Indietracks Festival, Midland Railway, Butterley
Eddie Argos ranting on like a modern day Jimmy Pursey, informing the crowd over and again just how 'too twee' they all are.
Indietracks is one of the more obscure yet loveable festivals, set deep in the Derbyshire countryside and featuring streams of indie bands, mainly from overseas. The outdoor stage is taken over for the weekend by Spain's Elefant Records, in celebration of its twentieth anniversary of pioneering up and coming bands, and a mixed bunch they were too. This gave access to a somewhat brighter selection of artists on the indoor stage and there was then the church stage for those who always wanted to sit in a pew without having to sing along or being handed a collection bowl at the end of the 'service'.
The whole affair kicks off in bright sunshine on Saturday with a jangly noise machine from Leeds called Downdime giving bright hope for an entertaining weekend, although the dose of euro trash that followed from Sucrette gives notification of an awkward balance to contend with. The scheduling on the main stage is, to say the least, a little random. Highlight here on day one is those old stalwarts The Frank & Walters who found themselves mid-table in the listing. The older school of attendees bounce along merrily to old standards like 'Colours' and 'After All' prompting a pondering on why these guys aren't somewhat bigger and indeed further up the bill.
In fitting with the site being home to old steam trains, both the main and indoor stage are running well behind schedule very early on. But with the sun continuing to gleam, the gathering of purists and lost souls are content to sit idly awaiting whatever the bill decides to throw at them. As we approach dusk, on come Camera Obscura on the back of their rather fine recently released album 'My Maudlin Career' and they give a stylish performance, digging into the back catalogue for the diehard fans on site.
A brief glimpse at Emmy The Great to unsuccessfully find out what all the fuss is about, then back to the field to catch headliners La Casa Azul. Oh dear. They may well be the label's biggest selling act but one man donning guitar and crash helmet playing Euro dance, supported by the other four band members on a screen, meets with a justified degree of bemusement from the gathering, who trundle away with jumbled up feelings of the day's experience.
Day two, in true British style, brings the rain, thus affording the indoor stage a more generous turnout than the previous day. Bonne Idée gets affairs underway this time with a wistful set of tunes. Then comes Zipper with a wonderful blast of energetic power pop to set the feet a-tapping. Back on the main stage we then have seven-piece The School who also played the inaugural Indietracks two years earlier, when surely they were all still at school. They were clearly up there to enjoy themselves, so come over as an entertaining bunch of likeables.
Mid-afternoon then and back indoors we are blessed with the superb Northern Portrait. Frontman Stefan Larsen holds the appearance of a regenerated young Morrissey so when the music starts, shutting one's eyes you are blessed with the sound of The Smiths all over again. Hugely refreshing and with a debut album due out later this year, possibly the brightest button on this multi-coloured dream coat of a festival.
Back outside and Lucky Soul put up a solid performance, with the beauty of Ali Howard enough to drag folk out of the engine shed for a gander. Then we have BMX Bandits, who've always been a bit off the wall. Time hasn't been kind to Duglas T. Stewart, beaming and bantering to all like that eccentric old uncle you rather hoped your friends would never meet. Wrapping things up on the indoor stage are Art Brut, with Eddie Argos ranting on like a modern day Jimmy Pursey, informing the crowd over and again just how "too twee" they all are. But it was a great set and their brand of 'oi!' is just the close that was needed.
Finally then, on the main stage, we are graced with the presence of Teenage Fanclub whose blended wall-of-sound guitars are just the antidote for the drizzle that continues to fall. They know their trade well and stand out as the class act here, digging deep into their bag of songs, mesmerising old and young alike into walking away from the site with a glow in their hearts and a warm buzz inside their heads.
At a time when we are flooded by summer festivals way beyond the wallet capacity of most aficionados, there will doubtless be casualties - Indietracks should not be allowed to suffer that fate. It's an occasion when artists and the paying public mix together as one, with no pretence, no egos and nothing of the corporate juggernaut. It's merely about the music, something that the likes of Glastonbury lost sight of a long time ago. If you want the continual musical sugar rush offered up here, then there can be no better event on the calendar.