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Museum of the Moon 13 September to 11 November 2021 See Durham Cathedral in a whole new light as Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon illuminates the nave. Explore the installation and moon-themed events at

Image © James Billings



Our pick of the best events in September






Live performances courtesy of Taupe, Field Music, Virginia Wing, Sea Power, Nathan Fake, Bosola, The Magpies, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, I See Islands, John Grant and many more, plus exhibitions at Shieldfield Art Works, The Biscuit Factory and Discovery Museum, a sky-scraping installation at Durham Cathedral, camp comedy at The Stand, environmentalthemed gorgeousness at Festival of Thrift and Make & Mend, films by female and non-binary filmmakers and loads more!



Ali Welford talks to the spoken word electro artist about his unique sound and new concept record, Ken & Jean

I may be writing this at the end of August before the end of the so-called British summertime, but it feels as though autumn is already in the air (evidenced by the Nana blanket that’s permanently attached to my legs in my draughty home office). That’s by no means a bad thing though, as traditionally September brings a tonne of entertainment with it, including a raft of touring bands and new seasons of fresh theatre, comedy and exhibitions. Thankfully, the old traditions still appear to hold true, although much of the entertainment on offer this month seems to be coming mostly from our own shores, as the twin joys of Brexit and Covid continue to play havoc for international artists of all kinds. Nevertheless, this month’s issue is positively bursting with wonderful creativity and it has been fulfilling to once again be so inundated by brilliant stuff happening in the North East that we simply couldn’t squeeze it all in. Don’t forget to pay a visit to our website, where there’s always a glut of interesting music, theatre, film, comedy, art and all kinds of stuff in-between, and where shortly you’ll be able to ingest even more multi-media content as we kick off some new initiatives over the coming months. So far, so cryptic! Next month I expect to be permanently ensconced in a fleece onesie and bemoaning the oncoming winter, but for now the crispness of a new season is waiting to be enjoyed!

Editor Claire Dupree Website David Saunders Creative El Roboto Advertising Claire Dupree Stay social, connect with us NARC.magazine @narc_magazine @narcmagazine NARCmagazineTV

Cover Image Amelia Read Review Images Rhiannon Banks / Tracy Hyman / Idene Roozbayani Contributors Paul Broadhead / Jonathan Coll / Mark CorcoranLettice / Laura Doyle / Lee Fisher / Lee Hammond / James Hattersley / Tracy Hyman / Beverley Knight / Ben Lowes-Smith / Tom McLean / Kate Murphy / Robert Nichols / Michael O’Neill / Ikenna Offor / Stephen Oliver / Nicola Owen / Paul Ray / Helen Redfern / Damian Robinson / Idene Roozbayani / Elodie A. Roy / Conor Roy / Steve Spithray / Dawn Storey / Andrew Thompson / Leigh Venus / Luke Waller / Robin Webb / Ali Welford / Maria Winter / Cameron Wright

VISIT US ONLINE WWW.NARCMAGAZINE.COM NARC. Magazine, Tel: 07748 907 914 Email: Web: Published monthly by NARC. Media. Printed by Reach Printing Services, Middlesbrough. Distributed by CSGN All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without permission from the publishers. The opinions expressed in NARC. belong to the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of NARC. or its staff. NARC. welcomes ideas and contributions but can assume no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs or illustrations


Reports from the front row, including Bonnie & The Bonnettes, ZELA, Withered Hand, SQUARMS, Band of Holy Joy, Ni Maxine, Your Aunt Fanny and more

55 | DEMOS

Featuring Labyrinthine Oceans, The Sightseers, Queensbury, Kieran Atkins and Sam Hughes


Reviews of singles by North East artists including Spilt Milk, Ruth Lyon, Jaime Ainsley, Charlie Layzell, SWEARS, Stereotypes, Mat Hunsley and more


New releases from Little Simz, Low, Sleigh Bells, Segedunum Rust, Ray Blk, Tigress, Saint Etienne, Hamish Hawk, The Vaccines, The Lathums, Colleen Green and more


Phil Davies from Downcast Base HQ talks about some of his favourite tunes

Next Issue Out 29th September




The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff by Pamela Raith Photography




39 Pilgrim Street by David Hall

UNTIL WEDNESDAY 1 39 PILGRIM STREET As the curtain comes down on

Multidisciplinary artist Will Hughes’ sculptural work focuses on material language, personal experience and class in narrative-based works which use animal print to clothe sculptures, adding new dimensions to social histories and narratives within them, and championing the aesthetics they were inspired by growing up. Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough


community space Commercial Union House and its multitude of artistic businesses find new premises, B&D Studios (newly renamed Atlas North East) present David Hall’s photographic exhibition of the people and creativity that resided in the iconic building. B&D Studios/Atlas North East, Newcastle



ANTONY GORMLEY: EARTH DRAWINGS Coinciding with Antony Gormley’s Field For The British Isles installation at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland Museum hosts an exhibition of twelve drawings made by Gormley from red-coloured earth, recalling the artist’s first encounter with the Australian desert, and relating to the very first Field work made in 1989. Sunderland Museum


SATURDAY 4 BUBAMARA One of Durham’s finest and quirkiest

bands welcome live music back to the intimate Claypath Deli, delivering their delightful fusion of Balkan beats, Sicilian skiffle, Cossack ska and Anatolian grooves. Inspired by songwriter Ivor Pop’s time travelling across Europe, Bubamara’s Mediterranean-infused sound is full of folk punk joy. Claypath Deli, Durham bubamaramusic

TUESDAY 7 THE BALLAD OF JOHNNY LONGSTAFF A celebration of Northern working class

activism, complete with a rabblerousing soundtrack by Teesside folk trio The Young’Uns, the returning production comes with new material and stunning animation as it tells of one man’s journey from poverty and unemployment in Stockton to fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War. Runs until Saturday 18th. Northern Stage, Newcastle



Brighton quartet Black Honey operate in their own thrilling and inclusive universe, full of “heroes and villains, bad-ass bitches and dead-end deserters”. Expect a rush of grit and glitter from a group whose cinematic vignettes and squalling guitars have made them hot property. Support comes from Hartlepool-via-Leeds’ alt. rock heroines Venus Grrrls. Middlesbrough Empire








DARLINGTON ARTS FESTIVAL Having been postponed last year, Darlington’s


Known not only as an indie rock band with epic tunes but also as some of the nicest guys in the biz, Tyneside’s Little Comets touch down in Stockton for what promises to be an incendiary show replete with their trademark honest songwriting and passionate performance. Part of the Revive Live programme from Music Venue Trust. KU Bar, Stockton



Three performances celebrating North Shields, including Blowin’ A Hooley’s The Filleting ‘App’, a loving response to Tom Hadaway’s classic The Filleting Machine; the opening scenes of Cloud Nine Theatre’s Fire And Water, a true story of heroic Thomas Brown; and The Worriers’ tale of salvation, Preaching To The Bottom of the Glass. The Exchange, North Shields




Performing two sets under the banner of The People’s History Songbook, Scarborough’s musician, activist, writer, poet and broadcaster Joe Solo will perform tracks from his highly regarded releases including No Pasaran, Headscarves & Hurricanes, Never Be Defeated and Potter’s Field. Support comes from Whitby songwriter Phil Martin. Toft House, Middlesbrough

MONDAY 13 RÓISÍN MURPHY Róisín Murphy’s forward-thinking

approach to electro pop has led to her being touted as Ireland’s queen of the avant-garde. Her music is wonderfully idiosyncratic and her performances legendary. 2020’s album Róisín Machine is a triumphant return to her dance music roots and exactly what you need right now. Don’t forget those dancing shoes… Boiler Shop, Newcastle





PRINT GOES POP Looking at the way artists have used

screenprinting in their work, with particular focus on the 1960s pop art phase, Print Goes Pop will be a colourful exploration of work by artists including Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein, Victor Pasmore, Bridget Riley, Parviz Tanavoli and Andy Warhol. Runs until 29th January 2022. Hatton Gallery, Newcastle


The Stand’s long-running beginner’s showcase finally returns for the first Red Raw since lockdown. Expect to see the stars of tomorrow, along with a few higher profile names popping up on occasion to test out new material, in one of the most highly regarded open mic nights on the circuit. The Stand, Newcastle




Taking inspiration from lo-fi indie and 90s alternative music to create emotive indie rock, Bloody Death began as the solo project of Brighton-based Ted Foster. His time spent working on a remote farm in Spain brought themes of isolation to his sound, which he now creates from his new home of Saltburn. Base Camp, Middlesbrough

Arts Festival returns to the town centre, bringing a riot of creativity. Intended as a showcase for arts organisations and creative individuals, the festival will showcase everything from music to literature and performance of all descriptions. Keep an eye on their website for more announcements. Various venues, Darlington





WEDNESDAY 22 This rescheduled show has come at a timely moment for Newcastle’s sonic experimenter Me Lost Me, as she arrives fresh with new material and a new EP on the horizon. Themes of nature and renewal fuse with ideas around technology and science, resulting in an ever-shifting but always intriguing melange of sounds. NE Volume Music Bar, Stockton

The Dan Daw Show by Hugo Glendinning

SATURDAY 25 THE DAN DAW SHOW Described as “beautiful, messy and

intimate”, inspirational dancer Dan Daw teams up with theatre director Mark Maughan and performer and collaborator Christopher Owen in a performance which tackles themes of intimacy, resilience and reclaiming the self. Dance City, Newcastle



Image by Martin Livesey



Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice Trying to stake out new ground within a set musical form can be a Sisyphean task: just what is left to explore in a standard band format at this stage of the game? Full credit then to Virginia Wing, who having started life as a more psychedelia-informed, Broadcast-


indebted act have evolved into a genuine one-of-a-kind proposition. Having made a considerable artistic step forward on 2018’s dazzling Ecstatic Arrow, earlier this year they returned with the similarly brilliant private LIFE: an album more interior than its predecessor, but no less captivating or powerful for it. Now a trio of Alice Merida Richards, Sam Pillay and Christopher Duffin, they delight in collage-like songs that draft in ideas from a disparate array of influences – a snip of pop-house here, a dash of 80s indie there, washed down with a grateful glug of spiritual jazz – that never sound like they

belong anywhere but alongside each other. As anyone who saw their previous Cluny appearances can attest, their live show boasts a more muscular electro pulse, driven forward by Richards’ insistent sprechgesang. Making a very welcome return to the venue on Thursday 30th September as part of a belated UK tour for private LIFE, Virginia Wing’s considered balance of incision and euphoria makes for a genuine delight. Virginia Wing play The Cluny, Newcastle on Thursday 30th September



Field Music



Words: Steve Spithray Everyone’s favourite odd-popsters Field Music head out on a short North East tour in support of latest album Flat White Moon this month. The Sunderland band’s brief soiree will take in The Cluny in Newcastle on Thursday 23rd, Middlesbrough’s Westgarth Social Club on Friday 24th and finishing on home turf at The Peacock in Sunderland on Sunday 26th September. Those lucky enough to get a ticket can expect some choice cuts from the band’s trademark eclectic new record, including recent non-hit Not When You’re In Love and a selection of fan favourites from the band’s previous seven, ten, or even sixteen records depending how the band themselves count them. It’s a formidable catalogue either way you count, but Flat White Moon perhaps sees the band at their most mature and personal. There is never a dull moment with the Brewis brothers, bolstered to a shape-shifting,

instrument swapping full band live, as they hop, skip and jump through a myriad of time signatures and styles. Never having quite received the bigger audience they deserve (despite that early career Mercury nod in 2012) means we are still lucky enough to see the band in such intimate surroundings – but don’t dally, because this short run of shows is sure to be a sell-out. Field Music play The Cluny, Newcastle on Thursday 23rd September, Westgarth Social Club in Middlesbrough on Friday 24th September and The Peacock, Sunderland on Sunday 26th September



Words: Claire Dupree As an avid camper, you can take it from me that things have the habit of going awry when you’re dealing with the great outdoors; from stampeding buffalo and swarms of mosquitoes to 40 degree heat and monsoon rain, my

patience has certainly been tested under canvas. It’s not just extremes of weather and bizarre animal intrusions that make sharing a small space with your loved one or family an often trying experience though, as the new production at Alphabetti Theatre attests. Pod, created by North East theatre company Coracle, is a tale of family dynamics which takes place in a cramped camping pod where Rose, her sister Daisy, her husband Dan and mum Iris spend the weekend together in celebration of their departed Dad’s birthday. A relatable tale of grief and loss, family secrets are revealed and unfinished business spills out, as they reconnect in unexpected ways. As director Matt Jamie explains, Pod is very much a tale for our current times: “We’re very excited to be back at Alphabetti and to bring this play finally to audiences after it was postponed in 2020. It’s a hugely relevant, entertaining and funny piece, that depicts human relationships, honesty and moving on – what a better time for that, than now!?” Pod is at Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle from Tuesday 31st August-Saturday 18th September





FESTIVAL OF THRIFT @ KIRKLEATHAM Words: Helen Redfern A packed national celebration of sustainable living, the Festival of Thrift takes place from Saturday 25th-Sunday 26th September in the village of Kirkleatham, Redcar, with a focus this year on water. Thought-provoking talks, performances, live music and ethical shopping await you, along with the opportunity to join in with swapping clothes, alfresco dining and cooking and much more. The packed programme includes a performance from Patrick Ziza, whose Dandyism dance piece


is inspired by the gentlemen of the Congo, exploring the expression, energy and expressive dynamism of dance originating in East Africa; with the weight of plastic now greater than the weight of humanity, Cast-Away by Highly Sprung is an outdoor spectacle that responds to the devastating effect of ‘disposables’ on our canals and waterways; exploring contemporary implications of rising sea levels, performanceparkour show On The Strandline by Urban Playground asks what and who you would place on a boat should a flood threaten your future. A series of thought-provoking talks on sustainability themes, such as climate change, protecting our water, sustainable buildings and rewilding will take place over the weekend. There’s a chance to delve deeper into the world of fast fashion, revealing the environmental cost

of the clothes we wear and throw away; influential designers Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway discuss their amazing journey from selling second-hand clothing to becoming an international fashion brand and FOT guru Simon Preston joins marine specialist Jean-Luc Solandt and Redcar fishing family-born artist and author Carmen Markus to discuss the impending catastrophe in our seas. With the effects of climate emergency at the forefront of our minds right now, the Festival of Thrift provides an ideal opportunity to discover for yourself how together, we can make a world of difference. The Festival of Thrift takes place at Kirkleatham, Redcar from Saturday 25th-Sunday 26th September


Chintzy Stetson



Words: Laura Doyle Anyone with even a whisper of experience in the creative industry knows how difficult it is to get a leg up in this line of work; it’s a lot of hard graft, admin, networking and sometimes sheer luck. Now, imagine doing all of that in a society that, for some reason, just doesn’t make as much sense to you as it does to your peers. For neurodivergent folk, this is a daily reality, and it results in them often being overlooked and underappreciated. So what’s the solution? Well, Lava Elastic is doing a pretty good job at correcting the balance for a start. It’s the UK’s first arts night dedicated to putting neurodivergent performers on the bill. The Brighton-based company has popped up across the country, and now the North East is getting our own shot at ARC in Stockton on Saturday 18th September. With a bill featuring people with different neurological types – from those on the autism spectrum to dyslexic people and everything else that fits under the umbrella of neurodivergence – these talented people are celebrated alongside

neurotypical performers, culminating in a diverse night of comedy, performance and poetry. Taking the stage in Stockton will be comedian, poet and all-round wordy powerhouse Dr. Kate Fox, artist and spoken word performer Lizzie Lovejoy and more to be announced. Lava Elastic takes place at ARC, Stockton on Saturday 18th September



Words: Kate Murphy Every so often an artist whirlwinds onto the music scene in a cream cowboy hat, a name that’s easy to trip over and a furry jumper, and gets people talking. When one of those people talking is Sam Fender, there’s reason to believe the whirlwind could be here to stay. Chintzy Stetson is an alternative pop rock artist and Newcastle native, previously of noisy pop

band Them Things, whose voice ranges from crackly indie cries to Bowie-esque wobbles, and whose songs don’t shy away from a saxophone solo or lines like “I’m pissing in the vinegar”. His debut single Falling In introduced us to a voice with enough presence to fill a manor house, dripping with playful angst, and showcased not only some marvellous production but also Chintzy’s knack for a chorus: it moves in and takes over like smoke from a potion, sounding at times like a nursery rhyme and at others like ghostly voices making themselves known, with some delicious high notes. This month sees the release of Chintzy’s debut EP, Songs From The Top Shelf Of My Heart, and on Saturday 25th September he performs at the Stockton-based Gathering Sounds festival alongside Cortney Dixon, Komparrison, The Mysterines and a huge array of others. Catch him on the KU Stage, and get your tickets fast. Chintzy Stetson releases Songs From The Top Shelf Of My Heart EP on 15th September and plays The Gathering Sounds festival, Stockton on Saturday 25th September





Sea Power by Hollywood



Words: Steve Spithray British Sea Power are dead, long live Sea Power. The indie stalwarts have chosen to rebrand in order to avoid any misapprehension of their name and have announced the release of their new album, Everything Was Forever, ahead of a one-off show at The Georgian Theatre on Saturday 11th September. The rural-loving cult heroes never fail to disappoint, and the venue’s spacious stage should be big enough to accommodate a whole raft of onstage topiary and embellishments, such is their wont and should the urge take them. New single Two Fingers is hailed as an anthem for these troubled times, optimistic and defiant in equal measure, while the live show should feature their usual mix of brooding and bucolic indie. Sea Power are one of the most revered UK live acts, often mentioned in the same breath as international luminaries such as Pixies and Arcade Fire. With the new album scheduled for a February release some new material should get a run out, while the band’s last album, 2017’s Let The Dancers Inherit The Party, was arguably their most upbeat, so expect plenty to dance to and a few surprises along the way. Sea Power play The Georgian Theatre, Stockton on Saturday 11th September



