My Indiepop Year 2014

Should old indiepop gigs be forgot and ne’er brought to mind? Certainly not! He’s a rundown of my indiepop year for your delectation/delight/hangover.

January

The year got off to a GRATE start with a double bill of pop and pun perfection from MJ Hibbett and Kriss Foster and Friend. Just the thing to shake off the January blues.

February

I think that everyone might have been skint this month as there appears to have been zero giggage. Well, if the lack of photos on my phone is to be believed, anyway. I make up for it next month, though, I promise. And there’s photos and everything…

March

I saw three gigs in one week this month. This might well be normal for you but I had a decade in gig wilderness so for me it is something close to miraculous. I saw the brilliant Tuts (eternally awesome)  and then a couple of days later went to an acoustic evening at The Three Tuns and saw, amongst others, Pete Green and David Leach. Did you know that David Leach, as well as being an ace knitter and writer and performer of lovely tunes with cheeky lyrics, is also THE EASIEST PERSON IN INDIEPOP TO TAKE A PHOTOGRAPH OF? He’s like one of those squirrels in Hyde Park that have learned how to pose for the camera. I give you exhibit A:

David Leach at The Three Tuns

David Leach. Uke Player, Knitter, Indiepop Squirrel.

And then two nights after that I went to see Suede. As you all know whatever you want/need to know about Suede already, I won’t go on about them too much here. Just to say that if there was a showreel of my life’s best moments, this gig would take up a huge proportion of it.

Suede

Suede at the Royal Albert Hall. Magnificent beyond words.

April

April was filled with Wales Goes Pop with the first (and likely last) time I got to wear an Access All Areas wristband. Sadly, even with a great line up, I found the main room a bit of an anxiety nightmare. Afraid I’m never going to be chilled out about watching pre-school children crawl under a stage packed with heavy and potentially dangerous equipment. I’m absolutely sure that everything was perfectly safe and I know this is my problem – they aren’t my kids and I should just ignore it and deal with it – but I can’t and it will detract from my ability to watch artists perform. Even artists as spellbinding as Haiku Salut. This is not a rant about kids at gigs  – I have too many friends who are parents to go down that route – but more a generalised fear of something very, very horrible happening one day. When I went to the panto a couple of years ago, I watched what was presumably a grandparent sit a toddler on the edge of the balcony, so that their legs were dangling over the edge . You know, the bit that stops you falling on the people in the stalls below. My mother had a word. So, it might be a genetic thing…

The cafe room was a delight, however, with Francesca’s Word Salad and Steven James Adams being particular highlights. Pop-o-matic provided all the disco you could ever need.

Francesca's Word Salad.

Francesca’s Word Salad. Super talented.

May

May was a tricky month but I was grateful that soon any fears that I would only be able to watch out-of-town Indiepop gigs were allayed. Even if my new indiepop self hadn’t quite mastered being a girlfriend (for that I am still sorry) at least I’d managed a relationship with someone who wasn’t a prick. That’s the kind of progress that spending all of your divorce settlement on psychoanalytic psychotherapy and discovering indiepop boys can bring.

I went to a fair bit of the acoustic alldayer at The Closed Shop and enjoyed The 10p Mixes and Pete Green, as ever, but also got to see Tom from Lardpony for the first time. Because I’m still so new to indiepop Lardpony were one of those bands that I had (just) missed. I’d enjoyed their songs so much though in that first year of finding indiepop, so it was quite wonderful to hear Tom and to get to thank him afterwards for his lovely music and how much it meant to me.

Tom from Lardpony.

Tom from Lardpony. Impressive beard. Impressive tunes.

This was also the gig where I was looking at everyone’s guitars and thinking Could I? Should I?

And then the following week, I left work early on a Friday, went to the guitar shop and bought Arthur. I think you’ll agree that he is rather beautiful

Arthur the guitar.

Arthur. The most beautiful guitar in the World that belongs to me.

June

Going Up The Country is pretty much the best Indiepop weekender this side of Indietracks. And that’s not just because it is just a couple of miles away from where I grew up and my Dad can collect me at the end of the night and I get to go home and have toast made by my Mum. It is also brilliant because Linda and Kev put their hearts and souls into it. If you’re never been to Congleton (and let’s face it, it’s probably not on you 50 places to visit before you turn 50 list) this is the ideal excuse. It is joyful and lovely. In 2014 it had brilliant acts like The Mini Skips and The Sunbathers and The Sweet Nothings. It was also the first place that I heard Milky Wimpshake live and got a bit giddy. It’s not every day you get to sing “I am a sexual deviant” in a pub car park in Cheshire. Well, not in my world, it isn’t.

