NARC. #179 December 21/January 22

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PREVIEWS 4 | HIGHLIGHTS Our pick of some of the best events in December and January




Featuring a tasty selection box of live shows courtesy of Enter Shikari, Lucero, Wolf Alice, Zuzu, Pigsx7, The Orielles, Caribou, Fehdah, Damon Albarn, Jay Electronica and many more; plus arty diversions at Arts Centre Washington, The Auxiliary, MIMA and Gallagher & Turner, zingy comedy at The Stand and theatrical thrills across the region

INTERVIEWS 31 | CHLOE CASTRO 34 | THE FIRE STATION 32 | ROBERT NICHOLS & STEVE SPITHRAY Ahead of the release of Steve Spithray’s biography of Teesside powerhouse Robert Nichols, Claire Dupree talks to them both about the power of a DIY spirit, the joys of unpredictable performances and making the most of life Like many, I often find myself in a period of reflection at this time of the year; looking back on the activities and actions of the last 12 months isn’t an entirely enjoyable exercise this time around – we spent five months of the year producing digital-only editions, and we continue to juggle last minute cancellations and postponements right up to the day we print. However, there have been moments of joy (getting that first printed edition in my hands at the end of May genuinely brought me to happy tears) and while things are by no means back on an even keel for many in the cultural sector, we’re basically old hands at it all by now and used to rolling with the punches. Some semblances of normality are creeping back, albeit with caveats attached; regular Constant Readers will be familiar with my perennially itchy feet (not in person, mind you), so will know how overjoyed I am at being able to head off on some foreign jollies in December – the verdant mountains of Madeira await (along with weekly lateral flow tests and obligatory mask wearing). Although, while previous years have seen me reaching for Skyscanner like a dear friend, over the coming year(s?!) I will still choose to scratch that travel itch a little closer to home; indeed, why go anywhere else when there’s so much to enjoy in our region? Get just a taste of what’s on offer within these very pages! Best of the season, to you and yours. x

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 / Carl Chambers / Idene Roozbayani / Victoria Wai Contributors Jake Anderson / Paul Broadhead / Paul Brown / Jonathan Coll / Mark Corcoran-Lettice / Caitlin Disken / Laura Doyle / Lee Fisher / Lee Hammond / James Hattersley / Tracy Hyman / Jason Jones / Evie Lake / Lizzie Lovejoy / Hope Lynes / Chris Maltby / Robert Nichols / Michael O’Neill / Ikenna Offor / Stephen Oliver / Nicola Owen / Helen Redfern / Kate Relton / Damian Robinson / Elodie A Roy / Linsey Teggert / Leigh Venus / Luke Waller / Robin Webb / Ali Welford / 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

36 | ALTERNATIVE XMAS 31 | CAMERON SCOTT 43 | HIDE AND SPEAK PODCAST 44 | OFF THE BEATEN TRACK 45 | KATE BOND 46 | MAT HUNSLEY 47 | LANTERNS ON THE LAKE 49 | UNDUTIFUL SPIRIT REVIEWS 50 | LIVE REVIEWS Reports from the front row, including Jarv Is…, Holly Rees, Henge, Venus Grrrls, Black Midi, Anna Meredith, Wargasm, Noya Rao and many more

55 | DEMOS Featuring The White Line, Andy Francis Johnson, Valley-59, Bryan and Graeme Richardson

56 | TRACKS Reviews of singles and EPs by North East artists including Suddenly We Stopped Dreaming, Siskin, Jarpsy, Analogue Blood, Sam French, Bosola, Tom Cat E & The Strays, The Blytons, Motherland, The Band For Disease Control & Prevention, Tales and Coral Snake

58 | ALBUMS New releases from Kathryn Williams & Carol Ann Duffy, The Wombats, Yard Act, Boris, Josephine Foster, Years & Years, Ichiko Aoba, Blood Red Shoes, PENGSHUi, Band of Horses, foxtails and many more

62 | MIXTAPE Promoters Endless Window choose some of their favourite tracks

Next Issue Out 26th January




DOA by Matt Whitfield





TEN YEARS Middlesbrough gallery Platform A

MOTHERLAND In celebration of the release of



Motherland’s cracking new single (spoiler alert: our reviewer calls it “a glorious dose of heart-on-sleeve anthemic rock”), the alt. rock quintet head up a bill which also features pop grungers Gawjuss, Geordie rock trio Ten Eighty Trees and York-based band Foxhaunt. Base Camp, Middlesbrough motherlandneuk



DANTE: GODFATHER OF DURHAM INTRODUCING North East writer Catherine O’Neill has curated ITALY a night of poetry, music and new writing for Commemorating 700 years since the death of the Italian poet and author made famous by his major work The Divine Comedy, this exhibition features books in the Lit & Phil’s collection, with displays of work from illustrators, plus fascinating talks, a film screening and live music. Runs until Thursday 23rd December. The Lit & Phil, Newcastle


GHOSTS OF THE TEES A group show featuring paintings,

drawings and sculpture looking at the conflicted legacies of the creative and service economies, touching on themes of industrial heritage, ideas of masculinity and the place of work. Featuring artists John Ryan, Matt Whitfield and Dan Osbourne. Running until Friday 24th December. Eston Arts Centre, Middlesbrough estonartscentre

Nick Kennedy, Study in the Natural Behaviour of Things

celebrates a decade of supporting emerging and established artists from its railway station location. Dedicated to innovative contemporary art, they’ll showcase work by artists that have graced their walls including Jo Hamill, Annie O’Donnell, Rachael Clewlow, Lorraine Brown, Nicola Ellis, Mike Collier, William Tillyer and many more. Platform A, Middlesbrough


the next instalment of the monthly Durham Introducing event. Expect performances from poet Rachel Burns, writer Iain Rowan, musicians Isabel Hudson and Paige Smith and poet and singer Amy Langdown among others. Claypath Deli, Durham


