Sunday, 10 August 2014

Indietracks 2014: Permanent revolution and the smashing of the Del Amitri ghetto

The Hobbes Flanclub's Leon, who was packing adult emergency poncho heat all weekend
Indietracks is dead, long live Indietracks. After much huffing and puffing by Various Quarters of Indiepop, this year's festival not only lived up to its predecessors - it probably surpassed it.

Imaging being caught in the indiepop ghetto (or, as it's otherwise known 1988), when everyone (and by everyone, it was nearly always men with quiffs that were just on the right side of damped down so they could go to their office job every day without any hassle) wore their gentle plaid shirts tucked into their 501s and played listless melancholia about a girl named Cathy from Carlisle who doesn't want to roll about in a meadow with you any more. There are probably denim jackets involved, and record sleeves that so desperately want to be Smiths records, that not even Smiths fans clinging onto the distant past buy them. That's what happened back then. I was there. Indiepop was dead (only to be revived briefly by a couple of urchins from Bristol and a set of bands that saw that sounding like a slightly left-of-centre Del Amitri really wasn't doing anyone any favours).

And so in 2014, Indietracks sort of reinvented itself and took chances with the line-up - and it worked. For every person wondering why Gruff Rhys was playing (and I'm no fan, but he was deadly entertaining), there were many more who were probably discovering Slum of Legs, Joanna Gruesome, Thee Ahs, The Hobbes Fanclub or The Royal Landscaping Society for the first time. Isn't that better than our tiny little scene building a Berlin Wall around itself and patting ourselves on the back for being as pure as the driven snow? I'd much rather persuade a Super Furry Animals fan to love The Blue Minkies than the other way around, for example.


Friday night is a complete triumph, and one of my favourite ever times at Indietracks. We see tonieee and Jo at the head of the road down to Swanwick and catch up about kids, life, holidays, and which bands we're looking forward to seeing. And then friends and acquaintances arrive and you get that Indietracks feeling all over again, and just let the weekend wash over you like a comfort blanket.

I'd not seen Spearmint since the early 2000s in a sweatpit of a venue in London, but they've lost none of the sparkle that makes them instant pop stars, mixing old and new and finishing with an obvious, but completely triumphant 'Sweeping the nation'. They've not lost it.

Allo Darlin' somehow continue to rise and rise and as the sun goes down and Elizabeth plays 'Tallulah' you realise that they'll be difficult to beat this weekend, and so it proves.

Saturday is roasting hot, and I'm lost in a haze of a delightful gallon of bitter called American Girl, which is ridiculously easy to drink and makes me lose all feeling from my knees down.

The Royal Landscaping Society overcome early sound problems to claim the hearts of the crowd with their Wake-meets-Brighter sadpop, and it's all quite wonderful.

It's sweaty everywhere, but nowhere more than on stage with MJ Hibbett and the Validators who pull out a performance from the vaults to completely charm the really-quite-large crowd. The new songs sound great, and the band seem genuinely chuffed with the reception, and that's always lovely.

Joanna Gruesome, despite a stop/start performance (sound problems again), distil more energy into half an hour than most bands manage in a lifetime, and then go all coy when Dean Wareham joins them onstage for 'Tugboat'. They're as thrilling as ever, and that almost goes without saying these days.

By this time, I'm resembling something approaching red cabbage, and so it is with a heavy heart that I give Slum of Legs a miss in the church, and simply settle down on the grass and... wait for the sun to go down.

First on the main stage on Sunday are Axolotes Mexicanos, an Elefant band who I've never heard of, and who I desperately want to hear more of. A hyperactive singer being translated by a deadpan band member and a fantastic line of fizzy, abrasive indiepop later, and I'm fully pepped, and head into the shed, where No Ditching are again impressive, before Hobbes Fanclub show up and play those perfect songs from their new album in such an exciting manner that I forget how hot it is and actually start to dance. I apologise now for anyone who saw this.

One ace set from Night Flowers later, and my Indietracks is done. It's work tomorrow, and there's a four year old to put to bed. He cries when he's told we're going too.