The Mini Skips.

The Mini Skips. Phone camera set to sports mode to capture Vinnie’s dancing.

This was also the month that I started guitar lessons with @LittleShefScott. Selected purely on the basis that he was located on a major bus route, I was really lucky to find a teacher that was patient as well as talented. If you’re in need of a guitar teacher/composer/performer for your corporate event or one of those wedding things that find themselves doing, then I can heartily recommend Scott. He will even play Fleetwood Mac if you ask very nicely.

July

I had an odd Indietracks. Enjoyable but odd due to far too much ruminating. The Sheffield Indiepop Scene was having its Fleetwood Mac moment (minus the industrial piles of cocaine), relationships fragmenting, loyalties torn and I wasn’t sure where I fitted in any more. I spent Friday night crying on the platform bench. Stupid really. There was a million people I could have hung out with but I spent the evening with the black dog, who is the worst company and literally frowns at glitter.

Saturday was better. My oldest blokey friend and nearest person I have to sibling, Andy, turned up for the day (I’d sold it as a beer festival with bands…not a million miles from the truth, is it?) and we had fun times with lashings of Gopal’s curry. It was my birthday and the Indietracks birthday fairies magicked up an unscheduled acoustic performance by The Sweet Nothings that just about had my heart fit to burst. And then (after a bit of indiepop singalong) my brain decided to burst instead, as Evil Dr Migraine visited, and me and Andy got the early train back to the Premier Inn and Andy spent the next 45 minutes washing his feet due to ill-advised sandal wearing.

Andy and Dan

Andy and Dan. (Beer) brothers from another mother.

So many highlights on the Sunday…seeing Vinnie sing on a big stage, watching the lovely Swapsies, finally tracking down a copy of Platform Zero, but I think my biggest highlight was watching Kriss Foster from The Thyme Machine looking completely overwhelmed as he started to run out of merch. I hope he’s started to realise how much people love – not like, LOVE – The Thyme Machine…

August

August had some lovely moments.

One of them was seeing Anna Rest Easy, a solo female keyboardist. Anna’s really influenced by Chopin, and I love Chopin, so there was a lot to love about Anna’s music. At 37 this shouldn’t be the second time in my whole life that I’ve seen a woman play a keyboard live as a soloist. But it was. If you’re a chap who plays guitar you see people who look like you all the time. Not so if you’re a lass who started playing the piano in 1981, so it seems.

Anna Rest Easy

Anna Rest Easy. So much Chopin!

Alexander Christopher Hale’s cover of Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie in the upstairs room of The Rutland Arms was three minutes of exuberant awesomeness, which threatened to outdo the original. Amazingly, this wasn’t even the highlight of the gig, which arrived in the form of an unscheduled performance from Jackie Wilson, all the more impressive from him having been dead since 1984. You had to be there.

Alexander Christopher Hale

Shakira! Shakira! Or the Alexander and the Christopher Hale Band.

On the Bank Holiday Sunday I saw The Middle Ones. I can’t remember anything about this gig other than being completely and utterly moved by what I’d heard. I couldn’t take a photo because I was “in the moment” and this upsets me now as I can’t quite recall the experience only the feeling. But maybe that’s the best bit.

September

September saw the welcome return of Come Out 2Nite, the best 90s disco in any town. I also got to see Horowitz (FROM STOKE) for the first time and they were deliciously noisy. And the lovely Hobbes Fanclub and The Sweet Nothings who I love with every glittery fibre of my indiepop being.

Pete and Tonieee

Pete and Tonieee at Come Out 2nite. I was thinking of running a caption competition for this. Any suggestions?

I also ditched the plectrum this month and Arthur and I are getting on so much better with fingerpicking.

October

They told me I’d struggle with the Nottingham Pop All Dayer because it would be too hot and I would most likely get ill. They (also known as my brain) were spectacularly wrong. It was bloody ace. And, okay, so I had to pace myself by missing the first few acts to have a big lunch/buy some poetry from a conveniently situated second hand bookshop/have a lie down. But everything that I did see was BRILLIANT. You can see what I thought of it HERE.

