With the cancellation of the Y Not Festival, just down the road, all eyes are on the weather forecast as the final day of Indietracks kicks off. As the sun just about pokes out of the clouds the site is in remarkably good condition; the large puddles serving more as entertainment for the be-wellied children, rather than posing any major threat to proceedings.
We’re kicking off indoors though anyway with Birmingham-trio, Maybe Don’t. It’s a credit to the Indietracks organisers that what immediately jumps out about the band is the fact that they’re all men, a genuine rarity on one of the year’s most evenly gendered bills. While the bands own press release is quick to play down their qualities, they’re thankfully excellent. Big loud guitars leading a punk-tinged take on Indie Pop. They also possess some impressively sing-along choruses, bringing to mind the likes of Los Campesinos or Jonny Foreigner. The Odd Box signed band are just the cobweb shaking opening act every Sunday morning needs.
From there we head over to the tiny Church Stage to try to beat the queues for Charmpit. Peering through a window we catch the end of Daniel vs The World, they sound excellent, as emotional as Perfume Genius and twice as glittery. The crowd leave en-mass securing us a spot in the front row to wait for Charmpit. By the time the London-based trio emerge, the place is full to bursting and there’s probably just as many people watching from outside – it’s fair to say Charmpit’s profile has probably outgrown their position on the bill. The band hand out lyric books to the crowd, which only adds to the Sunday sermon feeling. Today’s topics include radicalising the suburbs, chaffing in the summer months and telling your sexist boss where to stick his job – what God wouldn’t be happy with that? As ever the band are effervescent: bassist Anne-Marie’s charming in-song banter making it feel as much like a catch up with old friends as a concert. Musically though they seem to have tightened up, Alex’s drumming the propulsive, percussive key to proceeding, his subtly complex beats creating a platform for the vocal melodies, intricate guitar work and booming bass notes. They run through tracks from recent EP, Jelly, throw in a cover of Girlfriend by Girls and finish on a raucous rendition of Vacation, Anne-Marie ending flashing the anarchy symbol on her pants to the world and screaming “viva-anarchia”. It’s the most inspiring set we see all weekend: people will form bands because of Charmpit. At the end of the set Anne-Marie signs autographs to two young girls who sat front-row, mouthing along to every word, as she writes to them, “make your voice heard”, we’d be lying if we said didn’t have to blink back a tear – Viva Charmpit!
Rather horrendously Charmpit clash with fellow London-DIYers, Suggested Friends, but a quick dash to the outdoor stage means we catch a few tracks. Think The War On Drugs meets Martha meets Paul Simon, sometimes all in one song, and you won’t be far off the Suggested Friends sound. From there it’s back to the indoor stage, an old train shed home to the bar as well as the indefatigable Leeds-trio Cowtown. They’re all superb musicians, and a band who have clearly honed their live craft over a number of years. They play like they love every second of being on stage, and the crowd lap up their anything but twee take on DIY-punk.
We stop for a few songs of the never heard before but very impressive Personal Best, before heading over to the outdoor stage for an Indietracks institution: The Just Joans. The inimitable Scots seem to pretty much always be at Indietracks in one form or another, and their “hit” single, If You Don’t Pull would be a strong contender for the festival’s anthem. They play a number of tracks from an upcoming release on Fika Recordings, but they know why the crowd have gathered as David taunts them to wait for the singles, “you’ve got to get through the shit to get to the gold”. They get to the crowd favourites just as the heavens open, the audience stay for a sing-along before running for cover.
The downpour makes any hopes of getting into the Church to see Baby Arms a write-off, and also has the organisers hastily re-arranging acts, with Monkey Swallows The Universe shifted to the Indoor Stage. Sadly, the sound falls a bit flat and is very quiet throughout, combined with a chatty and somewhat inattentive crowd drawn by the lure of the dry, the band’s wistful folk-pop never really has a chance to get going.
With timings back on track The Wave Pictures take to the main stage. A band who could rival The Just Joans for number of Indietracks appearances, they’re old hands at this festival game and play a set lifted from across their hefty back catalogue. Despite heavy showers causing their audience to ebb and flow throughout, they thrive. Their unfussy showmanship, musical virtuosity and surprising amount of hits make for a triumphant set.
We stop in at The Tuts set and find the indoor stage full to bursting. Unsurprising, as they seem to rival even Martha in the most t-shirts on show this weekend contest. Peering in from the back they seem to do a decent enough take on indie-rock, and the effort that went into the staging and costumes is impressive, there’s balloons galore and they’re all in wedding dresses for reasons that we didn’t really follow. That said they don’t entirely hold our attention, and we make an aborted attempt to see Mammoth Penguins & Friends at the Church stage, because the place is full, as it was for most of the weekend.
Closing proceedings is arguably the weekend’s biggest attraction, Welsh-wonder, Cate Le Bon. She emerges dressed entirely in black, flanked by a trio of excellent musicians, most notably long-term collaborator Stephen Black, aka Sweet Baboo. Cate is as inspired and inspiring as ever, her stunning vocals, hugely underrated guitar chops and knack with a melodic curve ball all make for a superb set. The material is largely lifted from last year’s album Crab Day, but it’s crowd favourite, Are You With Me Now?, still her most accessible moment, that truly has the audience swooning. A performer right at the top of her game, Cate Le Bon is rewriting the blue-print for what the world expects from a female solo artists and doing it entirely on her own terms. There couldn’t be a more fitting way to draw the curtain on a superb weekend of musical exploration. Until next year Indietracks, it’s been wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.