acb: (the field mice)
I'm back in London now, having returned this morning from Indie Tracks.

Sunday's weather was, alas, nowhere near as nice as Saturday's. starting ominously grey and proceeding to rain. I slept in a bit, and then went to the site, catching the start of The School's set, but then bailing to see The Marshmallow Kisses. The School are, of course, the doo-wop-influenced pop group from Cardiff, and their new material sounds good (if you don't mind that sort of thing, of course). The Marshmallow Kisses are a Chinese/Japanese duo who do bossa-nova-tinged pop songs; they had Tim from Hong Kong In The 60s playing guitar, Brad from One Happy Island playing trumpet, and someone else on violin, and were quite nice in an understated way. After that, whilst having lunch with Tim, MeiYau and Chris (of HK60s), we heard 1960s folkie Nick Garrie making his return on the outdoor stage; he sounded a bit like Nick Drake.

I then saw US indiepop combo The Smittens play in the train shed, and then Hong Kong In The 60s play a nicely understated set in the church. After that, I saw a set from a solo electropop artist from New Zealand, who goes by the name of Disasteradio, who was quite animated and surprisingly entertaining for a guy with a table of synths. Apparently he's one of the Camp A Low Hum people. I also saw a bit of European electropop duo Stereo Total playing outdoors; by then, it had started raining, and people were standing around in their raincoats under umbrellas. The festival was closed by Art Brut playing in the train shed (which I missed, though I heard enough from outside, in the stationary buffet car that served as a bar outside), followed by Teenage Fanclub on the outdoor stage, and then two discos until midnight. I ended up catching the train after the last one to Butterley station (after it did a test run), and then sharing a taxi to Ripley with three girls who were going to Mansfield.

There was also a mix CD swap box; one put one's CD in a box, took a ticket, and then claimed another one later. I made a mix CD and put it in the box, and ended up fishing out a rather promising-looking one (it includes All-Girl Summer Fun Band, Mirah, and AIH's Scissors, Paper, Rock).

Some statistics: I bought two 8Gb memory cards before Indie Tracks, one for my camera and one for my audio recorder. The former, I managed to fill up almost completely (mostly by using the video-taking mode of my camera); the latter I recorded a good 4 hours or so of audio on; mostly recordings of sets, though I managed to also get some of the amazing vintage lounge/bossa grooves the Elefant Records guy queued up to play between sets, in the hope that I might get them identified at some point. (It is rather convenient that my audio recorder fits neatly in a top jacket pocket with only the microphones protruding; it's half of a quite serviceable gargoyle rig.) I also used about 200Mb of the 1Gb of credit I bought with the 3G wireless card I picked up in preparation. I imagine the rest will go pretty quickly when I'm on the continent next month.

Anyway, this was the best Indie Tracks so far. Assuming that I'm still in the UK or Europe in a year's time, I'll be sure to be at the next one.

Btw, photos are here.
acb: (Default)
Yesterday, Colin Clary of The Smittens ran a songwriting workshop. I arrived a bit late, due largely to the train schedule along the line not quite syncing up with the event schedule, but it was good. He took ideas and suggestions from the crowd and started writing various songs with them, playing them on guitar, with people contributing lyric ideas, melodies and such. One thing I took away from it is that one needs to just sit down and do it, otherwise one will be stuck on all the songs one didn't write.

Bands/music I saw include:

  • Little My. A bunch of kids from Cardiff in animal ears playing chaotic indiepop. I saw part of their set, though left to go to see Sucrette.

  • Sucrette. A Japanese band, consisting of three girls (on keyboards, vocals and drums) and a guy (on guitar and laptop). They sound like classic Japanese pop; no other country would combine 1990s Eurodance drum patterns/synth arpeggios with jangly guitars in quite the same way.

  • Fitness Forever. An Italian lounge-pop band who sound somewhere between 1960s film scores and cruise-ship disco from the 1970s, and pull it off with panache. The guitarist (the chap in the captain's hat with the sunglasses and the cigar) is the unchallenged winner of the title of Most Stupendously Bad-Ass Motherfucker at the festival.

  • I caught part of Camera Obscura, on the outdoor stage as the sun was setting. They played well.