Words: Ali Welford Ouseburn is back! The pubs are open; leaden doom metal is blaring from the Off Quay; and a typically batshit bill heralds the return of

Endless Window to The Cumberland Arms! Don’t be fooled by the fact that these three acts are actually somewhat compatible – this line-up bears all the ambition, audacity and wild eclecticism that has seen EW become a Valley institution. Originally slated for April 2020, Taupe’s own return is an equally welcome and overdue event. A case study in just how enthralling jazz can be, this trio’s irrepressible collision of mathy structures, incendiary skronk and crunchy sludge riffage is a physical, combustible live experience – and not half bad on record either, as last year’s extraordinary Not Blue Light album proved. If we’re lucky, we may even hear their rendition of a certain Richard Dawson classic… Supporting artist Faye MacCalman, meanwhile, may be best known for fronting NARC.’s June cover stars Archipelago, yet this well of wonderment likewise extends to her solo work, manifesting in more exploratory, freeform sensibilities. Similarly, opener SteM’s solo guitar improvisations are impossible to forecast – though those familiar with his background in local legends The Unit Ama may expect this fresh guise’s promised blend of drone, folk and avant rock to carry a characteristic stamp of quality. Highlight Friday 3rd September in your diaries and be sure to book in advance. Capacity is limited! Taupe, Faye MacCalman and SteM play The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on Friday 3rd September


BEHIND THE FACE OF A ROCK, THROWING STONES @ DANCE CITY Words: Helen Redfern What if the entire human body could be a listening instrument, capable of feeling,

touching and seeing the colours and textures of sound – and silence – in space? What if the gaps between the sounds were as valuable as the sounds themselves? The Japanese word Ma ( ) – a gap, pause or interval – is central to choreographer Nicole Vivien Watson’s new work Behind The Face Of A Rock, Throwing Stones. During a research residency in Ise City, the site of one of the most important and prestigious Shinto shrines in Japan – Ise Jingu (Ise Grand Shrine) – as part of the cultural programme for UK in JAPAN 2019-20, Nicole Watson, artistic director of Surface Area Dance Theatre, had the unique opportunity to interact with traditional Japanese culture. Blending this research with an experiential understanding and knowledge of British Sign Language, D/deaf culture and butoh, Behind The Face Of A Rock, Throwing Stones is an exploration of language, sensation, contemplation and physical expression through movement and wearable technology. In developing the work, performing artists Charlie Dearnley, Christopher Fonseca and Alex Rowland physically interpreted the possibilities of Ma, producing an assertive series of gestures, postures and settlements of physical contact. With set-design by Graham Patterson and sound by Tom White, this work by Surface Area Dance Theatre to be performed at Dance City on Friday 17th September is adaptive to the social and architectural environments in which it is performed. Explore the pause. Behind The Face Of A Rock, Throwing Stones is performed at Dance City, Newcastle on Friday 17th September





Washington on Thursday 30th September and Middlesbrough Town Hall on Monday 4th October

SESSIONS @ ARTS CENTRE WASHINGTON/ FILM MIDDLESBROUGH TOWN HALL WOMEN X @ ARC/ ONLINE Words: Nicola Owen “I like sex. Think I love football more. Sometimes I cry during it, as we know. The sex, not the football. I’m single and I am well aware that this is not an appropriate forum to find my next partner. I hate that you keep asking questions and I hate that I feel compelled to answer them and I’ve thought about leaving at least five times since we’ve started but I’d actually rather be here than anywhere else so I am still here.” So says main character Tunde, a loveable young rogue who is struggling to claw his way out of a dark mental space. Tunde is the creation of a bright new talent platformed by Soho Theatre and Paines Plough who bring you Session by Ifeyinwa Frederick. Frederick is a fervent believer in the power of storytelling and human connection. Sessions is her second play which explores the complexity of depression and therapy as it follows the life of British-Nigerian Tunde in his struggle with depression and masculinity. Sessions is performed at Arts Centre


Words: Claire Dupree Attempting to provide an alternative to the male-dominated, London-centric film festival circuit, award-winning women-led production company Rianne Pictures will once again be hosting their film festival which celebrates women and non-binary filmmakers. After 2020’s online event had global success, they’ve gone for a hybrid approach for 2021, with in-person screenings and activities at Stockton’s ARC as well as virtual experiences online throughout the three-day festival which takes place from Thursday 2nd-Saturday 4th September. Giving a voice to under-represented filmmakers is what drives Women X, and as well as screenings there are opportunities to join panels, workshops and access networking opportunities, with help on hand for filmmakers at any stage of their careers. Over 70 short films will be screened throughout the festival, which have been broadly

categorised into films which delve into personal stories, the world of work, friendship, family, love, motherhood, conversation starting tales, dark secrets and desperate measures. Of particular note are screenings of Julie Ballands’ Mothers Of Invention, the story of Newcastle’s queer club scene of the 80s/90s; Ruth Fadairo’s documentary We Are, which focuses on young black entrepreneurs; Chloe May Law’s Heartthrob, a coming of age drama which confronts the idolised version of a favourite musician when he’s accused of sexual harassment; Gabriela Staniszewska’s terrifying short, I Should Have Run; Crystal Leaity’s short documentary film Motherhood tells of a mother trying to secure a future for her severely disabled son; Susan Emina’s Strong Black Woman?! is an open letter to her daughter; Steff D’Arcy’s Continue To Burn is a dance film which explores female rebellion; Chloe Clarke’s Pulse explores the impact of hate crimes on the LGBT+ community through an intimate dance; and Khalis Kamarul’s The Fight is a fast-paced action comedy set in the midst of 2020’s pandemic lockdown. An awards ceremony and after party takes place on the Saturday night, and there’s plenty of opportunity to chat with filmmakers during Q&As too. Women X film festival takes place at ARC, Stockton and online from Thursday 2nd-Saturday 4th September


Image by Andy Martin



Words: Kate Murphy Twenty years on from demo album The Media Machine (co-written by Nick Gladdish when he was performing as Casualkai), his confidence and artistry is a joy to behold in Last One Get The Lights. The album’s eleven tracks showcase a band and a frontman who know precisely what they



of The Bluetones. The album is presented in full live glory at The Cluny 2 on Sunday 12th September, where fans will be able to appreciate the do-this-properly approach that has been taken throughout its recording process, with the body of every track recorded live over two days. Gladdish? We’re over the moon! Nick Gladdish launches Last One Get The Lights at The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Sunday 12th September



want to say and how they will say it; playing soft ballads, blues and rock with intricacy, thoughtfulness and the understated conviction of musicians who are in full stride. Opening track When is tinglingly brilliant, its simple acoustic guitar leaving plenty of room for the unexpected corner-turns the melody takes, giving the track a near life-affirming feel, and rightfully showing off Nick’s accomplished vocals. Right Side Of Wrong is another feat in writing, performance and production: dust-kicking and eyebrow-cocking, its bell-like guitars are full of humour and cool, calling to mind the Return To The Last Chance Saloon-era



21 August to 14 November 2021

For more information visit

Patrick Hughes, Leaning on a Landscape, 1978. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. ©the artist.



Van Houten by Sam Joyce



Words: Maria Winter On Saturday 4th September slacker popsters Van Houten will perform their deliciously lo-fi stylings at Play Brew Tap Room in Middlesbrough. Originally from Leeds, the chilled pop quartet are a complete spectacle, with a sound which has been described as perfectly encapsulating the feeling of a late and lazy summer afternoon. Promising positive vibes and a dynamic musical energy, the band will perform tracks from their forthcoming EP release, Home Alone Pt. 2, which is released on the brilliant CLUE Records on 10th September. Recent single Now And Then has already garnered the attention of the likes of BBC 6Music and trendy music blogs, thanks to their ability to write blissful slices of atmospheric guitar pop which often belie deep and meaningful themes around relationships and loneliness. Support on the night comes from Hartlepool’s

indie pop band Marketplace, themselves no strangers to penning catchy odes to the vagaries of modern life. Van Houten and Marketplace play Play Brew Tap Room, Middlesbrough on Saturday 4th September



Words: Claire Dupree Widely considered a jewel in the North East’s crown, the Northumberland landscape is a source of constant inspiration for artists – none more so than Janine Burrows, whose new exhibition at The Biscuit Factory features work inspired by her familial heritage and connection to the county. Having had a show at the venue curtailed due to the pandemic back in March 2020, the artist’s return to the Ouseburn gallery will now showcase a swathe of new work created during lockdown, including painted ceramics and hand-crafted wooden ‘Huizen’ (Dutch for

‘houses’), alongside original paintings and never-before exhibited sketches. The painter and illustrator’s work is typified by bold colours and delicate details; spindly trees dot landscapes of pinky brown fields, squalls of weather blow in on pastoral settings and slim rivers meander through sparse white beaches to calm seas. Speaking of her new collection, Janine says: “This body of work is very much a celebration of my North East heritage. My grandparents grew up in Corbridge and Hexham and though they moved to Yorkshire in the 1940’s it’s fair to say that Northumberland was forever in their hearts. From historic towns to majestic beaches, I very much feel a sense of belonging.” At the launch of Janine’s exhibition on Saturday 4th September visitors can enjoy music from local acoustic folk band Hek, with The Factory Kitchen also launching a new menu featuring dishes inspired by Northumberland-sourced produce. Janine Burrows exhibits her work at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle from Friday 3rd September-Sunday 7th November





Words: Lee Fisher Back in the mid-noughties I saw a gig billed as ‘Nick Cave Acoustic’ that was anything but: it was absolutely raging, a Grinderman gig in all but name, so you never know quite what you’re


going to get with Cave. It’s not clear what to expect from these shows with Cave and long-term collaborator Warren Ellis, but I’m not expecting them to be quite so surprising. It’s reasonable to expect material from their recent Carnage album (perhaps the most divisive of the recent run of albums including Ghosteen, which a lot of hardcore fans deemed a Cave/Ellis project anyway), perhaps some selections from their dozen or so soundtracks, maybe some Bad Seeds songs. The duo are being joined by one ‘Johnny Hostile’, a guitarist with Savages connections it seems, and a trio of gospel singers. But your guess is as

good as mine as to what Cave pulls out of the bag. The tour hits Sage Gateshead on Friday 24th September, a regular stop, but perhaps more significantly fetches up at Stockton’s beautifully refurbished Globe on Wednesday 29th September, a real coup for a venue that hasn’t hosted a rock gig since Status Quo back in 1974 (although it’s actually McFly that ends that hiatus earlier in the month). Nick Cave & Warren Ellis play Sage Gateshead on Friday 24th and Stockton Globe on Wednesday 29th September





Words: Claire Dupree You might have spotted some high profile gigs popping up across the region recently under the Revive Live banner – an initiative launched by Music Venue Trust in partnership with the National Lottery, which sees one-off performances from artists like Sam Fender, The Futureheads, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man and Twin Atlantic take place at grassroots venues in an effort to give them a much-needed boost and bring music fans back to live shows. Sunderland’s Independent have been blessed with several Revive Live shows throughout September, with sets coming up from box-fresh pop innovator Pizzagirl (Wednesday 8th); Dutch indie quartet Pip Blom (Saturday 11th), alt. rock newcomers Apollo Junction (Monday 13th); and Hull’s ‘post-punk absurdist polemics’ LIFE (Friday 17th). These shows take place alongside Independent’s usual roster of local and up and coming talent, which this month includes shows

from Yorkshire new wave rock band Sarsaparilla (Friday 3rd) and fast-rising songwriter Andrew Cushin (Friday 10th). “We’re really excited to finally welcome live shows back to Independent.” Says Independent’s promoter Ben Richardson. “It’s been a long time coming but these Revive Live shows feel like a perfect way to bring music back, supporting the artists and the venues with funding as well as allowing every ticket buyer to bring a mate for free [on production of a National Lottery ticket]. Hopefully audiences can expect some top quality performances from touring artists, ranging from indie, rock and pop, coming from as far away as Holland.”


THE PARAPOD MOVIE & Q&A @ ARC Words: Maria Winter Stockton’s ARC welcomes the brilliant ParaPod creators Barry Dodds and Ian Boldsworth to discuss their podcast-turned-film, which

discovers paranormal activity in a journey of discovery, emotional turmoil and hilarity. On Friday 17th September get ready for an evening of excitement, adventure and supernatural endeavours, as Barry and Ian share their feature film The ParaPod Movie. You will be taken on a journey through the haunted segments of Edinburgh, from its destitute villages to underground labyrinths, as Barry encounters the world’s most aggressive poltergeist, trying desperately to convince his doubtful friend of its existence. The first podcast to be turned into a feature length film, The ParaPod Movie demonstrates both innovation and creativity and maintains its trademark conflict and entertainment, providing a thrill for all. If the film viewing wasn’t enough, it will also be followed by a live Q&A with the creators themselves – giving you a chance to gain behind the scenes insight and find out about the overall creative process. The ParaPod Movie screening and Q&A takes place at ARC, Stockton on Friday 17th September






Words: Claire Dupree Newcastle’s volunteer-run indie cinema Star & Shadow have announced details of their autumn season, with a schedule of films chosen by an eclectic group of cinema volunteers. “The idea behind our programming is to bring the whole breadth of the cinema enterprise to our audiences.” Says volunteer Adrin Neatrour. “To bring to the viewers a wide choice of films that are diverse and inclusive, presenting a mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar; asking you come and see films that you may not have heard of, but offer an opportunity to see something you won’t see on a big screen anywhere else.” September’s Fall For Film programme provides an opportunity to see familiar classics like cult comedy Withnail & I (Thursday 16th) and John Carpenter’s sci-fi comedy Dark Star (Sunday 12th), while also taking a chance on more unusual movies including a rare screening of surreal Czech film Valerie And Her Week of Wonders, featuring Valerie as an Alice-type figure in a world of earrings, pearls, priests, vampires and blood (Sunday 26th) and Night of the King, shot in Côte d’Ivoire and set in the notorious Maca Prison during a night of collective terror, ecstasy and ritual (Thursday 30th). Also of note is a programme of short films from the Sundance Film Festival (Thursday 9th); Tove, the biopic of Moomin creator Tove Jannson (Saturday 18th) and Hury, Island of Solitary, a documentary covering the summer years Tove Jannson and graphic artist Tuulikki Pietila spent on the island of Klovharu in the gulf of Finland (Sunday 19th). Coming up in October’s Fall for Film schedule will be Raoul Peck’s documentary I Am Not Your Negro, voiced by Samuel L Jackson, which provides an insight into the murderous nature of White America (Thursday 7th); Horace Ove’s Pressure, a sharply observant film about being


Black in today’s Britain (Friday 22nd); and Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (Sunday 31st October).



Words: Nicola Owen The majestic Durham Cathedral’s nave draws down the moon as Luke Jerram’s touring artwork, Museum of the Moon, fills the space with an awe inspiring display from Monday 13th September-Thursday 11th November. At seven metres in diameter, the inflated moon installation is a fusion of 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. Each centimetre of the internally lit spherical sculpture represents 5km of the moon’s surface, at an approximate scale of 1:500,000. Accompanying the visual feast will be a composition created by BAFTA and Ivor Novello award-winning composer Dan Jones. Andrew Usher, Visitor Experience and Enterprise Director at Durham Cathedral explains what visitors can expect: “We’re delighted to be bringing this celestial artwork to the North East in 2021. Museum of the Moon will present a new way for our visitors to experience the historic cathedral. The installation has such a visual impact so we really hope the artwork, and the related programme of events, will introduce lots of people to the cathedral for the first time, as well as encouraging lots of visitors to return and see us in a new light.” Visitors will be able to experience Museum of the Moon daily, during cathedral opening hours. A moon-themed programme of events will accompany the installation, including late night openings, cathedral tours with a twist, star

gazing, half term activities and worship events. Luke Jerram: Museum of the Moon is at Durham Cathedral from Monday 13th SeptemberThursday 11th November



Words: James Hattersley There are many reasons why you probably missed out on Lollapalooza 2021 – whether that be ticket costs, the fact it’s in Chicago or you didn’t have your Covid-19 vaccine card. Never fear, there’s a ‘Palooza’ happening in the North East which is much closer to home: it won’t cost you an arm and a leg and will be an evening of splendour, with all the grandeur that the region can knock up. What started off as an all-day festival across venues on Teesside, Heelapalooza House Party has since morphed into a series of events run by mastermind Aaron J Lythe. Taking place on Friday 17th September at Play Brew Tap Room, it’s billed as one last hoorah to see off the summer and it promises to be quite the evening. Not only will there be street food from Spud Gun Loaded Fries and good beers but also a whole host of live acts to enthral you. West Sussex’s GLOO will be laying down their angst-filled pop-laced noise punk, while North East’s Motherland bring their stadium ready alt. indie and SWEARS fill the room with their aggressive, doom-laden alt. rock. See the summer out in alternative fashion. Heelapalooza House Party featuring GLOO, Motherland and SWEARS takes place at Play Brew Tap Room, Middlesbrough on Friday 17th September


Komparrison by Will Gorman



Words: Michael O’Neill It’s been hard to ignore the steady rise of North East popsters Komparrison, as they continue to sell out shows across the region and turn up on plenty of festival bills (including being the headline act of the recent inaugural MUNRO Festival). Even with the challenges dealt to the industry by the pandemic, they’ve continued to release a steady stream of phenomenal singles and bag acclaim from the likes of BBC Introducing. Hot off the heels of the release of the marvellous Bubblegum, which is a testament to their talents as songwriters, rich in harmony, hooks, melody and depth, the quintet are now planning to take their taboo-busting bangers on tour, stopping off at Stockton’s Georgian Theatre on Friday 10th September for a homecoming show. Support comes in the form of Sunderland-hailing singer-songwriter Faye Fantarrow, who is fresh from a run of brilliant singles including upcoming release Noughties, and Teesside’s upstarting alt. rock quintet Gone Tomorrow, with further support

to be confirmed closer to the date. On the night, the band will also be taking donations of food to support Redcar Area Foodbank, a volunteer-run local organisation who currently operate six foodbanks, providing support to the wider Redcar area. Komparrison, Faye Fantarrow and Gone Tomorrow play The Georgian Theatre, Stockton on Friday 10th September



