Review of Indietracks Festival held at Midland Railway Centre, Butterley, Ripley on 29th-31st July 2011

It can be difficult to describe Indietracks in a factual manner without giving the impression it is a weekend subscribed to conformity and devoid of creativity. On the face of it, at least for anyone who has never visited the Midland Railway Centre at the height of summer, it is as populated by sound-alike bands and identikit dressers as say, Download Festival, but there is an aura throughout the festival, a kindred spirit if you will, that elevates it above its capacity, budget and other restraints into one of the highlights of the festival circuit.

Indietracks Festival

Granted, isn't around for all of it. Due to work commitments the Friday evening proceedings are missed, with reports that Pocketbooks were a highlight of the weekend coming from a number of attendees. On the Saturday things begin to pick up with Heroes Of The Mexican Independence Movement, whose cowboy-pop might resemble Ennio Morricone fed on a diet of early Belle & Sebastian EPs. On the indoor stage The History Of Apple Pie provide the same sugar-rush C86 fuzz and boundless enthusiasm as last years headliners' The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, and whilst they might not come close to having the same number of hits their rapid ascent so far leaves them as wise tips for a headline set over the next couple of years.

Later, Help Stamp Out Loneliness are affected by the breakdown of a power generator which end up leading to a major reshuffle of the days close, with The Hidden Cameras and Edwyn Collins switching places in the running order and moving from the main outdoor stage to the shed. Canada's Hidden Cameras try valiantly to get things running, and end up playing a beautiful, stripped down four-song acoustic set as appeasement, but it is here again that the atmosphere of the festival saves it; anywhere else a late rescheduling would be nigh on impossible and would almost certainly result in mass crowd anger. Here there is barely a complaint, even from us despite missing the new headliners due to transport. Fortunately Edwyn Collins is on fine and inspirational form, and his rustic indie-punk fares much better indoors, amongst the dust and real ale barrels than it would in the field.

The Sunday line-up is the strongest of the two full-days, and the most diverse by some distance. Those who tread furthest from the typical path taken by the majority of the weekend's artists are also the highlights. Jeffrey Lewis, always one to try and defy convention and expectation, turns up the volume for his set in the indoor stage and instils a garage-rock spirit into his world-weary tales, ably helped by several guitar solos provided by festival closer and past collaborator Herman Dune.

White Town's acoustic set in the merchandise tent, unannounced until a couple of hours before he plays, is a lovely surprise. Jyoti's songs are tender and fragile, and whilst many would suggest he has a considerable albatross around his neck and fail to see behind it his performance showcases a small selection from a back-catalogue of a strength that may never be truly appreciated behind the past hit of 'Your Woman' but is definitely worthy of more attention.

At different ends of the spectrum, Crystal Stilts and Haiku Salut provide the two most enjoyable performances of the day and perhaps the weekend overall. The former's dead-eyed garage-gaze is an antidote to the inescapable pastel-shaded tweeness of the festival, all heads-down riffs and disinterested vocals sighed through reverb. They, like Jeffrey Lewis, would be much more suitable as the festivals climax; they are the one drink too many, and the drunk walk home after the disco.

The latter are, if post-performance chatter is to be believed, the band who have made more new converts over the festivals proceedings than any other. Purely instrumental, the three-piece, occasionally backed by the 15 piece A Little Orchestra, weave mini-masterpieces that are constructed with an almost in-numerous instruments and filled an almost infinite amount of ideas. At times they resemble The Cinematic Orchestra or Jaga Jazzist, and at others Shugo Tokumaru or Worlds End Girlfriend, but perform with an unbounded enthusiasm that brings new life to a sound that is often too studious to be truly enticing.

Which is to mention nothing of the discos, tea parties or other activities that give the festival its unique flavour, nor its none-more-quaint location, nor even the ever helpful and friendly volunteers that staff the event and help contribute to an atmosphere that is a world away from the Leeds and TITPs of this world. It is interesting to see where the much-loved but easily-pigeonholed weekend will go from here, but there is little to suggest the hardcore contingent that make up the majority of the festival's attendance every year will not be returning in 2012, which next to smaller events such as Field Day and Summer Sundae is an achievement in itself.

Jordan Dowling

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