FRI 10 DEC JAMES YORKSTON One of the chief appeals of acclaimed

Scottish songwriter James Yorkston’s music lies in his breadth of talent; a highly skilled songwriter, with a foot in both the folk and contemporary camps, over the years his music has been lauded by everyone from John Peel to The Guardian. Gosforth Civic Theatre







Presenting the last arty party of the year (and possibly of all time, as the brand moves on to pastures new) Picasso Baby invites you to summon your inner animal with performances from garage rockers Onlooker, genresmashing duo Badger and soul songwriter Laura Kelbrick. Disgraceland, Middlesbrough


THUR 20 JAN Lust For Life specialise in relaxed and untutored life drawing sessions, set to a banging rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. Suitable for drawers of stick people to pro-sketchers and everyone in between. Attendees are required to bring their own materials, and the session will feature one male model. The Georgian Theatre, Stockton




Club night and promoters Get Hip present a night filled with funky, dance floor-friendly goodness as they welcome Darlington’s Detroit 45s, who will be performing tracks inspired by retro 60s instrumental soul tracks, released via their very own Darlophone label. Expect stompin’ Northern soul, gritty Southern funk and Latin flavours aplenty. The Georgian Theatre, Stockton

THUR 16 DEC WARM DIGITS Self-described as a “thunderous

motorik space-disco with a pounding post-punk pulse”, Warm Digits take their thrilling show on the road, with a pit-stop at The Cluny. A visceral live act, the duo’s back catalogue bounces between lush synth-fuelled glory and propulsive and rhythmic exhilaration. Support comes from ambient sound artist Dextro. The Cluny, Newcastle





SAT 29 JAN TRAILS A celebratory evening of dance and

live electronic music and film, Trails will feature extracts from Dora Frankel and Peter Coyte’s trilogy of dance performances inspired by JMW Turner, including The Unfolding Sky: Turner In The North 2013, Figures In A Floating Landscape 2019 and Tread Lightly On The Planet 2022. Dance City, Newcastle



If you’re hankering after a delightful fusion of new wave and Americana sounds, look no further than North East quartet Lovely Assistant, whose tender vocals, glorious instrumentation and shuffle-inducing rhythms hark back to the torch-songs of the 50s via JJ Cale, Prefab Sprout, Elvis Costello and Angel Olsen. The Globe, Newcastle



FELT NOWT COMEDY CLUB SHAPARAK KHORSANDI If the impending festivities have become too much to bear, escape for an evening of laughter with comedy saviours Felt Nowt, who bring a quartet of funny folk to Sunderland’s Dun Cow. Hosted by Sammy Dobson, expect rip-roaring sets from Mike Milligan, Catherine Young and Steffen Peddie. Dun Cow, Sunderland


The comedian takes a trip down memory lane and reminisces on life in the 90s, aiming her unfiltered wit and sharp observations on everything from unflattering crop tops to indie discos, and reflecting on how a decade of binge drinking and walks of shame looks now without the snakebite and black tinted specs. The Stand, Newcastle

Image by Dennis Morton

SAT 29 JAN EFTERKLANG Pushing the barriers between

experimental, electronic and emotional chamber pop, Danish indie rock group Efterklang have veered between an amalgamation of genres, resulting in an intimate and affecting sound. Their latest album, Windflowers, channels themes of change, hope and the positive forces of nature, certain to be joyful in the live setting. Sage Gateshead



Emma 2 by Josie Brookes



Words: Helen Redfern During lockdown in 2020, artist Peter McAdam showcased new national and international artwork, jazzing up bus stops all over County Durham. Art Stops had the aim of delivering works of art directly to an audience on the street rather than in a gallery, as McAdam explained: “I wanted people to see international artist’s work on display at the end of their


street.” This exciting, innovative project attracted local press and TV coverage and is set to do the same once again this December when it returns to bus stops throughout Durham. This year, alongside some of the artists from the previous iteration of the project, McAdam is bringing together two community groups – a mental health group based in Gilesgate and a children’s care charity – who will design their own posters. Using a public platform such as bus stop panels to display artwork is a great way to reach people where they are and communicate original ideas.

An interactive map will indicate the unique artwork on selected bus panels in Chester-leStreet. Framwellgate Moor and Gilesgate. Set up to source exciting and thought-provoking images to display in public spaces such as bus shelter panels, adverting billboards, interior and exterior projections, art rentals and public art commissions, Art Stops is committed to bringing art out onto the streets so keep an eye out! You never know what treasures you may stumble across.



Caribou by Thomas Neukum. Mural, Stamford Hill Estate, by artist Amber Elise



Words: Cameron Wright Two decades on from his debut release Start Breaking My Heart, Dan Snaith shows few signs of slowing down. As the years have seen him adopt several monikers, from Manitoba to Daphni, it is the Caribou title which carries the most acclaim, and the one he’ll be performing under at Sage Gateshead on Saturday 22nd January. Caribou’s sound has been a progressive and expansive journey, over time shifting from an almost Krautrock blur of psychedelic, meandering pop tracks to his more recent stance in funky, Balearic deep-house releases. The indie-tronica giant is constantly evolving his own sound, pushing the genre into beautifully accessible yet unexplored territory. Highlighted on his latest release, Suddenly, Snaith’s mastery is demonstrated in the way the producer plucks from threads across a plethora of influences, weaving the eclectic smorgasbord of genres and ideas into one

cohesive vision. Sparks of flavour, ranging from Sufjan Stevens to J-Dilla freely dance across the tongue, never distracting from the delicately prepared meal. Suddenly is peppered with uncharacteristic turns which texture its sound in a way few Caribou releases have been, resulting in Snaith becoming known as one of the genre’s most prolific and acclaimed contributors. Caribou performs at Sage Gateshead on Saturday 22nd January



