', but those who have never heard the bands and don't really know anyone. The smiles on the faces of that family and hearing about how much fun they were having was a wonderful moment. You'll see on the internet how often everyone goes on about how welcoming Indietracks is, and how friendly and fun for everybody. Having that reaffirmed was an excellent and suprisingly moving thing. If you've never been and fear being the outsider, let this assuage your fears. This is a music festival for all.
After that I catch The Wave Pictures, who are on unbelievably good form. Long Island sounds excellent as always, the more recent stuff sounds as good as I've heard it, and Dave grinds out some phenomenal solos. Which make me smile because I remember the last time they played at the festival and loads of people really not liking it because of the soloing, and this time I reckon there was exponentially more of them then the first time. But they all fit, and it's not just noodling for noodlings sake, unlike some other bands I could mention (Herman Dune I'm looking in your direction)
Alas soon after the heavens split apart and all the rain that ever was spills out onto the festival. Retreating to the comfort of a nearby train I listen to the Brilliant Corners who sound absolutely ace, doing a full on greatest hits set. Soon after I run into Astrid Northern Spies, who has never really heard any Brilliant Corners, and has loved it. I'm never sure about the wisdom of reformed bands, but if they can continue to inspire and attract a new generation of fans then all power to them.
Sadly I miss Camera Obscura because they've been moved from the outdoor stage to the indoor due to rain, and it's so busy in there that the claustrophobia in me just can't take it, so we take the walk back to the campsite (which unsuprisingly seems like it takes forever this time). On the way I see Niall from Spook School, holding an umbrella and wearing shorts in a pounding storm; he's stewarding. I ask him if he's ok. "I'm doing my bit" he replies with a smile. Another little example of how much people love and will do for the festival. By the time I get back it's too soaking wet to dare to go back outside, so I listen to the campsite disco inside the tent, it's Lipstick On Your Collar doing the djing, and it sounds like it must have been amazing. The closing rendition of 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' at 3am will stay with me for a good while yet.
Sunday is suprisingly warm and fairly dry by the time we get back on site, the day's threat of thunderstorms and rain never really manifests itself. We catch a bit of Bloomer who sound pretty rocking from where I'm standing and then head to the front to catch Seabirds.
I'd not seen Seabirds yet, though I saw Red Shoe Diaries a fair few times, and think I know what to expect, but they catch me by suprise. A much more robust sound than the RSD, new additions Ian Horowitz and Dan bringing added power. The songs are all suprisingly fully formed for such a new band, but it's the last song which may or may not be called 'Independent Horses' which really stands out. It's a future single and deserves to be massive. Really promising for the future all round really.
The next band I see/hear properly are Good Grief who are outstanding, playing totally catchy, punky songs. They really, really, impress me and I really want to see them again already. My friend Andrew and I actually end up singing along to some of the songs despite never having heard them before. They are that immediate.
We somehow manage to miss both Flowers and Alpaca Sports despite hearing great things about both, but are down the front for Lardpony. The last time I saw them at Indietracks it was in the church and Tom looked like he might just melt away in the heat, they were great then, and they are as great now. It's wonderful to have them back, and the new songs sound just as good as the old ones - Teen Wolf, Noxious Gas and Who Loves The Sol are all wheeled out for a delighted crowd.
After that it's Frozy in the church. I'm falling asleep a little at this point from the heat, but I appreciate the loveliness and the soft vocals, to me they sound a little like Yo La Tengo in places, my girlfriend says they are very anti-folk which I suspect they probably are. They have a very appreciate crowd, and the Middle Ones come and sing with them on one song which is a lovely little suprise.
Back to the indoor shed and The Ballet. I've waited to see the Ballet and I'm not disappointed. They are magnificent. Beautiful music, there's always the touch of The Magnetic Fields about the band and they definitely sound like them in places, but they've developed a lot over the years I think, and the material from their recent(and excellent) album pulls big cheers from the crowd. New single 'Turn You' is a particular highlight.
After that it's time for a sit down, before Helen Love. Who, well, sound exactly like Helen Love. They play all the hits and don't disappoint a rapturous crowd. Again I can't take the crowded indoor shed for too long (why on earth weren't they outside?) so I miss the finale. Stage invasion and glitter cannons ahoy!
The end of the festival is dawning but before it does there's the small matter of an indiepop singalong. A whole bunch of smiling faces, provided with toy instruments and ably encouraged/goaded by Markie and Toniee into belting out such classics as I'm From Barcelona and The Just Joans' 'What do We do Now'. They manage to rope in some special guests to, a nice turn from The Wendy Darlings is a highlight, and then it's all over and all that remains if for everyone to belt out 'If You Don't Pull' in their best/worst scottish accents. It's a tremendously fitting end. Whenever I think of indietracks past it's always the communal memories that stay with me; people bellowing out Belle and Sebastian songs outside the train shed the first year; everyone singing along to Love Is In The Air at La Casa Azul; The platform singalongs in 2008. This was definitely one of those. A reminder of the feeling of community that indiepop and this fesitval inspires. It's what it's all about. More of this sort of thing.
So another one comes to an end, and the exuberant feeling slowly fades into melancholia and the long wait til the next one, but the memories remain, and on top of all the great music if I take anything away with me this year, it's konwing that community spirit, big hearts, open arms, egalitarianism and the simple joy of being kind to your fellow man and woman all still exist in this country - Take that Cameron.
Well done to everyone who organises it every year; your efforts don't go unnoticed. Here's to many more.