Three years ago in an interview with this very site, Indietracks' head honcho wearily talked about scaling down the cult festival after the pressures of maintaining it, even with a trusted team of volunteers, were becoming too great. The two editions that followed certainly consolidated the key elements of what made the festival unique without losing any of its charm, but somewhere along the line a change of heart must have occurred, as the seventh annual of the world's best celebration of indiepop, real ale and steam trains promises to be its biggest, and best, yet.
The three-day festival is headlined in 2013 by bis, The Pastels & Camera Obscura, and between them they give a concise overview of the festivals overall oeuvre; slightly obscured pop hooks, lyrics that alternate between 'witty' and 'weepy', a high weighting of bands from north of the border (all three artists are Glasgow based), tweeness that at times starts to become overbearing and occasional slithers of folk, punk and disco. The latter are returnees to the Midland Railway Centre after headlining 2009's edition and do so in the middle of a tour supporting the release of their fifth full-length Desire Lines, out June 3rd on 4AD, whilst bis and The Pastels, this year releasing their first album (ignoring collaborations) in over fifteen years, make rare live appearances.
Like every year preceding it, however, the real treats of 2013's line-up lay on its undercard. The Ballet make a short trip over to the UK for the festival and should prove to be a highlight with irresistibly catchy hooks which has led to comparisons with the earlier work of last year's headline act The Hidden Cameras, whilst The Lovely Eggs and Martha promise to inject a little pop-punk into the proceedings. At the other end of the spectrum (well, the festival's spectrum), Fever Dream offer something much darker, taking Interpol's call-and-response bass/guitar intricacies into the realm of hazy shoegaze and Flowers submerge beautiful melodies in a sea of feedback and fuzz in a way not too dissimilar from festival favourites The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.
Indietracks is also renowned for supporting the local scene; any indie-pop band to exist in the Midlands will probably end up playing the weekender unless they're utterly dreadful, and Derby's Haiku Salut, truly one of the year's success stories with their debút album Tricolore, make their return to the train museum with their trademark patchwork quilt of influences that range from whimsical European film soundtrack work to glitchy Japanese electronica for a set that shouldn't be missed by... well, anyone really.
But it isn't just the music that makes Indietracks one of the best kept secrets on the UK festival scene. Its atmosphere is as friendly as one could hope for and a world away from the binge drinking and outbreaks of violence that you come to expect from larger festivals in the surrounding counties, and whilst at times things can seem a little too serene, the ability to while an hour away on a steam train or indulge in activities such as pop quizzes or browse pop-up record stores (that are always good for a bargain or two) is a welcome change from the standard fare. As is the selection of alcohol; there is always a wonderful selection of independent real ales and ciders available for purchase from bar staff who really know what they're selling.
With weekend tickets at £65 (excluding camping) in a site that is treated to a free disco every night (or the opportunity to stay in the idyllic surroundings of the nearby Ripley town centre) it continues to be not only a rare treat on the festival calendar but a very well-priced one too.
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