Indietracks – Midland Railway, Butterley – Friday 26th–Sunday 28th July 2019
Remarkably this was the first time I’ve attended an entire festival. So what attracted us to a rather sodden Derbyshire railway in 2019?
A strong core of acts that we both like was a good starting point but the fact that the location was a decent fit with our other holiday plans swayed the final decision. We did not, however, go for the full festival experience by camping. Staying in a hotel turned out to be a sensible decision, given the weather.
With one of the two main stages indoors, the weather wasn’t quite as much of a factor as we might have feared. Certainly standing in the pissing rain isn’t the best way to experience a band for the first time but we were really only driven indoors on one occasion (although we did spend a chunk of the Saturday indoors for different reasons).
In terms of the music, I’m quite proud of the fact that we saw both the first band (Peaness) and the last (Kero Kero Bonito).
Musically the focus at Indietracks is very much on indie guitars so that even if all shades are represented, we didn’t get anything like the musical variety that we got in one day at Doune. This had the benefit of meaning that there was no-one we saw all weekend that we really disliked but also reduced the chances of being blown away by a favourite new band.
All the bands that we’d come to see though delivered. Pride of place should go to the Spook School on their last appearance at a festival that has supported them throughout their time as a band. This was also our last chance to see them since their farewell show clashes with the Broken Chanter show in Dundee. The last two albums were heavily featured in an emotional set but there was still to squeeze in the odd oldie (‘Matt Damon’) the odd cover and some guests. Oh, and plenty of balloons.
They could easily have played an encore but there was no better way to finish than with ‘Try To Be Hopeful’. A perfect way to sign off.
Offstage, the Spooks were ubiquitous throughout the weekend, everywhere we went we seemed to see at least one of them – to the extent that it almost seemed that they were using doubles as a publicity stunt!
Both Randolph’s Leap and Withered Hand are no strangers to this tiny corner of the internet but their full band sets were as good as we’d any right to expect albeit with slightly different approaches. [Randolph’s Leap photo set]
The Leap included several new songs as the setlist continues to evolve but they still managed to sound as euphoric as we’d seen them.
Although Dan has a new set of songs in the works, his set was a best of with the odd flourish (Malcolm “Bendrix’s” extended solo at the end of ‘ California’ for example). But for a band playing their second show of the year, they were phenomenal. Actually scratch that. They were simply phenomenal.
It was great too that there was a decent Scottish contingent at the front for both performances.
Big Joanie were sandwiched between the Leap and the Spooks and originally scheduled partially against Desperate Journalist. DJ’s unfortunate withdrawal due to an injury to the drummer was a big disappointment for me as I’d not seen them before but it did at least mean that we could see the whole of Big Joanie’s set.
On the back of a lot of touring, with Estella admitting that they were tired, they were slightly disjointed early on. But they quickly found their stride, particularly after they started speaking to the audience and the closing run from ‘Cranes In The Sky’, through to ‘No Scrubs’ and ‘Fall Asleep’ was phenomenal. (And they really need to record their cover of ‘Cranes’).
There’s loads of reasons why Big Joanie are an important band but the best is also the simplest – that’s just how good they are.
And that was the (reduced) core of bands we’d gone to see. Curiously one of the other stand-outs was a long running band that we really shouldn’t have discovered for the firs time in Derbyshire! Bis are a band that I knew of but wasn’t sure I’d consciously heard much of their music. Their set was supposedly a mix of “all the hits” and some new but the stand-out was the opening ‘Sound of a Heartbreak’ the opening song on their current LP. Suffice to say they were good enough that I purchased the album on returning home. [Bis photo set]
Witching Waves perhaps might have had the same impact but they were the only act that we missed part of due to the weather. Even without bassist Estella (delayed presumably by Joanie’s schedule) they were impressive and apparently were even better once she did arrive.
Opening act Peaness were far gentler but did a good job of opening the festival on the Friday whilst in a not dissimilar vein Seazoo also impressed on the Outdoor Stage. The two acts that showed something I might be interested (and both definitely operating at least partially in shoegaze territory) were and the BVs.
A mention too for young punks Cheerbleederz and Fresh who shared a signer if not sartorial taste. [Cheerbleederz/Fresh photo set]
A final mention has to go to Squiggles – the new superhero project of Niall from Spook School. Opting the Outdoor Stage on the Sunday, the short set was actually their live debut and their glam punk racket is definitely worth keeping an eye out for in coming months.
Perhaps with a little better preparation we could have picked up on some of the acts in the tiny Church venue but without any foreknowledge it didn’t seem worth missing two bands to see just one, since you needed to queue to get in. The Train Stage never really appealed beyond a certain novelty value.
All things considered it was a good weekend with a real bonus that there were a number of familiar faces to bump into throughout the weekend.
Would we go again? I’m not sure but if the stars aligned properly then it’s certainly a possibility.
A gallery of all the acts we saw over the weekend …
The title of this piece is a quote from Mr Adam Ross of Randolph’s Leap who also offered the gem, “If you’re struggling to understand us, we’re from a country in the north of Europe”