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

Advertisements

On Nottingham and Indiepop and Belonging

At the start of this month I went to the Nottingham Pop Alldayer, my first visit to one of the mainstays of the indiepop calendar. I love how I’m part of a scene that has regular big events that punctuate the year with pop. No matter how tedious or difficult your everyday existence, you never have to wait very long until the next time you’re standing in a room watching bands that you love with people that you love. Become part of indiepop and you’re always safe in the knowledge that you’re never more than nine weeks away from a fresh opportunity to apply glitter.

Nottingham was great. Must admit I’d had concerns over the venue. Too hot, I’d heard. Poor ventilation, said another. Not phrases that fill someone who experiences regular migraine attacks with any confidence that they’d reach the end of the evening without keeling over, losing speech or experiencing the fleeting paralysis that my tiny brain can achieve all without the aid of strong drink. As it was, my fears were unfounded and I had a great time.

Knowing that I can no longer stand up for twelve hours, I reluctantly opted not to join everyone for pretty much all of the first half of pop fun. And whilst I was sad to miss City Yelps, The Hobbes Fanclub (I’d caught their album launch last month and they were ace), The Fireworks, Night Flowers, Manhattan Love Suicides, and later, When Nalda Became Punk, I knew I’d potentially saved my friends the hassle of having to look after a poorly me later in the evening. With the rest of the Sheffields that I’d arrived with now safely ensconced in the venue, I had some time to explore. The Maze is in an interesting part of Nottingham and a few doors down from the venue was a lovely real ale pub that did superb veggie food. Not far away from the lovely real ale pub was a gorgeous second hand bookshop (complete with authentic 1930s till), so mashed potato, John Donne and a disorganised hotel check in provided the entertainment until I arrived late afternoon to catch the majority of  the noisy tuneful aceness supplied by Slum of Legs.

Another trip for delicious veggie food later, I was back to watch The Spook School. Bloody hell, I love The Spook School. Niall’s between song banter is a delight (I wonder if he’s seen Peter Cook’s Revolver…) and for other bands it might upstage the music but this is The Spook School and their quality catchy tunes refuse to be in anything other than the limelight. They can do light and shade with the best of them, too. The moment of hush in the audience when Nye sang a song so clearly rooted in personal experience was both breathtaking and humbling. I hope that my own writing and creative endeavours can match that level of emotional honesty. As a band, their songs don’t half stay with you and five days later you find yourself singing I am bigger than a hexadecimal to the bemusement of a South Yorkshire pensioner, as you select a “reduced for quick sale” loaf in Asda.

Oh, Milky Wimpshake! It occurred to me during their set that if I stood any closer to Pete Dale I’d either a) be on stage with him or b) be issued with a restraining order. The mighty Wimpshake have been my post Indietracks soundtrack having purchased Popshaped from the merch tent (remember I’m really new to Indiepop so I have lots to catch up on). Bus journeys to work have been vastly improved by listening to Hackney and Cheque Card over the past few months. This was only my second live Wimpshake experience. I want more. If The Sweet Nothings didn’t exist (let’s not imagine this) I’m fairly certain Milky Wimpshake would be my favourites. Or would that be The Mini Skips? Or perhaps Lardpony? Or The Swapsies. Oh, you’re all my favourites. Especially if you’re the Nothings.

The School gave us that bit of Indiepop that is all 60s harmonies and melodies and loveliness and glock. Music that if you close your eyes transports you back in time into a world of Dansettes, pretty frocks, beautifully applied eyeliner, boys with ace haircuts and permanent sunshine. Or Indietracks, as we like to call it.

During The School, the headline acts started to arrive. You can tell they are the headline acts because the haircuts become more expensive.  I faintly recall that back in mists of time I may have woken up in Spearmint T-Shirt that was not my own. Scandalous! They played some new stuff and this was when their set came alive. I like watching how bands interact when they’re playing newer material. Observing the freshness and urgency of delivery can be just as fun as hearing an old favourite.

Topping the bill were The Lovely Eggs. During their set I committed the ultimate act of indiepop treason. Yes. I sat down during The Lovely Eggs. If there ever was a band you’re supposed to enjoy standing up it is The Lovely Eggs. Look, I was still doing the sausage roll thumb hand aloft, I was just giving my feet a rest at the same time.

The bands were ace, so was the jewellery stall and the record stall. But even acer than the bands was catching up with everyone. You all feel like family now. Even those of you whose names I don’t know yet feel like the distant cousins whose presence at a wedding feels rather comforting. If this awkward only child has ever belonged anywhere it is here: Indiepop.

Thanks to all the Nottingham pop organisers, you’re all heroes in my book (The Bumper Lost in Indiepop Annual 2015).

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!

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…

 

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)