A unique offering is what every festival is desperately trying to sell but it’s something that Indietracks delivers effortlessly. It can be hard to put your finger on what makes a festival special. Line-up, setting and atmosphere count of course but with Indietracks it’s so much more than that. It’s not simply the chance to ride the old trains at the Midland Railway Centre (I don’t care about trains but did I have fun on them? Hell yeah), the opportunity to take part in various craft activities and a quiz or even the chance to see some amazing owls (really). It’s what this whole mix creates that works so well, it’s the bubbling enthusiasm of the crowd for the music they love, it’s seeing bands watching other bands, it’s the overall community spirit of the independent music scene. Indietracks is the friendliest festival I’ve ever been to by a Derbyshire country mile.
Of course it’s true that the line-up is the main draw and what a treat we were given. Fever Dream did an amazing job of opening the festival and their edgy shoegaze rock felt somewhat appropriate in the soggy evening weather. Spirits in the crowd were high despite the elements and indie disco hangovers were soon brushed aside when the sun split the sky on Saturday. Evans the Death appeared to have seriously misjudged the length of their set but delivered an exhilarating 40 mins of inventive indie punk. Mammoth Penguins did the same, their catchy punk pop was delivered with a little more crunch than on their excellent new album and it was lapped up appreciatively by a happy crowd.
Flemmings are an entirely new name to me but I’m happy to go and watch any band play in the Church at Indietracks. There are few bigger thrills than taking a chance on a band you don’t know and being blown away by them. Flemmings veer thrillingly between hardcore and fuzz pop. They fill every inch of the church with their contagious energy and are easily one of the highlights of the weekend.
Tigercats played a sublime set on the indoor stage with most of their songs picked from their excellent recent Mysteries album. It’s great to see a band at the top of their game. It’s a rush over to the Outdoor stage to catch Colleen Green but she’s running late and appears a little bewildered by the whole situation. Regardless, she ploughs through her set and sounds ace, her brand of saccharine punk producing much bopping of heads.
The merchandise tent is a haven for any indiepop admirers. Record labels sell their wares and generally share their enthusiasm with anyone that’ll listen. Bands come and go with their records and t-shirts and generally everyone has a good time. It’s in here Owl & Mouse play a short set mostly taken from their debut album Departures. It’s tricky to hear them over the first couple of songs but they grow in confidence and when they have their crowd singing backing vocals for their single ‘Octopi’ it feels like a special moment.
The very instant Saturday’s headliners The Pains of Being Pure at Heart burst into ‘Until the Sun Explodes’ it’s clear they’re just as thrilled as their crowd to be here. There’s a spring in their step and they play like they were born to headline this festival. They’re friendly, enthusiastic and charming. The perfect fit.
The rain on Sunday starts to make things feel like a bit of a struggle but Tuff Love don’t care about that and they deliver a perfect rocking set full of perfect harmonies and punk attitude which is another weekend highlight. Colour Me Wednesday are also full of life on the Outdoor stage, the soaked crowd appreciating their cheerful guitar pop. I’ve never been entirely taken by the recorded output of The Tuts but live they’re a different proposition altogether. Their charisma and attitude merges with great pop punk songs and they get as good a reaction from the crowd as any band all weekend.
It’s with a heavy heart I have to leave the festival early in the knowledge I’m missing Martha and the Go! Team but I’ve seen more than my fair share of great bands and had a wonderful weekend so I can just about deal with it. There are so many other bands I’ve missed that I’d love to have seen and undoubtedly there’ll be other positive reviews of the festival that pick up on entirely different bands to the ones I have. Therein lies the trick of Indietracks, it’s not about a few marquee bands, it’s about all of them equally whether they’re headlining the Outdoor stage or playing to twenty people on a train.
Being at Indietracks is like being part of a supportive community. You don’t just feel like another punter in a field, you’re actually made to feel like you’re a key element of the festival. I can’t think of any other festival that can do that.