Monday, 28 April 2008

Happy Birthday Indietracks!

Today we're celebrating the one-year anniversary of the first-ever Indietracks event!

On April 28 2007, indiepop kids from far-flung locations were transported back in time to the innocence of the 1950s, where trains chuff along on steam, girls dance about in flouncy swing skirts and boys grease their hair back with Brylcream. There were bands playing on the platform, discos in the train carriages, a fleet of merry mini-buses and much dithering between judiciously sipping hot chocolate and merrily glugging cider.

To mark the occasion, here's Emma from Pocketbooks looking back at where the Indietracks magic all began...

We'd known about Indietracks for months, but somehow it hadn't seemed real. A gig on the platform of a heritage railway, and an indie disco provided by Tasty Fanzine, Spiral Scratch and Offbeat DJs in the carriages of a moving 1950s steam train, in the middle of Derbyshire? Surely we dreamt that up! I certainly wasn't going to believe it until I saw it, however much I wanted it to be true.

Even our bus driver didn't believe that this gang of indie types wanted to go to the Midland Railway Centre, and tried in vain to steer us in a completely different direction as we drove through Ripley. Due to an earlier altercation between him and a Nottingham double-decker driver, plus half of the Pocketbooks clan still sitting in a restaurant at the time the bus was supposed to be leaving, we were already running late, but as we approached the Railway Centre and spotted a few familiar faces milling about, including Stuart - Mr Indietracks himself - standing in the doorway looking worried, at least we knew we were in the right place.

As we were led through the ticket office to the platform and the steam train came into view, it gradually dawned on us that it was definitely not a dream. I'm pretty sure many a Pocketbooks stomach flipped over with excitement at that moment. It was as if we'd stepped back fifty years or so. In my mind, everything went sepia.

The stage itself was in what would have been a passenger waiting area in front of an indoor buffet area that wouldn't have looked wrong with a pretty girl in a swing skirt drinking milkshake through a straw. The train comprised of two fully stocked bars and a disco carriage, where the DJs had set up. The rest of the train was seating around tables, with the music piped through each carriage.
It must have been a little surreal for Tottie at first, playing in such an unusual setting as the sun set over the platform. Add to this the model railway opening at precisely the same time as their set, and the general feeling that people wanted to GET ON THAT THERE TRAIN, and they must've had the hardest job out of all three acts, but they definitely pulled it off with a nice set of acoustic pop, even throwing in some confectionary for the crowd.

As a hundred or so indie kids scurried towards the train at departure time, I could feel the excitement like static electricity. As the train started pulling out of the station and 'Hey Lloyd…' came over the PA at the most impossibly perfect moment, a mass of heads, arms and assorted limbs were poked straight out the windows to wave to friends in other carriages, take pictures. Everywhere you looked, people were grinning from ear to ear. It was only about 8pm, and already people were dancing to the Tasty fanzine DJs in the disco carriage, drinks in hand and surrounded by disco lights.

We found out later that some of the assembled indie kids had blagged their way into the train cabin to sound the whistle – "choo choo"! I'm so jealous! Stuart had even made an 'Indietracks' sign to go on the front of the train, that's how much attention and care he'd put into everything.

The first train journey seemed way too brief. By that point it seemed like everyone there knew each other and had been friends for ages. When we got back, Slow Down Tallahassee were waiting on the platform, ready to play. Oh, the harmonies! Just the sort of perfect pop you'd want to warm people up on a slightly chilly platform now the sun had set. Some of the kids were drinking hot chocolate by this point! How often do you see lots of people dancing on a railway platform drinking hot chocolate?

After they'd finished, everyone piled back on the train, which whisked them away in a cloud of steam, smiling, waving and dancing into the sunset. It was spookily quiet as we set up our equipment. One minute the platform was full of over-excited indie kids, and the next we were all alone, save for my favourite sound guy we've ever had. There was a brief moment of panic when Ben, having dragged a heavy keyboard stand on public transport all the way from London, announced that he'd left it in the hotel. Thank goodness there was another band with keyboards on the bill! (Sorry, we would have asked to borrow it, but you were away merrily dancing on a steam train at that point!)

I can't remember much of our show. It's all a bit of a blur and seemed to be over in seconds. I remember it was easily the most friendly, dancing, hysterical and happy audience we'd ever played to. Everyone was clearly loved up from the uniqueness of the venue, slightly tipsy and possibly dancing around to keep warm, and we enjoyed every second. All we could see was rows of smiling faces at the front, and then people dancing at the sides of the crowd. Actual proper dancing like you'd see in a club! And there was a smoke machine! We even got away with an encore, even though it was freezing at that point. We'd have happily played all night, although by that point we'd actually played every song we know!

It's even more blurry after that point. I remember me and Natalie discovering some tinsel and started decorating people as they danced to the Spiral Scratch DJs. (And I remember the lovely railway volunteer who politely but firmly told us to put them back!) I remember people dancing and screaming along to the records on the platform outside the disco carriage. I remember hearing "Hey Lloyd..." for at least the third time round about midnight. I remember meeting loads of people I'd not seen for a while, or just knew vaguely from posting on websites. I remember seeing the organiser Stuart in a state of tired and blissful happiness, partly not quite believing that this was really happening, but also cool as anything, as if he arranges amazing events like this every day.

Thanks Emma!

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