What’s not to like about Heritage Railways, Indie bands, Real Ale and Camping! (Ok, the camping!!!) However, when the line up for Indie Tracks 2018 was announced and it featured The Lovely Eggs, British Sea Power, Dream Wife, Darren Hayman, Gwenno, Sink Ya Teeth and many more, it was far too good to miss. Plus, due to the hot weather, the Midland Railway Centre (who operate the Preserved Railway on site) had banned the Steam train from running (as it was a fire risk) and a Heritage Diesel Class 47 locomotive 47402 “Gateshead” was working the trains on site instead …. “winner, winner, chicken dinner!”
Camping – Golden Valley Camp Site
Now I’m no fan of camping, I used to camp at the Reading and Phoenix Festivals about 3 decades ago but not these days! I like a bed, a shower, a toilet and other home comforts. The slight problem at Indietracks is you have to camp, as it’s in the middle of nowhere (Well, the middle of Derbyshire!) and there are no hotels or guest houses nearby! However, my father in law Mike, kindly offered to loan me his camper van. Sorted! So I now had a mobile … bed, toilet, shower, cooker and most importantly … beer fridge! So a quick call to the Golden Valley Camp Site (which is right next to the Indie Tracks Festival site (or the Midland Railway Centre) and a space with electric hook up booked for the Camper Van. Sorted !!!
Hofmeister – follow the bear (life inside a British Sea Power bear suit)
My friend Mark Pomeroy (another Plymouth lad) is what I can only describe as a British Sea Power fanatic … so much so, they often ask him to wear one of the bear costumes during the BSP live set … I asked Mark if he would let us know what it’s like to be a BSP bear …
Mark writes …
British Sea Power and the bears I hope this isn’t giving away any trade secrets, but those bears that British Sea Power have? I’m one of them. Sometimes, anyway. The bears are whoever BSP’s manager can find who’s willing. There’s about half a dozen regulars who climb into the costumes, plus anyone who asks nicely. The big black bear called Ursine Ultra has been with BSP since the first LP, and the white Bi-Polar Bear came on board for the Machineries Of Joy tour. Ultra started off as a prop for Hammer films and has been re-upholstered a couple of times since starting his new career. Bi-Polar is more grey than white these days, but what do you expect when it’s traipsing around dirty venues and the occasional muddy field? Speaking of muddy fields, that’s why we’re here. In 2018, BSP headlined the Saturday of the Indietracks Festival, which you’ll have read about elsewhere. We – myself and senior bear wrangler Nick – had been given the word from management that our services would be required. Nick has done the bear approaching 100 times now, so it’s not surprising BSP’s manager has his mobile number. My score is a much more modest 20 or so outings. The usual message will be to meet the manager by the side of the stage after a particular song, usually about three-quarters the way through the set. This is all very well if BSP stick to the set list, but they don’t always. Once we were waiting to go on and they decided to chuck in an extra slow number, so the bears were left in their holding pen, outside the venue, waving at the traffic and startled passers by. The Indietracks set was held up by technical issues, so it was a massive release when the band finally took the stage. BSP played a selection from across their history to delight the regulars while not turning off festival punters. Not that I recall that much after Bad Bohemian, as that was our cue to quietly slip away, head round the side of the stage and get into costume. I’m usually in Bi-Polar Bear, and that’s fairly easy to get into. Hitch the legs up, wriggle into the upper part and hope your glasses aren’t dislodged. Ursine Ultra, being a lot bigger, is much trickier to operate. There’s padding and harness to hold the huge head and shoulders in place for one thing. Even on the best of days, it can take a whole song to prepare. Luckily BSP did The Pelican, a fairly long fan favourite that gave us time to get it together and get out there for crowd pleasers No Lucifer and Carrion. I’m still surprised how well received the bears are. These two great lumps bumping into people and blocking their views, but the audience is always pleased to see them. Everyone wants a hug or a picture with a bear. I had a baby thrust into my arms for a photo opportunity at Indietracks, which is pretty unusual. You’re never entirely sure how things are going though, you can’t see much through the gauze face mask, you can’t really hear a lot either, and you’re more concerned with staying upright. Not easy in a conventional venue, even less so at a muddy festival site, with an inconveniently placed slope near the stage and what felt like a tree root at one point. Somehow I kept on my feet while wandering around the crowd, trying to make sure no one missed out from an encounter with a bear. After 2 or 3 songs it was time to head backstage to get out of the hot and smelly bear suit. The manager must have thought we’d done well, because he asked us to do an encore in the security pit in front of the stage. Off we went, high fiving folks in the know and a confusing the heck out of people who wondered where we’d disappeared to just as the set was getting going. Then it was a case of getting out of costume and back out down the front as quick as we could, in time for The Great Skua. It’s the highlight of every BSP set, a communal thing that sends a shiver up the spine. As someone said at Indietracks just as Skua started, ‘shh, we’re in church’.
