One of the many many nice things about Indietracks is the presence of showers, what with the camping being on a proper camp site and everything. So a shower, a coffee and a bacon cob later (I didn’t have a sandwich all weekend – it’s all cobs in this part of the world, it’s brilliant) I was ready for a full day’s worth of schmindie.
Well, first of all I was ready for a look round the railway’s museum shed bit, which was pretty good, but it wasn’t until the following day I realised there was a whole extra shed a little further down, owned by the Princess Royal Locomotive Trust, with loads more exhibits, massive locomotives and all sorts of stuff. I knew it existed, but for some reason thought it was down the line at Butterley – they should publicise it more, it was ace, but when Nick and I went round it almost totally empty.
Back to Saturday though, and after the gricing came the realisation that the tin church stage is really a bit small. There was no room for us to go in and see Urban Tramper, and later in the weekend huge queues stopped me even trying to see Betty and the Werewolves, White Town and, well, anything else at all in this venue. However, after briefing watching Red Shoe Diaries on the main stage (who seemed pretty enjoyable – if we’d had to come back I wouldn’t have complained) we did manage to get into the church to see Foxes!
One of the really lovely things about festivals can be finding a little-known band who are utterly brilliant and then following them for years afterwards, whether on to greater things or through continued obscurity. I think and hope Foxes! were that band for me this time, as I thought they were fantastic (although they’ve clearly been going a good few years and I’m showing my ignorance a bit by suggesting they’re little-known). Ostensibly they’re well within the traditional indie template, but they do all sorts of interesting stuff while they’re there – in particular, though they’ve got plenty of great tunes, they never just stick with them, but always move on to something different within the song. The result is never obscure or challenging though, and even when the lyrics are twee the pop hooks keep you listening. Also: fabulous girl singer and drummer, who looked a bit like I imagine Frances de la Tour probably looked in her youth. Brilliant band – I’m looking forward to their forthcoming nautical-themed EP, which they played in full. And while I normally have doubts about punctuation in band names, it made sense when their guitarist wanted to check if they could start the next song and shouted: “Foxes! Ready!”
Afer the high-point of Foxes! came a couple of low-ish points on the main stage. This Many Boyfriends were a bit shouty and repetitive, with a song saying they don’t like you because you’re not a fan of… the Smittens, was it? Whatevs. Next up were La La Love You, who were good fun I suppose, but who I couldn’t warm to after hearing the phrase “the Spanish Busted”. Still, they have gameshow host-type spangly pink jackets, and a keyboard player who didn’t play the keyboards at all but had, rumour had it, pretended to be a member of the band to get into the country.
So I ambled across to the indoor stage to see Linda Guilala, another Iberian artist who turned out to be a singer alternating between keys and a rather cool squared-off Danelectro guitar, plus a second guitarist and programmed drums. She looked a bit like Laura Veirs to me. It was very tuneful, but after the ambition and complexity of Foxes! didn’t quite fire me up. She also had two guests on-stage at the end, who I know I know but can’t place…
Antarctica Takes It! (lots of punctuation in band names at this festival, now I think about it) were next up on the main stage: another US band, with boy and girl singers, who seemed pretty decent. However, it was soon time for another of the weekend’s highlights: The Just Joans. How to describe them? Maybe a cross between MJ Hibbett and Arab Strap? They’ve got that acid Scottish observational quality, and a rich and truthful vein of insight into everyday life and worries, but with a wry and sometimes slightly silly sense of humour. Perhaps they bring a bit more menace and edge to the live performances than their records, as having bought their last mini-album, I see why they badge themselves twee: it’s very gentle, but live they rock a bit harder. Great tunes though – having heard it for the first time in their set, I was singing the chorus of If You Don’t Pull in my head for the rest of the weekend.
On the main stage immediately after the Just Joans finished their indoor set were The Smittens, who ended their set with a cover of the Just Joans song, What Do We Do Now? that they had closed with as well. It felt a bit odd (but it sounds very little like the Sleeper song)… The Smittens were really well-received, but to me it felt a bit… formulaic maybe? Forced? They consciously set out to be twee, in that irony-free way only Americans can manage – it was sincere and lovely, but maybe a bit too sincere and lovely at the expense of the songs.
Some more wandering around, beer and chatting then ensued, before it was time for Ballboy. Oh dear – it’s taken me ten years to see them, and then I spent most of the set at the back of the site chatting! Still, I recognised one or two tunes from those early Peel Session days, which was nice.
The last great big highlight of the day were Tender Trap on the indoor stage. I’d only seen one set with their new line-up before, in the confines of the Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes when the sound, or perhaps the fact I was on the outside of quite a lot of beer, hadn’t done them many favours. The beer factor was admittedly pretty well replicated this time, but the set was a bit of a revelation: perhaps because of the last time I’d expected them to be OK, but they were superb! The heavier sound, conjured by two guitarists (including Elizabeth Allo Darlin’) as opposed to just the one back in the Heavenly / Marine Research days, and the stripped-back drumming, really worked for the songs – and if you’ve not got the album you should invest, as it’s probably Amelia Fletcher’s best outing on record yet. Tremendous.
As it goes, there were quite a few standing and singing drummers on show this weekend: Tender Trap boasted one; Slow Club and Internet Forever the next day boasted others.
Anyway, The Primitives had a sitting-down drummer… and if there are any small gripes to be had about the festival – which really feels incredibly churlish – it might be the headliners. Most people seemed to enjoy The Primitives, apart from everyone I spoke to, if you see what I mean. They threw Crash away slightly in the second half of their set, neither a climax nor a focal point anywhere else, almost as if they somehow resent it being the only song everyone knows.
And with that, it was disco time again. How Does It Feel were doing a 60s set, and had great music… but there were reports of all the cool people being in the shed at Astrogirl. Almost immediately we found MJ Hibbett and the Validators, who hit the floor with some determination to Babies by Pulp. Atta Girl by Heavenly proved a divide, with Tim and Rob returning to the floor (as did I), Tom and Mark sitting it out. Other advantages of the shed were the more even floor surface – both the main site marquee and the marquee on the camp-site had incredibly stony floors, which made dancing at all a bit of a challenge.
Though I say it myself, I judged the evening pretty well, and was more or less the right amount drunk that night, and more or less the right amount hung over the next day… Could have been a lot worse…