Indietracks 2015 – Sunday live review

Although Sunday morning dawned brightly enough to allow a decent enough walk to see what delights were on offer in nearby Ripley (basically, everyone and his dog was in Wetherspoons for breakfast, as it was the only place open), the weather forecast reassured us that this was a purely temporary arrangement. The rains of hell duly arrived late morning, sticking around like a persistent bore in a sparsely populated pub, suggesting that bands playing indoors could expect a larger than normal audience.

Getting the train in from Butterley gave us the chance to overhear a potted history of Indietracks gone by from train manager, Bob. Apparently the oddest item found while clearing up afterwards has been a prosthetic leg. Bob’s opinion was that someone had brought it along to do a “Jake the Peg”; an act from a seemingly more innocent age but one that today brings up all sorts of unpleasant images of Rolf inviting children to come and see his ‘extra leg’…

Luckily, Violet Woods helped steer me away from this train of thought with their 12-string semi-acoustic, beards and floppy fringes facilitating early afternoon head-nodding and foot-tapping all round, as people who had been observed dancing with what amounts to wild abandon the previous evening were seen creeping gingerly to the front, looking decidedly less exuberant.

All very civilised and pleasant but I’m sure they, whilst delighted to get the nod to play at all, were less than overjoyed to be handed the shortest of short straws: fulfilling the opening slot on the Sunday.

I wanted to catch Firestations, as their track on the compilation had been bouncing around my head for a while but, as they were outside and I’m an old wimp these days, it was Fire Island Pines instead. If I’m ever asked to compile a list of bands I’ve seen from all parts of the UK, Cornwall can now be confidently ticked off.

They had three guitarists, as presumably two is never enough, and a singer in a waterproof jacket, which was to become a bit of a theme throughout the day, but little to no between song banter. The early part of their set passed me by somewhat but the latter end got more two chord droney, which worked much better for me, and they went out on a rock ‘n’ roll high by throwing postcards and a single 7” into the crowd. It turned out to have been their last gig so I think we can understand that spirits were probably running high.

Incidentally, the trumpeter wore a t-shirt claiming him as the owner of the ‘best bladder in Cornwall’. I couldn’t help wondering what the basis of this claim was. Do they have competitions? League or cup? “Sorry, can’t work this evening boss. I’ve got an away match at Launceston at eight.”

A brief but welcome respite allowed the chance to see Colour Me Wednesday outside on the main stage and they reminded everyone that not only are they still around but they are still well worth listening to. I think we’re overdue a new record from them and the new songs not only suggest that it is possible but that it’ll be at least as good as their opening offering.

Colour Me Wednesday - (c) Robin Halls
Colour Me Wednesday - (c) Robin Halls

Back inside sharpish for the third band starting with ‘fire’ in as many hours. This time The Fireworks, who provided another weekend highlight. Their stunning album, Switch Me On is unlikely to be bettered this year and they wasted no time in cracking through the best bits of it (which are roughly tracks 1 to 13).

I absolutely adore the sound of Matthew’s guitar. It always sounds great but when he brings his size nine down on whatever that green effects pedal is, the result is simply extraordinary. Instantly engulfing everything around in a comfort blanket of glorious fuzz-‘n’-feedback in a box. If it were down to me, I’d remove the off-switch and just wallow in that wall of perfection rather than ever leave the house. Probably just as well it it’s up to Matthew then really.

Their songs are equally up to the mark throughout but it’s Runaround that is the peak. If there’s better way to spend three minutes, I’ve not yet heard it. When they left the stage I was stuck with a huge grin and ringing ears, which is about as much as you can sensibly ask for in life sometimes.

I was still grinning by the time we got to the church for Grubs. The third band of the weekend foregoing a bass but armed with bags of good songs and lovely dual vocals which blended beautifully. Roxy has tremendous stage-presence, with great between song banter, such that even the few minor mistake were virtually unnoticed. How can you not enjoy an act that rocks so hard that they break a guitar?

Their first album is out soon and sounds like it’s a must-buy to me. I took the chance to buy a CD from Roxy’s other band Two White Cranes though, as an interim measure., to tide me over.

Time was ticking by and Luxembourg Sound kicked off sounding like Hawkwind, not something that happens often at Indietracks. I really enjoyed what this seven-piece had to offer and couldn’t help noticing that the singer sported a natty The Dentists t-shirt. It’s not often I get to see someone from America in England wearing a shirt featuring a band from my home town. A moment to savour.

The eagerly awaited Martha were the penultimate band of the weekend and delivered a blistering set at break-neck speed. They seemed pretty darned happy to be playing and why not – when you’ve got such a large and enthusiastic crowd in front of you and such a solidly brilliant stock of great songs behind you? I’ve not seen them for a little while but this was by far the best I’ve witnessed. Every song was a highlight and the crowd surfing finish was about the only way  they could top their set.

Martha - (c) Robin Halls
Martha - (c) Robin Halls

They were just jaw-droppingly brilliant from start to finish.

The Go Team had their work cut out to follow that, as would any other band. Although it took a fair while to set up their stage set, it was worth the wait. Handing out glow-sticks to everyone on the crowd who wanted one (and not everyone did) was something new, as was their lighting show and second drum kit.

I didn’t know what to expect from them but was won over pretty early on by their high-energy tempo and sheer sense of fun. Initially, I, as others may have done, wondered what their ‘indie pop credentials’ (whatever they may be) were but after a quick tally: (lots of people on stage, fuzzy guitars and bass, unusual instruments (banjo, melodicas (choice of two), recorder duet, Fender Jaguar, I think, harmonica), big audience interaction, huge wall of sound) I was convinced and settled back to enjoy the ride.

Go Team - (c) Robin Halls
Go Team - (c) Robin Halls

They put on a real show and seemed to be enjoying it as much as we were. I’m always open to listening to new music and this was a band I’d not really got excited about before. Thanks Indietracks for again opening my eyes to something new and (slightly) different, as well as reminding me of the continuing merits of some old friends. I sincerely hope the team responsible for putting this on every year get the same sense of enjoyment as us mere punters and carry on doing this for many more years to come.

It really is one of the highlights of the year for me.

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