Feature: Review - Indietracks 2012

The first weekend of July saw the return of Derbyshire's most unique summer festival, Indietracks; a weekend of indie pop and steam trains.

The annual music festival hosted by Midland Railway Centre threatened to be a waterlogged mud bath, following a week of torrential rain, but thankfully the weekend was ushered in by intermittent spells of glorious sunshine. Many festival goers hedged their bets by packing both a rain mac and some factor 15!

The site of the festival is a wonderful family day out even when Indietracks isn't in town, with a host of attractions. The undoubted centrepieces are the lovingly restored steam locomotives, which run regularly up to Swanwick junction and back. A gazebo housing several owls and parrots also proved a popular temporary installation.

Saturday

A former engine shed played host to Spanish five- piece Vacaciones, whose saccharine harmonies punctuated every chorus with a summery feel. Later on the same stage, Tigercats had the crowd clapping along to their Vampire Weekend-esque tunes and keyboardist Laura melted the hearts of dozens of indie boys with the catchy refrain on “I'm in love with you, Jonny.”

A handful of acts performed without microphones or amplification on a moving train carriage, including White Town, who shot the video for “She's a lot like you” at last year's festival. There was something majestically eerie about the rain drumming upon the carriage roof as punters hummed the absent synth hooks.

Sheffield trio Standard Fare treated a large crowd to a jangly, joyous set that further endeared them to their already adoring fans. It was a boundlessly energetic performance that seemed to get everyone in the mood for the evening's indie disco.

The sun was setting above the main stage as headliners Veronica Falls brought the day to a close, the Londoners having arguably the closest thing to a dark, brooding sound on the entire bill. The pop hook sensibility that is seemingly essential criteria for Indietracks performers is still in plain sight though- even beneath a generous serving of reverb.

Sunday

We started off a somewhat soggy Sunday with Stevie Jackson on the festival’s main stage who’s summery, sixties-style indie pop lifted the spirits of many a damp camper. A particular highlight was the infectious ‘Press Send’, with which the crowd enthusiastically supplied backing vocals.

A quick, obligatory ride on a steam train later and we found ourselves back at the main stage for the brilliant, noise-pop trio, Girls Names. Dripping with attitude, the Belfast trio’s chorus-laden guitars and dramatic vocals kept their audience enraptured in spite of the increasingly poor weather.

As the heavens well and truly opened, we sought sanctuary within the packed out Church stage for Norwegian quartet, Love Dance.  With pews filled and standing room all but accounted for, the Bergen-based four-piece proceeded to fill the tin structure with beautiful, dreamy synth-pop, which was eagerly lapped up by those in attendance.

Back to the main stage where the grey clouds had finally made way for the sun, it was appropriate that the next act up were the summery indiepop sweethearts, Allo Darlin’ who played to easily the biggest crowd of the weekend. The quartet’s arsenal of fun-filled pop had a sea of welly-clad indie-poppers dancing and singing along with gusto. Highlight of the set – and arguably the entire weekend – came in the form the band’s encore. Australian frontwoman Elizabeth Morris returned to the stage sans band to peform a beautiful version of Tallulah to a reverent audience.

After a couple of swift drinks on a stationary, old train carriage (one of my favourite things about this festival), we waded back through the mud to get a good spot for festival closers, The Vaselines. The Scottish rockers fronted by Eugene Kelly and birthday girl, Frances McKee - Kurt Cobain’s “most favourite songwriters” - brought proceedings to a halt in style with a set of songs spanning four decades, including those famously covered by Cobain’s Nirvana.

As the weekend drew to a close, hardier festival goers retreated to the various discos available. The Hatch’d Magazine team however, tired and sodden, departed for showers and warm beds. Another wholly enjoyable, fun-packed Indietracks over, we fell further in love with this eccentric little festival. There is something unavoidably charming about a festival encompassing great music, real ales, friendly people and steam trains, that will keep us coming back year after year.

Words: Tom John and Pete Salter
Photos: Holly Booth and Pete Salter