Words: Claire Dupree There’s nothing we like more than hearing about new promoters, particularly those who are going out on a limb and doing something a bit different. Auntie Joy are ticking all our boxes with their debut event on Saturday 18th September taking place in the old village of Ryton near Gateshead, described as a short series of multi-media events organised by local enthusiasts NofC and TQ. “The intention through the course of the

series is to develop opportunities to appreciate music, art, workshops, dance, poetry, film and more – with the values of performer diversity and inclusivity being encouraged.” They explain. Designed to be “experimental, DIY, unusual, fun, free-form, challenging and suitable for all ages, interests and abilities” the inaugural event will kick off at midday with a two-hour continuous performance on Holy Cross Church’s bells by Church Bell Ringers, an improvisational performance courtesy of Paul Taylor on the church organ, piano and synths, unique looping vocals from Pinnel and clouds of looped sound and waves of deep drones from Mobius. From 3pm at Ye Olde Cross pub, attendees are invited to participate in a guided music and sound creation opportunity led by renowned jazz bassist and improviser John Pope. Those who wish to join in the workshop should bring their instrument (or just their voice), and anyone who wants to just observe is also welcome. Auntie Joy presents Church Bell Ringers, Paul Taylor, Pinnel, Mobius and a workshop from John Pope at Holy Cross Church and Ye Olde Cross, Ryton on Saturday 18th September





Words: Laura Doyle Residents of Tynemouth are more than aware that the region boasts some of the UK’s most beautiful coastlines; stretches of sandy beach, castles, quaint seaside villages – you name it, we got it. It makes sense that it was the relocation of choice for Highlands-born singer and multi-instrumentalist Seamus Joseph O’Donnell. His fresh start in these fresh digs was

the kick up the backside O’Donnell needed for his new musical project, I See Islands, inspired by his hometown of Mallaig which is famous for its island-filled coastal scenery. Since its inception in 2019 following a series of personal crises, I See Islands has grown into a flourishing solo endeavour. Debut album Within A Light Beam took its final form over lockdown, and saw the light of day back in May. Deeply autobiographical in content, O’Donnell documents his struggles, from marital problems to starting anew, which led to this new chapter on this lo-fi folkish record. The eleven songs were initially envisaged thriving in a live setting, although that’s obviously been difficult

this past year. Thankfully, we can now have the opportunity to experience the work as its creator initially intended, as he performs at North Shields venue The Engine Room on Sunday 12th September. With his hands firmly on the steering wheel after a musical career spent largely in the back seat, I See Islands is O’Donnell’s chance to show the world exactly what he’s got. Support comes from former steelworker turned folk artist Stilts Foster and local songwriter Philip Jonathan. I See Islands, Stilts Foster and Philip Jonathan play The Engine Room, North Shields on Sunday 12th September

6 S T A G E S O F N E W M U S I C • 2 5 T H S E P T 2 0 21







Myra DuBois by Holly Revell



Words: Nicola Owen Our great tradition of sarky, ballsy drag acts shows no sign of flagging as self-declared South Yorkshire Siren and Songbird Of The North, Myra Dubois, hits the comedy cabaret circuit with her new show Dead Funny. Billed as unpredictable, intelligent character comedy, the sharp-tongued chanteuse casts her irreverently sardonic side-eye at death, dying and the theatrics of grief in her show at The Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle on Sunday 12th September. Myra will be supported by Yorkshire’s #1 funnyman (according to his late mother), misogyny apologist and inevitable sex symbol Frank Lavender and the show will be scored with songs by Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer The Opera) promising an evening packed with so many laughs you’ll R.I.Pee yourself. Myra’s TV credits include BBC1’s The John Bishop Show. She is also part of the cast of the upcoming movie version of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – but has been sworn to secrecy

about the details. And, of course, she became known to the mainstream when she reached the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent 2020. Myra DuBois performs at The Stand, Newcastle on Sunday 12th September



Words: Claire Dupree Originally conceived as a one-off gig with a message of anti-racism, Rock Against Racism became a fully fledged political and cultural movement in the mid-70s. Reacting against racist attacks in the streets, the increasing right-wing polemic of the press and public mistrust of immigration (sound familiar?), arguably their message of music bringing people together to stand against racist behaviour has never been more relevant. While their last official event may have been in the early 80s, live shows that embody the spirit

of the movement have continued to take place, and one such show at The Georgian Theatre on Saturday 18th September comes with original RAR founder member Roger Huddle’s seal of approval. Presented in association with the Battle of Stockton Campaign (which commemorates the locals who chased Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists out of Stockton in 1933), the gig features an eclectic roster of musicians who have a passion for the cause. Headlined by Teesside rabble-rousers Benefits, whose music is visceral in its disdain for the state of the UK today, demonstrated by their noisy protest songs; alt. country/blues artist Patrick Jordan; the ‘deeply candid’ music of Reardon Love; alt. folk artist Frazer Lambert, whose songs reflect industrial life on Teesside; eighties-inspired balladeer Lost State of Dan; grungy acoustic act Thought Trumpet and DJ Gary ‘Diz’ Walters, who was involved in the original Rock Against Racism movement. Rock Against Racism takes place at The Georgian Theatre, Stockton on Saturday 18th September





Saturday 25 September, 7.30pm £13.50 | £11 | £8 | 0191 261 0505



John Grant



Words: James Hattersley With the last of the social restrictions on live music being lifted this summer, it is finally time to get feet back on the floorboards and butts into seats again. While new shows are being planned and executed, it’s cause to pause and turn attention to all the postponed shows that have waited ever so patiently for their turn to shine, and this show is geared up to be worth the wait. Americana singer-songwriter John Grant is finally set to take the stage of the great Sage Gateshead on Friday 10th September and will supply a thinly drawn line between battlescarred piano-man and robust electronic auteur. Grant’s most recent album, Boy From Michigan, solidifies him as one the greatest songwriters of all time and presents a unique mixture of the songwriting of Elton John and the electronic experimentation of Kraftwerk, all while touting personal tales and present day US nightmares.

Definitely a more sober affair, but nevertheless just as beautiful and powerful as his previous work. Audiences are in for a delightful evening; filled with brutal honesty, vindication and musical whimsy delivered with class. Support comes from folk rock musician Teddy Thompson. John Grant and Teddy Thompson play Sage Gateshead on Friday 10th September



Words: Beverley Knight Northern grit and determination transfer over from the stage to real-life as hard-hitting tearjerker Carrying David is back and ready for action after enduring a cancelled run last year. The one-man play is the true story of Irish lad Glen McCrory, who managed to rise above the desperate mine closure in Dipton that rocked the village to the core at the start of the 80s, to

become the boxing Cruiserweight Champion of the World. We have a tale of two brothers: boxer Glen fighting for his title, and terminally ill David fighting for his life, amidst a family sticking together when it’s needed most. Humour threads through the beautifully and affectingly told tale, thoughtfully written by Ed Waugh of Hadaway Harry and The Great Joe Wilson fame, and acted with honesty by Micky Cochrane. The production is authentic; you might laugh, you might cry, but you will feel like you are part of a special event in more ways than one, as you witness a local hero triumph in the face of adversity. Carrying David is performed at Phoenix Theatre, Blyth on Wednesday 8th; Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham on Tuesday 14th; Gala Theatre, Durham on Thursday 16th; Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Newcastle on Friday 17th; Alnwick Playhouse on Saturday 18th and The Witham in Barnard Castle on Sunday 19th September





Words: Nicola Owen Prospect Us is a new collaboration between Shieldfield Art Works, Newcastle University, BxNU Institute, artists and residents which starts the conversation about the imposing blocks of student accommodation mushrooming in Shieldfield and considers the social, emotional


and political impact of the commodification of the land. Who owns the land? Who profits from it? At what cost? These are some of the questions asked in One Hundred And Thirty Million Pounds of Earth, a map created by Julia Heslop and Dwellbeing Shieldfield which tracks who owns what around the area; also by Heslop, Felling displays photographs of the area past and present to illustrate what we have now and what has been lost; Asset Arrest is a podcast series by Laura Yuile in which she takes a guest to view a property and they pose as potential buyers; Sure Profit is a playful take on the board game Risk in which players can explore the social, emotional

and power value of land and resident/community agency in a world where we are all treated as consumers, and the Factory Farming Zine asks whether bland multi-storey apartment blocks are really the experience that young people deserve. Discussions, workshops and participatory walks around the area form part of this interesting and topical exhibition which will seek to get the conversation going on how we are treating our future, and our past. Prospect Us is at Shieldfield Art Works, Newcastle from Tuesday 14th September-Friday 26th November


ARXX by Bridie Florence



Words: Steve Spithray Newcastle-based promoters Neversleep are delighted to bring alt. rock duo ARXX back to Newcastle as part of their upcoming UK tour. The band last played the region in support of Ladybird at The Cluny in 2019 but this time they are back as headliners of their own at Toon favourite Little Buildings on Monday 13th September. The genderqueer Brighton gal pals have been making moves all over the UK and Europe since forming in 2018 and have already received acclaim from the likes of Huw Stephens, Steve Lamacq and John Kennedy. ARXX have crafted a sound that is part punk and part rock but all no-nonsense – recent singles, Deep and Call Me Crazy, showed their versatility around the studio after the all-out garage rock of earlier releases. Support on the night will come from Newcastle’s Abnorm, who have quietly been building a name for themselves over the past year with their Everything Temporary and Citrus single releases showcasing singer Abbie’s rich, emotive rock credentials. And as if that wasn’t enough,

opening proceedings will be The Samphires who bring their alternative indie vibes – the all-girl three-piece studied music at college together and the result is heart-on-the-sleeve pop built on teenage insecurities and post-punk hooks. ARXX, Abnorm and The Samphires play Little Buildings, Newcastle on Monday 13th September



Words: Claire Dupree South Shields’ annual celebration of the written word returns to its rightful home of The Word this month, after last year’s online iteration. Taking place from Friday 17th-Saturday 25th September, the fifth annual festival will encourage bibliophiles and literary lovers across the region to engage with authors, take part in workshops and seminars and enjoy performances from a vast range of guests. Of particular note on the packed line-up are events featuring historian Lucy Adlington, who discusses her book about Auschwitz’s last surviving seamstress (Friday 17th); Ben Lamb is

the author of the first dedicated study of the tropes of the British television police series, his witty and insightful talk is perfect for crime drama addicts (Tuesday 21st); best-selling authors Harriet Evans (The Beloved Girls) and Lissa Evans (V Is For Victory) are In Conversation about their careers (Wednesday 22nd); renowned crime author Nicci French – the pseudonym for the writing partnership of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French – talk about their new thriller (Thursday 23rd); and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, Ann Cleeves, discusses her new book The Heron’s Cry (Saturday 25th). For those looking to expand their own writing skills Sixth Element Publishing will provide one-to-one mentoring sessions on writing and publishing (via Zoom, Sunday 19th); lovers of Gothic stories can discover more about the genre with local writer Helen Scarlett, who also discusses her road to publication (Sunday 19th); Margaret Murphy hosts two Zoom workshops focusing on dialogue and kickstarting the writing process (Monday 20th); and young writers can try out different forms of writing across three courses, run in partnership with New Writing North (Saturday 25th). The WRITE Festival takes place at The Word, South Shields from Friday 17th-Saturday 25th September






Ted Hanky by Andy Hollingworth




BOSOLA/HOLIDAY IN TERRESTRIAL ACT @ THE HANKY PANKY COMEDY CLUB @ BIER TOKYO/RESERVOIRS @ THEATRE ROYAL LITTLE BUILDINGS & BEER Words: Michael O’Neill Hosted by local comedian, radio presenter and podcaster extraordinaire Ted Hanky, The Hanky Panky Comedy Club is a monthly comedy night offering a showcase for rising stars amongst the region’s comedy scene at Middlesbrough’s recently opened Bier & Beer. September’s event takes place on Friday 24th and will be headlined by Fran Garrity, who has previously toured with the likes of Jason Manford, as well as touring two fully sold-out solo shows and appearing on BBC Newcastle’s Grin Up North, alongside a regular show on local station Zetland FM. Support comes from local fledgling act James Kilvington who (despite only taking up comedy in 2019) has been on a steady rise that hasn’t even been stalled by the pandemic, generating plenty of acclaim and raking in over three million views from online clips of his high-energy, raucous act. Rounding off the bill is the infamous impressionist Charlie Hopkinson, the ‘Man of 100 Voices’, whose cunningly accurate impressions of everyone from Morgan Freeman to Liam Neeson have seen him rack up over 100 million views on YouTube. Fran Garrity, James Kilvington, Charlie Hopkinson and Ted Hanky perform at Bier & Beer, Middlesbrough on Friday 24th September

Words: Kate Murphy You wait a year and a half to see an emerging alt. rock indie band play live and then three come along at once. Ouseburn’s Little Buildings is the host for Split the Bill on Saturday 25th September, where Bosola, Holiday In Tokyo and so-new-they’resqueaky Reservoirs will take to the stage for a night of rock, lo-fi indie pop and jazz-inspired goodness. Reservoirs, hailing from Consett and straight out of left-field, take their inspiration not only from jazz, but from old musicals and surf, and look set to put their beguiling stamp on the North East’s already flourishing alternative scene. Following the critical success of their debut studio EP How Sick I Became Running From Myself, Heaton three-piece Bosola bring us affable storytelling in tracks like The Social Moth and smile-raisers like This Time Buddy It’s All On You, glinting with 60s charm and burning to be chanted by a live audience. Holiday In Tokyo bring us their signature upbeat mellowness and kitchen sink lyrics, including latest single Make My Day, a hope-tinged longing to be a mid-twenties drifter and untick all of the boxes we’re told to race towards, with warm and thoughtful vocals from Matty Rogers. It’s been worth the wait. Split the Bill featuring Bosola, Holiday In Tokyo and Reservoirs takes place at Little Buildings, Newcastle on Saturday 25th September

Words: Claire Dupree Nomadic curatorial partnership Hot Desque are committed to showing emerging and established artists within site-specific exhibitions, with an aim to provide a platform for experimentation and interdependence. Their latest work, Terrestrial Act, comes to Newcastle’s Theatre Royal and aims to evoke a future-past post-human landscape questioning the way we ‘act’ within the natural world. Audiences are invited to step onto the stage to uncover the terrestrial terrain and the lives of microscopic organic matter which populates the empty stage, devoid of actors. Terrestrial Act explores the dynamics between the organic and synthetic, from 3-D printed biodegradable saplings to mic’d up clay bubbling, with artworks pointing towards the role humans play in altering the terrain around us. Exhibiting artists include Sam Carvosso, Anna Reading, Davinia-Ann Robinson, Hannah Rowan, Harry Smithson and Giorgio van Meerwijk. Following on from the one-day exhibition, which takes place on Saturday 4th September, a collaborative film will be screened at the NewBridge Project’s new space in Shieldfield later in the year. Terrestrial Act is at Theatre Royal, Newcastle on Saturday 4th September







Make & Mend



Words: Maria Winter The incredible Make & Mend Festival is back for 2021, taking place on Sunday 12th September at the National Trust’s Ormesby Hall in Middlesbrough, the festival provides an opportunity to join in with a day filled with craft and colour. A curated list of pre-bookable workshops includes creative taster drop-ins and demos from artists explaining their artistic process. Installations on display throughout the day feature work by tulle flower embroidery artist Olga Prinku, who shares her unique work, and American letterpress printer and bookbinder Erin Fong, whose celebration in the power of friendship will be heart-warming and inspirational. Workshops on offer throughout the day include a multitude of crafty delights including soap making, papercutting, linocut printing, calligraphy, macramè, origami necklace making, basket weaving, terrarium planting, marbling and more.

This environmentally friendly event also offers an Online Festival Experience, new for 2021, with suitably arty online workshops and classes available to festival ticket holders and taking place from Saturday 11th-Saturday 18th September. Make & Mend Festival takes place at Ormesby Hall, Middlesbrough on Sunday 12th September



Words: James Hattersley The equinox is certainly a magical time to celebrate nature; marking the death of summer and the birth of autumn. But if you’re not into the whole druid pagan sacrifice infused ritual thing then Equinox Gathering is a mighty fine substitute. Making a return after two years for reasons well documented, Middleborough’s Westgarth Social Club will host a mini all-dayer on Saturday 18th September which will observe fantastical, experimental and truly ‘out there’ live music from across the North East. Expect raucous rage from

the likes of The Likkor Men, shoegazy goodness from Parastatic, psych-space-rock-adelic grooves of Silver Trees, the synth drone of Nathalie Stern and vocal noise enthusiasts Noize Choir, among others. There is truly something for everyone; those who not only deem themselves indifferent to the common zeitgeist and those who have grown tired of the mundane mainstream and want to visit the fringes of sound. There’s an opportunity to grab some arty bargains too, with art stalls featuring work by Slutmouth, Jade Lenehan Illustration, Molly Arnold and Psychedelegg, and once the sun goes down the aftershow keeps the party going at Disgraceland, with DJ sets that combine a cacophony of Afrobeat, electronica, space rock, psychedelic, ambient and the kitchen sink. A scintillating day of distinct oddities awaits you. Equinox Gathering featuring The Likkor Men, Silver Trees, Nathalie Stern, Noize Choir, The Flaccid Cactus, Charlie Thomas, Parastatic and Warped Freqs play Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough on Saturday 18th September





Words: Luke Waller Bringing their virtuosic folk music to Gosforth Civic Theatre on Thursday 9th September, The Magpies are a transatlantic all-female three-piece who are certain to demonstrate how modern folk should be done.


