We awake early on Sunday morning in a warm, near airless tent, bathed in warm, watery sunlight, perfect conditions for the day ahead, safe in the knowledge the weather forecasters are way off the mark we close our eyes and drift back to sleep. Sadly by the time we reawaken it’s chucking it down.
The most commonly used phrase of the day is surely, “oh well, we can’t do anything about it” followed by a swift tut and then cowering in something that looks a bit like shelter. Later in the day the rain would become too much for the Outdoor stage, the finale of the festival would sadly not take place watching the sun set from the hill that races away from the main stage, but in the confines of the former Engine shed that is the Indoor stage. On the plus side at least Indietracks has the option of an indoor stage; it’s not ideal, but oh well we can’t do anything about it.
Luckily, the majority of the acts we wanted to catch on the Sunday were set to be indoors anyway, including the first band of the day Cambridge’s Violet Woods. The five-piece deal in a brand of jangling psychedelica, heavy on bass, twelve-string guitars and inappropriate sunglasses. Whilst there are slight hints of their fellow modern-psych bands, the likes of Hookworms or The Lucid Dreams spring to mind, Violet Woods deal in a more sun-drenched variety, shades of the more expansive work of The Byrds or even the Americana of Horse Thief. They throw in the odd fairly poppy chorus, particularly on Here which is oddly reminiscent of The Vaselines, and on excellent single Dancer, dedicated here to Fever Dream. However, for the most part Violet Woods and Indietracks aren’t the most obvious of sonic matches. None the less their set is really rather great, and by the time they get through an excellent cover of Serge Gainsbourg and closing track, the epic The River, they’ve won over any doubters.
One of the often quoted joys of Indietracks is checking out one of the tiny, intimate shows that take place on an actual steam train. Last year that meant almost dying of heat exhaustion watching Lonely Tourist, but this year it’s an all together more pleasant setting to watch the delightful Jen Schande. It’s a little cramped, and very steamy, but for sheer novelty value it’s definitely worth watching one of these entirely unique sets. Jen herself put it best as probably, “the coolest thing I have even seen in my whole life.” Jen is delightful company, a very laid back character she quips about the weather, “I’m from California, this is my idea of hell” and how in planning for the set she had thought she should tap into the history of Americana and stream trains, but she didn’t. It’s thoroughly pleasant however, there’s some music thrown in as well of course. Her songs are gentle, sad folk numbers, her voice a gentle whisp with a strong West-Coast American accent that adds a slight grungey feel to the proceedings; the likes of Waxahatchee spring to mind, only with a slightly more world wise view. By the time she rolls around to an excellent cover of American Girl by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, it’s a shame that we’re pulling back into the station, and only partly because it means going back outside.
We stick to the small stages for quite a while heading over to the Church Stage to check out an excellent run of bands, starting with the folk-stylings of Ralegh Long. He takes the stage sat at a keyboard and joined by legendary pedal-steel player Jack Hayter, his warm keyboard tones perfectly matched by the beautiful hum of slide brushing on guitar strings. They come across as very serious musicians, everything delivered with a sense of craftsmanship and care. It’s perfect Sunday afternoon listening really, an oasis of pastoral calm. Latterly he’s joined by A Little Orchestra, the Indie-Pop ensemble. Their initial slightly nervous glances prove unnecessary as they add a rich Van Dyke Parks like orchestral feel to proceedings. It could possibly do with a little more grit and slightly less references to leaves and weather, but it’s certainly an enjoyable listen and a nice shift in tempo.
Up next is the entirely different prospect of Junk. The York based band are usually a trio, sadly glandular fever has left them performing as a reduced two piece, and leaving vocalist Estella without her usual harmonising partner. Estella also seems to be suffering her own vocal issues given the tell tale sign of regular sips of Orange juice. It’s a real shame as their songs have a nice slacker pop vibe, just on this day they’re a little painful to listen to, a band to watch on another occasion we’re afraid.
They’re followed by something of a DIY supergroup. Grubs are a Bristol based trio consisting of guitarists Roxy of Two White Cranes and Owen of Joanna Gruesome as well as drummer Jake. Their set is a rather odd affair, they seem unrehearsed to the point of not knowing how to play half their songs and the stage banter is aimed largely at their large audience of friends in the first few roads. That said,the songs are wonderful to the point that you’re not really bothered by the slight lack of professionalism. Owen’s guitar work in particular is fantastic, floating effortlessly from rhythmic chords to complex riffs. Their sound has a thrashy-garage feel and whilst they might not have quite worked out exactly what they’re doing with it yet, they feel fresh and exciting, With all the talent in the band they could be brilliant, as they sing in one song, “I am a work in progress” and one worth keeping an eye on.
