The third day of Indietracks opened with a deluge; grey skies with little hope of passing, and a flying visit to the nearest outdoors specialist for that most sartorial of purchases, waterproof trousers. Thankfully for Sunday’s line-up, there was more than enough potential for thrilling music, both indoors and outdoors, to keep the crowd upbeat, starting on the indoor stage with the wonderful Just Blankets.
Hailing from Brighton, yet with a suspiciously North-East of England tinged vocal, Just Blankets are exactly the sort of band to open a festival bill in need of a jolt of energy, and based on the large audience that gathered, a lot of people agreed. The band ran through material from recent EP, Like Velcro, as well as some promising new material. Passionate pop-punk with a lyrical edge, Longshore Drift is a stand out moment, with its yelp along demand, “depend on me”. The expertly judged set improves with almost every track, to a triumphant finale of former single, White & Orange; the band’s tale of struggling to find your place in a world where, “what can’t be monetised has no worth”, singer Claire Swift’s emotive vocal never sounded better.
Having travelled down from Glasgow to play the main stage, you could forgive Life Model for being a little disappointed when they emerged to dark grey skies, however as the set went on, a decent crowd emerged. They were plagued by technical issues, the vocal cutting out during the opening track and the guitar needing replacing mid-set, courtesy of Adam from The Spook School. When they hit their stride though there was no doubting Life Model’s quality, they ran through some of last year’s excellent, Lucky EP, as well as some tantalising new tracks, showcasing their perfect melding of visceral, reverberating guitar lines and shimmering, melodic vocals. Despite the technical issues when they were performing stand out tracks, like the gently brutal Lucky, they looked like they were having their time of their lives, not something you can say of many shoegaze inspired acts. Sure, it rained, sure the guitar didn’t really work, yet despite all that they sounded absolutely fantastic, and with confirmation new music is on the way soon, they’re a band with an incredibly bright future.
Sticking on the Outdoor Stage, Life Model were followed by the effervescent doo-wop punk of Wolf Girl. The London quartet, adorned here in matching stripy t-shirts, are set to release their second album, Every Now & Then, later this year on new label home Everything Sucks, and played a mixture of old and new material. They’re a band who’ve clearly grown into live performance and looked comfortable despite the large stage, and large crowd that have gathered. Musically too there was plenty of progress on show here, new single Toast For Dinner is an instant favourite, while many of the new tracks moved towards a more confidently pop-punk feel, suggesting a band finding their own sound. A combination of a heavy downpour and a painful clash with Dream Nails saw us scurrying over to the indoor stage slightly before the end of the set, that was no reflection on their excellent performance though.
As we arrived at the Indoor Stage, politi-punk powerhouses Dream Nails were already in full swing, and a large crowd had gathered for their modern take on Riot Grrrl. In their own, upbeat, positive way they encouraged girls and non-binary people to the front, encouraging the formation of girl-gangs in the front rows and asking the men at the back to make friends as well. It did have the slightly odd effect from our position at the back of making it look like they’re playing to an entire room of tall men, although from the crowd’s reaction, those at the front appreciate their efforts. Vagina Police and recent single Merkury were clear highlights, while in Fascism Is Coming (Get Out Of Bed) they’ve got a snarling, brute of a track that resonates with anyone questioning the current political climate. Musically, Dream Nails managed to merge their message of resistance with a performance that was full of energy and a lot more fun that political music is meant to sound, it’s easy to imagine they’ll be headlining this festival in the coming years.
Anna Burch was the name that first popped out when we saw this year’s line-up. The Heavenly signed songwriter has had a stratospheric start to 2018, releasing her critically acclaimed debut album, Quit The Curse, and touring relentlessly on both sides of the Atlantic. The Detroit singer songwriter, flanked by a band including half of the members of Girl Ray, ran through the best of that record with 2 Cool 2 Care and the brilliant Tea-Soaked Letter standing out. The large crowds were slightly muted at the start, yet it was an impressive set that showcased Anna’s strong lyricism and easy retro-pop sound.
If Anna Burch was the line-up’s surprising coup, Durham’s Onsind are the much-loved returning heroes. They also offer the weekend’s most painful clash, their set almost perfectly aligned with Haiku Salut’s performance on the outdoor stage: despite the competition Onsind drew a large crowd. The band were slightly shook up after a disappointing incident at a show the night before, that left Daniel with a nasty cut on his head, yet back in the positivity of their spiritual, festival home the band are soon into their stride. Recently expanded to a five-piece live band, including members of Just Blankets and now three-quarters of Martha, their acoustic roots are largely a distant memory now. The band’s older material was given a noisy, punky makeover, alongside tracks from excellent recent record, We Wilt, We Bloom. It was left to a cover of, Aztec Camera’s Somewhere In My Heart, and old favourites Heterosexuality Is A Construct and Pokemon City Limits, to bring the set to a thrilling close. Perhaps no band better epitomise Indietracks in 2018 than Onsind, they’re political sure, they’re also a lot of fun, they stand up to injustice and create a place where community can thrive; they offer a ray of hope and for the thirty or so minutes they’re on stage you can escape the world and be part of something that really matters, Onsind are an inspiration to us all.
It was back over to the main stage next for fast-rising Londoners Girl Ray. The band’s beautifully melodic take on indie-pop has seen them progress from opening slots in tiny clubs to headlining venues the size of Heaven and featuring highly on a number of festival bills. The rare presence of the sun added a certain wistfulness to proceedings which was echoed in their music. The band’s new material suggested they’re progressing nicely towards a second record, while the older material sounds slick, confident and very professional. Former Allo Darlin’ drummer, Mikey Collins joined on percussion for the epic, and frankly a little bit bonkers, Earl Grey (Stuck In A Groove), despite being due on stage for his own solo set any minute and it felt like a fitting, triumphant goodbye to Girl Ray’s debut album, already we can’t wait to hear where they go next.
Sunday’s headliners were Honeyblood, the Glaswegian duo showing some excellent outside-the-box thinking from the festivals’ organisers. Despite confirming they’re due in the studio next week to start work on album number three, the band largely run through the best moments of their first two records, 2016’s Babes Never Die and their self-titled 2014 debut. There was nothing flash or showy about their performance, just an easy charisma and impressive musicianship; their grunge-tinged pop is full of energy and you forget just how many classic songs they already have in their repertoire. Sea Hearts with its ear-worm inducing hey-heys and Killer Bangs are rapturously received, while the, “that song off the football advert”, closer Ready For The Magic is much better than we remembered it being. A fitting finale to a rather spectacular weekend of musical brilliance.
Once again Indietracks showed that, while other festivals may carry a bigger budget, it remains arguably the most important jewel in the British summer’s crown. A place where an enthusiastic, supportive crowd is guaranteed, and where bands who barely get a look in elsewhere are given a stage to create, thrive and produce some of the most thrilling performance you’ll see anywhere. Roll on next Summer!
If you missed the first part of our Indietracks review, you can read that HERE.