*Indietracks *is like no other festival I’ve previously experienced. Located in the East Derbyshire countryside, a mere five-minute train journey from the Midland Railway museum at Butterley Station in Ripley, everything about the Indietracks experience is a far cry from Glastonbury or T In The Park - a main stage in a shed that's used for housing engines, an outdoor one that is literally on the back of a lorry, a smaller one on the altar of a small church and an acoustic stage in a gazebo that also sells tea and cake. There are just three members of ‘security staff’ on duty for the whole weekend, and no reported crimes or thefts of any nature (as we went to press) – the staff were more content discussing the merits of Metallica over most of this weekend's bill with beguiled punters than making their presence felt in an intimidating manner.
Add to that the selection of real ales and various other beverages on offer (at reasonable prices), merchandise stalls selling CDs and t-shirts for as little as two quid and a member of the Bobby McGees dancing alongside you at every turn and you know things can't possibly go wrong. Oh, and did we mention that some bands played too?
Saturday July 26
We're no sooner through the gates and tucking into our first homemade egg salad sarnie of the day when Cardiff's Silence At Sea take to the main stage. They play whimsical folk that sounds like a lo-fi Laura Marling until their final song, where a multitude of instruments are punched and prodded until they sound like Stereolab covering Arcade Fire. Intriguing. Next stop is the outdoor stage where Indietracks.co.uk web-vote winners Town Bike rush through a set of Helen Love-esque punk pop that name-checks Ally Sheedy and Dougie from McFly at various points, before ending on a bizarre marriage of the_ 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'_ riff with the words to B*Witched's 'C'est La Vie'_ sung over the top. Don't expect the A&R fraternity to be knocking on their doors anytime soon, but then I guess that's why they're here and not playing one of the corporate festivals. Needless to say, they go down a storm.
The Kick Inside
Back over to the main stage, Bristol's The Kick Inside and London's ace Tortoise Shout play customary indie-pop like it’s 1986 all over again, the latter just edging it with their 'Ukulele Song' causing the first fluctuations of audience participation of the weekend. One of the main musical highlights of the weekend are undoubtedly Shrag, a five-piece from Brighton whose shout 'n' scream art punk is reminiscent of the B-52s’_ 'Rock Lobster'_ being covered by Huggy Bear, ad infinitum. _'Talk To The Left' particularly stands out, so much so that DiS is in a sweat from dancing and duly heads off for a pint of Howzat! and a sit down on the lawn.
Airport Girl's delirious mix of melancholic ballads and upbeat pop tunes are a welcome tonic after the self-enforced mid-afternoon respite while The Kabeedies’ Bis-y ska-pop whets the appetite for another of the day's main high points: Darren Hayman and his Secondary Modern band, featuring Cornershop bassist James Milne, are playing to an already converted congregation in the small church at the top of the festival site. It’s unhealthily packed inside, so much so that the side doors are opened and punters stream onto the side of the stage, almost obstructing Hayman and company as they play. 'Eastbourne Lights' and 'The Crocodile' make us sing along like a heavenly choir. This is what real festival moments are all about.
I don't know what it is about The Lodger but they always remind me of The Lightning Seeds. Here they are no different although their cover of Orange Juice classic 'I Can't Help Myself' scores points in the nostalgia stakes. The last time The Wedding Present played in this part of the world was part of their George Best 20th anniversary tour. It felt like they'd never been away then and tonight's greatest hits and more set is exactly the same. Now a resident of LA, David Gedge's in-between song quips about "Average Britain" may go down like a lead balloon, but his band's 75-minute trawl through their back catalogue is nothing short of sensational. 'Love Slave', 'You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends' and 'Brassneck' are timeless staples, while more recent compositions such as 'Palisades' and 'Don't Take Me Home Until I'm Drunk' sound just as (if not more) relevant today than many of the artists they've gone on to inspire. There's even a smattering of obscure b-sides ('I'm Not Always So Stupid', 'Never Said') for the anoraks in the crowd. A perfect end to an amazing day.
