Thursday, July 30, 2009

Indietracks 2009: Sunday

Back on site not quick/aware enough to catch the mesmerising promise of twenty minute set noiseniks The Manhattan Love Suicides playing acoustically on the train. In fact it transpires nobody does, as two of them turn up to confirm their split and play songs from their already formed new band. Meanwhile the main stage starts with Cola Jet Set, beginning a day heavy at least in its early part on 60s revivalism with early Beach Boys bubblegum surf pop and plenty of perkiness unbecoming the time of day. They finish with a spirited debut performance in English.

There's some question, which to be fair they help make apparent, as to whether Cardiff's swoon-pop machine The School are hungover. Indeed, there's some question as to whether they're just still drunk. While not yet at "if it's Liz Hunt and your granny on bongos" levels, the band's membership turnover is alarming, with the guitarist less than a week in the job and Simon from The Loves recruited to seemingly do whatever he fancies, which often seems to be an attempt to make Liz giggle. Still, everyone keeps their composure for long enough to play some songs from the debut album due in October and fine confections they are too, more confident as live performers than when we last saw them a little over a year ago, not too far from the charmingly smart wall of sound heartbreak exhibited thus far but no less poor for that. And just when you think they're going to have to do the set without either All I Wanna Do or Let It Slip, they play both together to finish.

The School clashed with MJ Hibbett, which caused some pain allayed by the fact we'd seen his warm-up gig for this, but it later turned out that demand to see his solo set on the train was such that there was a second overspill carriage called into action and Hibbett himself nearly didn't make it on. Plenty of people have since referred to it as a highlight of the weekend, and for pretty much the whole festival you couldn't walk into or out of the shed without seeing him deep in discussion with another group of admirers regardless of the weather. Well, there you go.

And still the Swedes come with their worn Smiths back catalogues. As with Cats On Fire, Northern Portrait frontman Stefan Larsen has Morrissey's croon and stage moves on rental while around him is the sort of louche Rickenbacker jangle that marked out the Smiths' first flowerings, their first flowerings, all Byrds-flavoured sophistication and knowingly lovelorn croon.

Did we mention the weather? Having granted a good Saturday, the rains finally came at about 4pm and stayed in various torrents right through to the death, which threatened to put a crimp on the day and at first put a dampener on the numbers out to see Lucky Soul. Such is the draw, though, that after an opening salvo of Woah Billy!, Lips Are Unhappy, Add Your Light To Mine and Ain't Never Been Cool the onlooking, sometimes dancing numbers gradually grew despite the horizontal downfall. They seem ready for prime time, tight and looking the part, the boys besuited, Ali Howard in aquamarine shimmying for all she's worth and deploying a tambourine with Steven Tyler-esque ribbons attached. That'd be a good visual in a stronger wind. There's four new songs - album set for January now, we understand - which while still identifiably Lucky Soul seems to be the next logical step on, all big Motown/Northern Soul/Dusty In Memphis grooves. Get Outta Town! in the circumstances is understandably triumphant as a closer.

Then something really interesting happens. Why is there such a sudden interest in the merchandise tent? Who's that in the corner being surrounded? It's Amelia Fletcher, Eithne Farry and Rob Pursey, just a Peter Momtchiloff (and obviously Matthew Fletcher) short of Talulah Gosh, and they're doing an acoustic five song set of Talulah Gosh songs, on a properly electric guitar at that. Their eponymous song, being sung along to from all sides (Liz from The School is trying to find a spare table to get onto behind us), might get the biggest reaction of the whole event.

Pocketbooks, some of whom are involved with the Indietracks set-up, have become big shots in this world, sounding like the kind of kids who would have bonded on indie dancefloors over Tigermilk. There's a fair wodge of Housemartins in here, kitchen sink social commentary dressed in cardigans and given a jangling guitar and nifty keyboard line to hold on to the melody with. They seem genuinely proud to be amongst all this, and their charm, effervescence and uplifting facade is rewarded fully by their public. That same public, largely corralled into the shed by the force of the rain (which means we miss BMX Bandits, Duglas T Stewart seemingly having come dressed as Vivian Stanshall, and Stereo Total, who provoke a stage invasion), aren't really sure what to make of New Zealand's Disasteradio. Which is fair enough on their part, as in this situation his semi-crazed broken 8-bit electro is as much about fitting in as Napalm Death would be.

