Is there a lovelier festival than Indietracks? Set in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside at a heritage railway centre, it plays host to a sugary, punky burst of music that can loosely be categorised as indiepop, as well as steam trains, real ale, craft workshops, a campsite football tournament run by some of the bands playing…heck, we even spotted a parrot from the local owl sanctuary riding a toy train.
The organisers wander the site in homemade lanyards, many of the other volunteers are train fanatics, who help keep the museum site ticking over when it’s not full of indie kids; it’s still quirky and charmingly DIY, but runs impressively smoothly. With festivals becoming ever bigger and more commercialised, it’s heartening to see one stand its ground and push ahead with the ethos from which it was born.
This year saw Indietracks turn 10. The fact that a sizable chunk of the 2,000 or so punters have been to most of those outings is testament to how highly regarded the festival is within its little world. Another reminder of the prestige this place is held in is that Fortuna Pop! founder Sean Price chose his column in the festival programme to announce the imminent closure of the label he’s run for some 20 years, and which has so keenly fed bands into the festival. There were plenty of glum faces around the label’s usual paste table in the merch table; its loss will be felt sorely in this field.
While a record on Fortuna Pop! may almost guarantee you a slot on the Indietracks line-up, the festival’s approach to programming is far less rigid that one might imagine. This year’s headliners were (Fortuna Pop! signings) The Spook School, who played a chaotic, at times hilarious, jubilant set on Friday night, combining the best of their two records – tracks about gender identity becoming victory songs echoing into the night; electro-indie legends Saint Etienne, who played a hits-heavy set, finishing with an encore of She’s On The Phone, the field bouncing with giant balloons thrown from the stage; and John Peel favourites The Aislers Set, who played their first UK show since 2012 when they closed the festival on Sunday night. They really couldn’t have been more different.
Elsewhere, the bill included the likes of The Lovely Eggs, who played to a packed indoor stage (a large train shed). Highlights came courtesy of a particularly rousing and provocative version of Fuck It (Holly Ross’s venomous intro trumped only by the pair of six-year-old girls dancing and singing along in the audience at the side of the stage, much to the bemusement of their parents) and Digital Accordion, which becomes the unlikely sing-along anthem of the weekend.
Derbyshire locals Haiku Salut wooed the sunny Sunday afternoon crowd with their blissed-out instrumental twiddliness. They’re a betwitching sight, as well as sound, as they flit between pretty much every instrument you’ve ever heard of, and a whole heap you haven’t. Completely absorbing in their Yann Tiersen-ish, sophisticated dream pop, despite not uttering a word throughout the entire set. They feel like headliners.
Queues gathered to peer into the teeny model church, where Two White Cranes – aka Roxy Brennan – impresses with a surprisingly tender set of satisfying songs, which are significantly different from her other projects, as a member of Joanna Gruesome and Grubs. Humousexual play the same venue, where they gun through their set at speed; a lo-fi duo who make far more noise than they look capable of. Boys Forever, the new alias of Patrick Doyle, formerly of Veronica Falls, impressed with infectious, ice cool melodies, which another favourite find of the festival, Charla Fantasma, couldn’t be further way from. A blistering ball of prickling riot grrrl, they’re angry and giggly. And really, really noisy.
The Just Joans, who weren’t officially on the bill, pulled off a stunning acoustic set in the merch’ tent, despite battling against Flowers’ sound check. A singalong to If You Don’t Pull and What Do We Do Now are spine-tingling lessons in story telling and did a good job in summing up the weekend; a secret gem, tucked away with little fanfare or fuss, which you feel really quite smug to have stumbled across. With nearby festival Y Not’s capacity now upped to 25,000 its heartening to see Indietracks thrive without succumbing to the temptation of the big bucks and just continuing to be, well, lovely.