Happy New (Indiepop) Year!

I’ve had the same Christmas stocking since I was about 3 years old. No fluffy handcrafted from the shedding coats of organically-raised alpacas then shipped to John Lewis stocking for me. I was born in 1977 to a mum and dad who were “lucky to get an orange and a bag of nuts for Christmas” and grew up in a small mining town on the outskirts of Stoke. Therefore my stocking is bright red plastic, with an odd faux-Victorian font and a picture of Santa’s face on it. I love it. Its arrival outside my bedroom door (or at the foot of my bed when I was really little) can still produce childish squeals of delight, albeit these days these squeals of delight are generally interspersed with whimpers and me clutching my forehead having risked a small festive gin and tonic on Christmas Eve.

There are presents within this stocking that I can rely on being there every year. Pens. Writing pads. A Terry’s Chocolate Orange wedged into the toe of the stocking. And, as I got older, a calendar. Always a calendar. These last few years I’ve got a Jack Vettriano one. The Vettriano calendars are great (if you like Vettriano, which I do) because they delve into the er, earthier parts of his repertoire that is difficult to get hold of in framed print form, presumably as most reasonable people wouldn’t contemplate having a painting of an immaculately attired gentleman with his hosiery-obsessed companion Dominating their living room wall. Well, they do say that January is the longest month…

There’ll be some indiepop in a minute, I promise.

Anyway, calendars are great because you can write things in them that you can look forward to.

At this time of the year, if Indiepop is important to you, you can get a bit gloomy. You’ve just about managed to clean the Indietracks dust out from between the cracks in your heels. You’ve poured over photos of owls on flickr. Watched endless videos trying to spot yourself in the crowd. You’ve played almost everything you bought in the merch tent about a zillion times. It’s a bit like filling that time between Christmas and New Year. The trimmings and trappings of festivities are still around you but you’re too exhausted to do anything but sit and watch telly.

But wait! Indietracks may well be “our Christmas” (copyright everyone in indiepop) but that means that we’ve got a whole year of Indiepop ahead to dance our sparkly trainers off to! Rejoice! Send your Dad out of the back door with a piece of coal and make him walk in through the front door of POP!

If you haven’t been to Sheffield then JOIN US as we bring in the new Indiepop year. Sheffield’s a great city, with fab pubs that serve piles of cake from the bar (as well as delicious ales) and we’re dead friendly like. It’ll be like going to Edinburgh for Hogmanay. Or summat.

On Friday 22nd August, MMIS are putting on an ace do in the upstairs of the Rutland Arms in Sheffield. Look at the poster! Adorable! And now the line up…you’ve got David Leach with his magnificent ukulele playing, superb knowing lyrics and cheeky audience asides, Jupiter in Jars who are all multi-instrumental and will instantly transport you away from any lingering thoughts of your working week and Alexander Christopher Hale, who I haven’t seen yet but who I am reliably informed offers “Heart-breaking musical vignettes that dabble in obscurity and obscenity, but always sincerity.” The upstairs room of the Rutland Arms is a magical venue for acoustic indiepop. You should join us here.

On Sunday 24th August the completely fab Ladiyfest are hosting what looks like a total cracker  (I’ll give up with the Christmas imagery in a minute) of an event, with a line up including Colour Me Wednesday, Hallie and the Annies, The Middle Ones and, fresh from Indietracks, Elopes. Not forgetting the zine stall, vegan cupcakes, BBQ and ace invert Dj-ing. The following day, August Bank Holiday Monday, is my second Indiepop Sheffield Friends Anniversary, so it’s bound to get emotional. Or at least beery. Or possibly beery and emotional. Either way there will be cake.

And also…D-I-S-C-O-S

You like 90s Indie, right? Then come and watch the Master of Indie and Pop at work. Daniel Hartley (Pop-o-Matic) offers you Come Out 2Night, a 90s Indie night “Playing loads of 90’s britpop, grunge, college rock, lo-fi, baggy, hip hop, shoegaze, dance and other made up genres.” Trust me, this is the disco of YOUR LIFE. Or should that be This Life? It’s on 13th September, which my calendar tells me is a Saturday so you’ve got all day on Sunday to travel back from whence you came. Dan will even give you five whole days to recover (he’s nice like that) before MMIS offer you The Hobbes Fanclub’s album launch party, with Sheffield’s very own The Sweet Nothings and others in support. I can’t link to this event because it is HOT OFF THE PRESS.

Have the complete and utter misfortune of being based Darn Sarf? Let me offer you my heartiest condolences. But don’t fear! Sheffield has recently exported two of its indiepop finest, The Mini Skips, to Bristol. In their promotery/label guise of My Little Owl they are preparing a plethora of perfect pop to delight you on Saturday 6th September. The venue looks lovely and the line up includes not only The Mini Skips but also The Hi Life Companion and Peru! And many, many more. Eh, maybe the south isn’t so bad after all…

There are tonnes of other things going on as well. So don’t mope. Well, you can mope for a bit if you want. Then stick those dates on your calendar and start crossing them off like you’re Peter Barlow in The Big House. Before you know it, it’ll be time for you to put on your sparkly trainers and dig out your glitter gun. Pop is waiting for you. Now go and get it. Happy New Year!

