INDIETRACKS FESTIVAL, 26th-27th July 2008, Midlands Railway Butterley (Part One - Saturday!)
This weekend saw the return of the happiest, most polka-dotted and pudding-bowled festival in the entire world - Indietracks. Located in rural Derbyshire, the festival played host to a hundred indiepop bands from across the globe, with punters going to and from the site in an antique steam-train. The site itself was hardly built for masses of people, but the organisers managed to adapt the facilities extremely impressively; that said, the acoustics of the locomotive shed - used as the location of the main stage (and merchandise area) - left a lot to be desired, much to the detriment of the majority of the bands playing.
On a somewhat unprofessional note (given that I'm attempting to review the thing), the first day of Indietracks, for me at least, was effectively a write-off; I didn't actually arrive on-site until about 4pm, and the majority of the first couple of hours was spent attempting to scope the place out (eg: locate burger vans, toilets. Commit to memory.). I did, however, manage to catch a glimpse of a couple of acts who I'd not previously encountered; The Parallelograms ticked all the C86 boxes - stand-up drummer and all - and played a great set, complete with Hello Kitty guitar. Definitely worth looking out for. Meanwhile, a rather lovely Australian singer-songwriter named Darren Hanlon graced the outdoor stage; his hose charming songs about literally bumping shoulders with the stars had echoes of Spearmint and the Lucksmiths.
Compared with most of the festival-goers, who flocked to the main stage in droves to see indiepop godfathers Comet Gain, my main attraction of the day were The Lodger (above - photo courtesy of Underexposed); always a great live band, the Leeds trio (as ever bolstered by an additional guitarist) really outdid themselves playing on the makeshift outdoor stage - the back of a truck! The whole set was a highlight from start to finish; tracks like "My Finest Hour" and the almost unbearably bitter "Many Thanks for Your Honest Opinion" shone as bright as the blistering Derby sun, while last single "The Good Old Days" deserved to be one of the festival's biggest anthems. The closing cover of Orange Juice's "I Can't Help Myself" was an unexpected nod to the festival's roots, and had even the most cynical popkid at least tapping their feet.
Headlining the main stage that night were the undisputed kings of the genre, The Wedding Present - a band in whom my interests have never really peaked above curious. The set was solid; the classics mixed seamlessly together with new material from their current LP El Rey, with tracks like "Santa Ana Winds" and "Model, Actress, Whatever..." wowing the crowd. Unfortunately, as the all-too-frequently spotted t-shirts proclaimed "The Wedding Present: All the Songs Sound the Same"; it was hard to tell if it was the songs themselves, or the less than stellar sound in the loco shed, but every song ended up sounding like "Brassneck" - and even when they played it, it was somewhat hard to discern. A shame, that. The night finished with an indiepop disco, courtesy of the Helen Love Bubblegum Killers, who played some hits (your standard Pulp, Belle and Sebastian etc fare), some misses (maybe I just wasn't in the mood to dance to "Yummy Yummy Yummy I've Got Love In My Tummy"...), and some unexpected treats - anyone who saw me dancing to McCarthy's "We Are All Bourgeois Now" can attest to the joy I felt during that five minutes. A fantastic end to the first day's festivities, though the best was very much yet to come...