STEREOLAB | 20.06.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Stereolab – 20th June 2019 – Boiler Shop

Review by Lee Hammond Photos by Gavin Wyatt

After a decade away the much loved Stereolab have finally returned, and so far on their tour they’ve wowed crowds across the UK and Europe. As they arrive in Newcastle tonight there is an excitement tinged with tension in the air, after the band had to cancel the previous two shows on the tour. However, the show tonight is still to go ahead, opening are Tomaga whose motoric beats quickly hypnotise this crowd into synchronised toe-tapping.

The duos incessant beats set the tempo for the rest of the night, the only issue being the pair seem to have one set groove and don’t deviate from that. It means that their set feels a bit flat, fortunately the same cannot be said for Stereolab who are welcomed to the stage with a rapturous reception by the packed crowd. Opening with Come and Play in the Milky Night they instantly have the crowd under their spell. Lætitia Sadier taking time out to thank the crowd in between songs as they erupt when she announces French Disko early in the bands set.

This set is packed with classic tracks and this is the first that invokes a huge sing-along from the entire crowd. These classic tracks making everyone swoon, the beautiful disco beats ringing out throughout the beautiful venue as the sun sets outside. The likes of Miss Modular and Ping Pong have similar effects on this crowd, both are tracks which prove why Stereolab have been lauded as so influential. Both tracks sound absolutely incredible tonight and have everyone dancing.

It’s rare in such a miserable and divided world to see such jubilation and excitement filling a room, but Stereolab achieve this with relative ease tonight. As their set builds to a climax the tracks become increasingly emphatic before they close out with Lo Boob Oscillator, this wonderful track caps off their set brilliantly. It’s euphoric tone enthusing the crowd the bouncing beats providing the perfect close to their set, which at times felt like a slow burn but in actual fact this was perfect as they gently ramped up the tempo to this amazing finish.

They use a similar tactic for the encore opening with The Extension Trip and closing out the night with the awesome John Cage Bubblegum. Tonight Stereolab are truly out of this world, a truly welcome return!

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EMMY THE GREAT | BISHI | 29.05.2019 | Newcastle Cluny | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Emmy The Great | Bishi – 29th May 2019 – Newcastle Cluny

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

It was a night of everything from people drawing, to human keyboard stands and lyric prompters to even someone telling the audience that The Pixies were on the phone (well the ring tone was them!) but before all this we had an electrofused sitar set in the form musician Bishi donning a somewhat Morticia Adams/Cruella De Vil hairstyle. She’s got style, she’s got substance and she mesmerised us with things I never thought could be heard from a sitar.

The crowd were somewhat dumbfounded and some, once they finished telling each other about their evening meal, were under the spell of Bishi who loop pedals her vocals and commands the audience with power stances and stares which are quite a contrast for what was to come but one thing for sure, if you witness Bishi live, it is one name you won’t forget and I am imagining that maybe her own headline show will be something big and bolder than what we had on this night.

So, Emmy The Great. I was actually going to start this review with pure cheesiness by saying that yes, she is great and well, thank fook for that but what is it that makes her great?

This tour is the 10th Anniversary celebration of Emmy’s first album, First Love. In those ten years she’s had a Second Love and other releases and is celebrating coming off maternity leave from having her first child and returned to Newcastle to play the first venue she ever played in this city. The night is all about celebration and reminiscing that there are some in the crowd that mouth every word that is sung by Emmy keeping her in check. If you follow Emmy on the socials, she’s made no secret that she has been somewhat suffering baby brain. She has also stated that she doesn’t like calling her fans ‘fans’ and this is what the night feels like. She’s connecting with those friends that you don’t see for a long time and when you do you just pick it up from where you left off, even for the 2-3 people in the crowd that have never seen or heard her play.

Emmy has her setlist ready which is simply a playback of First Love. She gives us a commentary of most songs including the MIA encounter which she says should have led to a sticky on the album as “cute but offensive!” The ‘interlude’ song, Easter Parade Part 2, follows where she jokingly invites the audience to top up their drinks and even exchange sketches as one gig goer, Jim, actually sketches throughout her set. She engages the audience as much as she can throughout on a personal level leading to great short exchanges, otherwise people are just living the album like they did ten years ago with many singing along especially that one audience member, Helen,  right in her line of view nailing every word with the exception of Emmy just getting right into it and sings ‘fuck on your grave’ rather than ‘piss on your grave’ during the title track which then leads the room singing in chorus for the rest.