I love this photo I took on the night. It’s just cymbals in an M+S bag but it just made me smile.

Cymbals. M+S bag.

Cymbals. M+S bag.

In October I also got to “Ready Steady Girls” Linda’s birthday party (with ace Djing by Kev) and Dan Ransome’s party, where I got to introduce my guitar teacher and his friend to The Thyme Machine, Horowitz and MJ Hibbett and for which I have certainly earned my place in Indiepop heaven. Getting invited to parties is ace (Jeremy’s party the following month was lovely, too) and I feel so bloody lucky to have my indiepop friends.

November

More fun times with Kriss Foster and Friend, along with Spook School fringe show giggles.

Kriss Foster and Friend.

Kriss Foster and Friend. Always brilliant.

The last indiepop gig I went to in 2014 was The Sweet Nothings, which seems an apt finale to the year. We all have a band that we “get” and that somehow seems to “get” us back and for me that is The Sweet Nothings. We have all waited far too long for their first album! Maybe 2015 will be the year for it. I do hope so.

The Sweet Nothings. Not at The Red House!

The Sweet Nothings. Danielle in celestial light.

December

I didn’t get to any indiepop gigs in December. Boo. Rubbish. Etc. But I did host Xmas Indiepop Singalong at my (well, my Landlord’s) house, which was magical and delightful in all sorts of ways. I even played my guitar and Tonieee carried THE BIG ORGAN downstairs, so there was some plastic ivory tinkling too.  Also sleigh bells and a cover of Low’s Just Like Christmas. Here’s Danielle from The Sweet Nothings at the aforementioned bash. Apologies for the blurry photo, it was a blurry sort of a night.

Danielle at the Xmas Popsingalong

Danielle at the Xmas Popsingalong.

I could have gone to a party last night but for a variety of reasons (not least the recent South Yorkshire Snowmaggedon) I stayed at home typing this. I’ve written a lot about the past on this blog (like here) and even though New Year’s Eve is just another day, really, I suppose it can put you in a reflective mood, if you’re so inclined, particularly if you’re one of life’s natural ruminators. So forgive me…

The last time I was alone on New Year’s Eve was in 2010. Living “separately” in what was just-about still my marital home, the long drawn-out decision to part finally made some months before, solicitors letters now pending. In separate rooms since forever but still aware of his presence in the room next door, there was definitely some yelling, something along the lines of “Just go to the pub, will you?” and more than likely an overdramatically slammed door. I tucked myself up in a bed that was far too big for me now, bringing in the year by watching Casino Royale on the laptop that I’m typing on now. You can always depend on Bond.

This New Year’s Eve is a much more joyous one and I’m much more happier Kelly that I have been, probably at any point of my life. Period. Part of this is time (all those cliches are cliches for a reason), part of this is Sheffield (don’t ever change you beautiful, beautiful city all grimy and Northern and witty and talented and pretty) but a lot of it is to do with Indiepop. And picking up a guitar. And having something to write a blog about. I think I’ve found where I need to be.

So if we’ve chatted at a gig, exchanged nods across a crowded bar, if I’ve listened to your music, booked train tickets and a hotel room to watch you play, danced at your disco, if you’ve listened to me swear as I try to master a strumming pattern, if I’ve bought your jewellery at a gig, read your blog, laughed at your tweets, snogged your face off, bought you a pint, discovered a band based on your recommendation, THANK YOU for making last year sparkly and good. I’m not a big fan of national anthems, but if Indiepop was a country, I reckon our anthem would be this.

Happy New Year! xx

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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!

Yesterday Dreaming

This post feels extremely bloated. I apologise for the lack of editing and for the self-indulgence.

Today, 5th June 2014, would have been my tenth wedding anniversary. In previous years these milestones have left me a bit wobbly but today, expecting trouble, I felt curiously okay. Divorce can be the emotional equivalent of having the shit kicked out of you and being left in an alleyway that stinks of piss. Eventually you stagger up and get back on your feet but your faith in people and your experience of the world is altered forever.

Three years ago, on the date of my seventh wedding anniversary – an actual anniversary in that case, since I was still going through the divorce process at that point – someone made me a mixtape. It was a lovely act of thoughtfulness and kindness at a time when I was struggling to keep myself afloat. After losing my home and my marriage, the tories decided I needed to lose my job as well and my mind hummed with the constant buzz of anxiety. A few months before, I had spent two hours sat in the Samaritans office, uncertain of how I could continue to put one foot in front of the other. Barely eating and resorting to self harm, I clung to any sign of hope that life could be okay again.

