Sunday, 16 May 2010

Simon Tyers of Sweeping the Nation looks back on the history of Indietracks...

Simon Tyers, author of the Sweeping the Nation blog, reminisces about his first ever Indietracks experience in 2007...

But for unprecedented precipitation, I might never have gone to the first Indietracks in 2007. For a period of several days, starting on 20th July, flash flooding caused more than 900 homes in Oxfordshire to be evacuated as rivers rose by up to twenty feet, postponing the local Truck Festival for two months.

As someone planning to go to Truck, I was left at home for a weekend wondering what there was to fill the festival gap, when I alighted on this small time DIY event which was taking place on the following weekend, and at a place just an hour down the motorway. It took place at a venue that looked unusual enough, featured new bands that I was interested in and was at a price that, having other stuff to do on the Saturday, meant I could at least afford a day there.

At this time, although I'd long since started blogging and seeking new artists out, I wasn't connected to the indiepop scene. I'd briefly been on the Sinister mailing list a decade before but I knew nothing of Bowlie (the online hub of the time for indiepop activity) or the popshow community. More to the point, I personally knew nobody there. This was going to be interesting.

And it genuinely seemed like nothing else, a little secret thing in the middle of nowhere where a few bands had decided to pitch up on a warm day. There was no outdoor stage then and pretty much all the food option was the transport cafe. Day trippers looking round the museum grounds would pitch up wondering what was happening. And....was that a farm just there? With llamas? The clientele was as small as all that implies, only getting smaller through the day as bands went home, but that added to the cosiness and community spirit of it all. There was clearly a sub-culture at work waiting to be let out of the bottle.

Friends Of The Bride brought their postmodern, well dressed mod-soul croon, and the Indelicates played their bloody-minded blunt agit-indie-folk. The Victorian English Gentlemens Club (VEGC) went for it in the chapel with their Pixies/Wire/Sonic Youth scree, and singer/guitarist Adam Taylor ended up in the pulpit. And it was all great. That still left plenty of scope for falling in love with completely new names - the Chiara L's, in hock to the Popguns and Calvin Johnson without looking like they knew who either really was. And Wake The President, crisp Orange Juice janglepop led by two bickering twin brothers who end by covering Talking Heads' Psycho Killer. It stands to reason you'd want to tell people about all this, with the Pocketbooks singalong on the train with lyric booklets and shakers, and MJ Hibbett and the Validators inviting rousing audience participation, or the way Darren Hayman virtually got a moshpit going right at the end by doing Hello Kitten and Pull Yourself Together, before presenting Stuart with a signed programme "to remind him of the wankers who lost him so much money".

And people did tell others.

Time moved on. Friends Of The Bride split sometime last year, Wake The President sometime this year. The VEGC made an even more warped second album, and the Indelicates continued on their own singular course. By 2008 quite a few people I knew, some even without my cajoling, came to the festival. Moreover I'd discovered the depths of the scene and got into the message boards and blogs, and - ah, why not get the plug in while I can - am putting a warm-up show featuring that self same MJ Hibbett and the Validators, Standard Fare and Lime Chalks on at Leicester Musician on 22nd July.

Indietracks, despite its increase in size and profile, remains a friendly coming together of those disenfranchised by what some now call guitar indie, a clear bijou labour of love and gratitude. And we're continuously grateful for it in return.

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