Closing the night she invites Gary on stage who at her show the previous night in Sheffield to take on the roll to steady her keyboard for the closing track of the night, Everything Reminds Me Of You. And as she goes to step off the stage to a thunderous roar she returns to sing the last song from the album which is City Song and then into three of the four bonus songs on the album. The album has a few extras in sound but tonight it is Emmy, her guitars, a keyboard and a roomful of ‘friends’ reminiscing the good times through heartbreak to celebrity references. It was one of the most relaxed and fun nights of music I have had and this is the first time in her 10year plus career that I got to experience the greatness of Emmy The Great live and surely it won’t be another ten until I get to do this all over again.

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GOV’T MULE | 28.05.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Gov’t Mule – 28th May 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

By Kevin Burdon (Kevin Burdon Photography)

Govt Mule are a jam band that features a powerhouse lineup of musicians, including the Allman Brothers’ Warren Haines on lead guitar and vocals, Matt Abts leading the groove on drums with clockwork precision, Jorgen Carlsson on bass and Danny Louis on keys.

It’s difficult to predict what you’re going to get at a Mule gig – the band are renowned for taking a potential setlist of hundreds of songs on tour with them, they’re not encumbered by having any ‘anthems’ that they’re obliged to include. What you can guarantee is an evening that includes some deep cuts, unexpected covers, and extended jams all delivered with stunning musicianship.

The band decided to kick things off in an atmospheric fashion, starting the slow slide guitar led Hammer and Nails, then into Larger than Life and Whisper in Your Soul, which all showcased the band’s masterful control of dynamics, which would be a recurring theme throughout the night. The number of extended jams and slow-burning songs may have been a bit heavy to digest for a casual listener, but the Newcastle crowd (consisting of many well-known local musicians) appreciated the talent on show.

That’s not to say that the gig was simply an exercise in musical over-indulgence, there were still plenty of ‘hookier’ songs in the set too.’ Fool’s Moon’, ‘Slackjawed Jezebel’ and a pair of songs from the band’s new album Revolution Come, Revolution Go (‘Stone Cold Rage’ and ‘Drawn that Way’) were some of the highlights of the first set.

The second set included some exceptional cover versions, ‘Don’t let Me Be Misunderstood’ featured some mesmerising instrumental sections, ‘30 Days in the Hole’ elicited the obvious cheer from the crowd for the “Newcastle Brown will sure smack you down” lyric, but the highlight of the set was a goosebump-inducing rendition of the Allman Brothers’ ‘Soulshine’.

The band closed off the night with Warren Haines giving yet another slide guitar masterclass on a couple of blues covers, leaving the stage to rapturous applause, having given every musician in the room a kick up the arse to get practicing!

Set One:

Hammer and Nails (The Staple Singers cover)
Larger Than Life
Whisper in Your Soul
Fool’s Moon
Birth of the Mule
Stone Cold Rage
Drawn That Way
Slackjaw Jezebel

Set Two:

I’ll Be Creepin’ (Free cover)
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Nina Simone cover)
Mule
Soulshine (The Allman Brothers Band cover)
Broke Down on the Brazos
Tributary Jam
Time to Confess
30 Days in the Hole (Humble Pie cover)
I Don’t Need No Doctor (Ray Charles cover)

Encore:

Come On in My Kitchen (Robert Johnson cover)
Gonna Send You Back to Georgia (A City Slick) (Timmy Shaw cover)

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THIS IS TOMORROW FESTIVAL | MAY 2019 | Newcastle Exhibition Park | REVIEW

This is Tomorrow Festival – May 2019 – Newcastle Exhibition Park

Review by Lee Hammond

Unlike the majority of the country Newcastle has long lacked a real festival, the recent growth of Hit The North and the first edition of This is Tomorrow showed the appetite for a festival in the North East. This years This is Tomorrow festival boasted a varied lineup with something for everyone, taking over exhibition park, just walking in you get the feel of your traditional British festival. Music blasting from all angles, a plethora of food stalls and bars, heading straight over to the Richard Hamilton stage local favourites A Festival, A Parade are just starting.

Their own brand of indie rock is the perfect way to start any evening at a festival. With nods to the likes of Mogwai and The Twilight Sad, it’s safe to say that they blow any early cobwebs away with this emphatic set. It’s dark and heavy yet pitched against the early evening sunshine it’s the perfect opening. Following on from this Nothing But Thieves are next up on the Graham Wylie Foundation stage.

With the majority of the crowd within the park at the time they’re all eagerly awaiting the arrival of Nothing But Thieves. It’s an excitable and enthusiastic set with the whole crowd singing along at the tops of their voices a sea of pogoing heads in front of us. For the band it’s their first show in a while but one which is met with an ecstatic reception. The likes of Sorry, Trip Switch and Wake Up Call are all firm favourites in this brilliant set.