Originating as a group from Yorkshire, they formed in 2018 and have enjoyed great success, playing many international gigs in 2019 and receiving critical acclaim for their album, Tidings, released last June. Taking inspiration from cultures all across the world, their music features a multitude of instruments including banjos and cellos, bouzoukis and mandolins, all accompanied by Holly Brandon’s fantastically fiddly fiddle lines and soothing vocals from Bella Gaffney and Kate Griffin. Despite the traditional genre and instruments, The Magpies combine this with astounding uniqueness and modernity, together with an added dash of prodigious

musicianship, yet still maintain the spirit of Northern England in their music. Perhaps nowhere is this better exemplified than in Balls To The Wall (not a cover of German metal band Accept’s song of the same name), a fantastically energetic instrumental which provides a fitting end to Tidings. With a sound like no other, they will transport an audience to other times and places; The Magpies are not an experience to miss out on. The Magpies play Gosforth Civic Theatre on Thursday 9th September


Nathan Fake by Laura Lewis



Words: Michael O’Neill With an illustrious and prolific career as a techno outsider, Nathan Fake has refined his craft whilst touring with the likes of Orbital and Four Tet, remixing Radiohead and Jon Hopkins and collaborating with labels such as Warp Records and Ninja Tune. It’s quite the glowing CV for someone with such an utterly unique approach to the form. Fake is heading to The Cluny 2 on Saturday 18th September off the heels of last year’s marvellous LP Blizzards, which is a sprawling and frenetic collision of sound, and a phenomenal introduction to Fake’s approach to dance music. Instead of playing it safe, Fake is unafraid to take the classic ingredients of techno and turn them upside down and inside out; rich melodies fight against waves of clattering percussion and filthy sub-bass on blistering tracks such as Pentiamonds and Vectra. Support comes from local dance experimentalist Dextro, whose

recent LP An Hour Is A Sea offered a masterclass in how far the artform of dance music can be pushed to new sonic territories via a two-part suite of ferociously abrasive melodies and pounding beats, serving as a brilliant complement to Fake’s leftfield dance music. Nathan Fake and Dextro play The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Saturday 18th September



Words: Elodie A. Roy With Making Waves, Newcastle’s Discovery Museum celebrates the long history of sound recording, reviving some of the local histories and life stories etched on wax cylinders, gramophone discs or magnetic tapes. A virtual exhibition on Google Arts & Culture enables visitors to listen for the first time to a selection of defining moments in Tyneside’s turbulent 20th

Century, ranging from King George V’s speech at the opening of the Tyne Bridge in 1928 to locals animatedly discussing the Miners’ Strike in 1984. These uniquely poignant documents – alongside many others – were digitised by Tyne & Wear Archives as part of the British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. Online exhibits are complemented by new interactive panels at Discovery Museum itself, showcasing a range of sound-making objects including record players and car horns (for visitors to experience on their smart devices). Museum manager Carolyn Ball muses: “We wanted to provide our visitors with a new way of experiencing the museum. Recent times have prompted more online creativity and the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project is the perfect way to explore ways to do this, both online and in person in the galleries.” New digital recordings will be made during the course of the exhibition – capturing the sound of contemporary Tyneside for future generations. Making Waves: A Festival of Sound is at Discovery Museum, Newcastle from Monday 20th September-Sunday 27th March 2022



FAITHFUL JOHANNES ALI WELFORD TALKS TO THE SPOKEN WORD ELECTRO ARTIST ABOUT HIS UNIQUE SOUND AND NEW CONCEPT RECORD, KEN & JEAN IMAGE BY AMELIA READ There’s a lot to take in for those witnessing Tim Head perform for the first time – from his bedroom beats and idiosyncratic ‘barely rap’ delivery, to personal handwritten messages and the repurposed homeware within his stage set-up. As charm offensives go it’s mightily potent, though at times it runs the risk of obscuring the Durham wordsmith’s innate gift for storytelling; the pillar which, for all the quirks, represents the true heart of his guise as Faithful Johannes. This rather crucial element becomes rather more difficult to overlook, however, with the arrival of new full-length Ken & Jean. Whereas Faithful Johannes records to date have housed collections of stand-alone, bite-sized vignettes, this ‘story album’ is an altogether more audacious undertaking – 12 tracks oozing his unmistakable, endearing DIY trademarks, yet bound in the form of an engaging, intimate and often poignant tragicomedy. “The album was kind of an accident,” he confesses. “It started out as just a couple of songs for a tape Steve Chell was doing for his Northern Tape label. I had 11 minutes to fill, and I thought it’d be nice to put two or three songs together which had some sort of arc to them. I didn’t have much of a story mapped out, though – I tend to have my best ideas in the shower! – and I ended up completely misjudging the length it’d take! “Ken’s quite an anonymous kind of guy, but somewhere down the line he realises he’s quite good at jokes, pranks and impersonating people,” Tim continues, introducing his story’s principal character. “He gets a bit of a kick out of it, and it helps him step out of who he normally is, but ultimately it ends up driving him and Jean apart. I got the idea that he’d set up a fake photography company to get them to the front of a Neil Diamond concert – a big, grand gesture to try to win her back.” A peculiar starting point, one may feel; yet as Tim’s tale took shape, this hapless figure quickly became a smorgasbord of inspiration – an ideal hub from whom to flesh out a narrative. “Ken was nice to write about, as you could build so many random anecdotes,” he reveals. “For instance, there’s a song about a Mediterranean holiday in 1991 where he pretends he’s a famous Hollywood actor. Of course, back then people didn’t have access to the internet, so nobody could really verify this! He ends up getting special treatment, but eventually somebody he’s made friends with catches him out when he spills drinks at a pub and breaks character.” Penned from that acquaintance’s viewpoint, the song in question – Holiday In The Sun In 1991 – is also notable in that it sees Tim hand the reins to a guest vocalist, Glaswegian rapper Eli Hermit. This fresh collaborative spirit is reflected elsewhere in a spoken


word Intro from Nel Unit’s Jon Horner and trumpet contributions courtesy of James Leonard Hewitson, while Jean’s own perspective – as revealed on gorgeously bittersweet highlight The Leap – is voiced by Great North Slam-winning poet Ellen Moran. “I ummed and ahhed for quite a while about that one. I wanted somebody who would talk through it almost in a matter-of-fact kind of way. I think the description I gave Ellen was ‘like you’re sat down having a cup of tea.’” With a three-dimensional cast, vivid anecdotes and a convincing emotional core, you’d be forgiven for wondering whose real-life romantic drama these estranged soulmates are based upon. “There’s a Ken and Jean who drink in the same pub as us, but that’s just a coincidence!” Tim insists. “There was a lot of Googling involved, and I had a good long conversation with Victoria Wai about the experience of being a photographer at a big arena event, but they’re pretty much entirely fictional.” Nevertheless, he does confess a certain fondness for Ken’s character, beyond his usefulness as a narrative catalyst: “I do think he could be a projection of myself, in some ways. I’m guessing he’s probably in his late fifties or early sixties; I’d quite like to partially retire from my office job, work in café and go to jazz lunches…perform at nights for pensioners, listen to avant-garde music and spoken word performance. I think that’s where Ken ends up, and I think that’d be my dream!” What’s more, tentative plans are afoot to transfer this likeness from his imagination onto the live stage: “I think I’m going to try to do the September gigs [listed below] in character, so I’ve started buying clothes for Ken!” he reveals. “It’s a bit am-dram, and I’ll probably have to come out and do some kind of pre-performance announcement, but for all that it’s silly, hopefully there’ll be bits which people find quite honest, emotional and resonant.” None are characteristics Faithful Johannes’ music has ever been accused of lacking, yet they’re magnified profoundly through the thrills, spills, fallout and partial redemption within Ken and Jean’s tale. Equally, few can cast doubt over Tim’s DIY credentials, with the new record issued as ever through his own Win Big Records, available on handsome pink vinyl or via digital download. With artwork hand-drawn by artist Anna Billany, it’s a gem fit for any collection. Ken & Jean is released on 10th September via Win Big Records. Faithful Johannes performs at Last Train Home Festival, Darlington on Saturday 4th September and The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on Sunday 26th September






MIDDLESBROUGH ART WEEKENDER CLAIRE DUPREE TALKS TO LIAM SLEVIN ABOUT MIDDLESBROUGH’S IMMERSIVE ARTS FESTIVAL The largest contemporary art festival in the North East returns this year in its most-loved real-life form. Middlesbrough Art Weekender takes over venues across the town from Thursday 30th SeptemberSunday 3rd October, and brings with it exclusive exhibitions, immersive experiences and eye-opening installations. Artists are recruited for the festival through an open call; Liam Slevin, co-founder of MAW and curator of The Auxiliary Project Space, explains that it’s one of the most exciting parts of the process for him. “We had over 110 applications this year and it really shows the level that artists are operating at in the North East, despite the challenge of the last 18 months. We selected 10 artists and that exhibition will be happening at The Auxiliary Project Space, it’s a mix of painting, drawing, installation, video and performance.” Liam explains that this year’s festival had to cope with unprecedented challenges. “Outside of the North East Open Call it


has actually been a tricky year for selecting artists; bringing in artists from abroad is a real challenge due to the unfortunate mix of Brexit and Covid. This also meant programming large touring international installations was a no go. But like everything, limitations can be very exciting and lead to more creative responses!” The theme around this year’s event is Infrastructure, which artists have responded to in various ways. The successes of the festival are numerous, including a North East exclusive of work by American artist Gordon Matta-Clark, whose films Splitting (1974) and Day’s End will be shown at 32 Albert Road. Splitting documents the artist’s use of a chainsaw to bisect a New Jersey house scheduled for demolition, transforming the house into a temporary sculptural environment; while Day’s End documents his ambitious and controversial deconstruction project at Pier 52 on the Hudson River.


L-R, T-B: Gordon Matta-Clark, Splitting (1974) Photo (c) Centre Canadien d’Architecture, Municipal Disaster Zone Estate by Jimmy Cauty, Jo Lathwood, Is It Magma, (2016 - ongoing) Photo (c) Paul Blakemore

MAW AND MIDDLESBROUGH HAVE A LOT TO OFFER AND I THINK WHEN AN AREA IS UNDERESTIMATED THERE IS A REAL CHANCE OF CHANGING PEOPLE’S PERCEPTIONS Also of note is an immersive experience from revered artist and musician Jimmy Cauty. “We are delighted to be working with Jimmy Cauty, of KLF and Banksy’s Dismaland fame.” Liam says. “His project Municipal Disaster Zone Estate is an immersive architectural experience housed in a 40ft shipping container. The craft and skill of the work is unbelievable.” The dystopian model village features abandoned concrete tower blocks containing satirical scenes of mass social, economic and environmental devastation, from the residential ‘Live-Work-Die’ Units to a high-security children’s prison, a care home for the elderly and a centre for neo-pagan misbehaviour. Located in Centre Square during the Weekender, it’ll then move to The Auxiliary for four weeks. Elsewhere in the programme, an iteration of Fiona Crisp’s installation Material Sight engages with the presence of places such as underground mines and the immaterial nature of science being pursued in them; Bristol-based artist Jo Lathwood’s Is It Magma? features large-scale installations and sculpture that respond to a particular site – using Middlesbrough’s industrial heritage as her inspiration she will perform live smelting experiences to create lava sculptures by experimenting with historic foundry techniques; Narbi Price’s Lockdown paintings, featuring images of benches covered in red tape during the beginning of the pandemic are emotionally affecting; while David Shrigley’s photography and Ben Long’s spirit level sculptures take an alternative look at temporary structures. Digital infrastructure is also at the forefront of the weekend, demonstrated in Stephanie Dinkins’ video work of an AI robot conversation which explores dynamics of bias in its formulation; while Anna Ridler’s work involves machine learning and bitcoin prices in the form of tulips, a 21st Century echo of the tulip bulb market bubble of the 1600s. On Friday 1st October, Gordon Dalton and S Mark Gubb’s film Route 666: Northern Valhalla gets its world premiere at Pineapple Black – a visual and aural assault, the film

documents a road trip along the A66, filmed in early 2021 and featuring a cacophony of emotions and opinions which commemorate the present for an unknown future. Liam explains why Middlesbrough offers the perfect environment for such creativity to thrive. “There is a long history of artist support in the area, Navigator North have been going over 10 years now, and through their relationship with East Street Arts have occupied a large number of spaces. This use of space as well as council-led initiatives over the years has bred a culture of support from the private sector toward grassroots and artist-led activity. Nothing exists in a vacuum and it’s important to acknowledge all the work that has come before.” It’s clear that MAW isn’t just about showing off great artworks, it’s also about building a legacy for the future. “Through the Middlesbrough Art Weekender we’ve helped artists find their feet and open their own spaces. We’re a community and treat each other as such. We’ve expanded the wrap around support that the North East Open Call artists receive and really have tried to make that part of the programme really supportive and nurturing. Trying to position the festival not only as an audience-driven event but a valuable form of infrastructure for artists across the North East.” With much more to be announced, Liam is emphatic about why Middlesbrough is the best place to be an independent artist right now. “MAW and Middlesbrough have a lot to offer and I think when an area is underestimated there is a real chance of changing people’s perceptions.” Liam says. “There is a collective drive among cultural organisation in Middlesbrough to make it the most creative town in England. People might have a chuckle or scoff at that, but during the Middlesbrough Art Weekender, that collective ambition looks very real and can be experienced first-hand.” Middlesbrough Art Weekender takes place across various venues from Thursday 30th September-Sunday 3rd October




POP RECS LTD. DAWN STOREY TALKS TO DAVE HARPER ABOUT POP RECS’ INSPIRATIONAL NEW CHAPTER In November 2020 I spoke to Pop Recs Ltd.’s Dave Harper as the new venue was being built in Sunderland – and now, excitingly, it’s ready to open. Part gig venue, part café and all community space, I caught up with him again to ask how it all came together, and how he ended up moving into the new space. “Well, our first home at Fawcett Street wasn’t the most robust set-up as far as regulatory bodies were concerned,” says Dave, “and our Stockton Road cafe was always an exercise in resilience and maintaining some kind of presence. The activities and events we put into those spaces far, far outweighed what the reality should have been. This feels like the first time we’ve had any level of autonomy as to how we want a place to look and what it should do.” The new building on High Street West was once home to the first ever Binns department store, and Dave is adamant that Sunderland deserves such a unique space. “It’s a city with high unemployment, low wages and completely on its arse as far as hope goes,” he says, “but it’s an incredibly resilient city, a creative city and a proud city. We’ve always made the best of bad facilities but enough is enough. We’ve seen the worst of politics and life up here and it doesn’t need to be that way. When we started looking at the space over six years ago it didn’t have a floor, a roof or a rear wall. Now it does have those things and much, much more. It will make all of your wildest



dreams come true.” Importantly, like its previous incarnations, it’s hoped a multitude of activities will take place at Pop Recs – including theatre and art classes, plus community groups carried over from the other buildings. “Myself and Pete Brewis are working on a summer run of old school kids’ discos,” adds Dave. Furthermore, their partnership with Washington Mind has developed too. “We’ll have a team of counsellors on site five days a week. This will directly have an effect on waiting lists which are already unmanageable and keep young people away from the very real stigma of entering a clinic or a hospital.” For Dave, the heart of Pop Recs is both the people it serves as well as those behind the scenes. “We’ve never strayed from Pop Recs being informed by the people who make it what it is. It’s their home and they have the right to choose how to make themselves comfortable. We know we’re on the right journey because our people let us know. We understand that, given the pandemic and Brexit, the worst is still to come in terms of mental health and in terms of hope, which has never flowed very freely in this city anyway. We’ve always been conscious that something needs to exist to react to that. So we’ve put together two new accredited schemes to train people most at risk from dropping out of society, whether that be via our food and hospitality offer or a more technical edge via our Crew School. When the people have those skills they come and work for us and the other businesses that have become our friends. [The ethos broadly remains] let your people inform you what hope looks like for them and try and make that a reality.”



