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Gig Review

Indietracks: Saturday: Wedding Present, Not Comet Gain, Shrag, the Kabeedies, Slow Down Tallahassee and more
Midland Railway, Butterley, Derbyshire

Article written by Ged M - Aug 13, 2008

The healthy crowd at Indietracks this year is welcome compared to last year but it has one downside: on the sunniest weekend of the year it makes competition for shade brutal and adds to the sauna effect in the indoor venues (especially the church). Sunburn, though, is a small price to pay for this year’s event with its collection of British, Scandinavian and a few North American bands (none of which played last year owing to the organisers’ rule of not allowing consecutive Indietrack appearances). The larger number of punters than last year brings additional security (mostly laidback, though the guard on the platform is a Ross Kemp wannabe) but doesn’t affect the sense of community, which is palpable and pleasing. It has just the right degree of amateurism, like stepping into a giant fanzine. And of course there are the steam trains, though travelling in the guards van to listen to artists feels more like sitting in a Native American sweatlodge.

Having parked at Butterley Station, we take the train to the Swanwick Junction festival site and have the pleasure of opening our Indietracks with a set from Norwegian singer-songwriter Marjit Vinjerui, whose delicate songs – Joni Mitchell comes to mind today, though her demos suggest she can rock it up a bit like Basia Bulat - are like iced tea on a hot day. Town Bike on the main stage are all the flavours of teen – a bubblegum-punk band dressed in bowling shirts with a weird mix of obsessions, from Ally Sheedy and prom nights to Douggie from McFly. Like Starburst sweets, I could consume one or two of these songs but a full set would make my mouth foam. So we go to the main stage to watch The Kick Inside, a band who sound exactly like the Smiths in their rockabilly period, at maximum jangle. Back outdoors, Slow Down Tallahassee have the right summery sound but a combination of lunchtime boozing and trying to remember the ‘clean’ version of sweary songs because of the kids in the crowd has a devastating effect on their delivery!
Shrag are the first great band of the weekend. By this time the temperature in the engine shed is hotter than a napalm enema but respect to Shrag’s drummer who maintains a steady beat throughout, even though she is rapidly melting (and subsequently faints, we’re told). Her band are lo-fi screech-pop genius, playing their tinny keyboards at frantic pace through minor miracles like ‘Pregnancy Scene’ and ‘Mark E Smith’.

Colin Clary on a train is a treat, a warm personality in a broiling carriage, and even a melancholy line from his sweet, Morrissey-inspired songs can provoke a wry smile. In the outdoors again, Red Pony Clock from San Diego are a 12 piece, 8 of whom are on stage. Their mix of instruments, including trombones, trumpets, accordion and violin give them the means to play Tex-mex, dance and jazz with their indie. As this is my first exposure to them (bar the track on the Indietracks compilation) the dense sound is a bit overwhelming. No such problem with the Kabeedies whose herky-jerky absurbist indiepop noise hymns the joys of Bruce Lee and yoghurt (“Petit Filou!”). Their hyperactive rhythms sound sweet but leave you exhausted. Baggy clearly hasn’t died out in the former Soviet Union. The ultra-polite Punk TV, originally from Siberia and now located in Moscow, seem to recreate that late 80s-early 90s sound, all melon-twisting Madchester indie meets Essex dance with distinct echoes of the Happy Mondays, Soup Dragons, Underworld and the Chemical Brothers. For retro-fetishists only.

My companions all disappear to see The Lodger when it’s announced that David Feck is a no-show. Their loss then – this is the most memorable set of the day. It’s rumoured that Jon Slade will play a set of Huggy Bear covers with his Brighton posse but in fact it’s much, much better than that. Not Comet Gain comprises Slade, half of Shrag and a bassist borrowed from Lichtenstein and while it’s a bit skronky at times and ‘Who Loves The Sun’ flirts with calamity, they're also brilliantly spontaneous. Their version of ‘You Can Hide Your Love Forever’, with singer plucked from the Lichtenstein contingent, is as fine as the original. Expecting nothing and receiving the world is the signifier of festival magic and Indietracks delivers.

You get just what you expect from the Wedding Present. You’ve got to hand it to David Gedge though; he’s found a formula to keep him involved in music as he hits both 50 and the Just-For-Men, and restyling Cinerama as the Wedding Present was a good move. He’s got a faithful fanbase, steady sales and a back catalogue that is perfect for nights like these. Older tracks like ‘Brassneck’ and ‘Montreal’ go down well with the older fans in the sweaty scrum at the front but the new material from El Rey doesn’t depart much from that formula: mosh-friendly indie-rock that wears its grown-up emotions plainly on its sleeve. A lot of the audience seem to have arrived to see the Weddoes and that boosts the average age (and waist size) of the Indietracks crowd by about a decade (and six inches) but that’s tribute to how well the expressive old indie trooper Gedge has worn; seeing the likes of Gareth Campesinos in the crowd shows that he’s connecting to the next generation too. After last year’s festival, Indietracks needed a big name to maintain the Saturday night momentum and the Wedding Present achieve that.


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Foxtails Brigade "Far Away and Long Ago"
North By North "Pistoletta"
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Theatre Royal "The Days Grow Hotter"
Oliver Gottwald "Freunde fürs Leben"
Heart/Dancer "Outro"
Clowwns "Idiot Bouncing"
Double Denim "Wide Open"
Flout "Rainchecks"
The Scenes "City Of White Blankets"


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