Sunday 27th July
Only living a 20-minute car ride from the festival means that after a good night's kip and a cold shower, DiS is refreshed and raring to go, and in Bristol all-girl quintet The Colliding Lemons, we may have just found one of the weekend's hidden gems. Part Bangles, part Sundays in places, their unashamedly pop melodies are a joy to behold, and even though over-enthusiastic drummer Jenny Barrett knocks a mic stand into her kit during 'Liar Liar', it doesn't detract from what turns out to be a highly polished performance.
On first inspection we're ready to proclaim The Middle Ones as the twee-est band on the planet. Half a dozen songs later, DiS is blown away by the way their vocal harmonies suit the now par-for-the-course instrumentation (melodica, accordion etc) to such an extent we rush to the merchandise stall straight after and purchase a CD. £2 for four songs? Bargain! Whilst hovering around the main stage, a halo of fuzz engulfs the room. Leicester four-piece The Mai 68s are a heady if slightly shambolic rush of noise and confusion whose sheer entertainment value goes through the roof at the end when the drummer's attempt at throwing his sticks into the throng at the end go wrong as one hits a reveller on the front row smack in the face. Oops.
Sunday's bill is already shaping up to be the better of the two days, even at this stage of the afternoon, with anglo-Italian ensemble A Classic Education and ex-Razorcuts frontman Gregory Webster (lead picture) proving to be particularly impressive. DiS is famished and in need of relaxation. We head for the centre of Ripley and find a quaint little hostillery. An hour or so later and suitably replenished, our return coincides with the appearance of The Wave Pictures on the outdoor stage. Surprisingly low down the bill they may be, their set draws one of the biggest crowds of the weekend, and when Darren Hayman joins them onstage at the end for a jaunty rendition of old favourite 'Long Island', not even sunstroke and the odd mosquito bite can allay the Cheshire Cat grins plastered across the faces of all and sundry out front.
Leeds five-piece The Manhattan Love Suicides may be the loudest band here, and their Primitives-meets-Lazy label era My Bloody Valentine repertoire goes down a storm on the main stage, but local octet The Deirdres are unmistakeably the happiest, and while any purists in the audience will be scratching their heads in despair at the varying degrees of musical competency on display, no one can argue that their performance typifies the whole ethos of what Indietracks is about.
Having briefly caught a glimpse of Sarah Records veterans St Christopher and Finnish noisemongers Dirty Fingernails, one final visit to the church is in order for The Bobby McGees, an outfit who sound like a Gorbals-raised Moldy Peaches tinkering with George Formby's songbook. 'Bambi Eyes' is both ridiculously funny and macabre in equal measures, while the sight of mainman Bobby dressed in a jester's outfit whilst singing about gouging someone's eyes out is a picture in itself.
Prolific they may not be in terms of output over the past decade but very rarely have Ballboy crafted a duff song, and their set is a crowd-pleaser that is met by the weekend's first real moshpit action. 'Public Park', 'Donald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue' and 'I Lost You But I Found Country Music' are all gems worthy of a wider audience, while 'I Don't Have Time To Stand Here Fighting With You About The Size Of My Dick' wins the award for best song title ever. Someone shouts for 'I Hate Scotland'. "So do I," insists singer Gordon McIntyre. "It's not as good as Derbyshire. You get to play on the back of a truck here whereas they'd just run you over in Scotland!" The wag.
Tonight's headliners Los Campesinos! seemed like a surprise choice to some people – they’re not entirely embraced by the fanzine and button badge crowd due to their slightly mainstream popularity. Indeed, one suspects if the organisers hadn't pushed their time back by a good half hour going head-to-head with Ballboy may have had embarrassing consequences in terms of numbers. Fortunately, their set is as lively and energetic as we've come to expect from them over the past 18 months. Their set is largely culled from their Hold On Now Youngster debut, with 'We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison' and 'You! Me! Dancing!' particularly well received while the rousing finale of 'Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks' is as fitting a way as any to close what is without doubt the most enjoyable and civilised festival we've ever been to in our lives. No wonder frontman Gareth Campesinos! looks humble and overwhelmed at the end. DiS is too – here’s to Indietracks 2009!