Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Right Connections

Indietracks Festival, Midland Butterly Railway nr. Ripley, Derbyshire, July 24-26 2009.

This was Parallax View's first visit to Indietracks, now in its third year of bringing the best of indiepop to the grounds of a vintage railway station at Midland Railway, Butterly, near Ripley in Derbyshire. It was a sign of the weekend to come that the person we end up sharing a taxi with from Alfreton train station was Ian who runs the How Does If Feel To Be Loved? disco in the marquee at the event. Everything, and indeed, everyone, seemed to be connected.

Even, to some degree, our good selves, as we make re-acquaintance with Dunc from The Autumn Store and badge-bestowing Simon of Sweeping The Nation fame in fairly quick order on entering the grounds, and bump into Liz from The School not long after. And who should we be following on our way to the bar but the unmistakeable derrieres of the girls from Au Revoir Simone? It was very much that kind of festival.

Friday night's fare was entirely on the outdoor stage, with the synths of Modular washing over us pleasantly before Rosay Pipette (hitherto to be referred to, of course, as Rose Elinor Dougall) strutted her new solo stuff to mostly impressive effect. There wasn't too much on show that screamed out 'hit record' but it was all engaging enough to foster the belief that if anyone can sell Stereolab-lite to the masses it's RED.

While waiting for ARS to get into gear, we managed to catch a few words with Alice Hubley from Arthur and Martha as she chatted to Dunc, consoling her on the rather snide NME review of A&M's new album which was excessively sniping with regards to her own vocal contributions. Heads turned immediately with the arrival of Au Revoir Simone, who put on a confident and mesmering show featuring the best from their three albums. There are those that bemoan their lack of stagecraft but with presence like theirs craft is made redundant and superflous, and latest album 'Still Night, Still Light' is arguably their most consistent disc to date.

Thus followed some dancing with Dunc, his gf Debbie, and the rest of the Autumn Store posse in the Lipstick On Your Collar! disco, during which Dead Kenny may or may not have been jumping up and down rather rigorously to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart's 'Young Adult Friction' chanting 'don't check me out! don't check me out!' to anyone without an option but to listen. All in all, was a Good Friday, if not THE Good Friday, if you see what we mean.

Saturday sees our bleary blogging eyes facing the serious business of catching as many indiepop acts as possible while still remembering to cover the basics of eating, drinking and breathing. We catch the sun somewhat while waiting for Sucrette, who make up for their late appearance with some top-notch breathy J-Pop which would appeal in particular to fans of Annie's 'Anniemal'. We were less seduced by Tender Trap, whose harmonies only really tugged at our heartstrings during their newest number, but at least that means they're heading in the right direction. Also failed to be engaged by Friends on the Indoor Stage (otherwise known as The Loco Shed), while One Happy Island won us over with the sheer persistence of their energy and charm during their set in the same arena.



Danish troubadour Labrador was late finding the festival but provided soothing electro-folk to calm our savage breasts on a hot Saturday evening in The Church (a case of Pew! What A Scorcher! anyone?). This proved the calm before the storm of The Specific Heats at the same location, whose reverb mechanism blew up during the first song, amongst other technical mishaps, which did nothing but add to the feeling that this was one of the festival landmark events, with scorching surf guitar and sun-kissed melodies providing a perversely devilish good time in the 'sanctity' of The Church.

Some fresh air was certainly needed at that point, but a look at the long snaking queue of people waiting to see The Lovely Eggs suggested that we wouldn't be able to get back in a hurry. And so it proved, as we were left to paw at the Church window like poor little orphan boys on Christmas Day, to get a glimpse of the hotly-tipped popsters. From our disadvantaged vantage point, The Lovely Eggs looked and sounded un-beatable, before we whisked ourselves off to see The Frank And Walters, who were still playing mostly the same songs and (if memory serves us correctly) telling mostly the same jokes that they used to back in 1992. Pretty entertaining and endearing stuff, nevertheless.

We only really know one Speedmarket Avenue song, the pretty fantastic 'Way Better Now' so wasn't quite sure what to expect of the Stockholm collective. Perhaps the most surprising aspect was that the vocal duties were fairly evenly shared between the male and female singer, the latter's sheer blue tights certainly scorching themselves on our retinas. It was all rather lovely, much lovelier than the fact that the main toilets were in need of plumbing attention, which certainly challenged punters' temperaments in what was supposed to be the friendliest of festivals.

Our underpants tension was somewhat eased by the always comforting presence of Camera Obscura, with lead singer Tracyann Campbell looking never more glam as the band dispensed a crowd-pleasing set of gems like 'Let's Get Out Of This Country'; 'French Navy' and 'If Looks Could Kill', climaxing beautifully as usual with 'Razzle Dazzle Rose' as the sun set. Met back up with Dunc and Debbie at this stage who pass on the tidbit that Marisa from The Besties is about to do a debut solo set in the Marquee. Right on cue the lead singer from The Specific Heats then pops his head out of said tent and hollers to anything within earshot the very same headline news.