The Wrong Bear!!!
Yes, I’m very font of British Sea Power and have seen them a number of times, I’m also aware the when Mark sneaks off mid set, he’s off to slip into something more uncomfortable and smelly (A BSP bear suit no less). So at Indie Tracks it came as no surprise that he disappeared mid set and shortly afterwards the bears appeared. The bears made their way through the audience and as the Black Bear approached me, I cheered and hugged it and had my photo taken with it … Good old Mark, it was cool to hang out with a semi famous and somewhat smelly bear … Lots of drunken cheering and banter with the bear … however, it later transpired that he was actually in the the white (off white!) bear suit … Whoops! It’s turns out a chap called Nick was in the Black Bear … I could “bearly” recognise him!
The Festival Site
So we arrived on Friday and parked up at Golden Valley Campsite. It’s a decent campsite with a shop, cafe, toilets and shower block. Then a 10 minute walk to the main site, which is on the side of a hill over looking the Railway Station and Sidings at Swanwick Junction. There are three stages, the Main Stage which hosted The Lovely Eggs (Friday), British Sea Power (Saturday) and Honeyblood (Sunday). The Main Stage is situated at the bottom of a slight hill, so you can get a decent view of the bands. The Indoor stage is situated inside one of the loco sheds (yes, they have moved all the locomotives outside the shed!) The Real Ale Bar is also situated outside this shed and the “Can crusher” (which is a vintage Aveling Barford Road Roller). This old Road Roller entertains the crowds by crushing beer cans! Trains arrive and depart from the nearby station, which serves the car park at Butterley and allows festival goers the chance to have a ride on the train. One of the trains, a loco hauled service has a buffet car/bar and bands perform in the Guards van as it travels through the Derbyshire countryside. The Indoor Stage hosted the likes of Amber Arcades and Gwenno and holds a good few hundred punters. Ideal, especially if it’s raining! The final stage is called the Church Stage, this a tiny! It’s a Victorian tin tabernacle, built in 1898 and rescued from a railway village and rebuilt at Swanwick Jcn. It’s probably the only venue, where you can watch a indie gig whilst sat on a church pew! However, it’s very popular and you need to book early to avoid disappointment. A few years ago, we managed to find a seat on a church pew and enjoyed “Wake the President” perform, one my friends (mentioning no names!) managed to fall asleep during the gig (so he obviously found them very relaxing!) This year, Sink Ya Teeth were playing in there and it was rammed, I just about managed to watch them from the artists entrance door, whilst standing outside. They were great but needed to be on one of the bigger stages! Likewise, if you want to watch one of the gigs on the train, it’s best to do a “positioning move!” This involves getting on the train prior to the gig and have a ride up the line. Find yourself a space in the brake van (to sit on the floor) and be there waiting for the band and audience to board the train at Swanwick Junction. We did this a few years ago when Manhattan Love Suicides played on the train. We were all sat in the Guards Van and the band boarded. They must have thought we were there in some official capacity as they asked us where to set up, we said over there! Once set up, they asked us when they could start playing and one of us jokingly said, when the train whistle blows! With that the train whistle blew and the gig began! At the end of the set, they even asked us if they could do an encore … “Oh, go on then!”
The main site has lots of food stalls, workshops, record stalls and merchandise stands. It’s not been unknown for Ex members of Talulah Gosh to do an impromptu gig in the Merch Tent! Bands walk around the site and mix with the punters, it’s a really friendly and intimate festival. If you’re a bit of a train nerd like me, you can quite happily wander around the loco sheds and sidings taking photographs! It’s my ideal festival!!!
The Bands that played …
On the Friday night, The Lovely Eggs played on the Main Stage. They come from Preston, Lancashire, a husband and wife two piece, with Holly (guitar and vocals) and David (drums). I guess they would be described as lo-fi, psychedelic indie rock band .. they make a terrific noise for a two piece band and the lyrics and northern banter are rather amusing and somewhat rude at times! With songs such as “Dickhead”, “Fuck it” and “People are Twats” what’s not to like! This was the first time I’d seen them and I enjoyed the set, they were very popular and entertaining, 8/10.
