Indietracks 2014

One of the best Indietracks yet, if not the best. They even got out one of the diesels to haul a train and swirl my childhood memories. An absolute corking weekend!

Date: June 25-27, 2014

Venue: Midland Railway Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire

The formula for Indietracks is simple. Countless bands, lots of messing about on trains at the Midland Railway Centre and an extremely well-stocked bar.

Now in its 7th year, many of the crowd flock here year upon year, and familiar faces and artists mingle together like family. It’s such a cosy, friendly and intimate little festival; a musical microcosm amongst a scenic setting in mid-Derbyshire, where fields roll, trains chug and the sun shines. This year it shines constantly. It’s baking, and the atmosphere is buzzing.

The organisers have pulled off a coup with their headliners this year, too, with Allo Darlin’, Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys and Canadians The Hidden Cameras.

Allo Darlin’, former Indietracks rough diamonds, now seem custom-made for the headline slot on Friday, which they nail with their dreamy, twee folk-pop and ukelele solos.

Also on Friday, all the pre-festival talk is of The Chills, a band formed in 1980 in New Zealand. Their set at Indietracks is a fleeting glimpse of them as they embark on a very small tour of Europe. They sound amazingly like early R.E.M., showcasing an expertise in intelligent, measured guitar pop.

Saturday is hot. Red hot. There’s no escape from the heat as summer grips Indietracks good and proper.

Buxton’s Skeletal Shakes do their best to awake the blissed-out early afternoon crowd with their biting pop-punk, but Spanish electro post-punkers The Royal Landscaping Society send everyone back into a hypnotic stupor. In a good way, mind.

On the train, a carriage is set aside for bands to perform an acoustic set while the steam and diesel locomotives pull punters along a 4-mile stretch of preserved railway. But it’s like a sauna in there, and Bill Botting of Allo Darlin’ is finding it hard to play in such insane temperatures.

In the church – yes bands play in a restored tin tabernacle church at this festival – the dark and foreboding Manhattan Love Suicides pull off the ‘shades indoors look’ and drench another melting audience with fuzzy, scuzzy discord which, if it were anywhere else but a church, would form a frothing moshpit.

Meanwhile in the engine shed, Joanna Gruesome prove how they’ve matured from the raw and nervy teens of two years ago into assured and strident grunge-rockers.

Gruff Rhys’s set is like the best history lesson ever. His new record, American Interior, tells the story of John Evans, a Welsh explorer who travels to America to find a Welsh-speaking tribe. He tells this semi-truthful tale via the album’s excellent songs, his thick Welsh accent and a Power Point presentation. It’s comedic, filmic and expansive. Wonderful stuff as expected.

Day 3 begins with The Thyme Machine’s Chris Foster dressed as a cat, holding sparklers and throwing Tunnock’s tea cakes into the crowd. Only at Indietracks.

In the Church, The Yearning are playing their only gig of the year. They don’t do gigs, and it shows as they begin nervously. But once they find their feet, they deliver a graceful set of romantic dream-folk.

The Just Joans’ are a delight in the shed. Their Glaswegian wit (“We canna wait for next year when there’s a bit more drizzle”) and Scottish folk-pop gets perhaps the biggest cheer of the weekend.

The last time The Hidden Cameras were at Indietracks a generator failed, forcing them to play a short acoustic set with no amps, before a re-arranged set in the shed. No such problems this time, as the topless 5-piece (all male before you ask) deliver a solid set of their unique gay church folk music which is somehow the perfect closure to this wonderful little unique festival.

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