Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Indietracks: Deus Lo Volt!

As you will recall, Indietracks is the festival that takes place in the Midlands Railway Centre, which you will find in Butterley in Derbyshire. As well as trains and real ale, the punters also get served up a selection of bands from the indiepop end of the musical spectrum.

It would have to be accepted that the musical palette at Indietracks is a bit more restricted than at most other festivals. The centre of musical gravity here tends very much towards earnest white people playing guitar driven tunes with some vague approximation to pop music. If this is anathema to you then do not go to Indietracks – you are not going to encounter Konono No. 1 or Omar Souleyman chugging away on one of the smaller stages. You would also struggle to find anything that rocks out or that owes anything to the electronic dance music or hip-hop traditions. That is not to say that Indietracks is just a festival for a succession of Field Mice tribute acts, as there are people here who push the musical envelope somewhat, but there are very pronounced limits to how far the envelope can be pushed.

As you might have picked up from the previous, my own relationship with Indietracks is somewhat ambivalent. I cannot in all honesty describe myself as a big indiepop fan. At festivals I would prefer to encounter music that was a bit more innovative and challenging. So, what was I doing at Indietracks? Well, the festival has a couple of things going for it. First of all, it is a small, human-scale affair. I do like the massiveness of something like Glastonbury, but there is a lot to be said for a festival where it takes less than five minutes to move between the stages, where you recognise a significant proportion of the other attendees by the end of the weekend*. Indietracks is also something of a wanker-free zone – you do not really get trend people or beered-up twunts wandering around in jester hats looking for their hole or generally being messy.

The railway setting, meanwhile, adds a frisson of mechanical excitement, and the lashings of real ale that Indietracks serves up also make for a fun event. And in fairness, there is always some actually good music to be had at Indietracks, once you accept that none of Acid Mothers Temple, Omar Souleyman or Scooter will ever be asked to play. And maybe I should stop apologising for the music at the festival – it is like I have adopted the apologetic bedwetter mindset or something. Be indie and be proud, that's what I say.

One thing we did this year that greatly enhanced our enjoyment was that we camped at the nearby Golden Valley campsite outside Alfreton. This meant that we avoided hour-long bus journeys between Nottingham and the festival and did not have to run off to catch the last bus instead of enjoying the later bands and ensuing discos. For someone whose only adult experience of camping is Glastonbury, the campsite was astonishing – it had proper toilets and showers and stuff like that! Plus there were no crazy Scots mentalists blasting out Gabba all through the night in the next tent. Truly amazing.

Come back soon for discussion of some Indietracks musical performances.

An inuit panda production

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*Some of these became figures of fascination – like Indie Tom Ewing or the Grebo guy here for his second year on the trot. The latter won the prize for least indie person at the festival. I kept wondering what his story was. Maybe he was under the mistaken impression that Turbonegro or a reformed Prolapse were going to be the surprise headliners. The recent contestant on Mastermind whose specialist subject was Belle & Sebastian was another Indietracks face.

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