Indietracks Festival is an annual event held at the Midland Railway museum at Swanwick near Ripley, Derbyshire. It is small, and perfectly formed, and combines the delights of independent music, real ale and trains. What more could you want?

Being another year older, we elected to stay in the local Travelodge rather than camp, as we were only there one night and the campsite is a minimum two night stay. This meant a comfy bed and a shower for which there was no queue. It also meant a two mile walk or a taxi back. It also meant we missed the campsite indie disco which last year was one of the highlights.

It also rained, which was a bit disappointing after last year’s gorgeous sunny weather, but it didn’t rain enough to dampen our spirits. There were tales of foolish people looking at the weather forecast and deciding not to come, but really there was not that much rain!

It was great to see an improved choice of food, with a burrito stand and a coffee, cake and falafel stall as well as the excellent curries, usual burgers and the Swanwick railway cafe selling cheesy chips, tea, coffee and a good selection of vegan food.

This year saw Slumberland Records curating the outdoor stage. They have been going since 1989 and are a collective run by band members on the label. As well as the outdoor stage, there was the engine shed stage, the marquee, the church and the train stage. You have to get there early to get in the latter two as they are rather small and tend to be quite popular, especially when it rains.

Arriving about lunchtime on Saturday, we had missed Darren Hayman the night before, which was disappointing, but apparently he had tickets to Silverstone and could only do the Friday. We also missed the Smittens and the School. We were informed that it was a good night, and no rain fell. We walked from the hotel to the station to find a rail replacement bus. This wasn’t your usual rail replacement bus, but a vintage one with a “no spitting” sign and wood interior.

On the Saturday we managed to see the Birthday Kiss, Evans the Death, Colour Me Wednesday, Tender Trap, the Rosie Taylor Project, Tigercats, Gold Bears, the Just Joans, the Jasmine Minks, Go Sailor and Veronica Falls. We saw some of them only for half the set as we ran around trying to see as much as possible in order to record our experiences. We also checked out the Indiepop Lindy-Hop. It was rather busy and muddy in the marquee so we didn’t join in. We just took photos.

Highlights from Saturday were Colour Me Wednesday who played lively pop punk, with even a bit of indie ska; the Just Joans from Motherwell, who played quirky, funny songs, my favourite line was “The smell of cider always reminds me of you”; Tender Trap who were happy and poppy, and Veronica Falls who were definitely the best act of the day – even the rain didn’t chase us away. Well only as far as a gazebo. Fuzzing guitars, jangly sounds, they left us on a high for the day. Then we went to the indie disco which was run by Librarians Wanted, where we danced and chatted before a restored train and taxi back to the hotel.

Sunday dawned. We emerged delicately holding our heads for another day of music and mayhem, oh and quite a bit of mud.

We decided that we ought to do a bit more of the train and church stages today. So we started as we meant to go on by getting the train from Butterley and staying on for Sheffield band Robberie. They play acoustic indie/folk using guitar, bass, glockenspiel, melodica and tambourine. From our seat in the buffet car we could just about hear the gentle sound of the glockenspiel over the sound of the steam train, so we ventured forward into the doorway for a closer listen. We got to hear songs about life and relationships which sounded happy even when the subject matter was sad.

After a quick bite to eat and half of Spook School’s set, it was into the church for Electrophon Vintage. The church was packed so I stood at the back and only heard three songs which were very short, but there was quite a bit of banter between songs. We caught a couple of songs by Golden Grrls, but I was keen to go back to the church for Doggy, so we left early to get a seat. Doggy are very poppy, and not as twee as the Field Mice reference in the programme led me to believe. We then caught a couple of songs by 14 Iced Bears, before going to see Velodrome 2000, who were mad. They seemed to be a Marmite band. A general poll had three of us saying, “They’re a bit American, you know...,” and two of us liking them. It was indie pop meets the Ramones, and I think I enjoyed it because it was so completely different from everything else I had heard over the weekend.

The weather decided to turn at this point and the band playing the indoor stage had cancelled, so we headed back for the train. The programme said it was a band called Pretend Art, and the wall said it was TBC. It turned out to be a good choice, as it was Amelia Fletcher from Tender Trap who we’d seen the day before. We managed to get in the van, as I think many had been put off by the description of the band in the programme or the fact that it was now TBC and the rain, which was great, and she and her band did a selection of songs acoustically, including some Talulah Gosh numbers.

Other bands we saw on Saturday included This Many Boyfriends, the June Brides, Love Dance, Language of Flowers, Allo Darlin’, the Monochrome Set and the Vaselines. I particularly enjoyed Allo Darlin’, who were happy and uplifting. Singer Elizabeth Morris played ukulele and guitar and the sun came out. The Indy Pop Lindy-Hop participants were supposed to perform to the second number, but managed to lose their choreographer, which was a shame as it would have been quite fun to watch.

Despite the rain, the tennis and the racing at Silverstone, attendance was only slightly down on the previous year and that was mainly day trippers. The same number of pre-sale tickets was sold. Money was raised for the Midland Railway, and also for the bird sanctuary which had a gazebo up near the cafe with a selection of rescued owls and parrots. We enjoyed ourselves and look forward to more Indietracks in the future!


The photographs that accompany this article were taken for Pennyblackmusic by Neil Bailey.

















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