A summation of an event as bewitching as Indietracks isn’t one that can easily fit inside the confines of a typical festival analysis. To remove any emotional attachment from a recounting of it is akin to only telling half of a story, and an accurate delineation of it shouldn’t be a mere review; it should be a scrapbook.
As highlights such as the penultimate set of the entire weekend, that of Martha, cannot be stripped from their context, even if they would be highlights without it. Bestowing a clichéd rock-journalist title upon a band feels a little uncouth but this four-piece from Pity Me (near Durham) has arguably become the biggest cult indie-pop band in the country. Alongside being known to be one of the best live bands, they are noted for their commentary on patriarchy and support of veganism. The band are never anything less than a wonder to behold when playing live, yet in-front of hundreds of devotees at the festival the very spirit of Martha’s sugar-rush pop-punk is more joyous and vital than ever.
Many attendees have seen them play songs like ‘1997, Passing In The Hallway’ and ‘Present, Tense’ in the same order several or even dozens of times, but there isn’t a trace of it on the faces of the audience. 95% know and shout every word and the culmination of the quartet’s journey to being festival headliners in all but billing order is a celebration for both the band and their fans.
A celebration that follows the culmination of many other journeys. The weekender has the highest ratio of audience members who go on to play of any festival, and the community spirit that emanates throughout the festival year-after-year sees these punters-turn-pros celebrated in a manner that they wouldn’t be anywhere else. It also sees more established artists return to play quietly announced acoustic sets or merely take in the weekend’s delights, with Nottingham’s Alexander Christopher Hale and Lost Pets here representing the former and The Popguns representing the latter, with the husband-wife duo core of the band bringing their daughter along to provide backing vocals for a short, sweet take on their melodic jangle pop.
There are many other returns scattered across the weekend and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart‘s headline set on the Saturday feels like a real homecoming. It is also a perfect example of the magic of Indietracks, where time seems to stand still. It is six years since the band came from nowhere (or more accurately New York City) to become indiepop darlings but the dazzling C86 stylings of their self-titled debut LP sounds as fresh as it did in 2009 on the festival’s main stage, even if the band’s personnel is unrecognisable from their last performance at the Midland Railway Centre in 2010, outside of project spearhead Kip Berman. Like Martha, and indeed the majority of the bands scattered across the line-up, it truly feels like Indietracks is the best stage for them.
There are beginnings as well as culminations, and many of these first steps are highlights of the festival too. Saturday’s performance of London quartet Desperate Journalist – whose rousing post-punk is at the louder end of the Indietracks scale – showcases a band with the world at their feet. Their entrancing, confident performance has their audience enraptured. It has the feel of a band that will soon rise to the top of the festival’s bill, like Martha and others before them.
Not that such crowd reaction is exclusive to the aforementioned artists. It often touches on reverential and is never less than respectful, also reflected in a general respect for the festival’s surroundings and people attending the event. From adherence to recycling or donations to the railway museum and owl sanctuary found within its confines, to the clear statement advertising the festival as a safe space from harassment and discrimination, Indietracks feels more like a community of like-minded people than simply a giant party.
It is due to this shared respect and over-arching community spirit that Indietracks can offer activities such as riding steam trains and watching aluminium cans being crushed by a steam roller and still feel essential. It can offer a line-up featuring a great number of bands returning to perform for the second or third time without feeling the least bit tired. Whether 2015’s edition of Indietracks was the best of its nine year existence is irrelevant, as it is immeasurable. It was another edition, and that is all that matters.
Indietracks was held at the Midland Railway Centre in the heart of the Derbyshire countryside from 24th to 26th July 2015