Indietracks sped unabated into the Midland Railway Centre, deposited its cargo of a rag-tag collective of indie-pop bands and roared away an all-too-soon three days later. The much-publicised rain that affected proceedings on the last day of 2009′s edition was quickly forgotten as an unexpectedly dry festival weekend kicked off.
The organisers’ attempts to expand and develop the festival while maintaining its somewhat unique place in the UK festival scene appear – on first glance – to have been successful. Despite the increased number of established artists, Indietracks remains a place to showcase new acts and its sense of community and friendly atmosphere both remain in abundance.
The festival’s expansion from a two-day to a three-day event saw action take place on the Friday night with Veronica Falls opening up. Technical problems caused the band to leave the stage for a brief period after only two songs, and once they had returned they performed a surprisingly short set. On the positive side, what they did play showed great promise. Shortly afterwards Allo, Darlin’ made an early grab for set of the weekend with an energetic, beguiling and joyous performance encompassing recent singles Dreaming, Henry Rollins Don’t Dance and Polaroid Song. This left Eddie Argos’ Everybody Was In The French Reistance…Now! with a hard act to follow, and on entertainment value probably they just upstaged Allo, Darlin’, but on sheer musicianship and songcraft it was the Anglo-Australian act that stole the show on the first night.
Despite their guitarist only arriving 90 minutes before their stage time, This Many Boyfriends put in an energetic and dynamic performance early on Saturday and were strong candidates for the ‘band who look the most excited to be playing Indietracks’ award. Elsewhere, La La Love You provided the ultimately bizarre spectacle of Ramones-meets-Busted from Spain, while dressed in shiny pink sports jackets.
Throughout the day the indoor stage produced a variety of surprises, chief among which are Brooklyn power-pop band Boy Genius and the nostalgic musings of Scots The Just Joans (a set highlight being What Do We Do Now?, a heartfelt lament to losing touch with your hometown). Indie’s great stalwart Amelia Fletcher and the rest of Tender Trap finished off the indoor stage with a fine set of contemporary jangle-pop and three-way harmonies.
Back over on the main stage, former signings of the deceased cult label Sarah The Orchids played as though the last 20 years hadn’t happened, culminating in a stunning rendition of Something For The Longing. The wistful songcraft of Ballboy provided a near-perfect soundtrack to the fading light of the late evening, before Saturday headliners The Primitives took over. A performance polished to the point of workmanlike, it wasn’t helped by a sound mix that was bass heavy, cancelling out the trebly hooks that made the original recordings so great.
Sunday’s highlights became apparent from the off. Scottish power-poppers Be Like Pablo played a set of emphatic power-pop on their first-ever gig in England (they’d had the guile to flyer the hedgerows on the lane to the festival site), while on the main stage MJ Hibbett & The Validators rivalled Allo, Darlin’ Friday night performance for sheer entertainment and joy with such hits as Do The Indie Kid and Easily Impressed. He proved to be one of Britain’s most underrated entertainers in the process. Current London buzz-band Internet Forever gave the festival an impressive appearance with a number of strong tunes including recent single Cover The Walls and an inspired cover of Dire Straits’ Walk Of Life, while Sheffield’s Standard Fare produced an inspired, tight set on the main stage during the early evening to show that Thee SPC has more to their artist portfolio than This Many Boyfriends.
As late evening fell, The Pooh Sticks ‘did an Orchids’ and turned back the years to rapturous applause, adding a depth of sound to their live show that was absent in their stripped down records in period. Slow Club continue to astound with the amount of noise two people can make on a stage, and debuted a number of promising new songs in between old standards off debut album Yeah, So. Another band showing off new material were festival headliners and closing act The Pains of Being Pure At Heart who played a flawless mixture of old and new material to an awestruck crowd. Their forthcoming album, based on the strength of the new material played at the weekend at least, will truly be something to behold.
In conclusion, the expansion has worked. The charms and premise have remained intact, and the increased stature of performing artists currently being booked could yet open up the festival to a wider audience in the future. A special mention should go to the organising team and the staff of the Midland Railway site, who ensured a well-organised and trouble-free weekend throughout.