Next up though are by far one of the liveliest bands on the entire lineup, Groundculture set about thrilling the crowd on the BBC Introducing stage. This intense and urgent set is something to behold as they tear through it at breakneck speed, their own brand of Rap Metal is greeted by an upbeat crowd. One of whom deciding to throw his shoe (which bounced off me), it’s a set filled with riffs and anger but one which is met with complete unbridled joy from the crowd as Groundculture add to this immensely diverse lineup.

Back over on the Richard Hamilton stage are Anteros who’ve recently released their debut album. It’s a sultry set with singer Laura Hayden initially teasing a security guard looking for a reaction. Unfortunately he remains stoic, the rest of their set is awash with upbeat tracks like Drive On and Breakfast providing the perfect antidote after the madness of Groundculture. They’re certainly a band on the up and this will not be the last we hear of these guys.
Closing out the BBC Introducing stage on day one are one of the finest bands around, Avalanche Party appear to be on the cusp of finally breaking through (although that has been said many times before). As they take to the stage an excited swarm of people gather around the stage in anticipation of a typically raucous set and they do not disappoint. Their heavy tracks underpinning Jordan’s vocals as he baits the crowd up on the barrier he towers over them. It’s a set that is without doubt one of the best of the day, every track loud and angry. They’ve honed their craft and deserve a huge break and yet again tonight they have undoubtedly won over a number of new fans.

Foals take to the stage to close out day one of This is Tomorrow, it’s an ecstatic and fervent set from the start as they open with On the Luna. Before quickly diving into the likes of Snake Oil and Olympic Airways, it’s a set which has the whole crowd screaming and bouncing along throughout. The band hit their stride early on and continue to ignite this crowd with every track, during Spanish Sahara there is an issue with one of the barriers in front of the stage. With a short break the band return to play In Degrees but the festival deem it not safe to continue with Foals set. In our collective minds this is the correct course of action, safety should always come first and is certainly the right move on this occasion.

So despite this ending on day one, day two at This is Tomorrow still goes ahead with yet another slew of top bands slated to appear. Arriving in time for Glasvegas, the Glaswegian rockers are just taking to the stage, in the main it is a set filled with tracks from their early days which is welcomed by this already packed crowd. The likes of Daddy’s Gone and Go Square Go providing the perfect anthems to get this rain-soaked crowd into the festival spirit.

Another Scottish band are next to take to the stage only this time on the Richard Hamilton stage. The Snuts are fast becoming a name to watch and judging by the sizeable crowd that has fathered they’ve already made an impact in Newcastle. With the crowd jumping along and singing back every word it proves to be a riotous romp in the mud for the Scottish quartet keeping the party going on this miserable afternoon.

On the Graham Wylie Foundation stage next though are the always brilliant Ride, in some ways it feels only right that the sky is still overcast with the rain unrelenting. Opening with Leave Them All Behind this ever filling crowd immediately join in, it’s a set which really cannot be faulted with tracks like Vapour Trail and Kill Switch providing the soundtrack to this soaked afternoon in Exhibition Park. Ride are without doubt one of the bands of the day though on day two of This is Tomorrow.

The next band on the Graham Wylie Foundation stage provide one of the surprises of the day. Editors have always had a reputation for exciting live sets, however, today they appear to take it to a new level. In a set laden with older material they have this crowd in full voice, singing along to the likes of Blood, Papillon and An End Has A Start. Add into that new track Frankenstein and they put on an exceptional show, in amongst all of these other bands today they really shine through with this performance and it appears to be a real return to form.

Swine Tax are next up on the BBC Introducing stage and with the weather brightening its a politically charged and anger filled set from these guys. The likes of Tory Water is a particular highlight as they thrilled an enthralled crowd. They are certainly one of the best bands that the North East has to offer right now and today’s performance just compounds that statement!

The only criminally under attended set of the day though is Pip Blom’s (it almost definitely has something to do with it clashing with The Vaccines). Her set of vibrant grunge-tinged punk is as ever scintillating and exciting, her and her band always appear to be having the best time and even with a small crowd she still thrills everyone. It’s a brilliant set that is fuelled by tracks from her yet to be released debut album. For those who were there they will surely attest to how brilliant and upbeat this set was. Pip Blom is certainly a star of tomorrow and we cannot wait to hear more from her in the very near future.

Closing out day two of This is Tomorrow is one of the undisputed kings of Brit Pop Mr Noel Gallagher. Taking to the stage with his High Flying Birds, the whole crowd erupts as he kicks straight into Fort Knox. His solo material is a complete step away from Oasis and a welcome change, sonically it is so much more interesting and exciting and this shows through in the early part of the set with the likes of Holy Mountain and She Taught Me To Fly really shining through early on.