Words: Ikenna Offor To call Jay Electronica a mystery wrapped in an enigma would certainly be putting it mildly. Since emerging from the primordial badlands of the mid-aughts Interwebs, the New Orleans MC has ostensibly espoused ascetic equilibrium over the trappings of mainstream success. Along the way, he’s cultivated a cult fanbase

that counts none other than Jay Z – who giddily played sidekick on Electronica’s long-gestated debut album – among its ranks. And, despite having what some might consider an incomplete career, it really ain’t hard to fathom why he’s your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper. For one thing, there’s genuinely never a dull moment with the man – just ask anyone who recalls the many controversies and uncouth humour of his (now scrubbed) epic drunk tweets between 2012 and 2018. For another, his deceptively dynamic rhymes deftly unspool a wealth of esoteric knowledge covering everything from atoms, Buddha and the Bible, to voodoo and UFOs with a distinctly Southern unpretentiousness. Fair to say then that the Bayou people’s champ embodies the answer to ‘what if Louisiana blues was rap and funny’. A reluctant hero whose didactic punchlines evince a deep conscience, introspection and generosity of spirit. An elusive yet forthright legend. Jay Electronica plays Boiler Shop, Newcastle on Saturday 15th January



HOUSE OF GHETTO Programmed in partnership with Curious Arts | 0191 261 0505



Sunday 5 December, 2pm & 3.30pm £9.50 | £8


Chintzy Stetson

Enter Shikari by Tom Martin



Words: Jake Anderson Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds will try to tell you that Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible on the title of the band’s latest album, but he is wrong. As it’s true that the band will be performing at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Sunday 19th December and it won’t be possible to see them there any other night. The band will be touring the previously mentioned album, a project with a soundscape akin to an apocalypse movie with its risk-taking instrumentation. Fans should expect tracks such as the haunting The Great Unknown and hostile Sorry You’re Not A Winner. Joining them on the night will be grungy rock band Dinosaur Pile-Up and rap rockers Nova Twins. Dinosaur Pile-Up’s last album was 2019’s boisterous album Celebrity Mansions, with the single Back Foot being a stand-out for its snappy hooks and pop-infused instrumentation. Similarly, Nova Twins received much praise for their 2020 album Who Are The

Girls?, and for incorporated elements of hip-hop, glam and synth funk into their rock-based tunes. Enter Shikari, Dinosaur Pile-Up and Nova Twins play Middlesbrough Town Hall on Sunday 19th December



Words: Claire Dupree While many art lovers will be used to visiting Middlesbrough’s independent gallery The Auxiliary for exhibitions, the space is also a more permanent home to several artists who house their studios in the warehouse space. This month they’re celebrating the work of their studio holders by inviting them to get involved in the curatorial aspects of the gallery. The Studio Group Show will take place from Thursday 9th-Saturday 11th December, and will provide an insight into the wonderful work which goes on in the space behind closed doors. Artists taking part include painter and current

director of Cultivate Tees Valley, Mark Mullis; sculptor Loucey Bain, whose recent exhibition was a large scale solo show at The Auxiliary; highly regarded painter Gordon Dalton; artist and performer John James Perangie, who showcases sculpture, painting, installation and fashion in their work; Arts Lab Teesside founder Lisa Lovebucket; queer collective We The Queers will be exhibiting their individual disciplines – text/performance-based artist Dyad’s pieces often have a strong political stance, while Andy Newcombe’s work centres around noise/performance; award-winning sculptor Cameron Lings; ceramicist Chris Suttie, who’s currently working on a year-long project which focuses on art, health and well-being; photography collective WAX; Auxiliary co-founder and sound artist Liam Slevin, and many others. In addition to the main gallery exhibition, there will also be a small art shop where attendees can buy prints and merchandise – perfect for that unique Christmas gift! Studio Group Show takes place at The Auxiliary, Middlesbrough from Thursday 9th-Saturday 11th December



Wolf Alice by Jordan Hemingway



Words: Cameron Wright With their third album, Blue Weekend, released in June this year, Wolf Alice have their reputation solidified as a tour de force alternative rock experience. Where previous albums saw them climbing up the festival ladder, playing everywhere from Leeds festival to Glastonbury, as well as tracks cropping up in films such as Trainspotting 2, Blue Weekend saw the London band at their most emotionally indulgent. With every track striking with affecting impact, the album spins through an array of genres and ideas that only Wolf Alice could weave into a cohesive experience. Proving themselves constantly as a band that refuse to be pigeonholed or categorised, the record leaps from folk introspection to the dynamic and urgent purges of emotion on the heavier tracks such as Play The Greatest Hits. Threading the album together is the genuine and potently magnetic vocals of Ellie Roswell,


who captures and amplifies the essence of each emotional direction the band veer off into beautifully. Finally touring the newest chapter of the band’s progression, Wolf Alice come to Newcastle’s O2 City Hall on Sunday 9th January. Blasting through their now established and acclaimed assortment of hits, the band promise a night of anthemic tracks that will be sure to immortalised in the alternative conversation for years to come Wolf Alice play O2 City Hall, Newcastle on Sunday 9th January



