In the week that Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, IndieTracks could not have been a bigger antidote. Run for love not money, the festival set on East Midlands Railway Centre is manned entirely by volunteers. So many things that would be monetised at other festivals remain free, the car park, the train ride to and from the car park – the emphasis placed fully on the music, so passionate are the organisers for attendees to finish the weekend with new discoveries under their belt.
This ethos is paid back with interest by the audience, made up of the backbone of the DIY scene – the bags under their eyes reflective of the unpaid hours they’ve given to their lifelong love. Polite nods to one another are in abundance, as are friendly waves to the passing trains. The passion for music here is audible, Cheerbleederz remark that opening sets at festivals are usually awkward but not at IndieTracks where the crowd come out in droves no matter your place on the bill, so engaged and clued-up on music are they.
It’s a festival comprised of beautiful sights, the chuff from a steam train spiralling into the air as you watch your new favourite band, the volunteer pushing their rubbish-filled wheelbarrow over the sodden ground of the main stage, the mutual love shared between fans and bands in the merch tent. The strangest sight though must be the can crush; taking place at three allotted times during the day, here, a yellow steam roller crushes cans to the adulation of the watching audience. The weekend’s first crush is preceded by the shout of ‘crush the bastards’ followed by a bloodthirsty ‘yeahhhhh’ from the watching onlookers. The final one ends with chants of ‘one more crush, one more crush, one more crush’ before the steam roller driver duly runs over the already flattened cans – possibly a ‘you had to be there moment,’ the can crush is perversely the weekend’s funniest occurence.
For all this though it’s the music that makes IndieTracks what it is. And by god, was it incredible this year. Mammoth Penguins were responsible for the weekend’s standout performance, their infectious indie-pop awakening feelings of pure abandon in the audience. The Cambridge band’s songwriter Emma Kupa is part of the festival’s organising panel and so attuned is she to the families that attend every year, she opts to change the ‘I Wanna’ lyrics from “fuck it all” to “chuck it all.” That newly-conceived “chuck it all” line comes after three chants of “I love you / I love you / I love you;” witnessing the band and audience shout this at one another is truly life-affirming, particularly the little girl on her Dad’s shoulders singing it into her father’s ears – loveheart emoji all round!
Rachel Anstis of Cornish dream-pop band L I P S delivered the strongest vocal of the weekend, while the fragile, fleeting soundscapes of Advance Base perfectly soundtracked Sunday afternoon. Rosehip Teahouse must get a nod for their wonderful merch tent set, as must Foundlings for their blistering set that brought proceedings in the Church Stage to a close.
IndieTracks is not just a festival, but more a model for society. As the baseball hat of Mammoth Penguins’ bassist Mark Boxall read, ‘Chuck Boris!’