Although your bluffing blogger is aware of The Besties' cult status in indiepop circles, Marisa seems more recently and vividly familiar to us, until it clicks she played keys for The Specific Heats earlier. We just have time to congratulate The Specific Heats singer on his set (he's philosophical about the equipment blowing up as it's the last day of their European tour) before he was required to act as a human mic stand for the slightly embarrassed but genuinely endearing Marisa, who ran through some old Besties tunes and other stuff even though at least one of her keys wasn't working. The whole shebang had so much impromptu charm and bonhomie we swear if we were any more full of ourselves at this point we'd have had to empty ourselves out just for the pleasure of filling ourselves back up again.

This also served to fill the gap while (reputedly) Emmy The Great had to be rescued from some sort of motorway-related fiasco before her set at The Indoor Stage. Better late than never, as we always say here on Parallax View, and while we can't quite re-create the flush of love at first sight we initially felt for Emmy, it's a bold and entertaining show with an impressive cover of The Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind?' thrown into the mix for good measure. Outside, La Casa Azul are in turns bemusing and bewitching with an undeniably odd combination of pigeon English, dancepop and balladry, to a visual backdrop of Mario Brothers, 'virtual backing band' and other random bytes and bobs. It's hit and miss for our tastes, but there's no doubt his version of John Paul Young's 'Love Is In The Air' provides one of the truly joyously unifying moments of the festival weekend.

Night-time saw Ian's 'How Does It Feel To be Loved?' pop-disco ramming the Marquee to its rafters, so we had our hearts and feet stolen by Barcelona's Bonnie & Clyde in the Loco Shed instead. TPOBPAH's 'Young Adult Friction' again gets a showing, and thus also does our crap dancing in a session of hot, sweaty fun. Rumours of ex-NME journo Tim Jonze being on site to do a piece for The Guardian permeated the night air as the contented crowds dispersed.

Sunday morning started with a call from our friend Keef to say he's coming up for the day to catch up with the evening's headliners Teenage Fanclub. After watching the entrancing (but startlingly young) Bonne Idee in the Loco Shed, we meet up with Keef on the steam train where we're completely out of earshot of the drum-and-bass from The Manhattan Love Suicides announcing the band's split. We're back on solid ground in time for The School's afternoon slot on The Outdoor Stage, where Simon from The Loves does his best to steal the show from a stunning set of stellar choons new and old, with his drunken wit and repartee and blatant-lack-of-socks appeal, but it's the impression of a band truly starting to find its feet live that's the lingering impression.

It then began to rain, which probably suited Denmark's Northern Portrait as their efficient Scandinavian remodelling of The Smiths would suggest they're more than comfortable with all things Northern Miserabilism. Happily they're not short of decent tunes and the material seems grounded and heartfelt enough to resonate more deeply than mere pastiche, and they appeared to go down well with a visibly impressed Emma from Pocketbooks who was stood next to us throughout. We wished her well with her set later that day, to which she summarily dismissed us to the merchandise stand. Still, as Confucious might have said, better a girl who only brings her business head to the party than one who doesn't bring any head at all.

Was well and truly chucking it down by this time, but it didn't stop us from heading to see Lucky Soul on the Outdoor Stage to gawp at the singer in her short little mini-dress and to remark on how one of the LS geezers is indecently rocking the Blake Fielder-Civil look, as well as sway about a bit and tap our feet to their pretty fetching pop-soul sound. Meanwhile, it wasn't just the rain that saw people scampering into the merchandise tent, as there was a bit of a Talulah Gosh reunion going on, which was nice, even though we found ourselves distracted by congratulating Liz on her set and introducing Dunc and Simon to each other (the indiepop equivalent of Frost:Nixon, we're sure you'll agree).

Sunday became a bit of a rainy blur from this point on, catching 20 minutes of the always-entertaining The Smittens here and 20 minutes of Hong Kong In The 60s ambient pop there, and a set by the aforementioned Pocketbooks that became increasingly compelling as the show went on, and we're sure Emma (who sports a haircut that makes her look a bit like Helen Marnie from Ladytron) would thank us for pointing out that their excellent album 'Flight Paths' is available for retail and download from all the usual outlets, now.

What else? Ah yes, Stereo Total were something of a rowdy revelation, featuring an impromptu performance from Birmingham's very own David Leach on harmonising, and a vaguely riotous stage invasion providing a feelgood finale. One-man NZ act Disasteradio gurned his way gloriously through a frenetic set of electronic gloopy loopiness, keeping Keef's son Joe suitably fascinated throughout. Some fishcake and chips in Johnson's Cafe later, Art Brut are their usual entertaining selves, even though their rockstar shapes and boisterous, slightly shambolic wit does lose its novelty value after a while. Nice of them to namecheck MJ Hibbett, though.

Which just left us with the minor details of your hustling hack falling flat on his back on the wet grass and a mighty, mighty closing performance from Teenage Fanclub which included a couple of new songs (one was called 'The Falls', we think) and plenty of the best from what we sometimes forget is a splendidly impressive back catalogue. Not only is everything and everybody connected, but, as TFC remind us to a cavalcade of chiming guitars, Everything Flows.

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2 Comments:

Blogger emmlpop said...

Hello, sorry if I came across as dismissive. I was helping out with the merch stall and was in a bit of a flap about it! Glad you enjoyed our set anyway!
Emma X

5:52 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Hi Emma, thanks for dropping by and leaving a coment. No worries, was just being a bit tongue-in-cheek, really! Best of luck with the album x

8:18 PM  

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