If I mention ‘indie’ and ‘train’ in the same sentence, you might have visions of Ocean Colour Scene’s lumpen dadrock or the Libertines’ guerrilla gigs way back when. Thankfully, Indietracks has little in common with either. Now in its eleventh year, the festival has established a firm standing on the festival circuit, inspiring throngs of repeat visitors charmed by the Midlands Railway Centre’s delightful surroundings, the intimate atmosphere (there’s only 2000 attendance) and its blend of twee, riot-grrl and classy Peel-era scene veterans.
In the last three years, headliners have included The Go! Team, Gruff Rhys and Saint Etienne alongside Indietracks regulars like Allo Darlin’ and this year’s return headliners The Wedding Present (who last headlined in 2008, although 2015 headliners Cinerama have a suspiciously similar line-up and set). But who should you see this year? Your old pals BC4B have you covered.
Nathan and Daniel are putting out another ONSIND album this year, but before that, they headline Friday night as part of evergreen anarcho-tinged power-pop quartet Martha. Originally spotted playing unplugged in the zine tent back in 2014, the Co Durham gang’s combination of relatable awkwardness (teen crushes, depression, anxiety), band-specific interests (anarchist writers, weirdly specific biological metaphors) and sunnily poppy, anthemic indie should be an exhilarating start to the festival. Assuming Voltarine De Clair can successfully get you there prior to 9.15.
There’s something charming about Hibbett and his brand of nerdish songwriting, which puts him somewhere between Half Man, Half Biscuit and John Shuttleworth, or perhaps a British take on Jonathan Coulton. Highlights of Hibbert’s song-as-story formula to look out for include an unlikely triumph in Peterborough, songs from his conceptual opus ‘Dinosaur Planet’ and not-a-dry-eye ‘It Only Works Because You’re Here’, about an IT support drone’s unrequited love.
The forthright Cardiff quintet’s set in 2014 was hampered by technical problems, but if lightning doesn’t strike twice then Saturday’s Indoor Stage headliners’ high-octane “dissonant wimp music” should be the visceral highlight of the night. Things will get fuzzy. (Refined guitar-pop mainstays The Wedding Present headline the Outdoor Stage soon afterwards: by staggering the two main stages, this festival allows you to have your cake and eat it.)
The indefatigable ‘Fight Like A Girl‘ curator seems to be making real waves this year, playing all over the country including a slot at Glastonbury a few weeks back. Originally an acoustic act, Lilith’s recent shows have seen her accompanied by a full band to perform her riot-girl-infused, Lauryn Hill-esque blend of surly agit-soul. She’s playing in the Church stage, which is indeed a church. Catch her before her congregation grows too big for venues like this.
SGD’s album ‘Heavyflow’ came out last September but for all the qualities of the record, their abrasive, no-fucks riot-grrl sound is probably best appreciated live. Originally a trio, but currently operating as a duo, the North London sisters will make enough noise to blow away any post-Saturday night brain fog.
ALSO… Acts including Me Rex and The Perfect English Weather will be playing on a train which trundles around a track during the act’s unplugged set. Pro tip: make sure you stay hydrated as the unique setting draws a crowd, which in turn makes it VERY warm… The workshop marquee has featured short story writing and a baffling, semi-scripted agony uncle set from The Spook School drummer Niall. This year offers workshops in campaigning for social change, stop-motion animation and the science of sound… Sunday is headlined by sometime Gruff Rhys collaborator and eccentric Cate Le Bon, whose unusual, tangential sound is less angst and more Ankst… There should be zines, birds of prey and the inexplicably popular can-crushing steamroller too…
Look out for a review of the festival next week. I promise it’ll be as exhaustive as I will be exhausted.
Indietracks Festival kicks off this weekend! Tickets can still be purchased here!