by Daisy Cutter
Deep in the Derbyshire countryside there is an annual rejoicing at the altar of lovely known as IndieTracks, a small, perfectly formed festival that celebrates the twin wonders of indiepop and steam trains. Yes you read that last bit right.
Here, snug in the Amber Valley of the Peak District, the pure ethos of the festival shines on luminous with ace bands playing in slow moving locomotives through picturesque countryside. While the main outdoor stage jangles to joyous fuzzpop workshops teach you how to play the ukulele or make a working record player out of cardboard. In the renovated tin church a congregation of corduroy clap enthusiastically along to perfectly sculpted pop gems from artists you’ll see standing next to you in the bar half an hour hence.
Everyone smiles and strikes up conversations with like-minded strangers, a tribe of C-86 devotees bearing t-shirts of record labels that are probably in reality a back bedroom somewhere in Scandinavia. While other events across the nation’s summer all crackle with an underbelly of menace simply from having a mass assembly in one place all royally off their tits here you sense the only threat of malice would be if someone mentioned the betrayal of Nick Clegg. Such is the bucolic charm of this strange and wonderful haven basked in sunshine it somehow resembles Telly-tubby land as imagined by Belle and Sebastian. I’ve died and gone to twee heaven.
Here’s five reasons why the wonderful Indietracks is choo-choomendous…..
Never before at a festival have I seen so many families enjoying the revelry and with a miniature railway, owls and colourful parrots to hold, workshops for kids to make their own music shakers, and Edgar the cat puppet drawing your portrait for free there’s loads to keep the little ones entertained.
A family-friendly environment is evidently a priority for the organisers and this is helped considerably by the structure of the event: everything is self-contained with a steam train required to reach it and fields all around. This means parents can let their children wander free and not feel tethered and constantly pestered for ice cream.
Best of all though was the sight of numerous children not yet in their teens dancing to Gruff Rhys and Allo Darlin. That’s a few less One Directioners for the world to cope with.
With ever more festivals springing up each summer it’s inevitable some begin to feel generic. There’s little danger however of Indietracks being anything other than utterly unique.
As Saturday’s opening act Lonely Tourist put it “I’ve just done a gig on the train in one hundred degree heat. You don’t get that very often.”
The place has a charm and atmosphere like no other, a laid-back, friendly vibe so contrasting to ‘real life’ it almost feels like a collective awakening come Monday morning.
I Believe In the Good Of Life
Charity is at the very heart of Indietracks with any profits from the weekend going to the upkeep of the Midland Railway Centre. Nor do any of the organisers receive a penny for the extraordinary hard work they do throughout the work.
Frustratingly they are also reluctant to accept any degree of praise with all of the organisers I spoke to keen to stress the importance of a group effort particularly from the raft of volunteers who make each year run smoothly and without incident.
The team of security meanwhile are the most amiable for any major event I’ve ever attended
Are You Who You Think You Are?
On more than one occasion over the weekend I was enjoying a performance only to realise a band member from a previous act was stood right next to me. This is a common occurrence at Indietracks with bands not simply performing then leaving at the earliest opportunity but rather pitching in (literally if they’re camping), checking out their friends on another stage, and mingling with the throng.
As Josh in the merch tent put it so well – “There’s no clear division between people who are listening to the music and playing it. There’s no-one imposing any order.”
This is where bands come to not only play but holiday which fosters the sense of community even more so.
Here In Heaven
The trains, picturesque surroundings, lovely, lovely people, and the distinct gleam of quirkiness is all very nice and good but of course any festival would struggle to thrive without a stellar billing of brilliant music.
And here Indietracks produces again and again.
At the risk of sounding elitist or grand Indiepop has always been more of an ethos than a genre – a celebration of the DIY spirit – and this allows for a broad spectrum of acts that contrast in all but their ability to enrapture.
From the folky splendour of Laura J Martin to the riotous Joanna Gruesome every taste and mood is sated with my own personal highlights being the Just Joans, Dean Wareham, the Royal Landscaping Society, and the exhilarating Spook School.
Oh and The Flatmates. And how could I forget Gruff Rhys’ sublime journey through the interior of America as the sun set overhead. And a new discovery in Thee Ahs. And….
I already can’t wait to see 2015’s event come rolling down the tracks. Choo choo!