Last August I received a phone call from my niece, telling me she was getting married. I was, and remain, genuinely happy for her, as you would be on hearing such news. What she said next though caused my blood to freeze – she was looking at the last weekend in July for her big day. Through gritted teeth I wished her all the best. I thought everyone knew that Indietracks is on the last weekend in July! Maybe she was simply confused by last year’s, Olympic-enforced early start? I did toy for a while with the idea of outbidding her for the reception venue in the hope that it’d force her to switch the date, before bowing to the inevitable and sobbing quietly to myself for the next few months.
So it was that we set off at the crack of too-bloody-early-for-a-Sunday to get there, rather than the more sedate pace a Friday evening start permits. However, one advantage is that no-one else seemed to travelling anywhere much at all at that time of the morning and the miles effortlessly disappeared in next to no time. Half an hour was spent on trying to remember how to put the tent up and then we were skipping in the sunshine down the lane to Swanwick Junction like the happy and excited little lambs that we were. Well, I was. I can’t speak for Robin.
We were lucky enough to manage to squeeze onto the first train to see Pete Green. Well, lucky enough to hear him but not lucky enough actually to manage to see him perform as well. I did manage to catch occasional glimpses of a yellow shirt through the dirty window behind him though.
Pete’s funny and sensitive songs are always worth hearing and there was a gentle singalong with him about the time he heard his record played on Radio 1, while we trundled (the trains here never need to go fast enough to do anything other than trundle) through the bucolic scenes outside.
As we waited for the engine to run round for the return journey, my eye was drawn to a nearby field where someone was on the receiving end of what appeared one of the less-effective riding lessons. The shouts of ‘just relax, you’ll be fine’ were about as effective as my attempts at seeing Big Wave on the Friday evening, as the poor victim clung on gamely while the, frankly rather lively, horse seemed more inclined to see how quickly it could divest itself of said rider and get on with whatever horses prefer to do on a Sunday morning.
Then the engine came past the window, thereby preventing me from ever learning the outcome of this just too one-sided encounter. It also drowned out Pete completely.
The last chord of Pete’s last song drifted away on a welcome breeze just as we came to a gentle halt back where we started. He couldn’t have timed it any better if he’d tried and we all fell out on to the platform to go in search of more fun.
The atmosphere by the indoor stage was very different as Bloomer provided a stark contrast to the previous benign equine experience. Full-on buzzsaw guitar and feedback from the off. Their no-nonsense, JFDI approach, coupled with slightly dodgy vocals managed to tick most of the boxes on ‘things you want from a noisy band’ list, including matching your guitar to the ‘I’m in a band’ version of the Indietracks wristband. Spook School obviously agreed as they collectively nodded along vigorously near the front.
One observation: I couldn’t decide if the drummer, displaying a quite impressive array of facial expressions throughout, was deep in the throes of an intense sexual experience, albeit one whose content is probably left unexplored, or constipated. On balance, it might just have been cramp.
The French Defence, in the church, provided a chance to gather thoughts and sit down for a while. I’m not quite sure what I feel about one person using a band name.
While not being entirely unforgiveable, in the way that murdering kittens or voting Tory undoubtedly are, I can’t help feeling slightly short-changed to see one person take the stage when expecting at least double that number. Still the heartfelt and subtle songs about living in harmony with invading ants and making morning coffee were a pleasant enough way to pass half an hour or so.
Anaesthetics clocked up the first glockenspiel of the day, as things turned sharply towards the poppier end of the musical spectrum.
Their 80’s synth-pop attracted a sparse crowd, not helped by their later-than-scheduled start. Technical problems inevitably creep in to interrupt live events, and everyone appreciates that fact, but, when there are dozens of bands demanding to be discovered or enjoyed, depending on your level of familiarity, it’s all too easy to wander off if nothing’s happening for a while. Those that remained there seemed happy enough, with ‘Strawberry kisses’ being the song to remember for me. Luckily, this delay would reap rewards later in the day.
Lunch, in the shape of a quesadilla, stupidly ordered instead of a burrito, was taken to the soothing sound of Good Grief on the main stage. Perfect punk-pop-a-go-go for an alfresco refuelling. I need to hear more from this lot, although I think I said the same last year about Gold Bears and have still to follow them up, much to my discredit.
Alpaca Sports, boasting one of the less obvious suggestions to be considered when trying to decide on a band name I suspect, matched Anaesthetics’ glockenspiel and raised them a shaky egg and one of those things that has lots of metal bars hanging down – it makes that descending jangly sound that you can use no more than twice in any normal set without sounding all prog-rock: you know the one I mean. If you don’t this is what I mean:
Their driving rhythms, and Swedish melodies you can whistle to your heart’s content, hit the spot bang on. Continuing the long line of Swedish pop, their Telecaster-jangly new single “He doesn’t even like you” was right on the money. Deservedly well-received by all and sundry.
Outside for Fortuna Pop’s new wonders Flowers. Having heard much about them, but rather less by them, I was looking forward to seeing what all the fuss was about and they didn’t disappoint. A three-piece, they were a man down fairly early on as a result of a dodgy guitar lead. They carried on nonetheless with Rachel’s haunting vocals carrying everything along. You get the impression she could sing through Armageddon without missing a beat, she’s that composed, with eyes firmly closed and grasping the mike stand in one hand.
Playing a one-string bass at the same time, my admiration for her grew immeasurably, as huge chunks of fecked-up guitar dripped over her vocals. It can take a big sound and a big performance to make things happen on an outdoor stage in the early afternoon when people are often in danger of dropping off after lunch. Rachel managed it with just her voice and minimalist bass for one song. The list of people who could achieve such a feat is exceptionally short. Outstanding and absolutely captivating.
