Thursday 30 September 2010

Indietracks - 23 - 25 July 2010, Midland Railway Centre

Oh look, my Indietracks review has been sitting half-writ on a memory stick for ages. Waste not, want not though, now the dark nights are drawing in, let’s relive the summer. Yeah. That’s what we’re doing.


Woo! We are going for all three days of Indietracks this year. Checking in at our Premier Inn (ooh! get us!) there’s time to greet The Specific Heats who have just arrived back from a fruitless laundrette search before we zoom of into the gauzy haze of a sunkissed July eve in search of pop thrills. A few hundred metres up the road from the Indietracks site, one of our car windows explodes. We stand disconsolate by a pile of shattered glass whilst insurance thingies are sorted. Then return to the Travel Inn, pop-free. Doh!


We get in a steamtrain ride first thing, listening awhile to The Lime Chalks delicate folky songs before settling in a carriage to watch the fields trundle by in the sunshine and to suffer an allergy attack seemingly brought on by the comfy old furnishings.

Back at the festival The Hillfields are opening proceedings on the Indoor Stage with their solid fare of moody jangle – a bit Chameleons-ish in parts? Respect to Rob Hillfield for his acapella vocals on ‘Canvey Island Queen’ – quite a shivery spine moment.

Next, a discovery. The Felt Tips, who I have down as a band to investigate, turn out to be great. Twangly, spangly guitars (alright, they jangle) race by and snatch your heart, Scottish accented vocals sing entertaining stories. With rudeness! There is also touching hilarity to be found in ‘Dear Morrissey’, the story of a fading hero, sung in the style of that hero, “At a rate that’s inverse to your increasing girth, I am losing my interest in you”.

Over on the Main Stage, This Many Boyfriends are EXCITED. They have party poppers and do half-arsed jumps, but we have to wriggle away from their shamblerific funpop to ensconce ourselves on a wooden pew for double church fun. First up: The Give It Ups with their nonsense, sweetly embarrassed indie-popping.

Then it’s Betty And The Werewolves. Due to the band being so ace, loadsa people want to be in the church now, but have to make do with peering sad-eyed through the windows. As ever, B and the Ws are heartwrenchingly, skyscrapingly, joyfully marvellous. They are Happy! They are Noisy! and Fast! with oh so many Tunes, and they still manage to jump up and down despite quite severe space constrictions.

We rush out of church to get all teary over The Just Joans. Like The Felt Tips, they trade in wry Caledonian vulgarity, but have a satisfying swaying-down-the-pub maudlinism, especially on the bitter-sweet likes of ‘I Won’t Survive’ and of course set closer ‘What Do We Do Now’. We all sing along with gusto “The bands we loved are dead!” (this isn’t strictly true, as the bands we loved keep peskily reforming – see tonight’s headliners) and truly, there is nary a dry eye in the house by the end.

Oddly, we then see The Smittens doing their cover of ‘What Do We Do Now’ during their main stage set. Cleverly, the Main Stage has the effect of making everyone who plays thereon sound fantastic. And so it is with The Smittens tooth-dazzlingly upbeat pop.

We laze about on the grass to The Orchids. I only ever got round to buying their first seven inch (‘cos it was on Sarah, natch), so I am a little behind on their oeuvre (Oh and there’s that flexi with The Sea Urchins). Luckily they have the good grace to play tracks from that very disc, so I can feel nostalgic to the sounds of ‘Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink’. Later, I start feeling cold to the sounds of Ballboy and so enjoy their set from a nice chair in a thoughtfully constructed gazebo/library by the tea stall.

Boo! Love Is All have pulled out of their Indoor Stage headliner spot. Hurrah! Tender Trap have stepped in and are thumpingly, tune-bouncingly good fun. One of Amelia’s small daughters can be spotted at the side of the stage singing along with gusto, whilst her mum leads the girl-group charge tambourine ahoy amidst the chunky stand-up drumming and fizzing guitars. We think it’s all over, but there’s an encore. And it’s Talulah Gosh’s ‘My Best Friend’. Aeeeeiiii!!! My friend, T, literally sprints from the bar to the front screaming (T is a man in his 40s) whilst I sing along at the top of my lungs. We are the ghosts of indiepop past!