Words: Nicola Owen Phoebe Eclair Powell’s debut play WINK will be performed at Laurel’s, Whitley Bay in early 2022. First seen in 2015 at Theatre 503 in London, the idea for the play was seeded after Eclair-Powell spotted a news story about a teenage boy who had killed himself following a revenge porn incident. Back in 2015 revenge porn and the dissemination of it via the internet

was still a fairly new concept, and the trauma which victims suffer was not fully acknowledged by either the public or our institutions. This new iteration of the play has been set in Whitley Bay, and is directed by Live Theatre’s executive producer Graeme Thompson. The play asks questions around the role of technology and the separation between being a man, and a boy. Eclair-Powell has moved on professionally since WINK, writing for Hollyoaks and debuting further well-received theatre pieces. Her media spotlight moment came in 2019 when her play SHED: EXPLODED VIEW made off with the top prize in the Bruntwood Playwriting Awards and she has further projects in development for film and TV. Her new play HARM opened in May at the Bush Theatre in London to songs of praise for its “twisted and razor sharp comedy”. Lyn Gardner in the Guardian acknowledged the sharp wit and believable characters Eclair-Powell created back in 2015 with WINK, and it will be interesting to see how it rates with local audiences half decade or so later. WINK is at Laurel’s, Whitley Bay from Tuesday 25th January-Saturday 5th February


Viagra Boys by Marcus Wilen



Words: Cameron Wright Though the 2018 debut Street Worms may have started their trajectory, it was Viagra Boys’ 2021 release Welfare Jazz that threw the Swedish post-punks into the zeitgeist. The crazed record holds a magnifying glass to

a disillusioned world of a fetishised rock ‘n’ roll persona that is beginning to crumble into reality. Telling stories of addiction and chaos, the album narrates the turmoil-fuelled fall into hopelessness; spinning off into wild, impassioned tangents, the album translates this disparity into danceable and moving punk hits. With low, rumbling rhythms and guttural noise of Sebastian Murphy’s archetypal vocals that almost begin to parody machismo and power, the velocity unleashed on the album provides a violent sense of escapism that entraps you in its desperate and lost world. Welfare Jazz sees the band establishing their credentials as a daring new commotion and

their live shows refuse to diminish that reputation; North East audiences can find out for themselves at Newcastle University Students’ Union on Thursday 16th December. With all the emotions barging against the audience throughout the show, the band are sighted as an invigorating and rowdy experience. Jumping between potent storytelling and filthy, brazen instrumentation, they disguise their cynicism under an array of deliriously giddy and enthused hits. Viagra Boys play Newcastle University Students’ Union on Thursday 16th December



Image by Neelam Khan Vela



Words: Hope Lynes The Orielles take to Newcastle University Students’ Union on Friday 28th January. The trio from Halifax have been making music since they were teenagers, and throughout the years


have developed their funky and danceable indie pop sound. The band, consisting of two sisters and their best friend, combine the sounds of 90’s post punk, danceable indie, Afropop, disco funk and pop, all culminating in a fascinating experimentation of sound through a classic bass, drums and guitar combo. Track Bobbi’s New World is a perfect example of the style of music you can expect from them; it’s a funky masterpiece, with a playful bassline that collides with vocals that sound like spoken-word poetry. This isn’t just an ordinary tour however, as in

2021 the band released La Vita Olistica, an artistic project which is both a film and a soundtrack. Highlight song Come Down On Jupiter has very different instrumentals to the band’s usual groove, with a more muted and low-key soundscape. The visionary experience of the film is sure to be brought to the live show, as the band rethink the performance format through multi-sensory exploration, performing songs across a range of different styles and influences. The Orielles play Newcastle University Students’ Union on Friday 28th January




Words: Laura Doyle It’s good to see musicians take the environmental cause so seriously. Did you know that our humble badger is subject to random culling in the name of bovine TB, despite there being little scientific evidence to demonstrate its necessity or efficacy?

Here for Live Music Friday 3 December José González Sage One Lady Maisery Sage Two Saturday 4 December Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ with the incredible ‘London African Gospel Choir’ Sage One Lauren Housley Sage Two

Thankfully, pan-musical ensemble alliance The Surfing Magazines have released a pro-badger record, Badgers of Wymeswold, in honour of their local brocks. Okay – so maybe there’s only one song on the record that explicitly mentions badgers, and maybe it’s a bass-driven ode to our stripy neighbours that John Carpenter would be proud of, but at least they’re respecting one of our countryside’s most recognisable residents. The band, which is made up of one half of Slow Club and two thirds of The Wave Pictures, have got other songs for those of you less moved by the plight of the badger, like a train ride through 1960s rock ‘n’ roll in Locomotive Cheer, or a

Thursday 9 December Kate Rusby at Christmas

new contender for primary school disco dance staple Nostaw Boogie. It’s unclear if there is already a set of moves to go along with this one, but any such choreography surely has the potential to become a Tik-Tok trend. (That’s how these things work, right?) Perhaps we can suggest this lucrative business model to the trio at their Cluny 2 gig on Sunday 16th January, and go down as a viral internet sensation. The Surfing Magazines play The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Sunday 16th January

Wednesday 22 December A Jazzy Christmas

Wednesday 9 February Transatlantic Sessions 2022

Friday 10 December Cara Dillon - Upon A Winter’s Night

Wednesday 12 January Walter Trout

Saturday 12 February Echo & the Bunnymen Sage One

Saturday 11 December Elles Bailey

Saturday 22 January Caribou

Thursday 16 December Rick Wakeman: The Not Quite As Grumpy As Last Xmas Tour Sage One

Saturday 29 January The Lost Words: Spell Songs Sage One

Sage Gateshead is Curious: Winter Cabaret Sage Two

Friday 4 February Aoife O’Donovan

Friday 17 December Jez Lowe’s Ice-elation Day

Efterklang Sage Two

Saturday 5 February Big Girls Don’t Cry Sage One

Heal & Harrow Sage Two Thursday 17 February Nubiyan Twist Thursday 24 February The Wind - live score by Erland Cooper feat. The Chorus of Opera North Friday 25 February Lau Unplugged

Bedouine Sage Two

Head to on for our full gig listings.







