I took my stroll along Indietracks lane to the site at the obscenely early hour of 12 noon on Saturday, for the annual Anorak forum meet-up at which mainly shy indie types who normally communicate online try talking to each other in real life. Actually it’s always very enjoyable to put faces to usernames, and renew acquaintances (though I’m terrible for assuming people have forgotten me and therefore giving the impression I’ve forgotten them…), and an enjoyable half-hour joking about Finchley Ted and the aborted CD swap was had.
It had to be cut slightly short, however, as unlike last year the first band on the train was on at 12:30 (indeed, there seemed to be more bands generally this year, with earlier start times – a good sign!), and it was the 10p Mixes. They were great! Twee certainly, but acutely-observed and funny at the same time, and exactly what you want from an Indietracks band. Only slight flaw was that they mistimed the set slightly, and had only just started a song when the train rolled back into Swanwick Junction – I therefore had to squeeze off the train and make my planned dash to the church for the next band.
Young Romance are probably the band I was most excited to discover through the line-up for Indietracks – I hadn’t known them previously, but have been well impressed by their driving, emotional songs, that verge on the epic. And I seem not to be alone – there’s a bit of a buzz around them, and I’m a bit paranoid about not being able to get into the church to see them. In the event I’m in plenty of time, and they don’t disappoint – the stripped-down live lineup leaves the songs more raw than on their recordings, but Claire’s mazing voice binds it all together. One slight flaw is that they have drawn up a set-list too short for their slot – see the video for the moment of realisation.
At this stage, a slight moan about this and several other sets in the chuch being slightly spoiled by a bloke sitting at the front photographing and videoing for nearly the whole set. Now, I like to take pictures and maybe video the odd song of an Indietracks set, but I try to do it briefly and then get the camera out of the way. A tall man sitting at the front holding up a camera for the whole set is downright bad form – he clearly had a photographer pass despite having no more sophisticated equipment than mine from what I could see, and you’d hope someone with a pass would either have the nous, or be briefed, not to spoil it for the audience. This joker meant I got no pics of Claire as she’s only little! He left just before the final track, so he’s not in the video clip… And while I’m on the subject, my pictures of the steam train departing Swanwick Junction got spoiled by fools standing in the way as well – steam railway etiquette is to be mindful that there may be people wanting to photograph the trains, and to give them a chance. OK, I feel better now – moan over.
The bands I was very specifically keen to see all seemed to be clustered on the Saturday, often clashing horribly. This meant a dash out of the church after Young Romance to catch the last two thirds of The Birthday Kiss on the main stage (so it’s maybe not so bad that Young Romance finished early). Both bands have a lot in common, actually: both write very strong songs, both have lead singers with superb voices, and both put on engaging sets resting on these strengths rather than any attempt to introduce unnecessary showmanship into it. Neither seems especially close to having an album out, though they appear to have the songs – I’ll be buying them when they’re ready though.
It was another dash to another stage straight after The Birthday Kiss – this time to the shed for Vacaciones, who were good fun. I briefly had time after them to pop out to catch a few songs by Evans the Death on the main stage. I’ve long been ambivalent about this band, and unable to decide whether I like them or not – but with good sound on the main stage, the sun shining and the band playing much harder and tighter than when I last saw them, I’m finally converted.
With the sun still out it seems a bit of a shame to head into the shed again, but it’s worth it as Colour Me Wednesday are another of the great discoveries of the festival for me. They’ve got attitude, dense and playful lyrics and a heavy ska twist – a great combination, and it works really well. Another eventual album purchase when they get one out.
Another clash demanded another dash to the main stage for Tender Trap, who were already well into their set. Are they now the longest-running of Amelia Fletcher’s bands? Close to it, I think – certainly they’ve built up a great back catalogue and the set was more or less hit after hit after hit. The clouds had gathered however, and a few songs from the end the rain finally started. It got heavy for Oh Katrina – and at the same time I discovered my camera’s memory card would accommodate rather less in the way of video than I’d reckoned, so all my videos of complete songs are from Saturday. For the final song, Amelia brought out her daughters for backing vocals, and unfortunately the rain got heavier and heavier. Reader, I failed: it was chucking it down, and I fled for a burrito and some loitering in the merch tent.