However, it would be a huge miss for him not to delve into the Oasis back catalogue and he indulges this packed crowd with the likes of Talk Tonight and Little By Little. The sound of the crowd outweighs the band hugely during these moments. More solo material is then followed by a huge section of Oasis classics, leading to Gallagher saying it’s like being in the greatest karaoke bar in the world. The likes of Wonderwall, Stop Crying Your Heart Out and Don’t Look Back in Anger providing an immense way to end the second day of This is Tomorrow.

With the return of the sun comes day three, after an incredible closing set the night before hopes are high for the final day. Embrace take to the stage with a set packed with some of their biggest tracks particularly Gravity which is met with an almost deafening singalong. As well as Ashes it’s a feel good set to kick the final day off and sets us up for everything else that is to come.

The next act on the Graham Wylie Foundation stage was arguably one of the most talked about artists in the UK right now. Lewis Capaldi is the name on everyone’s lips right now, whether it be for his music or his Instagram presence. The incredibly funny singer bounds on to the This is Tomorrow stage to a heroes welcome. Launching himself down the ramp in a ‘Naomi Campbell’ style munch to the delight of his fans. His set though is incredibly impressive, when you remove the daft behaviour and boil it down to his music alone he deserves all of the hype. His short but brilliant set is definitely one of the best of the weekend!

Continuing what they dub Scottish hour The Lafontaines are next to take to the Richard Hamilton stage. It’s a completely different musical affair one which is significantly more intense and fervent. One thing that must be said for The Lafontaines though is they certainly know how to build a crowd, with singer Kerr Okan our in the crowd enticing more people in and it works a treat. Quickly amassing a huge crowd as they continue Scottish hour in style. Their forceful set really sets them apart from the rest of this lineup as they win over a bunch of new fans this afternoon.

Johnny Marr needs no introduction nor hype and his set today is faultless. Wondering down the ramp with his Fender Jaguar, holding it aloft much to the delight of this entire crowd. It’s a mixture of his own material and The Smiths much like Noel the night before it is all met with emphatic singalongs, the likes of Bigmouth Strikes Again and This Charming Man will undoubtedly be years for miles around. Equally the likes of Getting Away With It and Hi Hello are also personal favourites. Marr himself seeming appreciative of the crowds enthusiasm and involvement in his set. Without doubt one of the best sets this weekend by far.

Closing out the weekend are the Stereophonics with another set filled with crowd pleasers. The likes of Step On My Old Size Nines, Maybe Tomorrow and Handbags and Gladrags are all well received and at that point we decide to call it a night. This is Tomorrow has well and truly shone this year an excellent festival throughout with such a wide range of bands with countless highlights. We cannot wait to do it all again next year!

ROISIN MURPHY | 19.05.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Roisin Murphy – 19th May 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Review by Lee Hammond. Photos by Victoria Wai

As a precursor to her slew of festival shows in the weeks and months ahead, Roisin Murphy decided to warm up for these in Newcastle. Opening tonight are duo Audiobooks, the pair initially don’t strike you as a typical duo and their music reflects that. Acclaimed and in demand producer David Wrench’s beats are crisp and clean, and they sound particularly pleasing in this wonderful venue. However, the same cannot be said for the bewildering Evangeline Ling whose vocals rather than enhancing the beats they sit atop, instead fail to enthuse.

Their sound is definitely unique but perhaps not in the right way, the culmination of their set sees Wrench shredding through a plethora of riffs whilst Ling screeches through the final track. The build up to Roisin Murphy’s set starts the best part of fifteen minutes before she even takes to the stage, a palette cleansing drone that slowly builds accompanied by looping visuals. As the lights dim and the band take the stage, Murphy makes her grand entrance opening with House Of Glass. This heavy number setting the tone for what is to come.

It’s a night of many costume changes, Murphy’s on stage wardrobe is truly impressive. Personal favourites Demon Lover and Ten Miles High featuring early in this superb set. However, by far the best costume and accompanied song is Plaything, as Murphy carries her silver ‘plaything’ around the stage. Sparking a significant crowd reaction as she twirls it around, it’s not just about that however as the song itself is particularly vibrant and packed with unbridled energy.

That is true of most of this fervent set, with Murphy barely stopping to draw breath the majority of the time. Without doubt she is in incredible form tonight, closing out her set with Overpowered and Flash Of Light you cannot help but be overcome by her style and manner. She has this crowd hanging off her every word, as they dance their night away. Roisin Murphy proves without a doubt how truly brilliant she is tonight with this insanely impressive set, it’s predominantly effortless her costume changes her relentless excitement all of which rubs off on to this elated crowd.