The majority of the songs on the mixtape were new to me but many of them seemed to have been written just for me in that way that good songs often do. I’ve listed them in a random order below. You may well be familiar with many of them but to me most of them came from this new world that I was just starting to navigate. In 1996 I was buying an album a week but after that – pretty much around the time I met the man I married – my collection had stalled and I’d been living in this curious world where I’d occasionally buy a CD to use as background music for a dinner that was punctuated by conversations about house prices and pensions. 1996-me would have been utterly perplexed by what I’d become. I remember how excited I felt when earlier in 2011, a man from Cleveland asked me what my Top 5 Singles of All Time were. It had been so long since anyone had cared about my opinion on music and I’d somehow managed to spend over a decade of my life with a man who didn’t know who Johnny Marr was.

Anyway, that mixtape in full (random order):

This Year – The Mountain Goats

Don’t Look At Me (I Don’t Like It) – The Lovely Eggs

Strange Fruit For David – The Wave Pictures

Eighties Fan – Camera Obscura

The Fear – Pulp

Never Here – Elastica

Roseability – Idlewild

Painting And Kissing – Hefner

I Lost You But I Found Country Music – ballboy

When Under Ether – PJ Harvey

Up Jumped The Devil  – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Lua – Bright Eyes

Come On Let’s Go – Broadcast

Roll Bus Roll – Jeffrey Lewis And The Junkyard

Bled White – Elliott Smith

If you’ve mainly been listening to background music for nearly a decade then hearing The Lovely Eggs for the first time is quite an experience! Pulp’s The Fear and Elastica’s Never Here seemed to want to remind me of the reality of what I had lost rather than the fantasy of married life that my brain had concocted up,  while the refrain of This Year contained a kernel of hope that things could be enjoyed whilst also being endured. Eighties Fan’s mix of melancholia and longing for love seemed pitch perfect for the time. Strange Fruit For David with its lines about marmalade and sculpture seemed to reference Baudrillard or at least reflected the new ideas and ways of thinking that I was being introduced to. Lua called to mind a time where just seeing the word “Grimsby” on the BBC weather map could reduce me to tears (now it just makes me smile). Painting and Kissing and I Lost You But I Found Country Music both feel eerily prophetic.  Roll Bus Roll became a gentle call to action.

Six months after receiving the mixtape, I was getting ready to move to Sheffield. I sometimes think that playing that mixtape must have been some sort of Indiepop Bat Signal to the North.

The last couple of years in Sheffield have been fucking ace. Not without challenges  – there’s nothing like three years of living alone to make you acutely aware of your own demons and peccadillos – but in the main they’ve been fucking ace. In two years I’ve gone to more gigs that I’d gone to in the previous twenty years combined. I’ve played at drunken Indiepop singalongs in pubs. I’ve danced at the best sticky disco in town*. I don’t want to think of an existence where I’d never seen The Sweet Nothings or The Mini Skips or Velodrome 2000. Or danced in my kitchen to Town Bike and Lardpony. And the thought of never having heard of Indietracks just breaks my heart. In short, 1996-me would approve.

Some people stagger out of the piss-filled alleyway of divorce. I’m slowly dancing my way out of it with sparkly trainers on my feet. I’ve stumbled and I’ve accidentally trodden on toes in the process but I’ve done my best to keep on moving because that’s all I can do.

I’ve long since lost my belief in a god – another casualty of 2010, I’m afraid – but twenty years of Anglicanism has a habit of sticking in your head. I’m reminded that Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. Or was it The Byrds? Either way, from now on I won’t be thinking of the 5th of June as the wedding anniversary of a failed marriage. I’ll be remembering it as the date that I first heard the mixtape that led me to Indiepop.

*yeah, this is probably a euphemism.

LostinIndiePop and 50% of The Sweet Nothings at Indietracks 2013

LostinIndiePop and 50% of The Sweet Nothings at Indietracks 2013. My Best Grown-Up Birthday Ever.

 

Sheffield Indiepop Invasion…The Mini Skips and The Sweet Nothings in Leeds 7 September 2013

What could be more exciting than your two favourite indiepop bands on the same line up, especially if one of the bands has been out of action for months due to the most dramatic incident involving a shower in the entire history of  popular culture since a resurrected Bobby Ewing reappeared to Pammy at the end of Season 9 of Dallas?

