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The Windmill, Brixton
Good Friday, 14th April 2017
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Indietracks Festival: Saturday: The Primitives, Ballboy, Betty and the Werewolves, Foxes!, the Hillfields and more
Midland Railway, Butterley, Derbyshire

Article written by Various Writers - Aug 7, 2010

Fast forward to Sunday night...

It’s easy to be cynical sometimes but when Kip Berman declares that Indietracks is his favourite festival, or Peggy Wang helplessly burbles her love of the Poohsticks, only the flintiest hearts might sneer. The sense of community is key to Indietracks and is felt strongest when The Pains of Being Pure At Heart close the festival: the new house band of the indiepop world (although they’re the most unprepossessing leaders you’ve ever seen of a new youth and not-so-youth cult). Drawing on the same wellspring of C86 pop that fuels most of the bands and all of the fans at the festival, they take down that wall between performers and fans, summing up the sense of common purpose and shared belief you feel everywhere you walk around this weekend.

Right, back to Saturday.

Indietracks is a small festival now in its fourth year where, like that bar in Cheers, everybody knows your name. This year there’s a much better merch tent, a constantly busy real ale bar and the locomotive that pulls you to Butterley and back is Thomas the Tank Engine (miserable bugger isn’t signing autographs though and it’s thought he has a coke habit [spot the locomotive joke]).

One thing I notice about this year’s Indietracks is a better balance between loud and gentle – there are fewer sensitive souls squeaking in quiet outrage as a guitarist ramps his amp up to ‘5’. So we have a welcome start from the Hillfields, playing their dark pop to the point of distortion. I reject the suggestion of an accomplice that they’re a bit goth but there’s something of the night about them for sure (their songs all seem haunted by secrets and childhood terrors) and an Echo and the Bunnymen influence comes across clearly. I encounter the stunningly drunk singer and drummer of Foxes! in the late afternoon but earlier in the day they’re sober and impressively poppy. The more angular style of the past has mainly given way to a slightly ramshackle psych-pop approach that sounds great – more like a proper band than they’ve ever seemed before.

Betty & The Werewolves
The Give It Ups aren’t especially original but they’re good-time indiepop right down to their “I love indietracks” pendant. There’s a neat creative tension between their tendency to sweet, melodious powerpop and a desire to grunge it up on the part of the guitarist. It may be that all southpaw guitarists want either to be Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain and rock out - discuss. The set by Betty & the Werewolves is one of the highlights of Indietracks: fast and punchy punk-pop (with shades of Tallulah Gosh), producing a reaction that, appropriately for a church, feels like an old-time revival meeting. There’s more energy in the band than a whole playground-full of pre-schoolers fuelled on love hearts and sherbet dib-dabs and this performance sent people dashing to the merch tent to buy their debut album. In truth the set should probably have been held on another stage, given the numbers of people crowding round the windows outside, and the queues at the door but for those that were there, it was heavenly (in the deconsecrated sense). Malmo’s Stars in Coma look slightly incongruous onstage – a (male) synth player with immaculately manicured nails, a (female) bass player with a flounce and a flower in her hair, literally bouncing with excitement, and a singer/guitarist who looks like a refugee from the Flamin Groovies. Still, their music is catchy indiepop of the Swedish species, especially the floaty ‘Peacebloom’ with its clever hint of Afrobeat. (by Ged M)

Ballboy’s presence on the main stage is cause for double celebration. Having pursued a number of solo projects in the last couple of years, it’s great to see Gordon and the band together again and showcasing songs from a forthcoming album. And drummer Gary Morgan is getting married in the morning, in the signal box on the site. Gary is clearly worse for wear, and on more than one occasion Gordon turns quizzically to his drummer, as if to suggest ‘let’s try that again please’? But it doesn’t matter for tonight is a celebration. Watching a man dressed in a kilt doing star-jumps along the length of the photographers’ pit whilst young girls hold Scotland flags on the shoulders of uncles is a uniquely new form of celebration for Indietracks. Familiar though is the way Gordon celebrates “mundane subject matter and transforms it into something poetic”, all to a soundtrack of haunting recorder and jubilant guitar. Ineffably elegant. It’s heart-warming to have them back. (by Alex S)

Thankfully for a reformed band, The Primitives don’t bother trying to sell us new material – apart from a Lee Hazlewood cover this is a greatest hits set that makes you realise how many good songs they had (I only failed to recognise one). Admittedly you can’t bite far into the fuzz coating before you hit a toffee-sweet core of melodic pop but this is fast and euphoric indiepop that doesn’t need over-analysis. Tracy Tracy looks exactly the same as she did 20 years ago, in her shimmery black dress and heels so high they could be called stilts and not breach the Trade Descriptions Act. (by Ged M)


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