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THE WILDHEARTS | MASSIVE WAGONS | TOWERS OF LONDON | 12.05.2019 | Newcastle Riverside | REVIEW and PHOTOS

The Wildhearts | Massive Wagons | Towers Of London – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

The Wildhearts - 12th May 2019 - Newcastle Riverside
The Wildhearts – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

Review and photos by Graeme J. Baty from Blank Slate Creative

Well what can I say about this gig? The final night of The Wildhearts triumphant tour for the launch of their 2019 album Renaissance Men and some might say (not us at Blank Slate we’ve always been massive fans!) unexpected return to the big time.

Towers of London – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

There was tremendous showmanship on display from the support acts. In fact, both Towers of London and Massive Wagons proved an absolute hoot to photo. So rather than just share a couple of pics from their sets I will add full photo galleries of each band’s set in separate features 🙂

Towers of London have also reformed and are enjoying themselves immensely by the looks of things. They ended their set with members of Massive Wagons joining them onstage for underpants dances and backing vocals on Fuck It Up. MW followed with their own set of high kicking rock anthems to a packed Riverside crowd, fans clearly here in numbers nice and early to see all of the bands.

Massive Wagons – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

It’s my first time seeing The Wildhearts live in about 3 and a half years, although I’ve interviewed and covered solo shows during this gap, this is the first time I’ve been able to get to one of their gigs due to gig clashes, ill health or general bad luck!

The Wildhearts – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

It’s a privilege to get the chance to photo and review a band that I’ve followed since I was about 14 years old when I heard Suckerpunch for the first time. They will always have a little spot in my heart with their catchy and timeless back catalogue of classics and barrage of riffs that send shivers down my spine each time I hear them.

The outro of Everlone is a great example of that, one of the finest pieces of rock riffage I’ve ever encountered. Which is no mean feat when you break down that song riff by riff, it’s shear quota of classic riffs eclipses many bands entire careers in just one song. It appears tonight second song in, nice and early. There was the expectation that they might not play some of the Earth Vs Material prior to the tour since they’ve played that material very heavily for its 25th-anniversary last year.

The Wildhearts know how to deliver a setlist with a selection that is sure to keep the diehards happy and entertain the casual fans. I haven’t bee able to get Dislocated out of my head for nearly a week now. It’s a pure slice of 2019 perfection, ‘I feel dislocated from your world’ is a sentiment I can relate to far too much. The world needs The Wildhearts. It’s a brutal barrage of a song that slides effortlessly into singalong choruses that only The Wildhearts can pull off. The more I hear it the more I adore it.

The Wildhearts – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

It’s an ecstatic night and the whole band appear to be having the time of their lives. It was great to see Danny back there and grinning away. It truly is a remarkable sound that this gang of four chaps can make, the love for them is on clear display from the sold-out Newcastle crowd. Singing and dancing away for the entire set. Including the new numbers which gain a rapturous reaction.

The Wildhearts – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

Renaissance Men will feature on many rock albums of the year list and quite rightly so. The Wildhearts were always super popular in Newcastle but now there’s an air of excitement and maybe some ‘I told you so’ smugness from the fans who have followed them religiously for years since they’re now getting more attention from media and a wider audience.

The Wildhearts – 12th May 2019 – Newcastle Riverside

The Wildhearts in whatever shape or form have always been brilliant and will always be one of Britains best rock bands. They deserve every ounce of praise they’ve earned from this tour and album. What a gig!

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HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD | LOATHE | 30.04.2019 | Newcastle O2 Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Hollywood Undead | Loathe – 30th April 2019 – Newcastle O2 Academy

By Gordon Armstrong (G’s Gig Shots)

Hitting the stage in almost total darkness, Loathe came out and aurally kicked everyone’s head in!!! I had heard beforehand they were brutal but that didn’t prepare me for just how much! The five-piece performed the set with very little light on them making sure the Hollywood Undead audience sat up and listened! I loved how they managed to move from the heaviest of riffs to beautiful almost Deftones ambient melodies with ease! Definitely, ones to watch!

With the bottles of Newcastle Brown readied on the mic stands, headliners Hollywood Undead come out blazing with the back to back Whatever It Takes and California Dreaming from the V album and setting the bar early with the pyro front and rear stage second song in!

The masks are gone now but that doesn’t seem to matter to this sold-out crowd, many of whom are sporting their own anyway, as they bounce about and sing along to Undead, Renegade, Dead Bite and many more!

With their mash-up of Rock and Rap styles, there are bits of Linkin Park meets Eminem meets ICP meets Rammstein in here which makes a lot of the songs easy on first listen to catch on to

Band members bound about the stage swapping guitars and playing keys and samplers atop the risers with seemingly endless energy it’s hard to keep tabs on who’s doing what but it works well for them well thought out not chaotic the way it could easily be with so many on stage doing this. The bringing a crowd member on stage to play guitar seems a standard move at gigs these days but fair play to “Ben” he can play pretty well and the band kick in with a verse or two of Sweet Child Of Mine when he plays the intro then jams with the band and throws all the shapes during Comin’ In Hot!

