By Andrew Wakefield
Steam trains and indiepop music aren’t an obvious pairing for a weekend music festival set amid the Derbyshire countryside - but it’s clearly a combination that works for organisers of Indietracks - now in it’s eighth year.
The theme was also a draw for this year’s headlining act Gruff Rhys - former frontman of Welsh rockers Super Furry Animals. Around 50 new and established artists perform at the event near Ripley each year, with bands performing in a diesel depot, a church, on a large main stage and even a travelling steam train departing from Swanwick Junction.
But it’s not the first time Gruff has found himself playing to a crowd in unusual surroundings. It’s also not his first musical link with trains - the first being the Furries 1995 album named after the Anglesey train station with one of the longest place names in the world.
‘It’s unique. The people here seem really friendly and it gives me a chance to try out things that I wouldn’t normally,’Gruff said. ‘Probably the strangest gig I ever did however was at a prawn factory in Iceland. We did get to eat some of the prawns in a kind of slop afterwards though.’
It’s been nearly 20 years since Gruff last came to Derbyshire, the last time being during a seemingly fairly hedonistic tour with the Furries - who are currently on hiatus while members explore their own solo projects.
‘I remember the last time quite well, it was in 1996 and we had arrived early for a gig in Derby by mistake. We got drunk for 24 hours and then played at this pub.’
This time however, Gruff is back on his own to promote his solo work American Interior which tells the story of explorer John Evans’ journey across North America in the 1790s.
His slideshow driven performance is the finale to the proceedings on the Saturday of a sun-drenched weekend.
Other well-known indiepoppers included London-based Allo Darlin’ in their only festival performance of the year who headlined Friday night.
American singer-songwriter Dean Wareham, Buxton’s Skeletal Shakes and New Zealand’s The Chills also delighted the crowds. Canadian indie pop five-piece The Hidden Cameras closed the festival with their brand of gay church folk music.