Even in this weather the queue outside the church for The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut, the band incarnation of Sheffield's "sparkly pop" singer-songwriter of note, is ridiculous, so it's to Help Stamp Out Loneliness, featuring members of the briefly lauded mid-00s outift Language Of Flowers. They're a band we can't make our mind up about on first showing - musically it's decent enough if not outstanding, a little Blondie, a little jangly (again, yeah, except these have actually had fifth Smith Craig Gannon playing with them), a little Stereolab, a little early 80s. The deal breaker, though, is singer D. Lucille Campbell, glamorous beyond reproach in a glorious metallic effect dress and a general air of Weimar cabaret/Dietrich era, with all the hip-shaking moves, plus a voice like a more nuanced Nico. Her presence, both aurally and stageworthy, provides a really interesting, distinctive element that stands out unfortunately mostly for the fact that it doesn't really go with the music, the band not anchoring it down with due gravitas - not in a dirtied up way, but in that it tries to be buffed to a shine when it'd work together better in a Broadcast or Au Pairs direction. Maybe, given they're two singles down, it'll hopefully come with time.

Art Brut live reviews are increasingly less straight up accounts and more just a list of things Eddie Argos said and did, which is fair enough as quite often the lyrical content of the songs is a moveable feast. Tonight he's going to throw us a curveball, though, starting with Bad Weekend "to make it edgy", around which he extemporises the suggestion to "be less twee! Stop sharing your sweets!" (receiving a mini-shower of Haribo for his trouble) before declaring we should all form punkier bands to play at his mooted festival at Bovington Tank Museum in October. A few songs later, realising that he's done a song about how great buses are (The Passenger), a song about mixtapes (Nag Nag Nag Nag) and has incorporated into My Little Brother a namecheck for Milky Wimshake, Argos concedes that he might be quite twee after all. Then he seals the deal spectacularly with a newly rewritten version of Modern Art dedicated to DC Comics "written one afternoon, drunk", in the middle of which he descends into what can properly be called a throng - if aided by the inclemency outside, for the first time the shed is full from barrier to doors - to detail his recent visit to the DC Comics head offices before launching back into the amended chorus to a huge pit. He could have coasted from there, but still to come was a dedication of Slap Dash For No Cash to MJ Hibbett and a bit in the middle of that song where he steps out and slowly repeats the lines "my sex is on fire" and "are we human or are we dancer?", carefully, repeatedly, in the style of Stewart Lee for greater emphasis. And then the big rock ending, during which Mikey Breyer, attempting a stunt drumroll, falls backwards off the stage. And of course they have to come back and do Formed A Band. Eddie seems as pleased to be playing to us hardy lot as many a much smaller band on the bill. And rightfully so, given his band had just torn it completely up.

Which, sending us all back into the gloaming, might have proved a problem. See, one thing about Teenage Fanclub, our headliners, is that for everything they do do, they won't go into all that business, more's the pity. What they will do is sunkissed melodic wonderment, and even if it serves to remind us of the Byrdsian rut they got stuck in for a little while, as a comedown from what had gone before it more than served its purpose. There's a couple of new songs (another album out in January) that could have come direct from Grand Prix, and when they lift - The Concept, Star Sign, About You - they really lift, not least when finishing the main set with Verisimilitude, Sparky's Dream and a genuinely coruscating extended Everything Flows, and finishing properly with a chiming take on The Bevis Frond's He'd Be A Diamond and Neil Jung. That's the other way to close a festival.

We're never quite sure what to conclude about Indietracks bar the obvious, namely that the work of Stuart Mackay and his volunteers cannot be underestimated. Whether it's the location, the populace or the sheer joy of pretty much all those who play, no matter what their prior experience, Indietracks does something to people that leaves them grinning, gibbering loons. See you at the carriage for more of the same next year? Good.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice review Simon - you missed a treat from the BMX Bandits though.

Matt (Another Grinning Loon)