There’s more than few sore heads and bleary eyes wandering around the Indietracks site as Saturday’s programming gets underway, but many of the most exciting sets of the day are kicking of early.
We’re at the indoor stage for the remarkably fresh-face looking Dublin-quartet, Pillow Queens. There’s a lot of buzz around the band currently and it’s instantly very obvious why. They deal in the tuneful end of alt-pop with a good blast of punk drive and guitar fuzz thrown into the mix. Bringing to mind the gorgeous tight harmonies of Tuff Love, all four members sing, and never put a single note out-of-place. Fans of Diet Cig or Forth Wanderers, we think we’ve just heard your new favourite band.
From there it’s time to deal with the first painful clash of the weekend. We take in a couple of songs from excellent Glaswegians, The Pooches, on the main stage – imagine the classic indie-pop of Belle & Sebastian melding with the more lo-fi jangle of Veronica Falls – before heading indoors for Crumbs. The Leeds-based post-punks, who just one day earlier released their stunning debut album Mind Yr Manners via Everything Sucks, arrive on stage to a crowd of hardly anyone. Thankfully two or three songs in they’ve got a sizeable audience, and they’ve got them all dancing to their twitchy-pop stylings. There’s highlights throughout; the Hefner-like Stockport Syndrome, a new track that sounds like The Rapture covering Joy Division, and an excellent cover of Bush Tetras track, Too Many Creeps are all superb. Best of all though is album and set closer, Hankie Herbcock; singer Ruth, an always captivating presence, becomes a towering inferno of anger, as she repeatedly yells, “what you’re saying is her life doesn’t matter”, atop a rapid-fire drum beat and stunningly good bass-line. Despite an early slot, they’re the band of the day.
The second horrible clash of the day means we miss all of TeenCanteen’s set, but do swing by the church to catch excellent Oxford-based trio, Rainbow Reservoir. The Odd Box Records signed act pack out the stage for an eclectic set that goes from distorted sub three-minute punk-songs, through to Jeffrey Lewis-like anti-folk, and in the quieter moments more than a touch of Eels.
It’s a short dash to a main-stage double header courtesy of the contrasting pairing of Peaness and Shopping. The pairing of Indietracks and Chester-trio Peaness is surely a match made in heaven? Slick, charming and sounding absolutely wonderful; they deal in effortless harmonies, gorgeous melodies and a slick pop-driven sheen with just the right amount of edginess – future headliners? We’d put money on it.
One of the weekend’s largest crowds gather to watch Shopping, one of the many projects of Sacred Paws and Trash Kit member, Rachel Aggs. They deal in a blend of winningly angular post-punk, nodding to the likes of Television or The Slits, as well as more modern acts like DRINKS. Whilst they’re a decent prospect on record, live they truly come to life, all three members are a joy to watch, natural performers, it’s frankly impossible not to smile and/or dance while watching them.
It’s over to the church next for the ever intriguing Garden Centre. Their ever-revolving line-up see’s charming songwriter Max, joined by a four-piece band, and it’s probably the most settled and together we’ve ever heard them sound. As ever, Garden Centre are as much worth watching for the between song patter as the music, today’s revelation coming with the fact Max used to be a train driver, noting, “it’s as if this festival was designed by a team of scientists who know me”. Musically they’re excellent, full of energy and with enough hooks that lodge into your brain and refuse to let go.
With Martha playing, it’s perhaps no surprise that one of the guests performing a surprise set in the merch tent are Onsind. The duo run through the finest cuts of their political-meets-personal acoustic folk-punk. Whether rallying against austerity, the treatment of immigrants or depression, their demands for a better world are never short of inspiring. They’ve got a new album on the way later this year, and it’s an unequivocal joy to have them back.
After briefly dropping into the Indoor Stage to catch an excellent finale to The Hayman Kupa Band set it’s over to the main stage for Frankie Cosmos. Of all the acts performing this weekend, Frankie Cosmos arguably has one of the largest profiles. The project of New York bedroom-popster turned indie-pop royalty, Greta Kline, is something of a coup for the festival reflected in a huge turnout. It’s a highly competent set, but if we’re completely honest it’s not hugely engaging. Easy to admire certainly, but it doesn’t ignite any great fire in the belly.
Closing proceedings over on the indoor stage, are Indietracks veterans Joanna Gruesome. The band who’ve released two excellent, but very short albums, on Fortuna Pop are a little late coming on, but arrive in a blur of thrashing guitars and wailing vocals. Sonically they seem to have done a decent job of replacing sadly departed lead-singer Alanna McArdle; the combination of Rachel from Flowers and Eilidh from Breakfast Muff recreating the sweet melodies and angry, guttural howls. What they haven’t replaced is the stage presence, Alanna was the focus for so much of their tense, anxious energy, and without that central figure they feel like a band at a cross roads. The potential remains that with the addition of more new material they could become a great band again, but equally it wouldn’t be a surprise if they all moved on to new projects.
The Wedding Present are closing proceedings on the main stage, and a huge amount of people seem to have come largely to see that, we instead let it drift over us from the confines of the train bar and prepare ourselves for the upcoming Bum Notes Dragaoke, which was, to our surprise, a surprisingly tuneful affair all-round.
Click HERE for the final chapter of this year’s Indietracks, our review of Sunday’s proceedings.