T-B, L-R: Sophie and The Giants, Du Blonde, Weird Milk by Timothy Casten, The Mysterines by John Johnson


CLAIRE DUPREE TALKS TO JIMMY BECK AND SIMON SHAW ABOUT WHAT’S IN STORE AT STOCKTON’S MULTI-VENUE FESTIVAL If there’s ever been a festival to find your new favourite band at, it’s The Gathering Sounds. With artists desperate to show off new material and stretch those lockdown-weary performance muscles, the chances are good that every set will be a roof-raiser. Taking place across six venues in Stockton on Saturday 25th September, the all-day festival’s line-up reads like a ‘who’s who’ of exciting emerging talent – fair warning, the clashes are going to be impossible to avoid with so many great artists taking part! KU Bar owner and promoter Jimmy Beck explains how this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever, with fresh faces on both the performance and promoting side. “As well as being promoters we also run venues here in Stockton and we wanted some of the stages to be curated by promoters who are doing good things from outside the region to introduce them to the Teesside gig crowd. This year’s guests are This Feeling, famous for their good work on the tour circuit and festivals, plus Under The Influence from Hull who are well known for unearthing top talent.” It’s this collaborative nature that helps to keep the festival fresh, KU’s events manager Simon Shaw explains. “I love the dynamic of collaborative efforts from the venues, agents, promoters and bands. Having lots of input into a pot does create something unique.” Over 40 bands will be performing across two stages at both KU and ARC, as well as The Georgian Theatre and The Green Room. Headliners include the thrilling sounds of genre-blurring artist Du


Blonde, exciting indie rockers Crystal Tides, Sheffield’s upbeat indie popsters Sophie & The Giants, alt. sextet Red Rum Club, Welsh atmospheric rock band Himalayas and powerful rockers The Mysterines. The supporting cast is just as impressive and Jimmy tips the 60’s influenced sounds of Weird Milk, classic rockers Kid Kapichi and danceable garage rock band Low Hummer as particularly worth catching. Our money is on the likes of Scottish post-punks Dead Pony, emo-tinged rockers Sad Boys Club, elegant songwriter Hamish Hawk and the ferocious sounds of Sky Valley Mistress to provide explosive sets. The local scene is typically well represented, and both Jimmy and Simon credit the town’s supportive venues and promoters for helping to put Stockton on the North East’s musical map. “Events like The Gathering Sounds can only happen with a good reputation for the scene and that’s down to the hard work from all the venues and promoters on Teesside.” Says Jimmy. “We all succeed together, seems to be the feeling.” Simon adds. “I feel more confident in putting on regional bands knowing they’re connected to the local area and that’s because it’s so welcoming.” At the top of your ‘must see’ list when it comes to local artists should be newly expanded intelligent popsters Komparrison, honest songwriter Finn Forster, the ‘kamikaze pop’ of Jango Flash, Hartlepudlian songwriter Michael Gallagher, Sunderland indie upstarts Plastic Glass, lush indie popsters Marketplace, exemplary South Shields songstress Cortney Dixon, thrilling alt. band Motherland and rock ‘n’ rollers We Tibetans. With much more besides on a line-up which is bursting with talent, The Gathering Sounds more than delivers on its promise to bring thrilling live acts to Stockton. The Gathering Sounds takes place across various venues in Stockton on Saturday 25th September




ALI WELFORD TALKS TO ARAB STRAP’S AIDAN MOFFAT ABOUT GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER, DISCOVERING A NEW FANBASE AND REAPING THE REWARDS FROM ARTISTIC GROWTH Getting the gang back together isn’t always a fool’s errand, yet few cases reap such handsome dividends as Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton’s resurrection of Arab Strap. Indeed, five years, dozens of rapturously received gigs and a superlative new album later, it’s easy to forget the Scots’ second coming actually began in Newcastle with a jam-packed warm-up show at The Cluny – surely one of the finest evenings the venue has ever hosted. “It was the first gig we’d played for a decade, and the main thing I remember is that none of us realised how small the stage was going to be!” Aidan recalls. “I don’t think we knew quite how much space we needed at that point. There were six of us, so it was quite a


struggle!” Besides that 2016 show, the city holds a bank of fond memories for the vocalist – from travelling down as a schoolboy for a Babes In Toyland show to frequently visiting the original Riverside during his teenage years. It’s a collection he’s every intention of adding to, beginning with September’s visit to the Boiler Shop. “It’s snuck up on us a wee bit to be honest, because none of us thought these gigs were likely to go ahead. It wasn’t until July that we realised: ‘Shit! This might actually happen. We’d better rehearse!’” For punters, the new tour offers a first opportunity to experience fresh classics from March’s As Days Get Dark in the flesh – from




morbidly seductive comeback single The Turning Of Our Bones to the pitch black melodicism of Here Comes Comus! and gloriously unsubtle social commentary of Fable Of The Urban Fox. Beyond making a mockery of any fan nerves, it’s a record which ranks among the very finest in a storied catalogue, and as Aidan reveals was conceived with half-an-eye on the coming shows. “Although only Malcolm and I played on the record, we did so knowing that we have a brilliant live band, so we very much had them in mind when we were making it. The band all do their homework – it’s me and Malcolm who’re fumbling around trying to get things to work and generally being a bit useless! We’re also very conscious that these gigs will be the first time a lot of people will have been out for a while, so we don’t really want to do many quiet ones. We’d rather people were just having fun! We’re doing the bulk of the new album, but there’ll be plenty of old songs too, including one or two we didn’t end up playing on reunion tour.” For casual observers of a pair once labelled Scotland’s miserabilistsin-chief, this new, more jovial incarnation of Arab Strap may seem like something of a paradox. Certainly, the current mood of anticipation bears sharp contrast to the band’s initial mid-‘00s epilogue, a period Aidan admits felt at the time like closure for all

concerned. “I do feel like the timing was on our side this time,” he offers. “When we split up, the feeling was that we were done – that we didn’t have anything else to do or say. We always want what we can’t have though, and I think that’s why people became more passionate about it again. I’m sure we made some new fans over those 10 years too. We were both pleasantly surprised to see how many young people came along to the gigs.” What’s more, following a wealth of solo and collaborative ventures, this particular reformation represents that rarest of things; a duo reconvening while they’re in their artistic prime, more confident, creative and better equipped than at any stage during their original innings. “I do think we’re a better band now,” Aidan agrees. “We didn’t really need an Arab Strap reunion. We could’ve quite easily continued with our separate careers – it wasn’t like a midlife crisis! The live band’s actually quite close to how we left it, but everybody’s better now at what they do. I know a lot more about programming and recording at home, and I definitely think I’m writing better lyrics than I did back then. You can tell sometimes when I’m singing the old songs that I’m slightly embarrassed by some of the err…primitive language; but at the same time, that’s what made it. I couldn’t possibly have written the way I do now back then, because I just didn’t have the experience. “If you’d asked what Arab Strap meant to me five years ago I’d have said being young, but now I don’t know!” he concludes, reflecting on the group’s significance in 2021. “Before we made this record, Arab Strap was always about documenting my youth. Meeting my girlfriend, having our children; all of that came after Arab Strap, so it very much was a time capsule for me. I understand that it’s a big thing to some people, but doing the new record never felt difficult at any point. We just saw it as a natural step, did everything instinctively, and I think that’s why it’s worked. There’s a lot more going on, and I hope it’s a wee bit more sophisticated, but I think essentially it still has our character. Perhaps it’s just a way of proving that nothing ever changes and nobody ever learns!” Arab Strap play the Boiler Shop, Newcastle on Thursday 9th September. As Days Get Dark is out now



12 September

Ormesby Hall, National Trust


Craft // Creativity // Colour // Character // Positivity // Wellbeing // Workshops Artist Demos // Festival Vibes // Makers Market // Installations // And More…

Programme, festival tickets & virtual festival tickets available:

#MMFest21 40



L-R, T-B: Kema Sikazwe in Shine, Cheer Up Slug, Braids


HELEN REDFERN FINDS OUT WHAT’S IN STORE AS LIVE THEATRE PREPARES TO WELCOME AUDIENCES BACK Live theatre is what Live Theatre is all about. So an exciting ‘Back to Live!’ programme is a big deal for the theatre’s Interim Executive Producer Graeme Thompson: “To open our doors again and welcome audiences back is so important because that is what this building is about – people. People together in one space enjoying a show. To get back to Live is to bring life back into this building.” This exclusive season of Live Theatre productions kicks off on Thursday 2nd September with a new updated version of Live Theatre Associate Kema Sikazwe’s ground-breaking debut play Shine. This critically acclaimed bittersweet coming of age story features an electrifying soundtrack and heartfelt words, and runs until Saturday 18th. From Thursday 23rd-Sunday 26th September Your Voice North East is a unique collection of seven ten-minute short plays by writers and artists that reflect contemporary life in our region. Graeme Thompson recognises how important it is for writers and artists like Kema to get back to performing – not just financially, but mentally and emotionally too. “Not being able to do your job is a really difficult thing for anyone to handle,” explains Thompson. “When your ability to work is taken away, and as suddenly as it was in March 2020, it can have a profound effect on your wellbeing and sense of purpose. You’re not able to contribute the thing you do best.” Next in the programme, from Thursday 7th-Saturday 23rd October is a double bill of debut plays by Live Associate Artists Olivia Hannah and Tamsin Daisy Rees which reflect young female experience in the


North East. Braids is a play about a new friendship that ignites a search for belonging and Cheer Up Slug explores boundaries and behaviour. Following that from Wednesday 27th-Saturday 30th October, Lewis Jobson returns with Redcoat, which was first performed as a work-in-progress show as part of Elevator Festival 2020. Expect banging tunes, dance routines, balloon modelling and that extra special Redcoat sparkle. While many theatre makers took to the internet during lockdown and audiences got used to accessing performances online (which is a good thing and important to continue for those unable to access live performance), Graeme Thompson believes that the live experience is such a powerful event that it’s hard to replicate online. “We have all experienced a great show, gig or football match – to be there in the moment makes you feel part of something. Even if it’s for an hour or two, you, the artists and the audience were all part of something unique. Something no one else has experienced.” The season continues with a brand new adaptation of Benjamin Myers’ best-selling book The Offing, by award winning playwright Janice Okoh from Wednesday 3rd-Saturday 27th November. Paul Robinson directs this unforgettable story of a friendship that conquers the barriers of age, gender and class. 2021 rounds off with the much-anticipated return of the sell-out hit Bonnie & Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular starring sketch troupe Your Aunt Fanny and drag trio Bonnie and The Bonnettes. A celebration of all things cabaret and comedy, it’s the perfect Christmas night out (Wednesday 1st-Thursday 23rd December). There’s excitement in the air as Live prepares to open its doors again, a confidence that Graeme Thompson expresses simply: “We may have been away for a while but the determination to bring world class theatre to audiences in the North East is stronger than ever.”





Image by Holly Whitaker


PAUL RAY REFLECTS ON THE UNLIKELY RISE OF SURREAL, NEUROTIC POST-PUNKS SQUID WITH THEIR FRONTMAN OLLIE JUDGE “I don’t know why bands like us, Black Country New Road and Black Midi are getting in the charts. I honestly have no idea why,” sighs Squid mastermind Ollie Judge. He’s got a point. Squid and their friends make genuinely strange music, guitar music that slaps you around the face and makes you pay attention. The band formed in Brighton in 2016, initially as an ambient jazz collective, before metamorphosing into the surreal, neurotic post-punk unit they are today. Take album highlight Narrator, an epic which morphs from bright, sunny new wave to an apocalyptic Krautrock freakout, replete with unhinged screaming from guest vocalist Martha Skye Murphy. “She was pretty shocked by what she did in the studio as well,” Judge laughs. It’s that sort of hair-raising weirdness and manic energy that makes Squid such an exciting live proposition, and why their gig at Newcastle University Students’ Union on Monday 27th September is one of my most anticipated of the year. Squid’s debut album is called Bright Green Field, the cover a lush pastoral hillside scene. But the music within is frequently anxious, neurotic, frenzied. “The title contradicts the themes of the album,” Judge tells me. “Modern life can be quite overwhelming.” These songs certainly reflect the overwhelming, information-dense experience of modern life, especially social media’s endless flow of content and communication. When I ask Judge if he uses social media, he admits: “Yeah, definitely. Maybe too much. I’d love to bin it but I just love it. It’s like smoking…I just love it too goddamn much.” He’s being ironic there, readers. But the underlying sentiment might


explain why the album feels so timely, so in tune with the energy of living in Britain in 2021. When I ask him if he feels a desire to write political music, he’s reticent: “I think that’s quite a dangerous thing to do. I don’t think I should be a mouthpiece for politics of any persuasion.” But, he adds, “anything I write lyrics about is going to have a hint of politics in it…unless I’m writing about an arthouse film or something,” he says with the hint of a wry smile. I think he’s understating things. The twitchy, rickety paranoia of modern life really manifests in these dissonant guitar chords, the racing tempos, the disjointed, surreal imagery. Having talked up the weirdness and experimentation of Squid’s music, in a way there’s a continuity between them and the post-punky guitar music that was knocking about the UK in the 2000s, sometimes derogatorily labelled ‘landfill indie’. When I ask Judge how he feels about that now unfashionable canon of music, he’s quick to defend it, or at least feel nostalgic for it. Judge waxes lyrical about Donnington dance punk band Late Of The Pier, and clearly feels a kinship with their landmark debut release Fantasy Black Channel, an opinion which sheds an interesting light on Squid’s more experimental trajectory. “Late Of The Pier, what a fantastic band,” he reminisces. “I feel a real kinship with that album, they kind of just did what they wanted and made a really strange and cohesive – but not stylistically cohesive – album, and I took a lot from that.” Squid play at Newcastle University Students’ Union on Monday 27th September





T-B, L-R; Jennifer Cardini, Man Power, Bird of Paradise & Force Majeure If you were around and paying attention in the mid to late 90’s you’ll remember the invention of the nonsense that was ‘The Super Club’. Stemming from a rise in the desire to be associated with a certain club, or a need to ‘be seen’ at a particular venue, The Super Club started a trend that took interesting dance venues, coated them with a luxury status and ruined everything that was ever special about them. For my mind, the more super the club got, the more awful they became; a trend that still exists today where various venues and promoters look for style over substance, price over performance and conformity over content. Away from such nonsense, interesting and unique promoters and clubs do still exist. A case in point is North East artist, musician and DJ Geoff Kirkwood, aka Man Power, whose new weekly Us & Them night at World Headquarters invites the best underground DJs in the world to play alongside local North East talent and to an audience who want to hear interesting, unique records. “When I first started going to clubs, the reason you would go would be to hear records that you didn’t hear in other places, and that’s what we want to achieve with Us & Them.” Geoff confirms. “We want to build an extension of World Headquarters where we can create a place of genuine diversity that’s diverse in sound, diverse in attendees, diverse in backgrounds and diverse in DJs.” Part of the aim of Us & Them, aside from its manifesto which includes being anti-hype and proudly outsider, is the desire to create a space where the DJ actually choose records that you don’t hear in


every other venue, and where you’re not made to feel awful if you’re not in the latest Prada. “When I was young I managed to de-programme myself by being around people and music that was different to me, and I don’t think that happens too much today in the dance world as there’s such a push by promoters to make everything look and feel the same. How can you build your own identity as a person if you’re in places that want you to think and act the same as everyone else?” Kicking off Us & Them just after lockdown the crew are already a number of weeks into their residency, and building on the confidence that comes with early success. “It’s great that we’ve been busy, but what’s more important is that it’s been with the right type of people, people who want to be diverse and interesting and don’t only want style of music.” Looking ahead there’s already bookings well into the latter part of the year, with guests over the next month including the likes of Bird of Paradise & Force Majeure (Saturday 4th September); DJ Absolutely Shit & Nord (Saturday 11th September); Ben Caldwell and Jennifer Cardini (Saturday 25th September) along with an all night set from Man Power himself (Saturday 2nd October). As much as Geoff is looking forward to some of the larger names, it’s the blend of local talent that’s also a real driver. “Some of the DJs we’ve got booked might well be some of the most interesting DJs around in the world today with really interesting taste, but on a local level we’re really excited for the likes of Megan Leo and Kris Emmett who are local DJs and offer new ideas – that’s the real joy of the club.” Us & Them takes place every Saturday night at World Headquarters, Newcastle





DAMIAN ROBINSON TALKS TO THE TEESSIDE BEDROOM POP ARTIST ABOUT FUSING STYLES AND TEXTURES ON HIS DEBUT EP Those interested in dreamy pop music might have recently caught Take A Ride, the debut single release from Teesside’s jak lvr. Down-tempo, with an interesting groove and complimented by dreamy vocals, Take A Ride sounded like the type of wonderful guitar/synth/abstract pop defined by Empire of the Sun in the mid 2000’s. Coming out of nowhere, Take A Ride was a gem of a surprise from the former Llovers frontman and a delicious first step in the solo newcomer’s career. When the track was quickly followed by July’s Call It Love (If You Want To) single, a more upbeat 1975-meets-the-Pet Shop Boys groove, it was soon becoming clear that jak might be one to watch and focus began to settle on his debut EP of the same name, which is set for release on 10th September. “I suppose the reaction to the first few singles has been really nice, and people have been saying nice things about it which is nice,” confirms jak when we catch up, “but honestly I’ve got so many pieces I’m creating at the minute it’s hard to keep up with what’s out there and what I’m working on.” Caught in the middle of currently working on some folk pieces (“I’m almost sure these won’t be released but I’m obsessed with Father John Misty at the minute and whatever music I’m focused on tends to be the type of music I want to create”) jak talks about the Call It Love... EP as a right of passage of sorts, as he moves into new textures and sounds, referencing his work with indie pop quintet Llovers. “I was in a band before this project and I’m moving quickly away from that, so this EP is almost a bridge between where I am and where I was.”