Pyro, confetti/streamer cannons are accompanying the songs through the night not just being held back for finales or encore time so by the time the set ends with Broken Record and Here Me Now the air is akin to a festival with the smell of the fireworks lingering! The crowd take up the chant of “Everywhere I Go …” to get them back out for more which they oblige with said song of the chant and finishing on the guitar-driven Day of the Dead.

Exactly a week before this Papa Roach also played to a packed room here and I noticed many many of the same faces here tonight going just as crazy loving it!
It’s great seeing gigs of any genre doing well keeping the music scene healthy in our city.

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HIT THE NORTH FESTIVAL | 05.05.2019 | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Hit The North Festival – 5th May 2019 – Review and Photo highlights

Review by Lee Hammond. Photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

It’s an early start but The Noise and The Naive successfully blow away any early cobwebs, this powerful duo tearing through an early set to an appreciative crowd. It’s difficult to fault their enthusiasm and fervour, they are indefinitely deserved of a much higher place up this packed lineup. That being said they undoubtedly won over a fresh set of fans this afternoon.

Such is the norm at this time of year Pip Blom opens the Think Tank stage this afternoon, another artist playing much lower down the bill than expected but she is also playing in Glasgow later today. Her set of grungy power pop is wonderfully executed, she and her band groove their way through these urgent and heartfelt tracks. Think Tank is packed to the rafters this early on, but it is certainly worth it. Her set is far too short but leaves everyone craving much more.

Los Angeles native Pearl Charles is next to grace the Town Wall stage, her dreamy Americana the perfect antithesis after two rowdy sets. Her supremely sweet voice emanating through this small room, casting her wonderful spell across everyone who quickly becomes mesmerised by her. With the likes of All The Boys and Sleepless Dreamer featuring in her set it’s hard not to be enamoured by her. This is definitely the perfect mid-afternoon festival set.

The Ninth Wave have continued to win over fans up and down the country, their sound has changed somewhat in the time they’ve been around as well as the band members. However, today their set is firmly routed in a dark groove as they thrill an enthused crowd who are all willingly and eagerly singing along to every word of songs old and new. They are certainly a band who are finally finding their footing and are quickly ascending the ladder to bigger things.

Next up are New York family band Bailen, the twin brothers and their sister. Are yet another breath of fresh air, settled somewhere between Fleetwood Mac and Vampire Weekend it’s a definite winning combination. The way the three of them harmonise together is exceptional, you quite quickly get lost in their wonderful songs as they have a wonderful sound. Without doubt they are by far one of the bands of the day even with so many other great things to come, we find ourselves completely blown away by them.

A band at the opposite end of the spectrum are next to take to the Think Tank stage, Lady Bird are one of the most talked about bands around right now. Today they make themselves known in spectacular fashion, with Think Tank one in one out there is barely any room to breathe. They take to the stage in typically upbeat fashion goading the crowd and whipping them up into an early frenzy. It’s quite clear that they’re proponents of a similar sound to IDLES, with a little Jamie T in there for good measure. It’s an intense and exciting set, they have an unrivalled power and passion alongside a spectacular stage presence. They are soon to be the band on everyone’s lips.

Sorry provide a completely different experience, their atmospheric tracks at times feel lost in the Boiler Shop. They struggle to gain the deserved gravitas from their intense sound, it doesn’t help that the sun is beaming in through the large windows. This feels like a set which would be much more at home in a small dark room, where the bands real passion has the ability to successfully permeate through the crowd. That aside, as Sorry warmed to their surroundings their set gathered pace, but it still lacked the urgency it needed.

The Blinders have consistently been one of the most talked about bands around, yet on tonight’s showing I’m still yet to understand it. Prior to taking to the stage they play out a call to arms but that’s where their political stance appears to end. Instead blustery fervour is backed by mediocre lyrics coated in reverb driven guitars. That said this is personal opinion, the rest of the crowd were head over heels for the Doncaster band.

Liverpool’s Zuzu was full of excitement as she bounced on to the stage, her enthusiastic stance has the crowd jumping and singing along from the off. Her excitement is truly infectious tonight as we get caught up in her glee as she bounds through her set with wild abandon. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Berlins’ Giant Rooks who really fail to deliver today, not through any fault of their own. You often see this through multi-venue events, they failed to pull any sort of crowd today. Despite putting on a show worthy of a sold-out crowd anywhere as they have the boiler shop quite literally shaking with the force of their sound.

