It was a lovely feeling to wake up on Sunday and realise (a) in the hangover stakes I’d really got off incredibly lightly, all things considered, and (b) there was a whole day of Indietracks still to go!
On getting to the site I had my only train rides of the weekend, the first of them being on the main line, while Clint from Play People was playing. I didn’t pay absolutely rapt attention (I was leaning out of the window in the carriage behind to look at the engine – it’s steam railway etiquette) but he seemed rather charming, particularly when he closed with a cover of Crash by the Primitives and had to stop before the first chorus because he hadn’t agreed with the audience whether he’d do the na-na-na-nas and they’d go “You’re gonna crash!” or the other way round. Most of the audience was in fact made up of the wedding party from earlier that morning, when Ballboy’s drummer had got married in the signalbox. The box remained decorated with saltaires for the rest of the day, and there were men in kilts knocking around for a good while too.
Back at Swanwick the main day’s events got off to a great start, firstly because Kat had arrived, and secondly because it was time for Hibbett! This was a proper festival set from Mark and the Vlads, who totally owned the stage and got a great crowd down the front, all dancing away (bigger than the next few bands, frankly). Mark’s described it better here, but as previously note my personal favourite bit was when everyone did the audience participation bit in Easily Impressed without having to have it explained to them. The music of the future and Twitter exploits were also GRATE, however.
The only way to follow this was, frankly, with another train ride, this time on the narrow gauge line, and a further look round the engine shed. I was back at the site in time for The Loves, however, a band I’d been aware of in their earlier days but never really got properly into or seen live. Stupid old me, it turns out, as they were ace – there’s maybe a case for saying the music verges on a pastiche of 60s pop, but if it’s a pastiche as good as this I really don’t care. The set started with the band coming on-stage to the strains of Mars by Holst, Simon Love wearing a cape, and the first number being accompanied by a troupe of dancing girls. It carried on in much the same way, including an apparently rare outing mid-set for their classic (in my mind) Boom A Bang Bang Bang. The Sean Price Moment I’ve already recounted, and the set was rounded off with more dancing girls-augmented numbers. I spent much of the rest of the day asking everyone I ran into if they’d seen the Loves – it seems to have passed quite a lot of people by (clash with something on the indoor stage? Blanche Hudson Weekend, perhaps?). My next step was to go and find a Loves album in the merch tent, which gave me an excuse to take advantage of the three-for-a-tenner Fortuna Pop offering (other omissions from my record collection also corrected: The Ladybug Transistor and The Chemistry Experiment).
I did then briefly catch the end – literally about the final two bars – of The Blanche Hudson Weekend‘s set, which was more squally than I’d expected. Back to the main stage, via several more happy chats with people I’d run into, I ended up watching veteran Australian duo The Cannanes… who were (sorry guys) probably the band I enjoyed least all weekend. It was miserable bastard indie sung by the woman while the chap strummed an electric guitar. They sounded much better when joined by a rhythm section (borrowed from Sarandon, I gathered later – but I’d stopped paying attention by this point) – I’m sure if you knew their songs already it came across rather better, but I didn’t really get it.
A brief look in the signalbox later (pictured – it’s not the railway’s actual signalbox if you’re worrying, it’s just for exhibition), we caught the end of Internet Forever. They’re a three-piece who stand in a line on-stage, changing instruments a bit – overall, shouty, but good shouty, and I was pretty impressed. Also notable for two reasons: firstly one of their members looks exactly like Dave Coaches from Gavin and Stacey (lots of moustaches in evidence this weekend, actually – just a hipster thing, or part of a wider comeback?); and secondly, they were playing Walk of Life as we walked in, which was one more Dire Straits cover than I was expecting to hear all weekend.
