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…

 

Indietracks 26 July – 28 July (or forever if you keep wearing the wristband)

Friday

Running parallel to the railwaytracks, at a speed far too dangerous for someone now officially quite old, I charge into Dan Hartley’s arms like some unhinged Celia Johnson bellowing “I’m at Indietracks!”

Forgive my overexuberance, Dan. But it’s Indietracks! More precisely it’s my very first Indietracks. And it’s my birthday.

And I’ll forget the preposterous length of time it took the taxi to arrive. And the searing heat that I know will finish me off before the weekend is done. Because The Mini Skips and Daniel (sans Norbert) Dentressangle have just sung the most melodious version of Happy Birthday that I’ve ever heard – to me! And they have cards and cake and presents and I have lollipops  and I have seen glow in the dark pants and I am surely the luckiest girl in the world ever.

Oh and there’s bands, too. The Tuts! All boisterous with their eminently danceable pop tunes. And Bis, playing Kandy Pop and giving me flashbacks to half a dozen floppy-haired boys in oversized t-shirts who frequented dive bars in Birkenhead and who now almost certainly have pension plans, babies and have their weekly shopping delivered by that nice man who drives the Ocado van.

And look, everyone I know is here. And yes, Linda from Ready Steady Girls disco, you certainly may take the best ever photo of me in existence. And I’ll dance so hard that I’ll create two holes in the ground and someone will take a video of the crowd including me doing my shuffle and post it on the internet and despite hating all recorded images of myself I will watch it about 76 times.

And the moon. The beautiful moon. And beer. And more of my friends. And a disco in a train shed. And a vintage train journey in the dark. With all of my friends, drunken and smiling.

And I get to do all this again tomorrow?

Indietracks, where have you been all my life? I’m in love.

Saturday

Seriously. I get to go back?

Camera Obscura at breakfast. No, not on the stereo. On the next table. You don’t get that at your glastofest, do you?

Another beautiful train trip. Waffle with chocolate sauce on a picnic bench with Kiri.

Holymarymotherofgod, it’s Indiepop singalong! Which is all kinds of perfect in its usual venue of The Closed Shop pub in Sheffield but, for one sunny afternoon only, is in a moving train carriage. I know, let’s sing “We’re from Barcelona” whilst sat next to someone who lives in Barcelona, whilst simultaneously shaking some dangerously cute musical instrument with bells on. Let’s pick “Who’s Got The Crack?” and pollute the minds of nearby toddlers. Let us sing joyously and with levels of abandon that are entirely inappropriate for this level of heat. Are we going to sing anything by The Just Joans? Of course we bloody are. This is Indiepop Singalong. And it’s the greatest thing ever.

I’m forgoing the delights of the Coronation Street themed workshop “Nosing with Norris” (Sorry to Our Glenda from Coronation Street Blog –  a guest post from me soon, I promise) to watch The Pale Spectres and I’m glad that I have because their songs are as jangly and lovely as the videos that I had watched of them online suggested they would be. Perfect, perfect pop. And I will be mightly disappointed later when the Merch Tent is all out of their CDs. During their set, Vinnie (aka ‘Good Cop’ from The Mini Skips) decides we are forming a band with an all-female line up and that band shall be called Sex Education Sweetshop. Or Sweatshop. We can’t quite remember. Anyway, bagsie keyboards and awkward eye contact with all of the cute boys in the front row.

The Understudies, I am sorry but as I do my slightly boppier dance to the fabulously danceable parts of your set my Doc Martens of some 21-years standing fall apart –  can you claim it back on indiepop expenses, please? You are lovely people and I deserved a bigger opportunity to bop. Sheffield again and soon please. I beat a hasty retreat to change shoes. I’ve got everything in this bag. I really have. Everything bar a foldable handistep.