The Mysterines are next in the Digital stage, it’s another fervent fuzz filled set. Lia is a true force to be reckoned with as she relentlessly grooves her way through the entire set, they’re a band who improve exponentially every time we see them. Their power and ferocity is incredible tonight they truly step up to the plate and wow this enthralled crowd. However, this is also where the evening takes a turn for the worse. Heading down to Riverside their programme is suffering from significant delays, Easy Life appear to have only just taken to the stage and are greeted by many bemused SOAK fans.

After waiting a significant amount of time we head up to see Lice, who prove to be one of the bands of the day. Jeering at people from the window of the Bridge Hotel, beckoning them in they quickly create a crowd. Their passionate own brand of punk rock is something to truly behold. Delivered with an angst and snarl, they prove why they deserve to be treated with a significantly higher regard. This enthusiasm, their madness and unbridled excitement is a real breath of fresh air. Without doubt one of the best bands of the day!

Heading back down to Riverside we find out that they are now running an hour and fifteen minutes behind, as SOAK finally takes to the stage Shame fans are beginning to fill the room. There is obviously a hefty disparity in styles and this unfortunately does not translate to the best crowd for the quiet Irish singer. She tries her best and gets through five tracks in twenty minutes before leaving the stage, it puts something of a dampener on what is otherwise an excellent day. The breadth of talent and style is incredible Hit The North have truly nailed it this year. In spite of any issues with timings as these things happen we really cannot wait for next year.

PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS by Victoria Wai

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Images Copyright Victoria Wai. For permission to use these images please contact victoriawai.co.uk

NEWTON FAULKNER | 29.04.2019 | Gateshead Sage | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Newton Faulkner – 29th April 2019 – Gateshead Sage

By Gordon Armstrong (G’s Gig Shots)

I’ll always be in awe of musicians and how they can get up on a stage in front of people and pretty much lay themselves out open and hope it pleases people. Even more so when it’s just one solo artist who doesn’t have a drummer/bass player etc to turn towards for support or to blame.

Newton Faulkner is currently one such solo performer having started out that way then having a touring band and also playing arenas in the last production of War of the Worlds he’s now back with a double “greatest hits” album featuring songs from the last decade of his releases (yeah really a decade!) and a number of cover versions that he has made his own over the years.

Newton arrives on stage to a huge applause “quite nice here innit?” he quips in a self-deprecating kind of way as if to say “not sure what I’m doing here” but as he starts his first number If This Is It it’s obvious why he is here and why the room is full. His voice is incredible almost not needing the mic it’s so powerful and his range is second to none. The set is made up of tracks from the hits album with a couple of new songs for good measure

At the merch stall, there was an odd item in the Tour Kazoo which was soon utilised by Newton when splitting the crowd into groups to perform separate parts of the song becoming a huge backing band with a kazoo section!

Not that he needed one mind you! this multi-talent at one point was playing a kick drum with his left foot chorus pedals with his right, a guitar melody with his left hand, drum pads with his right and remembering the lyrics he was singing. Impressive as I can’t even rub my belly and pat my head at the same time! He did mention having been accused of looping and/or miming in the past but having found myself hypnotised by his movements I can verify it’s all done live! Talented sod! Massive Attacks’ Teardrop is the first of the cover versions aired tonight and it is just an absolutely beautiful take on the song you could hear a pin drop as he performed it.

One of the things I love about Newton though is he is such a charming witty guy and he has a brilliant rapport with his audience chatting to a 1500 crowd like it was a few pals in a cafe or front room it’s that friendly. He leaves his little podium to perform at the side of the stage under a stark bulb saying he’s going back to where it all starts going right and plays I Need Something my favourite of his and the hairs stand up on my neck like the first time I heard it, just perfect.
Against The Grain showcases that vocal range hitting those high notes with ease and Jess Glynnes Million Reasons sounds amazing in this room it just fills it effortlessly.

Throughout the set he keeps cracking himself up just bursting out into laughter at little things. I’m not sure if it’s nerves or if he seriously still can’t believe people love to see him play or just the way his brain works throwing ideas around constantly! Either way, this just lends itself to his already likeable nature making this one of the most relaxed atmospheres I’ve been in this venue.

Dream Catch Me and a medley of covers including No Diggity, Send Me On My Way and of course Spongebob Square Pants have the audience on its feet but he’s not finished yet and he has the downstairs jumping up and down and balconies banging their heads ( no jumping on balcony for safety reasons haha) to the infectious Write It On Your Skin.

Once again using sections of the crowd to sing parts of Orange Skies the set closes and looking around the hall there’s nothing but warm happy smiles. Maybe it’s time to start prescribing live music to lift the spirits.

