It’s one of our favourite festivals and Indietracks Festival 2018 excelled itself with a diverse and inclusive line-up showing other festivals how it should be done. Editor Sarah Lay reports.
It’s early evening; Sunday. Sunshine has started to blaze through the wet blanket of cloud hanging over us, dragging its edges fast across the horizon. People have started to fold umbrellas, daring to unfurl rugs once more. To the side of the stage a child jumps both feet together into a newly formed puddle, the sky’s reflection distorted as it runs from the scene.
A diesel train slide away from the platform, while headed in the other direction and closer to us a narrow gauge grunts by. We exchange waves – us damp and windswept flowers in the field, and the huddled passengers on board. That momentary connection, the instinctually action, making us all smile as the complex construction of everyday life is banished by the gesture.
On stage, there is the swell of brass, the glitch-and-bloop of a beat, at some point the mournful cry of an accordion. The emotion shudders through me as I hover somewhere between the smile of the reciprocal wave and a sadness of some sort.
As Haiku Salut play tracks old and new I have to admit Indietracks – here in this unlikely corner of Derbyshire where the music and the heritage railway communities come together once a year – has captured my heart once again.
In truth I was crushing hard from the moment the line-up was announced. Always a haven of diversity in a calendar of derivative and narrowly focused festival bills, with its 2018 line up Indietracks excelled. Diversity at Indietracks isn’t a tick box or virtue signalling, from indiepop to punk, spiralling dreampop to electro-funk the range of musical genres was as broad as those putting it on, playing and partying.
Headliners The Lovely Eggs, British Sea Power and Honeyblood would catch the eye of even the most casual alternative music fan but across the weekend some real gems – emerging and established artists alike – would bring enchantment to the beautiful and ephemeral world springing around Swanwick Junction station. And community is a word and an ideal which is inseparable from this festival – it is all about the volunteer communities (railway and music) which make it happen, the genre scenes across the UK and Europe which make the atmosphere so safe and welcoming, and it’s a theme tapped by bands across the line-up.
Bringing me that moment of heart-bursting love was Derbyshire trio Haiku Salut playing the outdoor stage in-between the sullen rain and brilliant sunshine – no more perfect a moment for their sound. Songs old joined those from forthcoming album There Is Nowhere Else and from their eclectic and deeply creative instrumentals – their performance as ever showing how complex their arrangements and how broad their musicality – came the sense of community, of joy in coming together and standing together rather than being driven apart. If you’ve not seen Haiku live yet, put that right – performative, intricate, and bringing organic warmth to electro sounds – they are a band you need to experience live.
In sonic contrast Dream Nails had played to a packed indoor stage earlier that afternoon and from a very different style the idea of community resounded – from their Riot Grrrl rally of women and non-binary people to the front, to their queer love songs, to their anger and shared horrors personal and political. Their set made us a gang; rousing and reassuring, inspiring and full of fun and ferocity. One of the most important bands around at the moment and another one to put on your must-see list.
But it’s hard to pick highlights when they come thick and fast here in this community out of place, out of time; a bittersweet knowledge that this is escape not your everywhere. Keeping relatively small and perfecting what it does rather than expand and dilute by chasing profits there is a sense that each band really wants to be there, are enjoying their sets and their own experience of the festival – there is no going through the motions here.
Derby melancholy electropop three-piece Mighty Kids open up the church on Saturday – their debut EP released the day before and the congregation blooming so full there are faces pressed against the glass from the outside. They’re not the only band to pack the pews and by Sunday night it is the electro-clash of Sink Ya Teeth that gets them dancing in the aisles.
The shed too, hosting the indoor stage, brings in the crowds – the rain probably helping people discover bands they might otherwise have given a miss but people pressing in whatever the weather. The shoegazey dreampop of Linda Guilala, and the sway-inducing Night Flowers, the pure energy of Happy Accidents, the return of Even As We Speak.
Outside too we get some lesser-known treats – the garage rock of Ghum and Eureka California, sing-a-long with The Smittens, the almost-obligatory and much-loved performance from Darren Hayman, and the sun drying us all out as Girl Ray provide the chilled out vibes.
Once again Indietracks has self-organised itself around the DIY pop scene and shown music – and kindness – is very much alive and kicking. It’s shown safe spaces are possible, that community is not just needed in these times but vital. And with a line-up this strong at Indietracks Festival 2018 I can’t wait to hop aboard in 2019 and discover what magic has been conjured. For now, it is back aboard the rumbling rolling stock, the lamps smeared against storm-skies, alighting at reality but laden with lots of love for this perfection of a festival.
You can find the Indietracks Festival 2018 playlist on Spotify here.