  • I saw Emmy The Great playing in the train shed. Though I was mostly towards the back or sides of the audience, not seeing much of the band, and the acoustics there aren't great. Anyway, Emmy and her band seem to be following a cue from a lot of other folkies, such as Jeffrey Lewis (and, indeed, Dylan) and rocking out more.

  • La Casa Azul, or a Spanish guy in a white jumpsuit who alternated between playing piano ballads and singing/playing guitar in front of a video screen projecting videos of computer-generated musicians playing backing parts or videos based on 8-bit video games. He was entertaining, even though I can't understand a word of Spanish.

The festival seems to be bigger than last year, with more tents, food and merch. The organic nachos from the Undergrowth Cafe (with bean salsa and olives) were excellent; there was also a curry place and the old burger shack from last year. And in the evening, someone set up a pork roast near the entrance to the train shed, and we were met with the gruesome spectacle of the charred, tortured body of a whole pig on a spit, its eyeless, notched face bearing witness to great agonies. The whole thing made me think more of mediaeval woodcuts of the suffering of martyred saints than of an apetising meal. As the night wore on, they cut strips off this porcine Saint Sebastian and sold them to people, until all that was left was the ghastly head. I can see why people become vegetarian now.
acb: (Train)
This weekend, I went up to [ profile] indietracks' <i>A Christmas Twee</i> event this weekend, catching a train up to Nottingham yesterday afternoon, checking into a hotel there, and then catching the familiar Rainbow 1 to Ripley. (Ah yes, the Rainbow 1. I think that at some point in the next few decades, the Victoria & Albert Museum or some similar institution will have a retrospective on the 1990s rave-techno futurist aesthetic; alongside, say, the complete works of The Designers' Republic and a PlayStation playing WipeOut, they'll have some photos of Trent Barton buses.) Alas, as the bus was passing through Heanor, I realised that I had left the mix CD I had painstakingly assembled for the secret-Santa box in my bag in my hotel room. FAIL.

Other than that, it was good; attendance was a bit on the low side (a lot of people instead went to an all-dayer in Nottingham a few weeks ago), and I only knew something like eight people there (about half of whom were involved in organising aspects of the night). The bands were OK, though I wasn't blown away. The headliner was Phil Wilson of 1980s C86esque indiepop band the June Brides; they weren't one of the bands I've gotten into, so I couldn't say how good the show was; other than the fact that he did a skronky/jangly C86 cover of Kraftwerk's <i>Neon Lights</i>, which worked rather well. The other bands, Horowitz and Mascot Fight, were both OK though neither blew me away. (Mascot Fight's frontman going on dressed as a snowman was a nice touch, though.)

The actual event was in a marquee attached to the front of the station building on the Midlands Steam Railway, which appeared to be used for some sort of Christmas events during the day. There were animatronic reindeer and snowmen and similar winter wonderland denizens mechanically boogieing in the background behind the stage, which added a certain something to the festivities. There was also a whopping great steam train parked outside at the platform, its wood-panelled carriages shrouded in steam, which seemed to come up from beneath them. (I'm guessing that the actual steam is piped through the train to power/heat the carriages, rather than being converted to electricity in the locomotive.) Some carriages' electrics seemed to be in better shape than others; while some were very dimly lit, others were lit up like, well, Christmas trees. Being in the interior of a wood-panelled 1950s rail carriage, its lights flickering, and thick white steam shrouding the vestibule, was quite atmospheric, like something out of a David Lynch movie or something. Anyway, the guard's coach on the train had been converted into a disco, with DJs spinning records; in between sets, the train would be driven a mile or so up the line, then the locomotive would move to the other side and it'd go back, in time for the next band, while people sat around and talked in the carriages, drank ale from the bar in the buffet car, or else danced at the disco.

Staying in a hotel in Nottingham, I took advantage of this and took my laptop with me, managing to get a few things done on a remix I'm working on on the train there and back. (East Midland Trains generously provide power sockets in economy class, which is not bad for the £6-14 each way a seat costs if you book early enough.) I find these days that I'm most productive on music either in cafes or on train journeys (those of 1+ hours). Which means I should probably make more excuses to travel around the UK's railway network.

September 2015

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