A sit down. I am a tad woozy. The cool breeze wafting through the station entrance is appreciated and I get to watch  a security team work their dullest ever shift, at a festival festooned with posters of Norris Cole, where you can buy a can of cloudy lemonade from a station bar for a quid. Pacha in Ibiza, with its 12 euros bottles of Sprite this is not. Someone told me yesterday that they have witnessed one fight in Indietracks history and afterwards the two combatants shook hands (and probably swapped badges).

SECRET MERCH TENT GIG! Well, not that secret as everyone seems to know  about it and there is a huge appreciative crowd for The Just Joans. Those of us who attend the Sheffield branch of the Indiepop Singalong have a soft spot for their lovely tunes and I defy you not to sing along with an obligatory Scottish accent. Later, I get to hold an umbrella over Katie of The Just Joans as she walks from the ladies to the train shed and it was an honour to keep rain off the owner of such a beautiful voice. I love the honest humour of their songs and after hearing Durex Puppy (“You’d better think twice before you stroke him”), I did have a quiet chuckle to myself and made a mental note to send a link of it to a couple of my friends.

Ahh! The Wave Pictures. I nearly forgot you were on. I’m glad that I didn’t because you gave me one of the best moments of the festival. No, not Spaghetti, though dancing to that was bloody good fun. And no, not entertaining improper thoughts about one of you. Though that was fun, too. No, it was David Tattersall singing Sweetheart as the heavens slowly opened and the drizzly rain merged with the drizzly tears on my face. Here is love in a lyrical nutshell: When I’m with you I wish I didn’t have to go.

I am now in the front of a long queue of people getting rained on, but I don’t mind getting rained on in the slightest because not only do I have the loveliest new umbrella (thank you Vinnie), and now two lovely badges from the jolly nice people from Pop South! who are queueing next to me but because I am waiting to watch Haiku Salut in the church. Now I saw Haiku Salut in Sheffield a few months ago and was all of a quiver afterwards but this set with its light show and the wonderful setting was even closer to perfection. There is so much longing and plaintive ache in their work that my heart wants to start doing that thing where it starts folding in on itself. These days I try and avoid this feeling at all costs – sometimes I worry that I’ll never come back from it – but there are lovely people all around me and I know I’ll be safe, so I go with it. And the applause at the end of the set brings me back. I am a now a dribbling wreck in sore need of a dance in an engine shed.

That’s handy. Because there’s one over here. And there’s a bloody long wait for Camera Obscura, who are being moved from the main stage to the slightly less thunder and lighteningy train shed.  And while we’re waiting let’s chat to some lovely lads from Bradford (cheers for the vodka fellas) and get mistaken for Markie’s wife. This is Indietracks! Even the rain cannot touch us!  We are invincible!

Not quite. Kev and Linda’s Ready Steady Girls set, due to take place in the marquee is a casualty to this outpouring of weather. Weather sucks. I am gutted. Kev and Linda – surely the nicest couple in Indiepop (and that’s a lot of nice) – are gutted. On the car journey back we are treated to some absolute corkers that would have been part of their set and I am doing my best 60s girl group dancing in my mind.  We arrive at the Premier Inn,  where I go back to my room and scribble down the lyrics and chords for Sex Education Sweetshop’s debut single (available from the Indietracks 2015 Merch Tent).

Sunday

Oh god. This is not good.

I am a migraineur. My triggers include: hot weather (tick), overexcitement (tick), alcohol (tick) and now wonderful indiepop festivals.

Up in the night with one of my weird auras, I arrive in Butterley wearing the biggest pair of sunglasses known to man, with the hope that my head can survive two sets on the train.

A mad scramble through the vintage carriages – yet another moment which calls to mind A Hard Day’s Night – and we finally make it through to the overcrowded carriage where Pete Green is playing. Well, it sounds like Pete Green, all Northernness and lovely wist and catchy choruses that people can instantly sing along to. But I can’t see a bloody thing. Pete, what can I say? Your fans are not only devoted but are also extremely tall. I stand at the back and watch this timed-to-perfection set via the distorted reflection on the train carriage ceiling and the screens of half a dozen camera phones.  No view of the act and watching via a tiny screen. This truly is The Pete Green Wembley Experience. Next time I’ll bring my handistep.