I was told by an organiser that 200 more tickets were sold for this year's Indietracks than last year's. If Indietracks really wanted to "sell-out" (and I mean that in both senses of the word), then I'm sure it could and the people that benefit from the money it raises would be eternally grateful. The fact that they don't is testament to a group of people who say more to me about my life than sniffy purists. Ultra-leftism (in indiepop terms) is all well and good if you can afford to go to more than one of these events each year, but it won't lead us to any kind of Glorious Revolution, and as my dear friend Lenin said, is awfully infantile. Indietracks probably won't get us there either, but we'll have a lot of fun trying.


princehifi said...

Indietracks is not interested in change, innovation or what is going on now, that is the problem. If Indietracks wanted to take chances with the lineup, they would have booked the most important up-and-coming indie band in Britain right now, Sleaford Mods. The fact they didn't or wouldn't illustrates their comfort catering to moms and dads of the class of C86 while passing off watering down the lineup as innovation. Challenge the audience or water down the lineup? Exercise in nostalgia derivatives or search for the now? For a scene claiming to be rooted in the innovations of punk, are we really going to go out like this?

A layer of chips said...

How do you know they didn't it wouldn't? Maybe they did, and maybe SM couldn't make it. I've tried to book them at least half a dozen times for gigs and they've always said no. And that's totally fine. I think you're bring a touch harsh - were you at the festival? There were dozens of new bands playing. I don't really get the Mums and Dads of the C86 class comment. That would be people who were into Elvis and Buddy Holly and can ten remember rationing. If you mean the line up was full of C86 casualties, then I don't recall a single C86 band playing. Although if they can persuade Stump to play next year I'd be over the moon..
Fact is , Indietracks takes more chances than any other festival of its size and manages to attract more and more people each year. I don't think the organisers are any more interested in a nostalgia-fest than I am in Hidden Cameras, but then music taste is a deeply complex thing that can't and shouldn't be judged, isn't it? And trying to cater for everyone through Indietracks must be virtually impossible. I don't think we're going out; Indietracks invigorates everyone I know for one weekend if the year. Surely something to be celebrated when we spend the rest of our lives working ridiculous hours in (mostly) pointless jobs. See you there next year.

princehifi said...

Hey, you wrote a good column with a sharp title "Permanent revolution and the smashing of the Del Amitri ghetto" and I saw you had no comments so wanted to advance the conversation. I could have hit delete, but chose post instead because your column deserves replies.

Contrary to what you wrote, I say music taste is a deeply complex thing that CAN and SHOULD be judged. Or at least argued about.

Now, was I harsh? Yes. Am I wrong? Maybe. Will that stop me from hitting the comment button? No.


A layer of chips said...

Well, I appreciate that - thank you!

We'll agree to disagree on the music taste question. I just see it as a completely subjective thing, and not how I like to judge people. Music matters a lot to me, but, really, it doesn't matter all in the grand scheme of things. I'm glad we have Indietracks, and I'm glad we have all the other DIY popfests, festivals, weekenders and all-dayers all over the world. And not just the indiepop ones. The politics behind how music is made is way more important to me than how the actual music sounds.

scooterboy said...

Interesting opinions. Indietracks claims itself to be an Indiepop Festival. The indiepop umbrella is quite a wide and diverse one but not something I would include the Sleaford Mods in. Indie they may be. Indiepop they are not. They remind me of The Streets.

As a dad of C86 I think the current format is a good balance of the current Indiepop acts which includes the umbrella I referred to above with the occasional welcome throwback to my teens. I think 4/5 of the acts from the 50+ over the weekend were from the 80s/90s. There were lots of bands I didn't enjoy but equally there were lots of bands I'd never seen before and have bought their records since. Surely that's a good thing and the point of a festival.

They advertise themselves as an Indiepop Festival and think they have got it just right. The current Indie Album charts see The Courteeners, Twin Atlantic, Arctic Monkeys, London Grammar and Kate Bush as the top 5. All Indie but none I'd class as Indiepop.

As a dad of C86 roll on Indietracks 2016. I expect Talulah Gosh, BMX Bandits, The Bodines, Close Lobsters.

Oh and Stump of course for Mr Chips.

Music taste is an individual thing and everyone's is different.