Words: Michael O’Neill Ghost//Signals, the Toon’s finest purveyors of widescreen anthemic rock, initially started their infamous Avoid Shit Xmas Parties event as, what vocalist/guitarist Rick Lanning considers, “a bit of a non-serious end of year bash for all my mates in bands”. It has quickly evolved into a marvellous showcase for the thriving pool of talent brewing in the North East. They’ve been that spoiled for choice that this year’s (long overdue) instalment arrives in two separate editions, with a show at Newcastle’s Anarchy Brewery on Saturday 4th and another at Boro’s Base Camp on Saturday 11th December. Both editions feature sets from the quintet alongside a broad and eclectic line-up of the region’s finest acts; pop rockers bigfatbig co-headline the Newcastle edition alongside synth-pop duo Talk Like Tigers, shoegazers Waves of Dread and indie darlings Deep.Sleep, plus there’s sets from St. Buryan, Holly Rees, Pacer and William Denton Wilde. Meanwhile in


Middlesbrough, legendary rockers Pit Pony and electronic folk artist Me Lost Me lead proceedings alongside the likes of the delightfully left-field spoken word punk of Faithful Johannes, odd pop band Head of Light Entertainment and garage rockers Wax Heart Sodality, plus The Golden Age of Nothing and The Scarlet Hour. To add further sweetness to an already-unbelievable deal, the band adopting a ‘pay as you feel’ ticket model, although early booking is advised. Avoid Shit Xmas Parties takes place at Anarchy Brewery, Newcastle on Saturday 4th December and Base Camp, Middlesbrough on Saturday 11th December



Words: Helen Redfern On Sunday 5th December, Newcastle Noir 2021 will celebrate the best in contemporary crime writing. Rooted in the North East of England, this one-day, in person literary festival at

Newcastle City Library will bring together writers from the North East, across the UK and further afield. Throughout the day, there will be eight panels, each exploring a different aspect of crime writing with your favourite authors. In The Line of Duty with Robert Scragg, Howard Linskey and Tariq Ashkanani explores what makes a great fictional detective and our fascination with watching them uncover the truth; best-selling authors LJ Ross, Judith O’Reilly and Fiona Erskine reveal aspects of their lives before turning to crime fiction and how these earlier experiences may have influenced their work; and the day also includes sessions with Ann Cleeves and SJ Watson, Rob Parker and SE Moorhead, and Chris McGeorge and DL Marshall. Thought-provoking authors Michael J Malone, Louise Beech and Sarah Sultoon examine how bringing the reader face to face with the shocking and unthinkable requires great skill and sensitivity. After exploring darkly atmospheric and chilling tales with a grippingly Gothic touch with Matt Wesolowski and ES Thomson, the festival wraps up with three writers who dare to be different – Mari Hannah, Trevor Wood and Harriet Tyce. Newcastle Noir takes place at Newcastle City Library on Sunday 5th December


Fatt Butcher



Words: Nicola Owen In December Curious Arts present their Curious Winter Cabaret with visits to Middlesbrough Town Hall on Wednesday 15th and Sage Gateshead on Thursday 16th December, welcoming a double header of queer performing legends which should provide a festive refuge from the usual consumerist onslaught and traditional Christmas party nonsense. North East singer songwriter Beccy Owen opens the performing bill; Beccy’s music has won high acclaim over the years thanks to her use of rich harmony, playful vocal techniques and mesmeric rhythms, which place listeners and audiences at the heart of a singular musical experience. Also performing will be Birmingham-based cabaret performer, host and vocalist Fatt

Butcher. Created by artist Adam Carver, Fatt celebrates body positivity and queerness and seeks to engage with low culture and camp, using them as weapons to disrupt normativity. Expect disco, glitter, songs and politics! Curious Winter Cabaret takes place at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Wednesday 15th and Sage Gateshead on Thursday 16th December



Words: Linsey Teggert By the time sludge rock behemoths Pigsx7 play The Cluny this December to celebrate their third album, Viscerals, it will be over 20 months since the release of the record. Until Covid-enforced isolation, it seemed they were on an unstoppable rise, achieving the sort of mainstream success that is relatively unheard of for a band with riffs so heavy you feel like your eyeballs may melt: Viscerals reached number one in the UK independent record store

chart, number two in the UK vinyl charts and dominated the 6Music airwaves. To say the anticipation surrounding their three homecoming gigs (two of which are already sold out) is palpable is something of an understatement. To best appreciate the power of Pigsx7 is to witness their incendiary live show – there’s something almost ritualistic about their wall of noise sonics and vocalist Matt Baty’s guttural howls delivered barefoot and bare-chested. “It’s been liberating being back on tour,” explains guitarist Adam Ian Sykes. “We’re very glad the Newcastle dates are the last of the tour, there’s something special about hometown shows, something I struggle to put my finger on, but signing the tour off at home will be a good feeling. The dates have changed venue three times. For them to have finally landed at The Cluny and having the need to add a third date is a very pleasant surprise.” Pigsx7 play The Cluny, Newcastle on Friday 17th, Saturday 18th & Sunday 19th December (Fri & Sun sold out). Support comes from Grandma’s House (Fri), Pentecostal Party (Sat) and Mai Mai Mai and Kulk (Sunday)



