I've never been one for attaching myself to scenes. True I marched down the Kings Road in the summer of 77 one sunny saturday with a fifty strong army of punks. Havoc was not unleashed on good citizens until six or seven teds were spotted in Sloane Square whereupon a charge was mounted against the musical throwbacks. These days it would be hard to find a punk in the Kings Road, let alone a teddy boy.
This weekend I ventured north to a field in Derbyshire to experience a festival called Indietracks. If I thought the spirit of C86 had evaporated in the nineties amid a fuzz of grunge guitars and acned laddism I was to be pleasantly surprised. C86 was never a movement or scene, it was simply an NME tape/LP that was intended to portray a cross section of sounds that were happening in 1986. People conveniently forget that not only did it showcase the talents of the Close Lobsters, Primal Scream and Wedding Present but also the defiantly unpoppy meanderings of Stump, Bogshed and MacKenzies. Whatever the merits of the latter groups it was the former that inspired and engendered a longing in many boys and girls across the land to grasp a guitar and proclaim the joys of love reciprocated or, usually, denied.
Indietracks was held at the Midland Railway Centre and a few bands even played on moving trains. There was a main stage outside run under the aegis of Elefant records who were celebrating twenty years in the music biz. There was also a stage in a converted locomotive shed and one in a small church. More than fifty acts played over the weekend. Unfortunately I was only there for the sunday. As I waited on the platform to board the train to see the Manhattan Love Suicides I was coaxed into a nostalgic reverie as I surveyed the crowd: girls in spotty or flowery dresses, hairslides harassing their hair and boys in denim or corduroy jackets sporting a colourful crop of badges. It felt like being at a Sarah records convention.
The day went by in a whirl of discovery and disappointment. The weather, a ceaseless dribble of rain from 4pm onwards, and the Manhattan Love Suicides announcing they had split up before they were about to play were the only downers. Engulfed in ecstasy, caught in a torrent of joy, those two minor infractions were soon dismissed. Bands like the School, the mental but so loveable Stereo Total, the rapturous Northern Portrait, the playful Smittens, the pristine powerpop of Spain's Cooper, the deceptively delicate Pocketbooks, and the hypnotic gentle menace of Help Stamp Out Loneliness propelled me to the sun-glazed shores of happiness. Seeing the BMX Bandits with frontman Duglas now resembling one of the Bonzo Dog Band doing an impression of Rick Wakeman carved a smile on my face that only surgeons could remove. And to top it all Teenage Fanclub, the sunday night headliners, were in fine form.
Highlight above all highlights though was seeing half of the legendary Talulah Gosh do a short acoustic set in a tent. Amelia's voice broke up as she succumbed to laughter and smiles. Grown men sobbed. A Japanese man had to be restrained from committing hara-kiri. And Amelia was playing an unplugged electric guitar acoustically, it was that silly and that fabulous.
If Indietracks is a "scene" then I'm hooking myself up to it.