Exiting the Indietracks sauna, I catch part of The French Defence’s set, which is just as good as the Sheffield set I saw a couple of weeks ago but the heat of the church is proving too much of struggle and so I embark on a slow wander around the site, buying a pretty necklace made out a domino and hugging Marianthi for being one of the team that has made this whole glorious cardigan-clad carnival of joy happen.

Hurrah! It’s the wonderful musical stylings of The Mini Skips! Woop! And they’re on the train! Oh god, more heat!

What I love about The Mini Skips is how quickly they draw you in to their world. And Vinnie and Mark’s world is real and honest and their voices are harmonious even if their viewpoints aren’t. It’s a clever trick this,  opposing sides in song and it works so beautifully. Even when they’re not doing their Good Cop/Bad Cop numbers, songs such as The Foghorn Song just ooze loveliness. Special mention to Daniel, the brass/wry quip section.

What better way to finish off a lovely afternoon of indiepop by having an acephalgic migraine and scaring your friends to the point that the Red Cross Team are called. Not my finest hour but can confirm that the Red Cross Team were very lovely and at least I can say I used all the available services at Indietracks and got a free health check into the bargain.

The Harvey Williams Another Sunny Day marquee moment was clearly special  – you could see it on the faces of everyone around – and I was just really sad that I hadn’t properly come round yet to fully appreciate it. I managed some Gopal’s which restored me, if not to full health, then at least to a level to have enough energy to do a bouncy shuffle to Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It), a song from the fabled Mixtape That Lead Me to Indiepop. The Lovely Eggs generated a lot of excited bouncing and audience interaction and it was great to be in a friendly crowd having  a superb time when I was still feeling a bit out of sorts.

HELEN LOVE. HELEN LOVE. Best migraine cure ever! (well the best one that I’m prepared to admit to on a public blog)

So much of what I’ll remember of this festival is the smiles on everyone’s faces, whether I knew you or not. And surely the brightest smiles were on the faces of THE HELEN LOVE GLITTER ARMY. Witness exhibits A and B: Pete Green’s glitter-cheeked grin as he threw an arm around Tonieee’s shoulder, murmured something about giitter guns before they disappeared off smiling like five year olds who’ve just opened their eyes on Christmas Day to see that Santa’s delivered two of everything on their list. As the glitter guns are fired, I manage to catch one solitary piece of green glitter. Seriously, the sheer joy in the room during this set. I wish I could bottle it. I really do.

So nothing can top glitter guns and bouncing around to Helen Love. Can it? Can it?

INDIEPOP SINGALONG ON A PRETEND BEACH. WITH ONE OF THE JUST JOANS! AND THE WENDY DARLINGS! AND DANIELLE, THE DEAD STYLISH ONE FROM THE SWEET NOTHINGS! AND DANIEL FROM DANIEL AND NORBERT DENTRESSANGLE! AND LOADS OF OTHER PEOPLE BECAUSE WE ARE ALL INDIEPOP SINGALONG!

And Markie making the executive decision to play Eighties Fan by Camera Obscura (Thank You) and leading us all so beautifully (come the Indiepop World Takeover look no further for a leader). And Tonieee finally getting to play more mandolin as people were requesting mandolinable songs. And wonderful drumming by Kevin keeping our drunken choir all in time. And Pete Green happily slumped in a deckchair like a pissed-up uncle on a family day trip to Blackpool. And Vinnie dancing so beautifully at the back. And me, sat in a sandpit in a lovely frock.

And running into the train shed, hand-in-hand with Dan Hartley, to dance to Aztec Camera.

They said it would be ace. It was double ace.

Oh, Indietracks! When I’m with you, I wish I didn’t have to go.

When I’m with you, I wish I didn’t have to go.