Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Pete Green's sparkly time at Indietracks!

It wouldn't be Indietracks without the sight of Pete Green shambling around in a floppy hat and flared jeans, a battered acoustic guitar strapped across his back and a pint of warm ale in hand. He wowed the crowds last year with two stellar performances and - even though he's not scheduled to play this time - we suspect the lure of the outdoor gazebo will prove too great for this acoustica addict. Exclusively for the Indietracks blog, Pete reminisces about the songs, steam trains, snacks and straighteners that made Indietracks 2007 such an unforgettable experience...

It was when I got off the train on the way home. And walked – no, floated, through the clear, glimmering summer air of Sheffield station. With a guitar and a rucksack and a fruit salad grin that felt like it could never fade away. Kill me now, because the rest of my life can never, ever get better than this. I'll leave the planet laughing in unsurpassable joy. This is pretty good going for a Monday morning, isn't it?

Before 2007 I had never been to a festival. Festivals sat alongside driving, going abroad, having a Myspace and full-time employment on the list of things I Officially Don't Do. Oh come on, Pete, people would say. Come to End of All Tomorrow's Leedstonbury Truckfest! Why? Who's playing? Oh, loads of great bands... Like? Er... Teenage Fanclub have reformed! And? Er... well, it's not about the bands... it's about the VIBE!

The word 'vibe' is also on the list of things I Officially Don't Do.

But the first Indietracks night back in April had been a blast of such uniqueness and perfection as to make July's two-dayer unmissable. That and the fact that Stuart asked me to play at it, and I had a debut solo single to try and flog some copies of, in the hope that Atomic Beat Records wouldn't lose hundreds of pounds for liking my songs.

It was a job and half getting there though. And you will tend to start worrying when you're due on stage at half past two and first you have to pitch a troublesome tent, on ground stonier than a stare from an audience at a Serious Acoustic Night when I play 'She's an Accountant', and then you have to find your way on foot from the camp site to the festival site a mile away, and it's about one o'clock and you're still sitting in a seven-seater taxi somewhere in the Amber Valley and all your fellow passengers are as perplexed as you are and the driver's gone to ask the farmer for directions. Still, at least I've remembered my sunhat. The one thing I know about festivals is that you have to wear a sunhat. It's a good thing too, because there isn't even time to fire up the Portable Cordless Ceramic Travel Hair Straightener that I've bought specially for Indietracks!

By lucky hap I get a lift for the final leg from Takeshi, zooming by in one of those car things, and arrive backstage at the church as the Felt Tips, on just before me, are striking up their last song. While I'm on there are a few distractions: I'm strangely mesmerised, through the far window, by a half-pitched tent flapping furiously in the wind; I have to re-sequence the set so that I can do my new train song 'Hey Dr Beeching' when Stuart Indietracks is in the room; and I'm vaguely troubled by the possible blasphemy of playing my expletive-riddled song about MySpace in a consecrated building. There are also some elementary mistakes, such as singing 'The Title Race is Over' to a room full of people who don't like football. But I'm always doing things like that. The audience is indulgent and kind and I think the set goes pretty well.

The rest of the Saturday is a blur of fabulous pop music, giddy hugs, plates of chips, and bottles of Thwaites' Lancaster Bomber. The Gresham Flyers are the best I've seen them, Rose McDowall captivating and vulnerable, and The Chemistry Experiment, still (prog) rocking after all these years, perfect on the church stage. No-one can hold a torch to The Orchids though; no-one ever could. As incomparably radiant as at their comeback gig at the Luminaire four months ago and their farewell at the Thekla in 1995. I stumble after a torchlight back to the tent, completely in the dark as to how anyone can't see it. The brilliance of The Orchids, I mean, not the torchlight.

At camp sites my cheap gear usually places me at the bottom of the outdoor pursuits pecking order. Hardcore outdoor types stride majestically by in their £180 nine-season NASAtex extreme mountain boots, peering scornfully down their noses at my flimsy tent and cagoule with a broken zip. At Indietracks on Sunday morning, however, the indiepop kids look on in awe as I brew mugs of tea and rustle up beans, veggie sausage and fried bread on my spluttering, bottom-of-the-range, one-ring gas stove. To the seasoned climber and hiker I am an effete urbanite, way out of my depth under canvas, but to the twee I am suddenly like Ray Mears and Scott of the Antarctic rolled into one. I'm off back to the festival site to see some more indiepop and I may be gone for some time.

Still knackered, me and The Parallelograms watch A Smile And A Ribbon from a prostrate position on the bouncy castle. Then Horowitz win the hearts of hundreds, as I always knew they would. Later MJ Hibbett & the Validators take effortlessly to the big stage, another band on best-I've-ever-seen-them form. Das Wanderlust challenge Bearsuit in the endearingly bonkers stakes and Persil are as relentlessly hypnotic and irresistible as ever – indie/electropop at its peak. Sean from Fortuna Pop! gets me to try and tell Martine Persil what twee means. I fail horribly.

But everyone tells me The School are the highlight of the day, and I miss them while I do an acoustic set on the train, waiting for it to stop at the far end of the line before I play the quieter songs. It's an almighty task to co-ordinate guitar and singing with foot movements to keep my balance as the train chugs along; happily, I haven't had too much beer yet and just about manage it. It's another challenge to synchronise the set with the railway timetable; this time I fail horribly again and have to play the last two songs on the platform back at Swanwick (below). Considering the competition, there's still a pleasing number of people around to listen. I mean even with the Portable Cordless Ceramic Travel Hair Straightener on full power I'm never gonna look quite as good as The School.
Sometime in the early evening, as I'm coming out of the café with a belly full of chips, my friend Dan phones. I don't see him much since he sold his vinyl and moved to Droitwich, and it's like a phone call from another world, like when Doctor Who's assistants give their mums back in London a quick bell from the Tardis. In my serene and blissful state I must sound to Dan like I am very much On Something, but the whole festival, as far as I see it, is refreshingly free from that sort of thing. Drugs make you boring, kids! Was I wrong about the sunhat being compulsory as well?

Then I'm standing by the merch table and there's a lad with my Portable Cordless Ceramic Travel Hair Straightener on his T-shirt. That's a coincidence, isn't it? Oh... and he's also got the text of a silly excited post I made on a web forum a couple of weeks earlier, about my Portable Cordless Ceramic Travel Hair Straightener, on his T-shirt. Word for word. That's more than just a coincidence: it's freaking my head out! He turns out to be one of the Pop Miwsig DJs who play out the night on a high as the new loco shed's concrete dust is kicked up into the shimmering disco lights by two hundred ecstatic popkids who don't want the night to end.

But maybe my highest light was playing second guitar in the Pocketbooks singalong on the train. Being wildly out of tune and hitting a hundred wrong chords, and just about getting away with it. Then learning 'I'm Not Going Out' in the ten seconds before we played it. Playing it spot on, turning round to Dan at the end of the song, and both of us laughing, amazed, joyful, victorious. On the train. In my sunglasses. On a sunny day. With a hundred sparkly people and more love than the world can hold.

And at the end of my life I'll remember the happiest moment it gave me. It was when I got off the train on the Monday morning. And floated through the dazzling bright summer spaces of Sheffield station. With a guitar and a rucksack and an ice cream grin that felt like it could never fade away. And I'll be back this year, not playing this time, just happy to see a load more skill bands. Just don't expect to see me at End of All Tomorrow's Leedstonbury Truckfest though, is all.

Pete Green's new EP, Platform Zero, is released in July on Lostmusic Records. To find out more, see when he's playing live, or listen to some of his other stuff, visit

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