Having enjoyed their fat men moshing Scala set earlier in the year, I stand at the front for The Primitives. Oh look, I just happen to be standing directly in front of Paul Court and his excellent taste in shirts and pointy boots and cord jeans and argh! What’s that moustache thing?! As a ‘bystander’ suggests, Court is wearing “the facial hair of a man called Raoul”. This ruins my enjoyment of proceedings slightly, as does the sensation that the band are maybe not that comfortable with their headlining status. Still, all the old faves are there to be sung along to gleefully. And Paul Court is still cool. If I squint a bit.

Indietracks 2010: Sunday

An Indietracks wedding! This morning the drummer from Ballboy gets married in the signal box and the happy couple process through an arch of drumsticks. We leave them to their kilts ‘n’ champers and go exploring the Midland Railway hinterlands in a Famous Five type way. The sun shines, butterflies bibble, Thomas the Tank Engine (really) rolls into the station and we go for a wake-up train ride.

On our return, Be Like Pablo (from the Scottish Highlands!) are fizzing up the whizzpop. Or maybe whizzing up the fizzpop. Doing jittery power-poppin’ stuff anyway.

To the church for the ever entertaining Winston Echo and his curious songs about normal things. He is entertainingly harsh with his assembled band, bawling, “Did I say you could sit down!?!” and when Jimmy of The Bobby McGees pokes his head in he is dismissed with, “You’re not as famous as you think! FUCK OFF!’ The set ends with ‘Dracula’s Disco Party’ during which we get to make monster noises, “Grrrr, arrrgh, awoooo! Etc”

We sadly forgo The Cavalcade (seen ‘em before tho – sound divine, look like fuck all) in order to scoff a veg burger whilst it still occurs to us to eat. The scoffing is carried out to the sound of M.J. Hibbert apparently slaying the crowd from the main stage and getting ‘#Happiness’ trending on Twitter – ooh! the future!

We are next washed unto the indoor stage on a tide of vodka and ginger beer to await the mighty Specific Heats. Last year they were Discovery of The Festival. This year, they are Most Eagerly Awaited. They rip-roar through a reverbin’ set kickin’ out garage/pop songs of fun times/bad times whilst flapping their paisley capes (PAISLEY CAPES!) Over at the back Keira is all a-grin bashing on the drums. Whilst up front Mat swooshes and canters back and forth wrangling his guitar with style. There are no exploding reverb tanks and no broken down guitars and thus it is the best Specific Heats set I have ever seen.

Now it is time for The Loves all-singing all-dancing (and how!) spectacular on the main stage. A Sense Of Occasion has overcome the band so that they take to the stage to the theme tune from ‘2001 : A Space Odyssey’. They are all dressed in black and white. Simon Love sports a moustache and mighty velvet cape. He hoys footballs at the audience (A Rod Stewart / Uncle Disgusting homage?) For one time only they are rejoined by Liz Love/School. What’s more there are dancing girls ludicrously go-going their way through ‘Bubblegum’ in pink tassly minidresses. A costume-change later the dancers avant garde about to ‘Can You Feel My Heart Beat?’ The songs are as ever a nosebleed pop rush through all your favourite pop history snippets. Then Jesus (Jimmy Bobby McGee again, looking hilarious/disturbing in a ghostie sheet and heart-shaped shades) comes on and gets told off for not taking his cue properly before dancing about with the go-go girls (now in silver bikinis). Come on people, what more do you want?! The Loves are, as ever, a bubbleicious popsike explosion and very funny indeed. You’ll miss ‘em when they’re gone.

We leg it to the indoors stage and just manage to catch one and a half Blanche Hudson Weekend songs. Damn! They sound good. I had meant to leave The Loves halfway through, but just could not tear myself away from the spectacle. And I’m not even interested in breasts.

We make a feeble attempt to see The Millipedes LAST EVER show in the church, but after peering forlornly through the windows and hanging about in the queue for a bit we get distracted and disappear down a chatting-with-friends rabbit-hole for quite a (hazy) while. I am vaguely aware that The Cannanes are on the main stage playing to a bewilderingly sparse crowd. When I look up again it’s time for Standard Fare. Who play a heart-gladdening set as it drizzles on our anoraked heads. A mini dust-cloud hovers above the crowd as we stomp along. Especially to ‘Dancing’.

