Lost in Indiepop’s Indietracks 2014

It really isn’t hard for me to single out my Indietracks highlight this year. The Sweet Nothings (well, three quarters of them) in the merch tent on my birthday, dedicating their set to me. An unexpected and delightful birthday surprise made all the sweeter by Daniel Hartley playing ukulele instead of his usual bass. I’m half tempted to abandon this blog and to start a tumblr of burly broad-shouldered men holding ukeleles. Anyway, thanks to the Nothings and to everyone who made this possible. It really did make my birthday.

This was only my second Indietracks (you can read about the whirlwind of utter giddiness that was my first Indietracks HERE) and so I can barely describe myself as a veteran, but I did arrive with some knowledge of what to expect. My Indietracks Birthday Saturday was a smorgasbord of Indiepop Loveliness. The Mini Skips brought birthday cakes, Tonieee (ex Velodrome 2000) and Jo got me some lovely notebooks and my not-from-Indiepop friend Andy – who in a past life accompanied me to Pacha in Ibiza – swapped glo sticks for steam trains for the day. I had my first non-acoustic experience of MJ Hibbett (he was GRATE), Indiepop singalong made a triumphant return to the beach and I conquered some old demons by managing to watch the final song of what looked to have been a stonking set by Gruff Rhys, who I last saw whilst standing in a field in North Wales in yet another past life over a decade ago.

There were non-birthday highlights, too. Staring open-mouthed with wonder at The Wendy Darlings. The Thyme Machine throwing Tunnocks Tea Cakes into the crowd and then watching Kriss Foster in the Merch Tent afterwards looking genuinely overwhelmed at the amount of new fans that he’d made. Dancing to The Swapsies.¬† Feeling a bit like how a promoter must feel when I followed up a chance conversation at a bar with a couple of messages that led to one of my favourite performers delighting the indiepop singalong crowd. Watching a couple of my married friends behaving like loved-up teenagers as they were freed from parental responsibilities for the weekend. Seeing my lovely friend Vinnie back on stage for the first time in ages. The nice comments I got from a couple of people about my writing in Ray K’s zine Shut Up, Morrissey¬† The ten minutes of the Ready Steady Girls disco I got to before my migraine made its annual Indietracks appearance (someone forgot to tell it you’re not allowed to appear two years in a row). Chatting to Trev Odd Box and buying records for the first time in over twenty years. Buying up half the jewellery at the merch tent stall.

For various reasons, my Indietracks was a bit low key this year. I got the 22:45 from Swanwick Junction to Butterley on the Sunday and my wristband was off before midnight. But that didn’t make it any less important. To spend a whole weekend in a place that is driven by enthusiasm rather than profit and powered by the love of music can only be good for the soul. Thank you Team Indietracks for everything you do to make so many people so happy.

STOP PRESS: Now with added photos courtesy of awoodvine. Cheers A!

Your first Indietracks…

Last year was my first Indietracks. Eee, it were grand.

Anyway, if this is your first Indietracks here are some pointers on preparing for and making the most of the best weekend of your life.

Sort out your accommodation

Hmm. Good luck with this if you haven’t do so already. Those chain hotels book up really quickly. I blame Lenny Henry. If you’re one of the brave souls who are camping, pack a spare tent in case your tent gets flooded/hit by lightning/taken over on the last evening by someone who has declared the campsite to be the first indiepop republic and wants to use it to house the Department of Sparkly Things.

Go to some warm up gigs

You need to put the hours in to perfect that indie kid shuffle. My preferred way to warm up my shuffling feet is to attend Going Up The Country (GUTC), a lovely charity all-dayer in a pub beer garden in Congleton (look it up). Of all of the indiepop events I’ve attended, this one feels the most Indietracks-like. As well as all the ace music there are lovely merch and craft stalls, a tombola and the event even has its own ale, the infamous Pristine Chrstine. Kev and Linda go to great lengths to secure a wide range of quality acts that delight the indiepop kids and bemuse (and eventually delight) the locals. If you’ve ever wanted to sing If You Don’t Pull in a mass indiepop singalong in a pub full of aging men who still think that Buddy Holly is topping the Hit Parade, this is the event for you. Stick it in yer calendar for next year, you won’t regret it and as well as ace bands you’ll get to see loads of people that you haven’t seen since Indietracks.

Here’s a photo of The Sweet Nothings on GUTC’s famous side-of-a-truck stage:

The Sweet Nothings at GUTC 2014

Perhaps you could go to their gig in Cambridge tonight to warm up your indiekid shuffle? It’ll be ace, I promise.

Pack your entire wardrobe

Check that weather forecast. Then check it again. Then check it a third time. Then give up and pack for every possible weather eventuality. Sundress? Check. Snorkel? Possibly. Cardigan? I’m not dignifying that question with an answer, this is Indiepop.

Get there

Last year the trip to the hotel from the station by taxi took longer than my actual train journey. Be patient. Allow yourself plenty of time like I didn’t.

Tell your friends if you have health conditions

Although I can now personally vouch for the friendliness of the team of Red Cross Volunteers.

Take some breaks

See above. Take a look at that schedule. That’s a lot of bands. Keep your energy levels up. I particularly enjoyed my emergency waffle and the delicious Gopal’s curry.

Bring spare shoes

It’s dusty. It might be a bit muddy. I didn’t account for this last year and wrecked two pairs of shoes in the process (including my beloved DMs 1992 – 2013 RIP) so bring footwear that enhances your outfit but that you wouldn’t feel distraught about chucking in the recycling bin afterwards.

Visit all the stages

Try and get around all the stages if you can. The atmosphere in the church can be magical (it was well worth queuing in the rain to ensure a seat for Haiku Salut last year) and where else can you go to a gig on a moving steam train? The indoor stage, the engine shed, is by the bar so gets really busy (especially when we have the rain that is definitely not forecast for this year) but is a great place to make new friends. The outdoor stage feels surprisingly intimate and I may have had a little weep there last year during The Wave Pictures lovely set.

Get chatting

Everyone’s dead friendly like, so even if you’re a bit shy don’t be afraid to break into conversation with the person in front of you in the queue for the church/ladies/curry. You might make a new friend or even get some free badges.

Have the time of your life

Like the song from that film where the girl with the curly hair gets the guy with the amazing shoulders (for some reason I’ve always loved that film) doesn’t quite go “You’re having the time of your life and you’ve never felt this way before” so ignore everything I’ve said above and just go with whatever works for you. Fall in love with a place that makes your heart beat as fast as it did for the first boy at school that you fell for who played a guitar.¬† Now click your sparkly trainers together three times and repeat after me: There’s no place like Swanwick Junction. There’s no place like Swanwick Junction. There’s no place like Swanwick Junction…