I THINK BEING CREATIVE TENDS TO BLEND GENRES INTO EACH OTHER A blend of electro-pop, the EP showcases the spectrum of jak’s palate, and whilst the two early releases have been more downtempo grooves, Never See Me Cry is a full-on, hands in the air electro banger and EP closer F.E.T.S drops more into the abstract textures of the Flaming Lips, complete with interesting samples and dreamy backing vocals. It’s clear that Call It Love... showcases an artist with the ability to bring to life a number of different electronic styles and textures, something he’s keen to carry on working with: “I’ve done about 20 folk songs now, though that’s starting to lead me back to the more electronic stuff so I’ve got a feeling that’s going to become my focus again, which is nice as it’ll let me think about how to follow up Call It Love.... I think being creative tends to blend genres into each other anyway, if you follow what you’re interested in, it tends to be quite circular and bring you back to the start.” Though plans for a live release party are stalled at the moment, there are plans to get out into the live arena towards the end of the year. With so many ideas, and so many creative muses to follow, it might be hard to pin jak’s next step down but, as Call It Love... proves, it’ll be well worth the wait. jak lvr releases Call It Love (If You Want To) on 10th September



T-B, L-R: LYRAS, FEET, Martha Hill, Pave the Jungle


FESTIVAL ORGANISERS SARAH WILSON AND ROB IRISH TALK TO CLAIRE DUPREE ABOUT THE FIRST CLASS ENTERTAINMENT EN ROUTE TO DARLINGTON It’s full speed ahead for Last Train Home festival on Saturday 4th September, and Darlington collective Tracks are on course to provide a first class event for music lovers in the town and beyond (sorry, no more train puns, I promise!) This year’s event may be slightly pared down but it’s no less mighty, featuring four stages of diverse and exciting music and comedy with an emphasis on the North East’s emerging and established talent. Co-organiser Sarah Wilson explains that the prep for this year’s festival was a little different, for obvious reasons. “It was tricky to plan the line-up for this year as normally we would have spent the last year going to gigs and discovering new bands, seeing how they play live and feeling the buzz about new live music.” The team have kept a keen eye on artists who developed over lockdown, resulting in high profile slots for the likes of Martha Hill and Jodie Nicholson. “We were keen to keep the majority of the festival programme featuring local and regional artists to show off how much amazing talent there is here in the North East.” The aforementioned BBC 6Music darling Martha Hill and evocative songwriter Jodie Nicholson will both perform at the Hullabaloo main stage alongside fast-rising alt. rockers Pave The Jungle, multi-instrumentalist Dilettante, noisy rockers Scruffy Bear, Sunderland’s riotous girl-gang bigfatbig, esteemed local songwriter Elaine Palmer and hotly tipped talent Lizzie Esau. The Hullabaloo cafe also plays host to stripped down performances (curated by us here at NARC.) from North Yorkshire art rappers Ceiling Demons, talented MC Kay Greyson, spoken word electro artist Faithful Johannes, guitar whizz Girl From Winter Jargon and R&B pop fusion artist Nadedja. Over at The Forum Music Centre festival goers can get stuck into sets from Coventry art rockers Feet, lo-fi punks Mouses, Darlington’s mysterious masked garage rockers Wax Heart Sodality,

WE WERE KEEN TO KEEP THE MAJORITY OF THE FESTIVAL PROGRAMME FEATURING LOCAL AND REGIONAL ARTISTS TO SHOW OFF HOW MUCH AMAZING TALENT THERE IS HERE IN THE NORTH EAST Mancunian indie rockers Garden Party, hotly tipped noir pop duo ZELA, Newcastle’s fresh neo-soul band LYRAS, superb Middlesbrough rapper Shakk and talented local songwriter Mr Matthew Fisher. Local comedy promoter Hilarity Bites will also be providing giggles aplenty at The Forum, with sets from Keith Carter, Ruth Cockburn, Ignacio Lopez, Jack Gleadow, Deage Paxton, Dean Moore, Lauren Pattison, Tony Cowards, Pete Selwood, Paul ‘Silky’ White and compere Rob Mulholland. Accessibility has become a key concern for Tracks, and they’re mindful of music lovers who may not be ready or able to join in at a full capacity event, so livestreaming ticket options will also be available. “By providing a livestreamed element, although no replacement for the real thing, it can still offer people a taste of being there to fill that fear of missing out, and a place to chat with others in the live comments.” Says co-organiser Rob Irish. Sarah and Rob have had a busy summer, hosting multiple events both online and throughout the town, and it’s clear they’re excited to be back to doing what they do best, as Rob enthuses. “Everyone’s eager to get back out gigging, and from our side as promoters it’s like we’ve finally been let off the leash and we’re going wild planning as much as we can to make up for lost time.” Last Train Home takes place at The Forum Music Centre and Theatre Hullabaloo in Darlington on Saturday 4th September





Paul Merrick, Grotto, 2020, oil on aluminium, 25 x 25 cm, Courtesy the artist and Workplace Foundation

WORKPLACE FOUNDATION CLAIRE DUPREE FINDS OUT HOW WORKPLACE ARE CONTINUING TO SUPPORT ARTISTS IN THEIR NEW CITY CENTRE GALLERY Artist-led project and commercial gallery Workplace open a brand new gallery in Newcastle this month; the large space in Blandford Square will house two exhibition spaces, a library and communal area. Workplace Foundation is a registered charity set up in 2017 by the gallery to further support emerging and under-represented artists based outside of London with a focus on the North, and with the new gallery space they can deliver on that promise even further, as co-founder and director Miles Thurlow explains. “I think that because of its history and relationship with Workplace Gallery, Workplace Foundation is able to understand what artists need to progress their career and support them. We seek to do this throughout the process of working with artists: studio visits, selection of work, communication of core ideas, presentation of work etc. and we aim to be there as a support network afterwards.” Miles recognises that there’s still a significant lack of opportunity and support for artists in the North East, but the things which seemingly hold the region back often also engender a rich proving ground for creativity to thrive. “The shadows of a heavily industrial past, a sense of being marginalised from a London-centric political and economical centrifuge, a resistance to being defined by well worn provincial clichés...[Being] geographically and financially separated from an international art world and art market, but in a place that still is relatively cheap to live, means that there is a constant ebb and flow of artist-led activity and entrepreneurialism – new grassroots gallery spaces appear alongside established


institutions like BALTIC and MIMA, temporary project spaces present new experimental work, studios and workshops allow young graduates to keep making and bring fresh energy and ideas that keeps the scene moving and changing.” Workplace Foundation contribute to this ever-growing scene with a community of their own; their recently set up Community of Artists is a growing roster of artists drawn from past programmes. Their first exhibition at the new gallery, Dark Matter, runs from Saturday 18th September-Saturday 30th October and features work by exhibiting artists including Catherine Bertola, Cath Campbell, Nina Chua, Joe Clark, Claire Dorsett, Parham Ghalamdar, Rachel Lancaster, Paul Merrick, Nicola Singh and Cecilia Stenbom among others, who present work in a range of media from painting, sculpture, video and works on paper. The title references Dark Matter – Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture by artist, writer and activist Gregory Sholette who argues that noninstitutional, self-organised and artist-led practices make up the unseen ‘dark matter’ of the art world and are essential to supporting and sustaining the wider artistic ecology. “After so much time in isolation it felt important to begin our programme with a sense of community, bringing artists together within our new gallery space in central Newcastle.” Miles explains. “As an exhibition it will not be a curated, coherent, thematic presentation of work. Rather a discordant, polyphonic presentation of artists who have remained committed to their practice united by a shared seriousness of purpose that is evident within their work. I’m excited to see it.” Dark Matter is at Workplace Foundation, Blandford Square, Newcastle from Saturday 18th September-Saturday 30th October






Image by Rob Irish North Yorkshire singer-songwriter Elaine Palmer has emerged from lockdown with a totally gorgeous new album, The Land In Between. It is an album that is all about freedom and distance, things we perhaps no longer take quite so for granted. It is also a collection of songs that have the landscape stamped right through them. “I have always been very influenced by the landscape in which I am,” Elaine tells me as we look out from her home that nestles beneath the Cleveland Hills. Indeed the album was recorded in her music room, almost in the shadow of local landmark Roseberry Topping. The fusion of folk, country, emotion and attitude sits most sweetly under the label of North Yorkshire Americana and features the weeping, sweeping cello of HJM Bradshaw, Alex Cromarty on drums, Oli Heffernan on bass and extra guitar from Patrick Jordan and Mitch Tribeck. Patrick mixed and mastered this album and it is a master work in every sense. The Land In Between is her first long player since Still Life in 2017 and Desert Songs EP in 2019. It is rooted from her earliest memories. “I grew up in an old watermill on the moors steeped in history, learning about the people that had lived their lives and died in the working watermill over the years.” The water mill is the subject of a particularly beautiful, reflective song and the North York Moors is always in touching distance. “You can almost feel the wind howling across the moors and picture the souls that have walked those paths before us within these songs.” It is this interplay between places and lost faces that Elaine infuses in her music. But this is also a land in between the North York Moors and the Arizona deserts, where Elaine has spent time over the years exploring while visiting her sister. “I feel there are almost two sides to who I am, one living up on the wild Yorkshire moors and the


YOU CAN ALMOST FEEL THE WIND HOWLING ACROSS THE MOORS AND PICTURE THE SOULS THAT HAVE WALKED THOSE PATHS BEFORE US WITHIN THESE SONGS other riding out across the desert plains. I have a real love for the American West, the deserts and canyons really inspire me as do the Native American people that are part of my family.” Elaine explains more about what the two lands mean to her. “Both lands are bleak and harsh with wide open spaces. Both lands are dramatic and beautiful, forged by the planet’s elements. They are spaces where there is time to observe, time to think without a lot of other human influence, free to find your own identity, your own path.” Elaine Palmer is almost part of the landscape and the landscape part of her; in her music she digs deep to reveal and release the narratives of those that came before and those that will tread the pathways after us. The Land In Between is released on 3rd September via Butterfly Effect. She performs at Last Train Home Festival, Darlington on Saturday 4th, Gosforth Civic Centre in Newcastle on Friday 17th, Base Camp in Middlesbrough on Saturday 18th September (both with Anna Ash), The Cluny, Newcastle (with Tankus the Henge) on Friday 1st October and The Velveteen Rabbit, Great Ayton (with Louis Brennan) on Saturday 2nd October




Image by Delphine Ruston

LUKE WALLER DISCOVERS HOW THE ART-RAP BAND PAIR UNITY WITH REBELLION ON THEIR NEW ALBUM Ceiling Demons have never been, and likely never will be, an average, run-of-the-mill-type of band, and in this respect their new album, Snakes & Ladders is truly extraordinary. An alternative art-rap group from rural North Yorkshire fronted by twin brothers Psy Ceiling and Dan Demon, their music and lyrics are heavily symbolic and introspective, dealing with a broad range of themes. Though this was evident on their 2017 debut album, Nil, the band delve deeper than ever before on their new release, as they collectively explain. “Spiritually, the key themes are love, the universe, Mother Nature and the cosmos. Politically, there are key themes of freedom, peace, empathy and unity along with a rebellion towards centralised power and the corruption within current systems.” Another cornerstone of Ceiling Demons is their focus on mental health in their lyrics and charitable work. “Mental health has long been a theme that we have addressed in our music and Snakes & Ladders continues this tradition. Having birthed our project out of bereavement and our own experiences with anxiety and depression, we try to champion remedies such as creation, speaking, accepting, self-care and self-healing as medicines through music.” Musically, the new album also develops Ceiling Demons’ sound. “Snakes & Ladders feels like a mature progression from our previous work. It still has a lot of traits from our last album ingrained in its esoteric DNA, but it has also grown into its own entity with adulthood. It takes a step away from sample-driven sounds and dives more into a realm of live instrumentation and songwriting.” Perhaps one of the best examples of their sophisticated songwriting


is demonstrated on Dust Of The North, a dark and menacing song, which builds pace throughout and is perhaps one of Snakes & Ladders’ most compelling tracks. “It’s got a lot going on and sounds like an apocalyptic film score with drum ‘n’ bass breaks!” They explain. “It felt like an organic song to write which came out almost like a freestyle and helped plant the foundations that encapsulate the essence of the album-to-be.” Another notable feature of Snakes & Ladders is its special guests, which includes violinist and music therapist Andy Lawrenson; folk singer-songwriter Zarahruth, who co-wrote some of the album including one of its singles, Silver Birch, which is a powerful piece marked by Zarahruth’s enticing, ghostly chorus, to the swung-rock final verse, a perfect burst of pogo energy before the end; and the legendary producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, someone the band felt privileged to work with. “He is a real elder with super wisdom and incredible life experience. He recorded some real magical blessings over a full moon in Jamaica and sent it back. We’re still pinching ourselves!” For an album as riddled with symbolism as Snakes & Ladders, striking artwork is naturally essential; the answer to this came in the form of a continued collaboration with Art Demon. “He originally connected with us in Leeds after we started the project and released our first EP. He resonated with our music and imagery and has been collaborating with us ever since. His artwork has become synonymous with our releases and in recent years he has become an important part of the live show as he creates while we perform. In his words: the era of the creative is rising!” Ceiling Demons release Snakes & Ladders via Butterfly Effect and Fake Four Inc on 22nd September. They perform a stripped-back set at Darlington’s Last Train Home festival on Saturday 4th September and launch the album at The Forum Music Centre, Darlington on Friday 24th September with support from Zarahruth






T-B, L-R: Alina Bzhezhinska by Steven Cropper, RUN LOGAN RUN by Chris Lucas, John Pope by Victoria Wai, Pat Thomas by Nadjib Le Fleurier (c) Sisters Publishing

NEWCASTLE FESTIVAL OF JAZZ & IMPROVISED MUSIC CLAIRE DUPREE TALKS TO WESLEY STEPHENSON ABOUT THE FESTIVAL STEEPED IN SONIC INNOVATION The jazz genre is renowned for its sonic innovation and nowhere is this better demonstrated than by local record label and promoters New Jazz & Improvised Music Recordings, who this month present their annual festival of wild sounds and aural exploration. Taking place at various venues across Newcastle from Thursday 30th September-Sunday 3rd October, the Newcastle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music features a typically varied line-up which impressively fuses genre and artistic medium. Wesley Stephenson, label boss and all-round driving force, explains how he chose the artists involved in this year’s event. “I’m interested in high quality, whatever form that takes, and creating a programme that balances the firmly established alongside new artists. I like weaving webs and also like to look beyond the music, this year we have the Silent Music: Seeing Sound graphic scores exhibition for instance.” The exhibition at Newcastle Arts Centre is launched on Saturday 25th September and will run for two weeks, displaying original prints made by visual artist Jo Ganter with composer Raymond McDonald. The launch will also see a performance from brand new collective Spinningwork, who were put together during lockdown. “We’ve really tried to capture the spirit of the UK scene this year, both musically and geographically, from Glasgow down to Hastings. I’m particularly excited about the Pat Thomas plays Duke Ellington set [Lit & Phil, Saturday 2nd October], he really tears into the compositions, and it’s a perfectly poised double bill with Alina Bzhezhinska and her super mellow HipHarp Quartet.” Also of note are performances from festival stalwart John Pope


– both with his quintet at The Lit & Phil on Saturday 2nd October, and ‘In Conversation’ with Huw V Williams, host of the celebrated Improvised Music Agenda podcast at The Globe on Sunday 3rd October (with a performance afterwards); audiences can expect an explosive performance from Run Logan Run, whose collision of tribal drums and guttural saxophone combine in a fusion of polyrhythmic sounds, as they support post-rock/jazz/electronic fusion band Shiver at their album launch at Gosforth Civic Theatre on Thursday 30th September; Newcastle’s alt. cellist and experimenter of sounds Ceitidh Mac will perform at The Lit & Phil on Friday 1st October in support of dynamic trio Warmer Than Blood; and ‘nu-fusion’ Liverpudlians Green Tangerines bring the weekend vibes on Saturday 2nd October at The Globe, preceding the launch of a new monthly club night, On The Corner, an event Wesley is particularly excited about. Wesley is emphatic about the importance of collaboration, praising venues and promoters who keep the scene turning throughout the year, and it’s clear that he takes influence and inspiration from the spirit of the genre itself. “Jazz is a restless art form, it has always carried a sense of urgency and modernity, improvisation and responsive change. The origins of the music are a gumbo of class, culture and locale which exploded in tandem with the industrial revolution, and a period of time when modern art went through a unique process of liberation. That’s how we can understand it in a contemporary context, but the true origins run way further back into historic folk music. My point is, however, that the music has maintained a commitment to that experimentation and responsive change, it remains a perpetually contemporary art form.” Newcastle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music takes place at various venues from Thursday 30th September to Sunday 3rd October



Band of Holy Joy by Idene Roozbayani

BAND OF HOLY JOY, VAGRANT LOVERS, I SEE ISLANDS @ THREE TANNERS BANK, NORTH SHIELDS (07.08.21) Words: Idene Roozbayani Nestled into the re-invigorated North Shields Quay is the newly opened Three Tanners Bank bar and gig venue; a wonderful establishment that’s set to provide a much-needed musical outlet for discerning music fans in the North East. As a huge fan of small, intimate venues I couldn’t have found myself in a better place. Opening the night were the melodic and experimental I See Islands. A dreamy, synth-soaked two-piece who enthralled the audience with their beautiful songs. Next up were the psychedelic infused duo Vagrant Lovers, who engaged with the audience up close and personal. Frontwoman Kirsty Allison’s charismatic performance eschewed mainstream tropes to deliver a far more visceral show. Wandering through the front rows and switching vocal duties with band mate Gil De Ray kept things moving at a nice steady flow. They were the perfect opener for the main event, Band of Holy Joy. This London five-piece fronted by Johnny Brown had the audience in the palm of their hands and there wasn’t a soul not singing along to their distinct sound. Opening track The Devil Has A Hold On The Land started with intent and the band never let up once. This Is The Festival Scene stood out as a personal highlight; I went from having never heard it before to singing along by the second chorus, which serves to prove what fantastic and fascinating songwriting they posses.

BONNIE & THE BONNETTES DRAG ME TO LOVE 2021 @ ROUNDABOUT, NEWCASTLE (13.08.21) Words: Leigh Venus I never imagined I would want to be transported to a dingy, broken-signed nightclub in late-noughties South Yorkshire. Yet, after being pulled in, spat out and dragged to love by Bonnie and the Bonnettes, all I can think about is getting back there and bringing all my friends. An updated revival of their debut show, the troupe have conjured a vividly realised world, enveloping us as we follow the story of 14-year-old Bonnie


Love discovering drag and becoming the queen they were meant to be. Touring with Paines Plough Roundabout – the world’s first pop-up, plug-and-play theatre – the show plays in the round and seriously up-close with Bonnie, the Bonnettes and their self-made cast of impeccably realised side characters, pulling us entirely into this arresting yarn. Ostensibly a tale about identity and finding a safe place in the world to grow and thrive, Drag Me To Love places working-class queer voices centre stage. Deftly peppered moments of fear, doubt and loss amongst the comedy and foot-stomping elevate the material, rendering the gob-smacking finale with our fully actualised Bonnie all the more captivating. A profoundly immersive, life-affirming experience, this is the knockabout, neon-drenched hero’s journey we all need.

NI MAXINE @ BOBIK’S, NEWCASTLE (10.08.21) Words: Paul Broadhead Opening with George Gershwin’s jazz standard Summertime perfectly encapsulates the vocal talents of Ni Maxine and the incredible musicianship of her band, but it gives no indication of her fine lyricism and own songwriting talents. For that we have to wait for the upbeat jaunty What’s Wrong With Groovin?,’ the reggae fused It Is Written – inspired by Ni’s time working with the homeless – and the soulful social conscience of Check Yourself (Be The Change), about the inequalities that surround us all. Justice – a duet with the song’s co-writer, Keeks – was written following the Black Lives Matter movement and is devastating; an eye-opening and captivating account of an inter-racial couple finding common ground and safe space, with her guitarist, bassist and trumpeter taking their turns in the spotlight. Opening a second set with Nina Simone’s once banned Four Women, Ni conveys a laid-back vibe to matters she is clearly passionate about, as engaging as a storyteller as she is a singer. Closing with the upbeat and personal crossover track A Day In St John’s Lane gets the audience up out of their seats, and though there’s still a long way to go – politically and pandemically – Ni Maxine tonight made us feel we’d taken a big step in the right direction.