Saturday, was the main event as British Sea Power were playing. I’ve loved these guys since first seeing them at The Eden Project, Cornwall supporting Pulp back in 2002. Their shows are always something special! But before then, we had a number of other bands to enjoy. Linda Guilala was new to me, a noisy Indie guitar Pop from Vigo (Galicia), Spain and signed to Elefant Records. The band made quite an impressive noise in the Loco Shed … made a pleasant change to hear a noisy indie pop band singing in Spanish. They pulled a good crowd and a few of us purchased their LP afterwards. Nice to catch someone new in a live environment. Lets face it, you’re not likely to hear them on BBC 6 Music! Next up was Darren Hayman on the Main Stage, he was doing the debut Hefner “Breaking God’s Heart” in full. Unfortunately, as Darren took to the stage the heavens opened and we were treated to a soaking! I do love that debut Hefner, LP and remember watching them back in the day and they were superb. For me, it did n’t work … he looked lonely and uncomfortable on the Main Stage and the songs lacked from having the full band. The rain was also making me uncomfortable as well! I think, in a small intimate venue it would be another story but the set finished and crowd drifted away. I headed back to the Camper van for a change of clothes as I was now cold and wet and as a result missed Dream Wife. Oh well, next time! Time was getting on now and there was just one more band before the headliner. Amber Arcades on the Indoor Stage (phew, at least I won’t get wet again). Amber Arcades are fronted by Annette de Graaf, a Dutch singer/song writer from Utrecht. With the band all dressed in white suits and Annette dressed in gold and with long blond hair, they certainly looked the part. With a set of songs from her 2017 debut LP “Fading Lines”, the band rattled through a 50 minute set of melodic, indie pop songs that reminded me to some extent of the Shoegaze bands, such as Slowdive. Some great melodies and a lovely Dutch accent. “Fading Lines” itself was most impressive … that reminds me, I should really buy that LP! Next up, British Sea Power …
With the stage set … lots of plastic birds and foliage, BSP take to the stage with “Machineries of Joy” … these guys are great, they have a very loyal following, fans that travel the length and breadth of the land to see them at festivals, libraries, railway stations, caves … even in the occasional venue! They are a very quirky and somewhat eccentric band and have the best T shirt designs ever! The also do a great line in “British Tea Power” mugs … I have the full set!
So tonight we are treated to a career spanning set … With “Remember Me, Carrion and a Wooden Horse” from their 2003 debut LP “The Decline of British Sea Power ” right through to “Bad Bohemian” from the 2017 “let the dancers inherit the party”. My favourite moment is “No Lucifer” with the crowd all singing along “Easy, Easy, Easy” … as if we’re all at a football match winning 6 – 0. “Waving Flags” is another great powerful anthem and the audience sing along with great passion. The BSP bears get an airing, which adds to the excitement and the band sound great tonight. The quirky setting of a preserved railway yard suits British Sea Power and they finish the set with a powerful version of “The Great Skua” … 9/10.
British Sea Power Setlist
- Machineries of Joy
- Who’s in Control
- Lights out for Darker Skies
- Remember Me
- A Wooden Horse
- What you’re doing
- Bad Bohemian
- The Pelican
- No Lucifer
- Waving Flags
- The Great Skua
Gwenno “Eus Keus”
For me Sunday was all about seeing Gwenno Saunders. I first saw her supporting Gruff Rhys at Salisbury Arts Centre, it was just her and a keyboard that night and a short set of Welsh songs from her debut LP “Y Dydd Olaf” … she was absolutely fantastic and that debut is fantastic. However, in 2018 she released “Le Kov” on Heavenly Records. A Cornish language LP … with songs about cheese (Eus Keus) and name checking various towns in Cornwall, including Liskeard (Lyn Kerwyd) which is where I grew up! Today, she has a full band with her, including a new drummer. She takes full control of the stage and looks after the new drummer (who looks a bit nervous) and gifts us with a brilliant set, of mainly Cornish songs from “Le Kov” and “Chwyldro” from her debut. It’s rather unusual to actually hear the Cornish language (even in Kernow itself) so to hear an LP of beautiful crafted songs is an absolute treat. The Cornish Language society turned to witness her show in Truro … she must be good! All this talk of Cornwall and I now fancy a Cornish pasty! 9/10.