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Life after Indietracks – or how Macho Music Is Stupid, Finnmark! Frozy and Colour Me Wednesday made everything better for a bit

Saturday 3rd August

A week after Indietracks and I am still wearing my w(r)istband in the vain hope that someone will tell me that it’s all been a horrible mistake and the festival is still going on and quick let’s all get back on the train before we miss anything.

Alas, it’s not to be.

Thankfully I live in the undisputed capital of UK Indiepop* and those lovely people at Macho Music is Stupid have put on a lovely post-Indietracks line up so we can pretend all is still well in the world.

Having mislaid my sparkly hairslides (never leave home without ’em kids), I missed the first act but did manage to catch most of Finnmark! fresh from their appearance at Indietracks, which I haven’t yet mentioned in this paragraph. I particularly  enjoyed their cheery song about death by various methods of public and private transport. The playful juxtaposition of  singalonga-bah-bah-bahs/major key brightness with stoical morbidity is the kind of combination that’ll always get my vote. Edward’s sonorous voice would also get fifteen thumbs up, if only I had an additional thirteen thumbs.

Frozy’s sound reminds me of those afternoons spent sitting in my bedroom listening to my Walkman, pondering the meaning of existence and, more specifically, why all the boys I like never like me back. No, not last week you cheeky sods. I’m talking about my mid-teens, a time when my DMs were still all shiny and l had boundless enthusiasm for making mixtapes. I’m pretty shite at being able to identify genres but this is the one where the guitars sound particularly optimistic and my indiekid shuffle involves moving my head from side-to-side rather than forward-and-backwards. Anyway, here’s some stuff I liked about Frozy: short songs that leave you wanting more (none of this let’s add another verse for the sake of it nonsense – the best pop always gets straight to the point), they do instrumentals, they let their music do the talking and they did a neat few bars of My Girl and shoehorning Motown into something is always ace. Secret was one of my favourite tracks on the Indietracks compilation and the rest of their set lived up to this. I liked. Lots.

As ever, Macho Music is Stupid has SUPERSTAR DJS between and after the acts. Many of the evening’s selections brought back happy Indietracks memories and The Day That Thatcher Dies can always get my foot-tapping even without an accompanying major news story. One of the lovely things about the Dada venue is that you get non-indiepop kids there enjoying the music too.  Even if they make slightly off-piste (oft pissed?) musical requests to the DJs. We need to share this stuff. The world needs more indiepop love.

You should come along to a Macho Music is Stupid night soon.  The next one is on Tuesday 27 August at The Red House in Sheffield where you’ll get The Dyr Sister and Colour Me Wednesday – more of which later.  Everyone is dead friendly and stuff and there’s always access to beer. Just don’t ask the DJ for Dire Straits as a refusal may offend.

Sunday 4th August

In my Life Before Indiepop, an exciting Sunday afternoon might be one spent taking a trip to a well-known hardware store to buy rawlplugs**. Instead, shiny new me ( basically 1996 me with wrinkles) heads to a Colour Me Wednesday gig armed only with the following directions “look for the door with the blue graffiti”….hmm, not very useful for the sat nav. Heading in the vaguest of directions, the crowd of YOUTH standing outside said door suggested this was indeed the right place.

Photo by Estelle.

Photo by Estelle.

We proceed to the stage area. A mattress shoved against a mould-stained wall, speakers balanced on kitchen worktops and audience members passing around cartons of orange juice in the absence of a bar. This truly is DIY.

Colour Me Wednesday are noisy. Deliciously noisy. Their songs are simultaneously tuneful and noisy and have great titles like Unicorn in Uniform. And I am dancing in an abandoned kitchen on a Sunday afternoon.

“This next one’s called Purge Your Inner Tory” they announce to audience cheers. A pause. “Never fuck a Tory” someone shouts to giggles. Behold! The idealism of youth.

Colour Me Wednesday. In a kitchen.

Colour Me Wednesday. In a kitchen.

I like Colour Me Wednesday. I know this because even though I am a bit skint I buy their CD anyway and I’m excited about playing it as I head home in the rain.

The rain. Washing away all the glitter. Reminding me of work and bills and my forthcoming house move and everything that’s wrong with the world.

Just before midnight I cut off my Indietracks wristband and cry.

Reality sucks.

* Ooh, controversial. Cardigans at dawn on Anorak…

**This never happened. Our house always had a surfeit of rawlplugs. Additional purchases were thankfully unnecessary.