Playing after them must have been high on many bands’ ‘things to avoid’ list and it was Kid Cannaveral who drew the short straw (after our mild detour to take in the last knockings of The Understudies acoustic set in the merchandise tent anyway). More careful colour co-ordination, this time of guitars to tops, was in evidence. Is this the start of a new trend?
More loud’n’fast guitars in the afternoon sun moved them straight to the top of the ‘find out more’ list being compiled in my head. Entertaining audience banter as well, with moving tales of the previous night’s orange cider escapade. Evidently cider with (bassist) Rosy didn’t have a happy ending, based on the account we were given anyway.
Norway’s Making Marks were a bit too light and frothy for my taste. Perhaps it was just the previous cider-related stories spoiling my palate but the isolated highlights they gave weren’t really enough for me. I could say more but it wouldn’t be very positive so I won’t. Others liked them though.
The second visit to the church was to witness The Fireworks. Anything with the wonderful Emma Hall in has to be worth ten minutes of anyone’s time and this proved to be no exception. While I do like to think I like a fair variety of musical genres, my first love has always been loud and noisy guitars, as you may well have spotted. Fireworks were absolutely my cup of tea in that respect. A guitarist with a mechanical arm thrashing away on a basic chord structure, a bassist endearingly staring at the fret board whilst sticking to the root note and a drummer doing their thing with utmost efficiency. Add in Emma’s glorious vocals and I was a very happy camper indeed.The church was packed and rapidly becoming hotter and sweatier as things progressed. They may not win many awards for originality but who cares when it sounds so utterly wonderful? There was even a lone person dancing, not swaying or nodding, but actually up and dancing. A rare sight indeed.
And then suddenly, as if by magic, a violin appeared. Bass and vocals took a rest for a quiet number and then, mechanical arm suitably re-oiled, we were off again. A strange interlude, much at odds with the rest of the set where one song started before the feedback from the previous one had died away. We even got an encore of ‘Getting nowhere fast’. Stonking stuff!
I’d fully expected to have to sacrifice seeing Martha, as they were playing at the same time as Fireworks and another band I wanted to see. However, timings were gloriously out and they were just starting as we got to the main stage. With ears still ringing from the church, there was no need to acclimatise as Durham’s finest, cutting a dash in their matching Orgreave commemorative shirts, kept the momentum going brilliantly.
It’s been a while since their faultless five-track CD was released and a full album from them must be as imminent as it is desperately wanted by the majority of the world’s population. The blending of Buzzcocks-style noise and tune is pretty darn irresistible and their live performances show that they don’t hold anything back for later. Every song is delivered as if their lives depend on it. I’ll even forgive them a cover of Springsteen’s ‘Can’t start the fire’ or whatever the bloody thing’s called. I’ve never understood the attraction of either Springsteen or his songs – they’re just bloody irritating, even in hands as trusted as these.
Possibly the only song known to man to mention Audrey, ‘1978, smiling politely’ was bloody marvelous and a fine way to finish the set, accompanied as it was by a good-natured (obviously – this was Indietracks after all) stage invasion. For a finale, Dan did what no-one else had done and succeeded in stage diving. He managed about 30-feet, which was about 29-feet further than I expected, being carried aloft by half a dozen happy fans.
Someone was smiling on me as, thanks to the delays indoors earlier, there was time to catch The Lovely Eggs. Always top of my list of must-see bands for the day, they gave 100% from the word go. Just how do two people make such a huge noise? Their short, repetitive songs about absurd or unlikely subjects are consistently witty, catchy and danceable and they went down a storm in a packed hall.
No-one could ever accuse them of being above themselves, well not accurately anyway. They are as unpretentious as Geoff Boycott, engaging the audience with between song banter about being taken out for a posh meal and offered a choice of Wetherspoons or a posh sandwich, as an introduction to a song about olives and their place in the universe. Never a dull moment and thoroughly entertaining throughout.
Helen Love were eagerly anticipated by many and drew the largest crowd of the day to the indoor shed. Hampered by a Spinal Tap moment on the first song, that saw things corrected just in time to deliver the final chord of the song, they had the audience eating out of their collective hand. I knew nothing about them beforehand and looked forward to seeing what they were all about.
Suffice to say that after four numbers I moved further back to see if things improved and they’d suddenly click with me. It didn’t and they didn’t. Sorry, I just didn’t see what the fuss was about. They sounded like an electronic version of the Ramones, which would be fine, but they had none of their edge or drive, which sort of misses the point for me. I left everyone else cheering and clapping and shuffled off outside to see what else was on offer.
Approaching the main stage for the last band of the day, it looked for all intents and purposes that it was Rick Wakeman up there, all long blond hair and sparkly jacket with keyboards everywhere on stage. The Still Corners were what was on offer and ‘Rick’ was in fact Tessa Murray, which was an enormous relief.
Sounding a bit New Order, a bit Mogwai, a bit Fuck Buttons, a bit many other bands you might care to mention, but more not really like anyone at all. With a backdrop showing random video clips of all varieties, there was way more going on here than back in the indoor stage. A decent-size crowd as well, there was a definite ‘end of the festival’ feel to things as the night’s storm clouds gathered around us on the small rise in front of the stage and it grew chillier.
A bold choice by the organisers, as they are not a band you’d traditionally pick to bring the events to a conclusion, but it worked for me. They would definitely stand repeated listening, and were duly added to the list to follow up by next year. Honest.
Another fab day out and if any of my relatives arrange a wedding for the same weekend next year, I might just have to insist that they hold the wedding in the church and the reception in the merchandise tent. It could be the first wedding in history with decent music wherever you go.