Zuzu by Robin Clewley



Words: Hope Lynes Excellent Scouse singer-songwriter Zuzu brings her debut album to The Cluny on Monday 6th December. The recently released Queensway Tunnel tackles themes of change, science fiction, identity and escapism. The influence of science fiction reigns the strongest; with eclectic synths mixing with indie rock and creating an undeniably cool and bizarre soundscape. The album’s title track, and recent single, brings the listener back to early Lorde; the dainty tune highlights the vocal range of Zuzu’s fruitful accent-laden voice and the story is heartfelt despite the beat, with a similar playfulness around emotional topics seen throughout the album. Zuzu’s mastery of sound and emotion makes for an earnest yet thrilling performance that fans can still rock out to. Having previously supported the likes of Courteeners on tour, catch this talented and established songwriter, producer, director and illustrator, alongside her band for a night of funky


rock goodness from an iconic millennial woman in music. Support comes from emerging artist Heidi Curtis, whose rocky sound has endeared fans across the country on her recent tour with Sam Fender. Zuzu and Heidi Curtis play The Cluny, Newcastle on Monday 6th December



Words: Cameron Wright Prior to the release of his new solo release, Britpop luminary Damon Albarn will perform a small string of tour dates, choosing to shy away from the stadiums and arenas that his career has taken him to, opting instead to play at intimate venues including Newcastle’s Boiler Shop on Sunday 5th December. Penning numbers that have been engraved into the heart of the nation, Albarn’s myriad of cultural classics include Blur’s revered catalogue and Gorillaz defiantly intriguing repertoire, yet on

this tour Damon pares down to just him and a piano. Plucking tracks from across the three decades of Albarn’s prolific career, the set list will merge the old with his recently launched record, The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows. As the melancholic and meditative release produces expansive, meandering orchestral passages to soundscape the conceptual lyricism, hearing these tracks stripped of Albarn’s grandiose and hedonist tendencies will be a heart-rendering insight into the musician and his world. Witness some of the country’s most monumental narrations of British culture transposed to nothing more than a piano and a vocal, fresh from the emotive writer himself. Albarn’s introspective and tender interpretations of his own songs guarantee to be a fascinating and poignant moment in his career and ensure a raw, visceral concert experience for each fortunate member of his intimate, devout audience. Damon Albarn performs at Boiler Shop, Newcastle on Sunday 5th December











Words: Jake Anderson Before we all spend January in a haze waiting for the year to actually begin in February, December comes knocking around with its Christmas carols and hour-long queues at Card Factory. But what else is the festive season about if not giving? And for those of us that are

in a charitable mood, there’s no better way to support our local communities than attending Gulz’s return to the Toon with their charity gig at The Cluny on Tuesday 21st December. Gulz have recently spread their infectious North East indie pop across London, with recently released tracks like the gorgeous Wait. What? and the joyful Welcome Home. Now returning to Newcastle, they’ll be aiding Newcastle West End Food Bank with a few of their mates, including Finn Forster, The Ilfords and Robinin providing musical support.

Gulz are known for their warm indie pop, best seen on vibrant track Shady Sady, therefore having the likes of Finn Forster and his mellow indie folk, the rebellious indie rock of The Illfords and the bright beats from Robinin seems like a no brainer. Together they’ll create an atmosphere that’ll make you long for those beer garden July nights. Gulz, Finn Forster, The Ilfords and Robinin play The Cluny, Newcastle on Tuesday 21st December

Whack on a Santa hat, grab a bottle of fizz, wrap your secret santa, as it’s the office Christmas party!

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Christmas Spectacular Created & Performed by Your Aunt Fanny & Bonnie and The Bonnettes

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Plans for Plants (Roscoe Road) Courtesy of Annie O’Donnell



Words: Caitlin Disken Synthetic production has been a feature of the Tees Valley for the past century. Major global companies such as Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) have shaped the Tees Valley’s local environment, influencing everything from its ecology to sense of place. Now, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art will be presenting Chemical City, an exhibition which explores the legacies of synthetics production in the Tees Valley, focusing on the development of plastics in the area, before expanding into broader social, economic and ecological themes. Hosting commissions from artists based in the Tees Valley, London and Rotterdam, the exhibition will comprise of exhibits in three galleries. The first gallery will feature company magazines, archival film footage, material samples and personal memorabilia from ICI’s heyday. Gallery two will feature newly

commissioned artworks, whilst gallery three includes blown glass sculptures, a video piece and a floor installation that explores themes of conflict and memory. Elinor Morgan, MIMA’s Artistic Director, comments: “For the first time, we are combining contemporary mainstream fashion products with newly commissioned artworks and historical archival materials. We hope this will create a rich experience for our visitors and community of learners, leading to new understandings of material innovation and environmental concerns.” Featured artists include painter Onya McCausland, whose practice involves repurposing waste material from post-industrial landscapes into paint pigment; Billinghambased Annie O’Donnell investigates histories of place, identity and belonging through sculpture, movement, performance and collaboration, and moving image artist Katarina Zdjelar, who makes work which examines the human body’s potential for resistance and collective action. Chemical City is at MIMA, Middlesbrough until Sunday 24th April





Words: Lizzie Lovejoy How can you know the power of words until you lose them? Back in 2017, The Lost Words was published; an unusual dictionary which presented forgotten words from the natural world and called for their appreciation and celebration, alongside beautiful artwork. The

poetic writing of Robert Macfarlane and illustrative genius of Jackie Morris has been an inspiration to thousands. Following its success a group of eight musicians, including Karine Polwart, Kris Drever and Jim Molyneux, were commissioned to create the album Spell Songs, which acts as a companion piece to the beloved book. This enlightening set of folk songs makes use of acoustic instruments and warm vocals that are able to blend seamlessly from the rich and powerful tones of many voices to a soft and sweet sound, similar to mother’s lullaby. Lyrically, the words share a love of the natural world but also hold the warning notes often found in

traditional Celtic melodies. This pairing creates an album which inspires hope and calls for caring action. Over the course of 2019, the band played to sold out shows across the UK, and now they’re taking their music out again, with a show coming up at Sage Gateshead on Saturday 29th January. Inspired by the original book, but also by its recent follow up, the group are releasing a new album Spell Songs 2: Let The Light In on 10th December, before kicking off their tour. The Lost Words: Spell Songs play Sage Gateshead on Saturday 29th January