PHOTO GALLERY

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Images Copyright Gordon Armstrong. For permission to use these images please contact G’s Gig Shots


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SWANS (Michael Gira) Sacrifice and Transcendence by Nick Soulsby – BOOK REVIEW

Swans: Sacrifice and Transcendence by Nick Soulsby

Review by Graeme J Baty

I don’t get anywhere near enough time to read in my hectic life. When I do, I tend to lean towards biographies. There’s something rather comforting in the escapism from your own life and seeing the world from someone else’s perspective. Naturally, being somewhat musically obsessed, I lean towards music books.

I couldn’t pass the chance to read and review this book. I simply HAD to make time for it. This book landed on my doorstep and it feels somewhat unreal, here we have what might prove to be a rare insight into a world I’d only ever imagined. A world that has been hinted at in other books and magazine features but never explored in any focused study. Who makes this wonderfully unique and incredibly intense music?

SWANS (Michael Gira) Sacrifice and Transcendence by Nick Soulsby - BOOK REVIEW

The cover depicts Gira with both arms aloft, like he has the weight of the world in his hands, overwhelmed during a performance, he’s clearly in control, he is orchestrating and perhaps even enjoying the power of the music. If you’ve ever seen Swans perform live you will be aware that he acts like a conductor and drives the band and captivates audiences. He’s a remarkable writer and performer. A creator. A visionary. Very driven and believe me when he locks eyes with you, he’s very intimidating. A Swans performance is a memorable thing, certainly one of the best and most intense gig experiences of my life. But you can help think whilst watching them, what makes this man tick? This book will finally answer some questions and prove to be a far more in-depth and enthralling experience than my imagination could ever concoct.

Author Nick Soulsby carried out a huge amount of interviews and pieced them together to tell the story of Swans/Michael Gira from many perspectives and eyewitnesses, notable contributors include Thurston Moore, Bob Bert, Lydia Lunch, brother Daniel Gira, Susan Martin and a lot of previous Swans members. I think it’s very easy to be a little unsure, maybe a little sceptical of the interview based format. It’s way more than just a case of copy and pasting old interviews! However, any doubts I had were are quickly overcome, the book is highly structured and builds a narrative of events in chronological order. To the point where it flows seamlessly, separate interviewees are placed as such that it often feels like they are all in the same room talking about the same points. That’s a difficult task, it’s more than collating, it is documenting and telling a story. That kind of structure must take a vast amount of time, and since it’s taken so long for an author to tackle this tale that approach makes the wait worthwhile. “This book has been built up on the basis of 140 interviews with 125 individuals, representing 250-300 hours of testimony”

Michael Gira is something on a unique presence in the music world and in the real world too. The book allows a glimpse into his childhood and recounts his rather rebellious teen antics, which would make quite a good movie in itself, broken home, alcoholic mother, which include running away to Europe and time spent behind bars in Jerusalem.  I don’t want to give too much away, you’ll have to read the book to find out the full story. Intense is a word I seem to use a lot when describing Swans, it’s an appropriate usage as that intensity is Gira lives his life and his art reflects that.

Simply put it’s the best damn music book I’ve read in years and is utterly engrossing. Reinforced and renewed my adoration of the material and encouraged me to look at some of the side project work I knew little about. That’s what I love about music books, they encourage you to look again at a band. Playing Swans records loudly as I read this, it’s been incredibly hard not to imagine his voice and intonation in my mind as you read his interview segments!

Physically it’s a really nice package. Personally, I’ve never understood the ebook fad, a book is something to hold and carry with you. It’s a really nice pressing, fold-out cover, nice paper and exquisitely laid out. Not something I’d normally think or comment about, but it seems to have had care and attention taken when making these publishing choices that echo the subjects perfectionism and I felt it worthy of note.

Swans remain one of my favourite live bands I’ve ever photoed. New appreciation and understanding that can only come from an insight to the artist and the world they were shaped in. I find myself remembering the shows, damn they were great. His vision truly became a reality and the sheer volume, coupled with repetition and deceptively simple song structures that in lesser hands would not have anywhere near the dynamics and power that the will and force of Gira inspires. I can’t explain a Swans show, you really have to witness one to understand.

A few photos from my archive

This photo was taken back in May 2014 (pre-Blank Slate!) at a warehouse gig in Hoults Yard Newcastle.

Swans - Newcastle May 2014
Swans – Newcastle May 2014
Swans - Newcastle May 2014
Swans – Newcastle May 2014
Swans - Newcastle May 2014
Swans – Newcastle May 2014
Swans - October 2016 - Northumbria Students Union
Swans – October 2016 – Northumbria Students Union
Swans - October 2016 - Northumbria Students Union - PHOTOS
Swans – October 2016 – Northumbria Students Union
Michael Gira - Boiler Shop Newcastle - Feb 2018
Michael Gira – Boiler Shop Newcastle – Feb 2018