Euros Childs is the first of the acts who were meant to be outside but end up indoors, so perhaps unsurprisingly they’re in a bit of a rush setting up. The move actually works well as with bad weather and the looming prospect of work, audience numbers have dwindled a little by this point. That said, everyone still at the site seems to be flocking to see Euros anyway. The former Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci man has been releasing solo albums for the best part of a decade now, and whilst not quite a household name listening to this set there’s plenty of moments when you realise how many Euros Child’s songs you do actually know. Euros’ sound is pitched somewhere between a Welsh Ben Folds and the strand of odd-ball pop perfected by the likes of Super Furry Animals and The Bees. With a new album on the way in October, there’s plenty of new songs thrown in, the single Fruit and Veg has a slight hint of The Divine Comedy, whilst elsewhere there’s nods to Dear Catastrophe and Waitress-era Belle and Sebastian. Euros closes on the double header of the Nico-sounding 6-Music favourite Spin That Girl Around and the excellent Roogie Boogie, a slightly rushed but ultimately triumphant set, from one of the most talented musicians and superb singers of the weekend.
The success of Pity Me, Durham four piece Martha is one of those beautiful surprises music throws up sometimes. With little press coverage and minimal radio play they seem to somehow be thriving, their fan base growing rapidly, their shows selling out, their festival sets getting increasingly late in the day! They were set to headline the Indoor stage tonight but with The Go! Team moving inside they’re relegated one place; not to worry because on the plus side the place is absolutely packed, and the vast majority seem like they wouldn’t have missed this set for the world.
Drummer Nathan introduces the band, “they say you only play Indietracks twice in your career. Once on the way up and once on the way back, Hello we’re Martha and it’s a pleasure to be back.” Their tongue in cheek, egoless charm shines through throughout. They crash straight into 1978, Smiling Politely, the sound briefly threatens to be a disaster in the making, the level of the vocals all over the place, meaning that their usually outstanding vocal interplay lost. Thankfully by the end of second track, 1997 Passing In The Hallway, the problems have evaporated, someone even seems to have turned the lights on so we can see what’s going on, and see the mix of slightly bemused looks the band are shooting one another, all looking slightly gobsmacked at the sheer volume of the audience.
Recent single Present Tense receives a rapturous reception, the crowd a bouncing mass of singing bodies, at times a little uncomfortably over excited, but always well intentioned. The set is largely lifted from their Fortuna Pop debut album Courting Strong, but they also take this opportunity to road test some new material, recently shared track The Historian is a particular triumph, faster, noisier and slicker than their previous material is bodes well for their next move.
Martha are a fascinating band to watch, four entirely diverse characters,: guitarists JC and Daniel seems to love every second of the adulation, wide eyed grins fixed to their face, Nathan a slightly nervous blur of drums, whilst in the middle of all the punk-thrashing stands Naomi, the near stationary and tiny bassist, the calm eye of this perfect storm.
For some reason halfway through they’re joined by Niall from The Spook School, who proceeds to run through an acapella, shirt-rippingly emotive version of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, no we’re not entirely sure why this happened either. Luckily they quickly roar back into gear, they run through a superb version of Standing Where It All Began, an excellent new dancing song dedicated to Chrissy Barnacle, and the “love song, sort of” that is Gretna Green.
You feel the audience would have been happy if they’d just played on and on and on, but sadly all things must draw towards a close. Martha continue with Sleeping Beauty, their ode to being who you want to be, crowd-favourite 1967, I Miss You I’m Lonely and finally draw to a close on a riotous version of their catchiest song, Bubble In My Bloodstream, and that sadly is that. They turn the lights onto the audience, as if they’re bloody Coldplay at Glastonbury, and look genuinely amazed and humbled that this many people have turned up. With the clapping and cheering still ringing, Nathan makes his way to the front of the stage and carries out a very tentative stage-dive, looking slightly terrified back in the direction of his bandmates who with all the confidence of people who’ve never done this before, make the decision to join him atop the audience: all four members are lifted high upon the adoring crowd. Of course they then have to make the quick dash back onto stage to remove their gear before the headline act comes on, but for those thirty seconds, they are briefly the kings and queens of Indietracks: the all conquering heroes who somehow wrote an album that resonates with so many people, and it couldn’t have happened to a more likeable, or important group of songwriters.
This is where our Indietracks journey draws to a close. We take a final pint and sit on the train carriage that doubles up as a bar, the sound of The Go! Team are ringing out across the site from a once more jam-packed indoor stage, but they’re for another time, tonight we soak up the atmosphere of Indietracks, think of the people who make this possible, and the audiences who arrive and make it so special. We also think about whether our tent is likely to have washed away or not, and how we’re going to get a large bagful of vinyl down a dark country lane in the pouring rain, perhaps practicality does always win out in the end, but Indietracks is for the dreamers. There’s barely a professional musician performing all weekend, but from the dedication and effort on show you realise that in the modern world, it’s not about making it, it’s about making memories, and sets like those by Martha, Chorusgirl and The Wave Pictures will live long in the memory.
As Martha themselves put it, “same time next year, I’ll meet you here” we certainly hope so Indietracks.
All photos courtesy of Elizabeth Corker (@VioletBeeHive)