Festival Review: Indietracks

Indietracks is a very different sort of festival.  It isn’t just that it is based at Midland Railway Centre and to get to the festival site you have to get a train.  It isn’t the bands they book.  It isn’t the owls or the can crusher, although they certainly mark the festival out from Leeds and Reading.  It is the friendly, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.  This inclusivity can be seen from the diversity in the bands on the line up.  Whereas most festivals the line ups are almost interchangeable, Indietracks has a distinct flavour supporting DIY and Indie-Pop bands.  It’s a place to find your new favourite band.

H2N Live: HHHHH Unreal HHHH Excellent HHH Great HH Met Expectations Poor

The Friday always feels like more of a warm up for the festival to really get started but in Peaness (HHH), a 3-piece from Chester who recently did a great session for Marc Riley on 6 Music, they were the perfect Indietracks opening act.  Their political up-tempo indie-pop was a great way to start the festival and it would be no surprise to see them high up on the line-up in years to come.  Following them were Bis (HH) with their 90s synth pop.  To be honest it wasn’t my cup of tea but it was undeniable that their music had a sense of fun that got people young and old up dancing.  The headliners on Friday were The Orielles (HHHH) who mix such a range of great stuff that makes their sound totally their own.  This was the third time I’ve seen them in 18 months and they never disappoint.  They put together a tight set that leant heavily on their excellent debut album Silver Dollar Moments although they did try out some new stuff that will be on their second album out next year.  To close it is always great to hear their nearly near ten minute single Sugar Tastes Like Salt which has more twists and turns than most bands have on a full album.

So onto the Saturday where two days after the hottest day on record in Britain obviously the festival started in rain, so we began at the indoor stage.  The first band also were a bit of a let down with what was a disappointing set from Jetstream Pony (H) who feature former Wedding Present guitarist Shaun Charman.  The set however was marred by sound issues which never really got rectified.  Onto Porridge Radio (HHH) whose recent single Give/Take is a real stand out.  The band were tight and had none of the sound issues that effected the previous band.  They’re music had a great mix, going between softer moments to thrashier guitar work. This musically worked well with the content of the lyrics which were often looking at mental health and forms of abuse.  We then braved the rain to the outdoor stage to see Holy Now (HHH) and their floaty indie-pop.  The tunes drifted along beautifully and the lead singer’s voice fitted the music wonderfully.  As the set went on though it felt like they possibly needed another gear as tunes blended into one another at times.  Then came the major clash.  On the outdoor stage Mammoth Penguin (HHHH) a dynamic 3-piece fronted by Emma Kupa kicked off their set with some classic songs from their first two albums including personal favour ‘Strength in my legs’ before getting into tunes from their excellent third ‘There’s no fight we can’t both win’.  We caught the start of their set then legged it over to the indoor stage for Scottish 7-piece Randolph’s Leap (HHHH) playing their melodic, dance along tunes.  Randolph’s Leap are a firm favourite of mine especially their 2014 album ‘Clumsy Knot’ which has more than a shade of Belle and Sebastian.  Although playing to a small crowd to begin with, as most had stayed outside for Mammoth Penguin, this didn’t deter the band who bounced through a fantastic set of old and new tunes.  The beauty of Indietracks is people are really here for the music so everyone in the old diesel shed were clearly big fans of the band and were absolutely loving it, the band also seemed to be buzzing off it too.  Lead songwriter Adam Ross’s lyrics are witty and poignant, it is a mystery why this band aren’t more popular.  Time for a real ale and chicken wrap before heading over to the church for veterans of the indie scene Catenary Wires (HHH).  Indietracks always features a lot of up and coming bands who are finding their way and their sound however Catenary Wires are a band who know exactly what they are doing.  The songs have a luscious quality with wonderful co-vocals from Rob Pusey and Amelia Fletcher.  The music flows beautifully and it always nice to have this moment to chill out at the church stage before the headliners.  Saturday’s headliners this year are Tracyanne & Danny (HHHH) formerly of indie darlings Camera Obscura and Crybaby respectively.  Again this is a group who know exactly what they’re doing.  They play through tunes from their 2018 album that have a country tinge such as ‘It can’t be love unless it hurts’ and ‘Home & dry’.  The songs come to life much more live than on record and although I was a bit gutted there wasn’t any Camera Obscura classics these newer songs certainly stand up alongside those gems. Although the rain is coming down they have a good crowd and everyone goes home happy if a bit soggy.

Indietracks has four stages in total including the chance to see a performance on a moving train.  We start our Sunday seeing She’s Got Spies (HHH) whilst plodding through the Derbsyshire countryside.  Accompanied by guitar and a child’s xylophone these Welsh language songs have a bit of Super Furry Animals about them which is no bad thing.  Although possibly not the most confident performer there was a real warmth and charm to the set, also who doesn’t love trains!  Sticking with the Welsh acts we caught the impressive Seazoo (HHHH) on the outdoor stage who looked like they were loving being at the festival.  Their 2018 album ‘Trunks’ was well received critically with it’s C86 vibes however their new stuff, that got a good airing, had a rockier edge.  This is a band that if given the right exposure could really go places on release of their second album.  Following them on the outdoor stage were LIPS (HHHH) whose dreamy music is a perfect fit for a Sunday afternoon.  What is really great about this band is how the tunes ebb and flow going in directions you aren’t expecting.  These guys aren’t your identikit indie-pop and it’ll be really interesting to see how they develop following from their superb recent EP, definitely ones to watch.  Indietracks also welcomes bands from around the globe and Strawberry Generation (HHHH) from the States are a lot of fun.  They had a great sound and really strong vocals with a bit sax thrown in for good measure.  They have an album ready to go just looking for a label to put it out, someone sign them up I really want that record!  Stealing Sheep (HHH) are a band that have seemingly reinvented themselves to go along with their new sound from this years album ‘Big Wows’ which has a much poppier and funkier vibe than their previous work.  The show and performance was fantastic matching the new tunes perfectly.  They got a great response from the crowd and without doubt have some bangers to dance to.  Headlining the indoor stage was Withered Hand (HHHH) bringing their classic Americana sound to the festival.  It was great to see the band so warmly received and there were plenty of hardcore fans at the front.  I’ve previously been a casual fan but this was a really impressive set so many really strong songs performed expertly.  ‘Black Tambourine’ and ‘Christian Songs’ are classics and are the sort of songs that make you wonder why Withered Hand haven’t had the attention that they deserve. 

And so Indietracks is over for another year.  It’s a wonderful festival full of warm people, good beer and great music.  It’s always great to see bands hanging around to support friends or find new bands.  Thanks needs to go to the organisers but also all the volunteers who without the festival couldn’t happen.  See you again next year.

Jonny B

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