Your Aunt Fanny by Rhiannon Banks

NEIL HARRIS, SAM MAYES, LAUREN PATTISON, SI BECKWITH @ LAUREL’S, WHITLEY BAY (14.08.21) Words: Damian Robinson It’s still relatively early in the Felt Now residency at Laurel’s but with those in the know on social media already talking about the comedy event being one of the top places to head to at the weekend, tonight seems a nice opportunity for the organisation to cement their ‘new ones to watch’ status. A warm day, and a boozy crowd, require a confident compere to set an early high comedic standard and enforce the rules, something Si Beckwith does well across the night, building the right ambience for the comics to flourish. Opener Lauren Pattison (and her dog Ralf) start the show with interesting, honest, tales of men, Geordies, Cockneys and being dumped on April Fools Day; it’s another strong set from a naturally confident comedian with a growing reputation. Follow up Sam Mayes doesn’t quite hit the same highs as Pattison, though her set does show promise and her Britney Spears bit about moving into different musical genres may well be the highlight of the night. Closer Neil Harris finishes off the evening with a well worked and clever take on social anxiety (exemplified by a great bit about choosing a Subway sandwich) which presents an interesting insight into neurology and how we process thoughts and information. Another strong evening from an organisation and venue trying to do something different and break the norm.

YOUR AUNT FANNY CUM BACK @ THE CUMBERLAND ARMS, NEWCASTLE (12.08.21) Words: Leigh Venus While Bo Burnham took the world Inside, Your Aunt Fanny took the Toon outside on the terrace of the Cumberland Arms with their own perfect response to the pandemic and an explosive return to live audiences that floored sold-out crowds across two nights. Billed as a sharing of brand-new material ahead of their next full-on sketch show, there was no way of telling this was the Fannies delivering a work in progress – even Jackie Edwards masterfully dealing with a merrily errant reused prop moustache (after a bag of fake ‘taches went missing the night before) only added some extra sparkle to an already polished and confident set. A breakneck experience featuring the world’s worst gynaecologist, the

drama of ‘vaccine Maxine’, a perpetually distracted indie band, conspiracy theory pigeons, socially-distanced fingering, a dragon fruit-obsessed market trader, donkey sex call centres and more, if this material is still cooking, we’re in for a serious treat with the incoming YAF podcast and live shows. Capped off with a breathtaking Love Island set-piece featuring the whole crew machine-gunning some of their tightest, most exquisitely detailed wordplay to date, the Cum Back was the perfect post-lockdown poison and a thrilling tease for everything this scintillating satirical squad have yet to come.

DOCUMENT, SEPARATOR, TV DEATH @ LITTLE BUILDINGS, NEWCASTLE (10.08.21) Words: Damian Robinson If you wanted to, you could describe tonight’s show simply as young up-comers making lots of noise and being full of the confidence that comes with early momentum and success. But my editor wouldn’t settle for that, so here’s a bit more… Openers TV Death start the show with a Bob Dylan circa ’66 looking frontman and a Sonic Youth meets the Velvet Underground sound. Playing with an edgy art rock drone, and full of performance art moves, they’re staggeringly good. Highlights Living Dead and Hanging Tree blend the garage rock sounds of the Cramps with interesting narratives and stories. They arrived confident when they stepped on stage and you know why by the end of their eight songs. Second act Separator move us on a gear with varying Nic Rhodes imagery, deep post-punk grooves and haunting, back of the throat, primal screaming. Like TV Death, they look like rock stars, and they play like rock stars, but they’re clearly art stars at heart particularly on highlights Always The Last To Leave and recent single Babbling Pessimist. And then it’s up to Document to maintain the standard of the evening, which they do, with the aid of backward dancing, performative playing and the most intense pop-rock-indie-post-punk you’re likely to hear in Little Buildings this year. Standouts Uncle Sam’s Daughter and closer Pity highlight a style that is bound to be huge. If you see any of these acts on any bill, go and watch them.



ZELA by Tracy Hyman

ZELA, BIGFATBIG, CHLOE CASTRO @ THE GEORGIAN THEATRE, STOCKTON (31.07.21) Words: Tracy Hyman It is with a sense of trepidation that I entered The Georgian Theatre to see emerging electro noir siblings ZELA at my first standing gig for well over sixteen months. A string of singles with rave reviews during lockdown promised big things from ZELA’s debut gig. Could they live up to expectations and translate their songs to the live stage? Opening the night was Chloe Castro, with her striking, deep and soulful voice. Chloe bounced around the stage like a sporty version of Amy Winehouse, with infectious and attitude-laden songs like Drunk, which show off her modern RnB vibes and rhythms. In contrast, alternative rock trio bigfatbig were altogether heavier and rocked the venue with their big sound, head banging choruses and infectious melodies. Vocalist Robyn takes command of the stage, and the refrains of songs such as Don’t Wanna Be Sad are instant sing-along dancefloor rock hits. Sibling duo ZELA increase to a four-piece for their live set, showing off layers of guitar and synth patterns, snappy spoken word sections and catchy choruses over a dance drum beat. From the outset the raw power and energy emanating from vocalist and guitarist Liv, alongside the rhythmic driving drum beat from sibling Max, pushes the music on, providing dramatic highlights. Alternating between shade and light, there are moments of deep, hypnotic, repeated synth sounds contrasting with upbeat, pop choruses. Their catchy electro-pop sound is dark and imaginative, with the use of electronic voice effects keeping it audibly interesting. An undeniably strong performance, which definitely lived up to the hype.

SQUARMS, JOHN DOLE, THOMAS WALLIKER @ THE ENGINE ROOM, NORTH SHIELDS (05.08.21) Words: Damian Robinson North Shields’ The Engine Room has pulled off a blinder so far with their first few live shows selling out in minutes and gaining fantastic reviews. Intimate, and with a powerful sound system, the Engine Room is perfectly engineered for nights like tonight which draws in unique voices demanding intimate settings. With his modern style of Streets-based reality songwriting and downtempo


beats, Thomas Walliker sets the evening off well with confessional tales of boredom and uncertainty. It’s a nice set-up for local crowd-pleaser John Dole, who uses the venue’s wicked sound system to demonstrate his experimental electronic and hip-hop sounds. Standing out when he blends his neon beats with reverbed vocals, like on recent single Acid Rain and new single Dislocate, Dole grooves and rhymes with natural skill in his solo production, delivery and design set. Keeping the beats high, and the volume even higher, electronic grime punks SQUARMS end the show with their two-piece take on sampled beats, interesting breaks, free-flow throwdowns and spoken word delivery. Part punk in their ethos, and full of intensity in their delivery, you wonder if this is the kind of sound that punksters from the mid to late 90s (The Rollins Band in particular) would be making today and wanted to vent anger and frustration.

WITHERED HAND @ THE CLUNY 2, NEWCASTLE (31.07.21) Words: Ben Lowes-Smith Dan Willson seems as confounded by the situation as much as anyone in attendance. His vulnerable, confessional, brutal songwriting has won hearts and minds all over the world since the release of 2009’s Good News, and the fragility of Dan’s material is amplified by the circumstances: a reverent set of attendees at COVID-safe capacity, both performer and audience wading their way out of a cultural drought. It makes for quite a cathartic experience at this matinee show. Dan plays from his songbook – quite literally a ring binder of songs – cherry picking from New Gods, Good News, and a handful of new songs written with Kathryn Williams, including a particularly memorable and emotive tribute to Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchinson. His truly timeless numbers in Religious Songs and Love In The Time of Ecstasy elicit sing-alongs, something genuinely effecting in this context. Dan is a humorous, charming raconteur throughout, speaking of his affinity for the region. Closing song – a cover of Woodpigeon’s R U Courageous feels like a fitting choice. Given the vulnerable, cathartic nature of Dan’s work it feels like something of a baptism of fire for a first show back, but I wouldn’t have really had it any other way.




Labyrinthine Oceans – Liar Liar

Pardon me for jumping on a term, but young, two-piece ‘grazz’ (grunge and jazz) band Labyrinthine Oceans have had the rather pleasing hybrid label pinned on them with good reason. Formed in late 2020, Labyrinthine Oceans sees multitalented macabre-enthusiast Julia O’Neill (vocals, keys, guitar) and multi-instrumentalist funk specialist Toby Flynn (bass), combine to produce what one can only describe as the North East’s answer to

Queensbury – In Heaven/Taboo

Born out of Hartlepool’s Northern School of Art, creative collective Queensbury is a group forged of filmmakers, photographers, illustrators and graphic designers. Utilising the group as a vehicle to showcase their talents, their latest collaboration comes in the form of double A-side tracks In Heaven and Taboo. These gritty, pulsating pieces seem to set their stall across various rap sub-genres, blending elements of drill and grime to forge socially relevant, self-aware tunes that supersede the group’s self-proclaimed limited musical background. The pacier In Heaven is perhaps the pick of the two, but Taboo isn’t without virtue. Thus, as this collective navigates future musical and artistic avenues, In Heaven and Taboo are sure to provide a solid foundation from which Queensbury’s members can launch themselves into the creative industry.

Kieran Atkins – Observe

Middlesbrough-born artist Kieran Atkins is a fine example of the exceptional independent work that many of the North East’s grassroots

The XX. In demo track Liar Liar, O’Neill’s dulcet tones simultaneously soar above and cut through Flynn’s steady bass arrangements like a hot knife through butter, creating a sombre ballad that could both close the first act of a West End musical and entertain on Glastonbury’s alternative stage. Keep your ears keen, there’s an unpolished diamond here.

musicians are producing. An experimental, self-taught musician, through this latest track Kieran utilises soft, catchy rhythms as a means to produce a gentle earworm that promises great things to come. Think Lemon Jelly crossed with Joshua Radin. At just under two minutes, this track might be short but, importantly, it is also pleasingly sweet. Hence, judging by this taster, chill out music might just have found a new voice in this ‘Boro boy.

Sam Hughes – Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes is the only purely instrumental track on our list and is produced by singer/guitarist Sam Hughes. I say purely instrumental, but Starry Eyes does contain seamlessly blended snippets of Apollo 11’s moon landing used to set the scene as we’re eased into the Newcastle College student’s summer’s day soundscape. Make no mistake, this track has high production values and Hughes has an ear for comfort, as is demonstrated by Starry Eyes’ relaxing guitar riffs and binaural rhythms. In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking this

track was the brainchild of Joe Satriani, Santana and Zero 7. A top taste of things to come.

The Sightseers – Solitude In Solitude, dynamic duo The Sightseers have produced a harmonic convergence of gentle vocals, percussion and lyrics that is indicative of a bright future. This listener was particularly impressed by the duo’s ability to tap in to the intricacies of the public subconscious, effortlessly reflecting the inner monologue of every introvert you’ve ever met. Musically, tight harmonies float seamlessly over a reassuringly steady acoustic guitar, aiding a peaceful retreat for those overwhelmed by the madness of modern-day living. Think HAIM if they slowed things down and recorded some live acoustic sessions. This duo may be in its infancy but if Solitude is anything to go by, one can foresee a great future for The Sightseers…but you already knew that.



SPILT MILK THE THRILL Words: Kate Murphy This bursts out of your speakers like its namesake, dyed into a sugary rainbow by its happy, twinkling guitar and made rather charming by its slightly lo-fi quality, which adds to the excitable, hopeful feel. It’s a very pretty piece in places, and makes a star out of lead singer Oscar, whose vocals are powerful when he wants them to be and fluttery as blossom at other times. Though it might not be completely sure of what it wants to be yet, it shines with moments of pure talent: the melody takes these fantastic left turns that give it a cool, whimsical shape and the harmonies are ingenious. This is clearly a band with something different, and The Thrill brims over with promise. Released: 10.09.21

STEREOTYPES NEVER SURRENDER EP Words: James Hattersley There are a great many things I do not understand about Stereotypes; from their influences to their aspirations, but what I do know is that they clearly love to create. And create is what they have done on their newest EP Never Surrender. Any fans of the TV show Lost will find some dark intent in the duo’s latest single, the positively summer breeze of Gotta Get Back To The Island, while everybody can get lost in the blustery blues of Meander Love. You’re Awesome paints a feel-good state of being, with help from Dick Valentine of Electric Six, while Chasing The Setting Sun offsets a more sober tone. Accompany these tracks with the Stereotypes’ music videos and you won’t be sorry. Released: 03.09.21



RUTH LYON PAPER AEROPLANE Words: Kate Murphy It’s a real art to write a song which does the very thing it makes important. Ruth Lyon’s Paper Aeroplane slows down time, and seems to suck all of the heaviness out of the world and hold it in its grasp so that we can see things clearly again. The track celebrates a child’s outlook through the eyes of an adult, and perhaps most movingly of all reminds us that the child inside us can look after us. That place of total peace and happiness every child can instinctively create for themselves, just by playing, is something we can always access. Ruth’s finely painted, perfectly concise lyrics say it best: “In my imagination, I found out what I used to know”. Released: 29.09.21

FAYE FANTARROW NOUGHTIES Words: Michael O’Neill A hyperkinetic and stylistically sprawling showcase for a songwriter with a strong command of the craft and a phenomenal vocal style to boot, Noughties is the sound of an entire decade being thrown into a blender and reshaped into a three-minute opus of soulful pop, upon which Fantarrow goes to task on the misrepresentation of Gen-Z in the current climate. Noughties brilliantly articulates the frustrations of growing up in a time of radical social and cultural development without resorting to vacuous sloganeering, instead painting a rich and deep narrative over phenomenal production which masterfully mirrors the frenetic sensory-overload of living in the digital age, making for a bold statement-of-intent from one hell of a talent. Absolutely essential listening. Released: 17.09.21

CLUB PARADISE DON’T CALL ME OVER Words: Michael O’Neill The masters of sun-soaked, panoramic indie synths return with another crystalline banger with everything you’ve come to expect from the Newcastle-based four-piece. Much like M83, The 1975 and Foals, Club Paradise have clearly studied the sacred texts of 80s pop and 00s indie and learned wisely: hooks, walls of sound, huge choruses, funky grooves and confident, forthright song-writing are all in abundance in all that they do, and Don’t Call Me Over has it in spades. There’s a myriad of sonic left turns throughout the track’s brief runtime, but it never tries too hard or buckles under the weight of its colossal hooks, and wisely avoids slipping into the all-too-easy trap of sounding like a pastiche of their influences. Marvellous stuff. Released: 03.09.21

SWEARS BELIEVE IT Words: James Hattersley This ain’t your grandpappy’s SWEARS. Their new single Believe It sees the group develop a more dense and chunkier sound – like chocolate Angel Delight that has been left in the fridge for a little bit too long. Moody and melodic, this slice of alt. rock is a delightful catchy romp that wastes no time; it doesn’t overstay its welcome but you certainly miss it when it’s over and you’ll find yourself singing the main refrain “and you better believe it” long after the dust settles. Filthy bass, pulsating drums, buzzsaw guitars, shimmering melodies and a haunting vocal that echoes a lack of motivation to get yourself out of a terrible situation. Oh SWEARS, I do indeed believe it. Released: 03.09.21

CHARLIE LAYZELL ONE DAY Words: James Hattersley Newcastle’s Charlie Layzell is known for his deeply personal rap, which is underpinned by lo-fi chill hip-hop. He’s already racked up a number of blazing singles and Layzell’s newest release, One Day, delves even further in the persona of its creator. The track itself exudates a great deal of maturity and growth for the artist. Layzell appears to be coming to terms with life as a musician, contemplating that perhaps it’s not about the destination but the journey. It doesn’t matter if we ‘make it’, as long as we are enjoying the process of making music – it’s up to everyone else to appreciate what has been produced. With head nodding beats, lay back and dream about that one day. Released: 17.09.21

MAT HUNSLEY BACKWARD STEPS Words: Luke Waller Five long years ago, Mat Hunsley released his gentle and uplifting EP To Being Free, and now, for the first time since then, Mat is back with possibly his finest work yet. With consoling lyrics like “It’s OK to feel blue if it’s a difficult time for you”, the comforting sound of acoustic guitar and wonderfully passionate motifs to garnish, Backwards Steps has the aura of a buoyant sigh by a raindropstreaked window. All this is backed by a gloriously groovy backbone of drums, giving the song an intriguing offbeat feel and supporting Mat’s warm vocals and insightful lyrics throughout. Mat’s long-awaited follow-up release is by no means a letdown. To any fans of his: prepare to love his music anew. Released: 10.09.21

MCCORMICK SAFE HOUSE Words: Luke Waller A soft, sweet and heartfelt ballad, Safe House, the latest single from singer-songwriter and acoustic rocker McCormick, will soon be joining his impressive back catalogue which stretches back more than ten years. Along with bassist Pete Gifford and drummer Hugh McGouran, McCormick continues to demonstrate his songwriting abilities with this wonderfully easy-going track on a theme of comfort and recovery. Though not as rocky or as punchy as their other recent releases, such as This Song’s For You or Till The Sun Comes Up, Safe House is kept compelling by a strong melody maintained from beginning to end, supporting Steve McCormick’s gentle vocals – and with a sprinkling of placid piano lines to put the cherry on top. Released: 10.09.21

LINES FROM A POEM CALIFORNIA SUN Words: Luke Waller California Sun, the fifth and latest release by Redcar/Saltburn-based indie trio Lines From A Poem, is a classically bittersweet summer song. Nostalgic overtones permeate the piece and its lyrics, it being inspired by singer, guitarist and songwriter Gary Wright’s experiences travelling in California. Wright’s vocals fit perfectly with the song’s sentimental vibe, with a timbre somewhere between Brian Molko’s and Neil Tennant’s. Similarly, though inspired by the American West Coast, the band’s North Sea origins are not left behind; as with other previous releases of theirs, such as Saltburn and Reflective Walls, both of which featured on their debut EP, Staring At City Lights. Whether of Redcar or L.A., the picture their latest single paints is reflective, poignant and touching. Released: 27.08.21