At about this point the festival moved onto the home straight, and I was pretty much resolved to spend the rest of the time watching the parade of bands on the main stage starting with ‘S’: Standard Fare, Shrag, Slow Club. Unfortunately it was also at around this time that the bar ran out of cask ale – now, as any CAMRA branch will tell you (and well done to the local CAMRA branch on providing a great selection), you always want the beer to run out a bit before the end rather than being left with loads not drunk, but maybe for next year it’d be good to order a bit more?
To add to the vague sense of looming apocalypse engendered by a lack of cask ale, we had a couple of light showers during the following sets – but frankly it didn’t matter. Standard Fare were clearly having a great time, and Hibbett and Carsmile are both adamant they’re going to be big. Not sure I remember much about their set other than it being ace.
Next up were Shrag, whose brash, shouty indie racket really caught my ear on the festival compilation CD, and on Spotify following further investigation. They definitely didn’t disappoint, with singer Helen bouncing all round the stage for the whole set like a brilliant but terrifying (and sweary) force of nature. The whole set was messy pop brilliance and their forthcoming album is well worth a look when it finally comes out. I only know this because I bought it from the merch tent on Saturday, not thinking much of there being some advance copies on sale. It was John Jervis’s turn to be a label boss getting a hard time from his band on-stage, though, as Helen lamented that when he said he’d, “brought the new album,” to sell, it turned out he’d only brought 25 copies, of which guitarist Bob had taken two – so I got one of only 23 in the end.
Last in the s-themed trio were Slow Club, and I’ve got to admit I felt a bit suspicious of them – a bit fashionable for Indietracks, surely? Well, was I ever proved wrong to be so doubtful – Slow Club were incredibly impressive. The technical stuff was all there: both really strong muscians, both with great voices (Tom later remarked to me that Rebecca has, “a lot of talent going on…” I’m sure that was what he meant), but also the songs are top-notch. Plus Rebecca’s no-nonsense banter, in thickest Sheffield brogue, both put us in our place and made us love her. Damn their young, talented eyes.
I went to one last set at the indoor stage, the reunion show of The Pooh Sticks, who were a lot noisier than I’d expected. In fact I have a theory that a lot of C86 type bands were louder live than they were on record, owing to the awful weedy amps that apparently every indie band had to record with by law in the 80s, and that modern bands trying to ape the recorded sound are probably less punchy live than their forebears. Just a theory. Anyway, I didn’t know the songs but The Pooh Sticks were a fun thrash, enhanced by the presence of, “everyone’s favourite chief economist,” Amelia Fletcher on vocals for much of it.
And so to the final set of the weekend, the highlights of which for me were Hibbett arriving with lots of beer in a photo opp stylee, and having my photo taken at mystifying length by the shy, introverted Roo. Now I come to think about it, I’m fairly sure The Pains of Being Pure At Heart were playing on the main stage at the time, but although lots of people clearly loved them I’m afraid they just didn’t do it for me. Another American band being too consciously indie, maybe? I’m pretty sure I heard one of them thanking God for indiepop at one point. Still, if you happen to like their one song you were in luck, as they played it about twelve times.
So, what to say about the remainder of the weekend? The toilets became blocked during the Pains’ set, which had strategic knock-on implications: it created an imperative to drink less, and excellent though the Feeling Gloomy disco was (truly all killer, no filler… although I did have to explain to, well, someone, that the “really camp cover version” of Tainted Love was in fact the original hit version – shame on me for delighting in an opportunity to be a music snob). The Crimes Against Pop disco on the campsite also sounded excellent (Echobelly! Britpop-tastic!), but by the time it really got going I’m afraid my dancing feet were worn out.
As we wandered off the camp site next morning, the strains of someone singing Do The Indie Kid floated across from a nearby tent… but don’t tell Hibbett. Still, it was lovely to get home and then watch everyone else trickling back on Twitter, saying how weird it was not to be running into indie types everywhere they turn. They’re right: it was, still is and will probably remain so for the next twelve months. Really the only cure is likely to be Indietracks 2011 – see you there.