Nothing. That’s what. Eeeeeeeeeee!

Look, I’m going to have to make this quick. Lostinindiepoptowers is still on emergency internet following a house move and I’ve only just found my Colour Me Wednesday CD so I’ve been in a right grump for weeks.

So, those nice people of Don’t Falter invited all the Sheffields up to Baby Jupiter to share Sheffield’s special brand of indiepop loveliness with the good (or otherwise) people of Leeds. So far so bloody excellent.

The Mini Skips did not disappoint. The Mini Skips never disappoint. Their brand of good cop/bad cop stylings do that clever thing of getting my foot tapping and making me think at the same time. The Mini Skips were the first indiepop band that I saw live back in…oooh 2012….and for that they’ll always have a special place in my heart. I’ve already written about how clever I think their good cop/bad cop approach is. And this set highlighted it perfectly. Whether they’re covering ‘Allo Darlin’s Dreaming or performing their own ace songs like Advice for New Lovers, Mark and Vinnie’s contrasting yet complementary vocal stylings just work together so beautifully. Can I make a special mention of their new(ish) song Monster Remains? (Of course you can, it’s your bloody blog – Ed.) (You’re the writer as well as the Ed. Stop being so flippin’ postmodern or sumthink – Kelly) I can’t decide if it’s the chord choice after the second line or the haunting refrain “Sometimes when passion dies poison is all that remains” that gives me goose bumps and a lump in my throat every time I hear it. Anyway I was humming it on the streets of Sheffield for weeks after the gig.  Also, the handing over of the plectrum during Advice for New Lovers always makes me think that it is some sort of secret indiepop sign. Is there a masonic lodge for indiepop kids? I dunno but I’m guessing the uniform is a combination of cardigan and stripy top.

The Mini Skips at Don't Falter

The Mini Skips at Don’t Falter. Phone camera set to sports setting in an attempt to capture hand claps.

Oh! The Sweet Nothings! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…actually let’s not else they might take out a collective restraining order against me.  Oh look – NEW KEYBOARD PLAYER ALERT! Danielle also of The 10p Mixes to be precise. She does wooshy keyboards and harmonies and stylishness. In short, she is my new indiepop crush. It’s been at least five minutes since my last one. Enjoy it while it lasts Cope. I’m as fickle as fuck.

The short set time deprived Leeds of OFFICIAL PETE GREEN AUDIENCE BANTER, which was a shame, particularly as it forced me to do an interior monologue of Greenisms instead. And mine weren’t as good (I can’t do a Grimsby accent). The lack of banter did focus the mind on the tunes and I also became more aware of the individual contributions of the band members. I’d somehow missed Dan’s clever bass bit and that thumping drum intro before now. That seems stupidly remiss of me. A storming set included old favourites like She’s an Accountant and also introduced us to the Nothings latest song The World is Wrong. I haven’t got a copy of the lyrics sheet but I strongly suspect this song encapsulates everything I think about Indiepop and the world and stuff. Let’s have the Nothings on the Saturday at next year’s Indietracks. It’ll be like the best birthday present ever. Make it so, Pop People.

(3/4s of) The Sweet Nothings at Don't Falter

(3/4s of) The Sweet Nothings at Don’t Falter

We couldn’t stay for dancing but had a singalong in the car on the way home. Thanks Don’t Falter for an ace night! I’ll be back to unleash my indiekid shuffle in Baby Jupiter soon.

(Quick note to all indiepop people that I end up blogging about. My cameraphone is a bit shit so I have to take around 15 photos and blind you with my flash in order to get one usable photo. Please don’t sue me and instead consider wearing sunglasses for the first half of any your performances that I attend) (Also apologies to Tim and Daniel minus Norbert as my photos of you both were far too blurry)

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.

Little Owl One, Rutland Arms, 29th June 2013

Little Owl 29:06:13

The light filtered through the blinds of  the upstairs windows of the Rutland Arms and shone onto the dansettes like it was some sort of Indiepop heaven. And for a few hours, it was. My Little Owl is a new indiepop venture for popkids Vinnie and Markie (aka The Mini Skips) and this inaugural gig was a cracker.