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Artwork by George Fearon



Words: Helen Redfern From Tuesday 7th December, Arts Centre Washington is shining a light on two local artists, Tanja Vukasinovic-Powell and George Fearon. The exhibition showcases works which explore patterns in nature and the impact of climate

change on our planet. For Tanja Vukasinovic-Powell, an artist living in Washington, this is her very first exhibition. Due to confidence issues, Tanja only started making art again in the last five years, supported by her autism diagnosis which helped her zone into her abilities with pattern design and details. Her intricate and detailed work is inspired by patterns in nature and designs found in old buildings, such as church windows and ancient temples. George Fearon is an artist, musician and poet from Sunderland who produces work that is hand-painted in gouache and is both contemporary and classic in production. During

lockdown, George explored the hope and destruction that is facing our planet today. His psychedelic material has a depth of vibrancy and beauty, much like the natural world that inspires him. As the world emerges from COP 26 with a renewed passion for protecting the planet, visiting this exhibition is a great way to view the natural world with fresh eyes through the unique perspectives of these two very different North East artists. Tanja Vukasinovic-Powell and George Fearon’s work is on display at Arts Centre Washington from Tuesday 7th December-Friday 21st January



Image by Jasmijn Slegh tour. The jaunt follows a sprawling, ambitious third record that’s pushed their sound into fresh realms – and spreads their wings once more with a maiden visit to North Shields’ The Engine Room on Thursday 9th December. A huge musical and conceptual stride from their scrappy beginnings, the new album – Excerpts From Chapter 3: The Mind Runs a Net of Rabbit Paths, to give its full title – epitomises the group’s “weirder the better” mantra, adding venturesome psychedelic dollops to a melting pot already bearing influence from the likes of Van Dyke Parks, Scott Walker and The Beach Boys.



Words: Ali Welford Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos – truly a man of impeccable taste – once stated: “I love Rats on Rafts. Go see them play live, even if you have to travel to Rotterdam!” Fortunately, fans on our shores needn’t go to such lengths this December, as the Dutch noiseniks round off a fruitful 2021 with a full UK

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Support, meanwhile, comes courtesy of James Leonard Hewitson – a perennial local favourite who’s enjoyed a sonic makeover of his own of late. Embracing angular rhythms and plush post-punk synths, recent EP Commercial adds fresh depth to the trademark indie pop gloss showcased on last year’s terrific debut album Only The Noise Will Save Me; a fine opener on a terrific double-bill! Rats on Rafts and James Leonard Hewitson play The Engine Room, North Shields on Thursday 9th December


118 Women, 118 Flowers by Rosie Stronach



Words: Michael O’Neill Led by multi-instrumentalist Liam Shortall, the Glasgow-hailing collective corto.alto are a diverse and genre-bending group of musicians who take greater influence from the Native Tongues, drum and bass and jungle than they do from the Blue Note back catalogue. The band take the boundaries of ‘prolific’ to new heights, having released a staggering 19 singles in their first year of existence. They’re fresh from the release of their Not For Now EP, and are taking their eclectic grooves and gloriously singular sound to The Cluny 2 on Sunday 12th December. If the recent five-track release alone is anything to go by, prepare yourself for a ferocious sonic assault; choice cut Mayday highlights corto.alto’s gift for effortlessly tying up disparate styles and time signature shifts and making it look like a fool’s errand, with an onslaught of textures and abrupt tempo changes gracefully careening together in a neat and tidy four minutes. It’s relentless fun, brilliantly replicating the

anything-goes mentality that made sacred texts out of Miles Davis’ On The Corner, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters, Erykah Badu’s Baduizm and D’Angelo’s Voodoo. It’s unpretentious without being tongue-in-cheek, and virtuosic without being overwrought, and an essential addition to the UK’s thriving new jazz scene. corto.alto play The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Sunday 12th December



Words: Claire Dupree Continuing their artistic investigation into challenging and changing the narrative around femicide, Mexico-based Las Illuministas and the North East’s Pink Collar Gallery present an exhibition at Durham Castle. This Is Not A Memorial by Rosie Stronach is part of the Re-Imagine feminist art collaboration project, in which over 100 artists from the UK

and Mexico have created artwork which tells a different story about femicide, highlighting it as a global pandemic. Rosie Stronach’s work was already exhibited in two of the online exhibitions, and has been further developed into public art. The North Shields-based artist’s activist work will go on display at Durham Castle’s historic Tunstall Gallery, where she will replace some of the artefacts in the gallery with contemporary works which address the startling statistics of femicide in the 21st Century. Motivated by the misrepresented female narratives in the media and many of the missing or hidden female histories in our records, she confronts the invisible and erased lives of women in our world heritage sites. 118 Women is a clay bust engraved with the names of 118 women who have lost their lives at the hands of men, while partner piece 118 Flowers takes an environmental stand point while also adhering to the classic iconography of a memorial, with the seed paper flowers due to be planted in spring 2022. This Is Not A Memorial is at Tunstall Gallery, Durham Castle until Monday 7th February