A quick sit in the shed later (it amazes me more people don’t bring dadstools to Indietracks, they’re invaluable), and there was finally some sunshine after the rain. Well, sunshine and rain in truth, but not as torrential as it had been so I braved it to see a chunk of Liechtenstein, who I probably would have got more out of if I’d investigated their back catalogue properly. Still, they had the courage to play Passion for Water.
No doubt this is getting predictable, but next I had to dash to the indoor stage owing to a clash. I’d really been looking forward to Tigercats as they’ve put out one of my favourite albums of the year, so I was a bit gutted to see the clash with Liechtenstein – I opted to see them and miss a bit of Tigercats as the latter play London more often, but still regret missing the full set as what I did see was brilliant. I turned up just in time to see them do all my favourite tracks on the album – Vapours, Limehouse Nights, Easter Island, Harper Lee and finally Banned at the Troxy – by which time the crowd were well warmed-up and bouncing with the band for every beat. Brilliant.
The need for mad dashes between stages eased off a bit from this point, as Tigercats were the first in a bit of a run of bands in the shed. Next up were the band that I was most pleased to see on the line-up of all of them, and who did not disappoint for a moment: the Just Joans. There’s so much to like about this band, not least that they’re indie geeks of a similar vintage to me: Davey was wearing a Sleeper t-shirt and they started with hand-claps that sounded a lot like the ones at the start of Come Out 2Nite by Kenickie… that was because they were covering Come Out 2Nite by Kenickie! Perfect. Another great thing about this band is how well the songs come across live – the tunes are memorable, and the words both acute and funny, which means you can hear them once or twice and be able to sing them back to someone days later. New songs like Durex Puppy (debuted at the London show earlier in the year) therefore sit perfectly among the traditional favourites like Friday Afternoons Down the Union, If You Don’t Pull and the always-poignant What Do We Do Now? The highlight of the festival – I’m so glad they played.
Standard Fare followed immediately, and while I struggled a bit with their new album at the time, I suddenly found that I recognised all the songs like old friends – it clearly lodged itself a bit deeper than I had realised! The band absolutely tear through the set – unfortunately I’m flagging a bit by this stage and need a sit down on the dadstool for big chunks of it, and it seemed to be over all too quickly.
Curiously, that really concluded the bands I specifically wanted to see, bar Robberie the following day; hereafter, things got a bit more suck-it-and-see (there were still some terrible clashes, though: Werewandas, Cosines, Joanna Gruesome, Gordon McIntyre and Allo Darlin all went unseen by me for that reason – Gordon McIntyre due to the queues for the church mainly, I suppose).
The day’s remaining three bands were therefore all sets I dipped into: Go Sailor clearly meant a lot to a lot of the audience, and I enjoyed the more punk side of Rose Melberg despite not knowing the records. I dropped in to see a bit of Summer Camp on a bit of a whim – Jeremy Warmsley was a figure on the scene when I was at uni, so it was interesting to see him pop up at Indietracks. Theirs was definitely the most Shoreditch set of the weekend, but the songs were strong and there was a lot of love in the room for them.
And so to the headliners, Veronica Falls, who have leapfrogged their way to the top slot after their disastrous opening set on the Friday two years ago. They thanked people for coming, and professed worry that it would been raining – even as they spoke it was already spitting again, and soon the heavens opened. At which point I dicovered Veronica Falls are not a band I will stand in the rain for. Sorry guys. I got a pint and went to sit in the train bar instead. This led me to overhear a conversation about when Johnny Cash covered “that Six Inch Nails song”.
There’s something to be said for taking a bit of a breather though, as we were able to attack the campsite disco with abandon (well, those of us who hadn’t peaked too early and conked out…). Even Indietracks is a bit more of a slog when it’s wet, it turns out – the schlepping round takes it out of you, and you don’t do so much sitting down during the day because the grass is wet. Four or five hours’ dancing at the end of the day therefore becomes quite an endurance test…