Wistful

First up was Pete Green, perennial pop purveyor of this parish. You know the one: stripy tops, clever lyrics, guitar held together with stickers (now including Grimbsy’s area dialling code). As the set progressed Pete navigated some deft changes in style and tone from the singalong, crowd-pleasing Best British Band Supported by Shockwaves opener and a neat cover of Martin Solveig’s Hello, to more reflective material from his new album, The Glass Delusion. Pilot Light is a beautiful song and a fine example of  his oft-deployed catchy chorus/clever lyrics combo. Pete refers to his more reflective stuff  as “sparklegloom” but I prefer fellow Little Owl One performer Daniel’s observation of “knockout w(h)ist”

John T. Angle was a new act for me and her set was a treat. Indiepop is full of the kind of voices that you would trade your right arm for and her voice definitely falls into this category (sadly my right arm is very useful for things like lifting alcoholic beverages so I’m stuck with my unremarkable tonsils for now). By the end of her set there was a tear in my eye. I hope we’ll see her again at future gigs in Sheff.

More wistful? You decide.

I’m fairly certain that The French Defence is the first indiepop act that I saw live, in the very same venue. If you have the Indietracks compliation album (and if not, why not?) you’ll be familiar with its lovely opening number If You Still Want Him and yes, the rest of The French Defence’s set is that good, if erring a little more on the side of wistful. Indeed, it was mooted at one point that he’d managed to out-wist Pete Green. To be honest, it was too difficult to call, so I vote that the pair of them do some sort of cardigans-at-dawn, wist off outside the merch tent at Indietracks to settle this vital matter of indiepop importance.

Having missed most of their set at Going Up The Country due to my friend’s child need to eat food and play some sort of cricket game app on his mother’s phone, I was pleased to get another chance to watch The Sunbathers. Despite their base in the land-locked East Midlands, their devotion to retaining a seaside vibe makes it hard not to be uplifted. One of the joys of indiepop is the more than occassional appearance of a melodica and The Sunbathers generated several envious glances as they produced not one but two of these marvellous instruments. Anyway, their set was so lovely that I listened intently and let my chip butty go cold.

A short interval treated us to Tonieeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’s Wheels of Steel and where else but in an indie pop gig would you hear such forgotten gems as track seven from the acclaimed album Banjo Party Time?

Post-interval and further treats were still to be unleashed. The Mini Skips were a delight, as ever. Mark and Vinnie’s voices work so beautifully together and their cover of the Dean Friedmann classic Lucky Stars is always something to look forward to. New material such as Evil/Shy complements Advice for New Lovers as they deliver their Good Cop/Bad Cop take on romance. Lyrically, bad cop always wins for me. Their sets always leave me with a big soppy grin on face and that night was no exception.

Despite Norbert the Bear’s strop (artistic differences?), Daniel and Norbert Dentressangle played a blinder. As ever, the set was enhanced by Daniel’s superbly deadpan wit. World of Sandwiches – surely the only song about falling in love with one’s future spouse that mentions a delicatessen counter – is joyfully memorable to the point where after only one listen you’re guaranteed to hum it every single time you set foot in a sandwich emporium. Despite, or probably precisely because of its title, the song is wonderfully heartfelt and, like indiepop itself, makes you believe the world can occassionally be good.

The Bees Niece, who hail from Norway via Salford, had a unique sound, which entirely suited the venue and the hour. Employing a range of instruments (including a saw) and influences (British weather, Socialism, Swahili) they deliver something rather magical, poetic and witty. They also delivered possibly my favourite lyric of the night “I didn’t occupy Palestine and neither did my bike” from Stolen Bike. I hope I get a chance to see them again in Sheff soon.

The night’s headliner, Kirsty McGee, delivered a set that was both intimate and powerful in its delivery. Her beautiful song Sandman was featured in the recent Danny Boyle film Trance. Listening to live music in such a small venue can be incredibly moving and such was the haunting power of Kirsty’s voice, I can honestly report that I was in tears for most of it. Sometimes such moments in life are necessary and to cry to such beautiful sounds can feel like a honour.

All in all, a wonderful night. Thanks My Little Owl.

Next up, a review of Macho Music Is Stupid’s recent definitely-nothing-to-do-with-Tramlines-for-legal-purposes frankly stonking all dayer. Hopefully, by which time, I will have discovered how to edit. This post has been lonnnng. Thanks for sticking with it.