In the merch tent there are skirts with owls on. More importantly there are advance copies of the new Shrag album. Shrag get mightier every time they play. Here they are on the main stage being VITAL, Helen singing whilst barefoot stamping, guitars scratching and clanging, playing a blood-rush mix of songs old and new, ‘Mark E. Smith’ ‘Ghosts Before Breakfast’ ‘Tights In August’. You can tell they’re the best just from the titles.

The Pooh Sticks have ‘reformed’ for Indietracks. Cor! This has invited much indie popstrel excitement. We wait, bated breath to see what will emerge onto the Indoor Stage. It is Hue Pooh Stick and some youngish blokes making up the band. And Amelia Fletcher doing added vocals. And it’s fabulous. They are the Indie Cheap Trick (a good thing) pure bubblegum power pop, with so many songs to sing along to, ‘Young People’, ‘Cool in A Crisis’, ‘I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well’. Hue passes out a selection of placards sporting slogans ‘Cool In A Crisis’, ‘Indiepop Ain’t Noise Pollution’. Oh! They play ‘Heroes And Villains’, I’d forgotten about this song, but all the words still come spilling from my mouth. And then there’s ‘On Tape’!!!!! so I sing and stomp righteously, like we never got to do in 1987. Sugar buzz pop high!

And so to this year’s kings and queen of Indietracks, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. In ‘our’ world where, to quote Darren Hayman, ‘When we say ‘indie music’ we mean Prittstick and Kafka, we mean wool knit and horn rimmed, we mean Xerox and Fender’, the Pains are mighty colossi, poking their heads out into the land of mainstream, being all successful and that. But Indietracks is their spiritual home, we know at heart they belong with ‘us’ and we embrace them for that.

They play a set full of love, starting with Kip’s solo, acoustic rendering of ‘Contender’, fighting their way past initial equipment problems to whisk us up in a fuzzed whirl, as the sky turns pinky-blue to navy to black. ‘This Love Is Fucking Right’ we all sing, ecstatic. The set ends, as ever, with us jumping and shouting along to ‘The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’…but then there’s lots more – a long old love-in of a set which we end up admiring from the toilet queue.

And then it’s the end of Indietracks for another year. The last furze of feedback unfurls into the dark and its time to trundle home with pop saturated hearts and whispers of next week’s special secret Pains gig sneaking into our ears.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

As for me, I’ll sit and eat a buttercup sandwich. Fave Tunes July/Aug 2010

Morning Haze – The Soundcarriers Sounding like, um, a morning haze, albeit in 1967.

Death Rattles – Woods Sparse but warm with rattly guitars, a big old humming bass and a spooky rooms at twilight feel.

Beachy Head – Veronica Falls Beat-tastic deathwish pop

Brianna - Speak And The Spells Moptops, white jeans, evil guitars, razor blades

Seasons Change – The Advisory Circle / Hong Kong In The 60s Early summer mornings and still evenings

End Of An Error - The Specific Heats Reverbingly perfect hybrid of indiepop and garage

2 To The N – Tender Trap Ver Trap sounding pretty tough in a damn catchy way

It Is Not Meant To Be - Tame Impala – Floaty and Dungen-like

And How! – The Specific Heats Sunny and jangly and heart-racing

Baby I’m An Existentialist – The Specific Heats Reverbin’, hand clappin’ garage twistyness

To B Without A Hitch – Bridget St. John Good old Bridg sounding like a cross between Nico and Nick Drake.

Way Out Hermit – Moonkyte Droney, hummy, sitar-spangled psych. Also: ‘Moonkyte’!

Just War- Dangermouse & Sparklehorse Stick Gruff Rhys singing on pretty much anything and I’m there

Runway, Houses, City, Clouds – Tame Impala Aaahh! Amazing psychprogjazz wonderment stretching out on a sunkissed afternoon

Tights In August - Shrag Your heart dribbles away as soon as the keyboard comes in and that’s before the song’s even got going