PATRICK GOSLING THE ALUM Words: Kate Murphy Patrick Gosling’s summery indie anthem throws us straight into its own world. Coming in as one big cosy, shimmering wall of sound, it races ahead as if hurtling through a galaxy, and makes you want to run furiously along a beach and send a flock of seagulls bursting off into the air. The Alum is a call to the heartbroken and the hopeful, its narrator hurt and adoring in the face of cold rejection, and has the fists-in-the-air spirit of a Springsteen song. Gosling brings a natural, open, folk style of storytelling to the verses of a commendable and otherwise traditional indie track, as well as a gracious response to a cruel dismissal, a response which suggests she doesn’t know what she’s missing. Released: 03.09.21

JAMIE AINSLIE F.T.S Words: Michael O’Neill Colossal palm-muted riffs kick things off in this detour into heavy, fuzz-soaked grandeur from Hartlepool-based solo artist Jamie Ainslie. The artist considers the single to be a departure from his previous, more indie-inflected releases, calling upon his love of Muse and Royal Blood to tackle the subject of unleashing one’s inner demons. F.T.S certainly has shades of those two acts, with there also being hints of Jane’s Addiction and Sabbath in the double-tracked vocals, driving loud-quiet-loud dynamics and extended passages of discord and guitar solos. It could quietly slip into a Radio X playlist without looking the slightest bit out of place with Ainslie’s powerful, hook-heavy vocals. All in all, it’s cathartic, anthemic and, above all else, hugely entertaining. Released: 03.09.21



w w w. m i d d l e s b r o u g h a r t w e e k e n d e r. c o m Images (L-R): Jo Lathwood, Karina Smigla-Bobinski





5/5 Image by Nathan Keay

LOW HEY WHAT (SUB POP) Words: Lee Fisher After the divisive (and misunderstood) Drums & Guns, Low seemed to spend the next few albums regrouping and playing to their strengths (the sparse beauty, the melancholy harmonies), without it ever being a step backwards. Which is why Double Negative dealt us all such an unexpected sideswipe – anger and despair expressed through noise and decay and distortion but still recognisably Low. That a band could make an album so radical, so late in their career, was an astonishing thing. But to do it twice? Fuck me. While Double Negative often felt like Alan and Mimi howling and roaring in the face of just how FUCKED everything was, on HEY WHAT there’s just as much noise and static and disorienting sonics, but their voices are front and centre like they’re determined to get through to us. You could kick around references to Disintegration Tapes or Tim Hecker in the way the tapes sound on the verge of collapse, or any number of TUSK-endorsed guitar manglers to try and explain what Alan is doing. But all of these sounds are fully in service to their voices – Mimi’s voice rising out of Hey’s gritty low end, their harmonies strong and clear and hopeful on Days Like These, or as a counterpoint to the Earth-deep riffs midway through Disappearing. I love this band unreservedly – they may be the best we have – but I also respect them deeply: their humanity; their willingness to eschew an easy life making lovely, commercial records like The Invisible Way; the way their faith informs everything they do without ever proselytising. Rarely does a record seem to wholly capture the people behind it. Rarely is a record this special. Released: 10.09.21

Words: Ikenna Offor Put plainly, Ray BLK’s uneven trajectory since topping the BBC Music Sound Of 2017 poll patently highlights the UK music industry’s less-than-savoury attitude towards Black female talent. On her long-awaited studio debut, she defiantly bucks being pigeonholed into an ill-fitting cookie-cutter mould on opener BLK MADONNA, and bemoans the jadedness of pursuing success on her own terms on 25. That said, it’s far from a one-note affair – the Lagos-born chanteuse also wreaks sweet revenge on a trifling paramour on Lovesick, and trades wry ripostes with Giggs on Games. The definite highpoint is Dark Skinned, an uplifting anthem extolling the virtues of, and need for, Black self-love. Moody yet beguilingly versatile, Access Denied is a true triumph of tenacity – get familiar! Released: 17.09.21


ALSO OUT THIS MONTH Matthew E White – K-Bay (Domino, 10.09) // Manic Street Preachers – The Ultra Vivid Lament (Columbia/Sony, 03.09) // Suuns – The Witness (Joyful Noise, 03.09) // Caleb Landry Jones – Gadzooks Vol. 1 (Sacred Bones, 17.09) // Jordan Rakei – What We Call Life (Ninja Tune, 17.09) // Nina Savary – Next Level Soap Opera (Tin Angel, 24.09) // Imagine Dragons – Mercury – Act 1 (KIDinaKORNER/Interscope, 03.09) // The Body and BIG|BRAVE – Leaving None But Small Birds (Thrill Jockey, 24.09) // Moor Mother – Black Encyclopedia of the Air (ANTI-, 17.09) // Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine – A Beginner’s Mind (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 24.09) // Ada Lee – one hand steering the wheel the other sewing a garden (Saddle Creek, 17.09) // Public Service Broadcasting – Bright Magic (Play It Again Sam, 24.09) // The Bevis Frond – Little Eden (Fire Records, 10.09) // Callum Easter – System (Moshi Moshi, 03.09) // Low Hummer – Tricks For Living (Dance To The Radio Records, 17.09) // Lottery Winners – Something To Leave The House For (Modern Sky UK, 24.09) // Dead Romantic – Voices (Mercia Records, 03.09)

Words: Lee Hammond Steeped in nostalgia, Cool is an album which wouldn’t be out of place if it were released 25 years ago. Taking nods from the likes of Julianna Hatfield and The Breeders, culminating in an excellent record, the likes of I Wanna Be A Dog and Natural Chorus compounding this sound. Green shreds her way through these tracks in a brilliant fashion and at times sweetly, before closing out in a much more fervent manner. I Believe In Love has an urgency and angst which perhaps isn’t present throughout, but here she nails it. The record closes out on quite a delicate instrumental in Pressure To Cum. Cool is the perfect balance of light and shade, excellently balanced and executed. Released: 10.09.21









Words: Paul Broadhead The London trio’s tenth LP is an exercise in nostalgia; from the acoustic refrain of opener Music Again through to the epic beauty of finale Broad River. Recorded remotely rather than in a studio, the album is more a collection of beats and samples, evident on the chilled out trippy vibes of Fonteyn and the dream-like floaty Little K; not so much shoegaze as it is stargaze. It’s no surprise that the record is accompanied by a film. I Remember It Well is so rich in its visual imagery that it brings to mind those grainy old family videos from yesteryear, whilst unintelligible voices sound like ghosts from the past. Experimental and grandiose, vivid and vital, truly a masterpiece. Released: 10.09.21

Words: Andrew Thompson Hamish Hawk is a storyteller. His lyrics spin eloquent yarns in his distinctive and unapologetically Scottish drawl, atop musical textures spanning from Matt Berry-esque whimsical pop via jangly rock and roll and motorik post-punk. There’s significant DNA in common with The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon or King Creosote, and Hawk’s characters, writ large throughout Heavy Elevator, are diverse and more autobiographical than before. His lyrics and syntax are never obvious and his turn of phrase is delightful, demonstrated wonderfully by song titles like The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973 and This, Whatever It Is, Needs Improvement. Heavy Elevator will be one of the most interesting and unique albums released this year. Released: 17.09.21

Words: Robert Nichols The third album from the North Tynesiders and their most ambitious yet, Get Chased... is the first recording since the sad passing of bass player Terry Know. Billy Parker and Paul Gallagher take on full responsibilities, and each track clings tenaciously to a guitar riff whether spiky, grungy, bluesy, spacey or folky, building around it with swirling keyboard effects which all acts as a platform for studious vocals. They are very much fully formed songs with plenty of life advice, but never come across as preachy. This may be lo-fi, but it’s also high flying; 21st Century psychedelic alt. pop with Peter Hammill in the wing mirror and early Floyd somewhere off starboard. Released: 01.09.21

4.5 / 5

4.5 / 5





Words: Stephen Oliver Pura Vida translates as pure life, a Costa Rican idea of the relaxed and simple life. Whilst this is a debut release for the Chelmsford band, there is a greater degree of lyrical maturity to be found. Concepts about moving on from your teen years, both physically and mentally, permeate through the tracks. Opener Generation has singer Katy Jackson ask “Useless at 33, are you not sick of me?” and forms part of her empowering mantra about dealing with modern life. Tigress joins a number of female-fronted rock bands that are shaking the old vanguard up. The crisp production, energetic guitars and tight percussion, together with reflective lyrics that may mirror the listener’s own issues combine to create an album that rises above much of the crop. Released: 03.09.21


Words: Stephen Oliver North West England has frequently produced many great guitar-led indie bands over the years, though not that many come from Wigan. What sets The Lathums apart from many of their contemporaries, based upon their debut album release, is the variety of the style of each track. There are the positive anthems like Great Escape, ballads such as I’ll Never Forget The Time I Spent and the big sing-alongs including Oh My Love. Plus, there’s room for the quirky and pleasant I’ll Get By, with its tones of Father Ted’s My Lovely Horse. The four-piece have created an intricate collection of confident and optimistic feel-good songs which remind me of the excellent Housemartins’ debut back in the day. Released: 24.09.21

Words: Conor Roy On their fifth studio LP, The Vaccines take us around Love City. On this “could-be” concept album, Justin Young cites inspiration from Tokyo, Las Vegas and Blade Runner’s L.A. in exploring ideas of emotion as commodity in a world which finds us more connected, whilst also feeling a constant underlying sense of disconnection. There are nostalgic nods to the band’s formative style with pummelling, guitar-driven indie anthems juxtaposed with unexplored sounds in The Vaccines’ repertoire, seeing them take confident strides from their comfort zone. Lyrically the record can feel contrived at times, but this is easily forgiven as they’re laid over the top of synths that are somehow 80s and futuristic at the same time. If Love City is as feel-good as this album suggests, I’d pay a visit. Released: 10.09.21








Words: Jonathan Coll Having made an impression with her debut EP on the Ninja Tune label in 2020, Park Hye Jin returns on the very same label with her debut album. The record was entirely written, produced and performed by the multi-talented young artist. It’s an impressive effort, and the sort of dreamy soundscape which transcends the club environment. The album’s vocals are an interesting blend of English and her native South Korean; seamlessly floating between the two. The tracks are brief, with only one breaking the four-minute mark, but it never feels jarring. However the album does lose momentum in certain parts, as on Can I Get Your Number, which may have benefited from an infusion of her signature house sound. Released: 10.09.21

Words: Michael O‘Neill If there’s one thing that is abundantly clear from the very first few bars of the carnivalesque SWEET75, it’s that Sleigh Bells have absolutely no desire to conform to anybody’s expectations of what pop music can, or should, be. And why should they? In the world of Texis, razor-sharp abrasive metal guitars and frantic hardcore drumming go hand-in-hand with sugar-coated synth hooks and widescreen pop vocals, and although that may sound like an ugly bastardisation in theory, it is undeniably lovable and sometimes profoundly beautiful in practice. It shouldn’t work, and it has no right to be as brilliant as it is, but Texis is an effortless delight, succeeding as a radical and refreshing body of work from the duo. Released: 10.09.21

Words: Elodie A. Roy Dr. Joy is the collaborative alias of Canadian cosmic pop quartet Mr. Joy and psych-folk songwriter Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn: it was only a matter of time before the Toronto underground scene brought them together. Their seamless collage music takes listeners to an indolent place – there is absolutely nothing to do there, yet the feeling is one of quiet contentment rather than of boredom. The lightness recalls the sweet sample-based pop of British group The Shortwave Set and the soulful electronic soundscapes of Air. But mostly Dr. Joy have fashioned their own secret enclave. What amazes me is that it should feel so fully formed and complete. Every element providentially falls into place: this is something which rarely happens – in music or in life. Released: 17.09.21



3.5 / 5




Words: Cameron Wright With lead single Introvert instantly commanding attention with its cinematic and explosive sounds, dripping in reverence and grandeur, few albums this year have been more eagerly anticipated than Little Simz’ Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. Throughout every second of this extensive release, the production exudes class and swagger. There is an extravagance and majesty across the album that drapes over the array of themes, genres and mentalities that it sweeps across. Simz articulates her responsibilities and anxieties as the album dances from jarring electronics to gospel choirs or Afrobeat rhythms. Diving into dualities and challenges, Simz walks into the whirlwind with a brave grace and maturity. This album feels crafted with the intention of becoming a masterpiece and forever embedded into the discussion of race and gender. Released: 03.09.21

Words: Robin Webb An accomplished sci-experience in space and time, Dopamine is an almost perfect example of ultra modern London jazz and is a cosmic voltaic trip to behold as it lingers long in progressive planes and yet races inexorably to peaks of wild cyber-imagination among sliding arpeggios and sweeps of synth, powered by the astral radiation of Sun Ra. Danalogue & Betamax (The Comet Is Coming) give us their take on the intermingling of technology and humanity as we move into the potentiality of a new phase of evolution. Featuring upcoming free jazz punk vocalist Nuha Ruby Ra on the gloriously belligerent title track, the album as a whole transcends skin and bone and embraces the future of electrons and silicon. Released: 10.09.21

Words: Damian Robinson Returning from 2018’s well received Almost, Ohio four-piece The Ophelias take an interesting new direction on Crocus, meaning that at its finest – such as the delicate title track or harder/Celtic sounding Becoming A Nun – it becomes a fabulous, confessional, tour de force collection of indie folk pop, blending unique melodies with deft musicality. Fully open in its lyrics, Crocus is a confident delivery of authenticity, producing slightly Alanis Morissette spikiness in places, and slightly broken-hearted Whistkeytown wistfulness in others. Perhaps sticking too much to a songwriting and instrumentation formulae across the full album, Crocus misses top marks by being a bit too repetitive in places; a shame given the risks they initially took to change their sound. Perhaps sometimes you can have too much of what you want. Released: 24.09.21



I’m Phil Davies, owner and managing director of Downcast Studios (Gateshead) and Downcast Base HQ (Newcastle). Both sites are rehearsal studios and HQ is also where all of the recording takes place. I also set-up Van D’s tour company just before lockdown. Unfortunate timing! Van D’s has been closed throughout the pandemic but I am relaunching with two tours this month. I’m also the drummer for NWOBHM band Mythra, an old school metal band from back in the late 70’s (before my time). I’ve been non-stop over lockdown, taking steps to expand the Downcast site in Gateshead. I’ve wanted to open a diner for many years, but there never seemed to be the right time. During lockdown I made a huge personal decision to step away from recording over at HQ to fully focus and set up Bandito’s Kitchen, serving up breakfast, burgers, hot dogs, nachos, burritos with vegan options and on the day chef specials. Bandito’s Kitchen is housed within a 40ft high cube container sharing the Downcast reception and new fully licensed bar. The decks are always set up and they’re going to be spinning daily from 10am-11pm. I will be stocking different ranges of local breweries such as Alpha Delta, Brinkburn and Anarchy to name a few. The site wouldn’t be complete without a stage. So I’m in the process of building Stage One, which will be situated in the car park. I’ve also built a second stage in the courtyard for smaller shows, DJ sets and parties. DownCast: The House That Rocks will initially be a 250 capacity for live events on a Friday and Saturday, but I will be looking to increase this to 450 for next summer. I get so many great local bands using both Downcast sites and I can’t wait to start booking them for gigs, the talent is immense and it would be to hard to stick within one genre. You’ll see by my Mixtape tracks that the music vibes are always a mixed bag in the studio which is why I want this reflected on the stage. This mixtape is of bands I’ve worked with or just like to play in the studio.

KYLVER THE GREAT STORM OF 1703 It’s such a good opener to what is a superb album. I know the lads in the band well so I hear all the influences in the album. It’s put together really well.

HORRIFIED THE PERCEIVER A great North East death metal band. I’ve been working with certain members on different projects for years now and had the pleasure of recording the album. It’s a genre I grew up in, and I have a huge love for early the death scene; it’s great to see 30 years on.

ALICE IN CHAINS NUTSHELL It’s such an amazing chilled out album and often on repeat. This song always just sorts my head out!

OPETH SORCERESS Old Opeth (growly) or new Opeth? It doesn’t really matter, just get it in your ears!


STEEL PULSE DON’T GIVE IN This song and the album played a big part in the studio expansion to a bar and kitchen. I was playing this on repeat and realised I wanted a complete change. That’s the power of music right there!

RICK FURY TEQUILA AND PERONI The ultimate North East party track by the South Shields rapper. This will be played a lot once the bar opens and we get a few hip-hop gigs on.

If you like a bit of psychedelic doom check these guys out. This husband and wife duo based in Leeds definitely bring the heavy trippy vibes. They’ve recently released this on vinyl so get it bought.



Sonia Boyce In the Castle of My Skin 11 June – 10 October 2021

MIMA flings open its doors with a dazzling exhibition of 50 artworks from the 1950s to today. This summer we celebrate one of Britain’s foremost artists, Sonia Boyce, through a sensory exhibition made through play and improvisation. A large sculpture by Boyce, based on the shape of Fool’s Gold, threads through the exhibition, interacting with artworks by 12 contemporary artists and selected pieces from MIMA’s Middlesbrough Collection. Join our Open House summer programme of in person and digital events, making challenges, socials, garden parties, workshops and fun for all ages. Image: Detail of Sonia Boyce, Dada Migrant, 2016-19. Courtesy of Sonia Boyce.




06 SEP 2021 Tickets available NOW!


WED 29 SEPT 2021

THU 30 SEPT 2021


FRI 8 OCT 2021




TUE 12 OCT 2021

THU 14 OCT 2021

FRI 15 OCT 2021



SAT 16 OCT 2021






SUN 17 OCT 2021






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NARC. #176 September 2021  


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