Tommy Alexander


USA MEETS UK: SONGWRITER SPECIAL @ THE GLOBE Words: Lizzie Lovejoy No music tells a story in quite the same way as country. Hearts break to the sound of plucked guitar strings and a distinctive vocal twang. In 2022, country, rock and blues promoters Jumpin’ Hot Club are proud to present Santa Barbara born alternative country star Tommy Alexander and the North East’s own country

music representative, Tony Bengtsson, at The Globe, Newcastle. The pair will perform on Friday 14th January at a songwriter special, sharing what both the USA and UK have to offer in musical story telling brilliance. Both musicians write songs that analyse society and the nature of human relationships. Asking questions about our place in the world and provoking us to think while we listen rather than zone out. Tony Bengtsson describes his own music is “socially conscious modern country folk”; from the beautiful violin of Sometimes A Man to the raw and gruff vocals of The River, it’s easy to understand why he uses that description. Tommy Alexander released his own album

independently in 2020. Using a range of unexpected metaphors, Tommy’s lyrics take his observations of the world and turn them into a narrative that is easy listening, yet hard hitting. Just one man and his guitar, the composition is simple and the impact is heartfelt. No one else could make a song that starts with two chickens pecking at the ground a tear-jerker. Join these skilled songwriters in Newcastle for a night of authentic folk and Americana, because who says the North East can’t be a home for Country music? USA meets UK: Songwriter Special takes place at The Globe, Newcastle on Friday 14th January



Image by Bob Bayne



Words: Laura Doyle Twenty-three years is a long time to be a band, but it means there’s plenty of room for evolution in that time. Alt. country band Lucero have made it their mission to never stagnate, but to keep moving forward with their sound on each new release. A pandemic was no match for their decades-

long dedication: the five-piece kept working through the period of uncertainty, masks-on and quarantined. Their work ethic has resulted in their tenth release, When You Found Me, which came out in January, and which they’ll performing tracks from at their gig at The Cluny on Friday 21st January. When the world has been shaken to its core, what it really needs is a new take on nostalgia, and frontman Ben Nichols found inspiration in the music of his youth. Looking back was a symptom of big life changes: Nichols’ new experience as a father had him reminiscing

about his own status as a son as he saw his own daughter grow. Maybe that’s why he sought out a classic rock sound for this adventure into uncharted territories, as this record delves into what it means to be a husband and a father. The uncertainty and fear of this pandemic has been but a drop in the ocean in terms of experience for the veteran rockers, but it’s given them the time for introspection. Their conclusions warm the heart: family is forever. Lucero play The Cluny, Newcastle on Friday 21st January

Jo Whiley’s


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Words: Ali Welford Pairing superb, envelope-pushing sounds with tasty, wholesome scran, Cobalt Studios’ FRESH programme has become a staple for those seeking to expand horizons and spruce up their Thursday evenings. They’re also reliably ahead of the curve with their bookings – a pattern which continues on Thursday 16th December with a visit from hotly-tipped Afrofuturist soul artist Fehdah. Born and based in Dublin with Sierra Leonean heritage, this vocalist, producer and multi-instrumentalist (real name Emma Garnett) offers a fresh, idiosyncratic take on electro soul, incorporating various strands of her identity from Wassoulou music to traditional Irish singing. While often hailed as a spiritual daughter to the likes of Erykah Badu and Oumou Sangare, it’s a palette which feels entirely of her own making, as showcased to ample effect on sterling recent single Buffer Fly.

The evening provides an additional treat in the shape of local lo-fi extraordinaire Georgia May. Inspired by the sounds of ‘90s hip-hop, R&B and acoustic soul, her opening set will showcase music from last year’s warmlyreceived debut album Mood Daze, setting her absorbing vocal against an inviting bed of soothing timbres, jazzy chords and gospel influences. Food is served from 7pm, with the music beginning an hour later. For a guaranteed winter warmer, look no further! Fehdah and Georgia May play Cobalt Studios, Newcastle on Thursday 16th December



Words: Chris Maltby Promoting an album can take many forms but amongst all, regardless of commercial success, performing is a part of the process that truly connects the artist to their audience (and vice

versa); what could cause more frustration for artists everywhere than a social climate ripe with inspiration but lacking in the primary source of performance? Yes, we’ve all adapted, and many of us have adapted well, but nothing beats a live show. Having had two sold out attempts at getting the ball rolling again postponed, Dublin’s MELTS are chomping at the bit to get back on stage. They’ve an album coming out in 2022 and their first UK headline tour this December drops in to Newcastle’s Head of Steam on Saturday 11th December. Recent single Maelstrom, a song about a storm sweeping through a town making irreversible changes, is a statement of intent, a scorning narrative delivered amidst a regimented soundscape of in your face synthesisers and driving guitars. Catch them in the flesh, plus excellent support from noisy post-punks Witness Protection Programme, and discover a band excelling at what they do best. MELTS and Witness Protection Programme play Head of Steam, Newcastle on Saturday 11th December





Yellow bird on box, white earthenware clay, 22cm tall by Julia Roxburgh



Words: Claire Dupree With the aim of showcasing the abundance of cultural talent in the North East, Gallagher & Turner’s second open exhibition will run at their Newcastle gallery until Saturday 22nd January. The exhibition is the result of an open call out for submissions, as gallery manager Jenny McNamara explains: “We welcomed submissions from artists in the North East working in most two-dimensional media (painting, mixed media, collage, textiles, printmaking and drawing), jewellery, as well as small sculpture, ceramics and glass. We encouraged applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are keen to produce an exhibition that is made up of diverse skills, experiences and abilities. We value the positive impact that differences have on our organisation.” The gallery were inundated with responses, and the exhibition will feature work by over 50 local artists across a vast range of practices,

with familiar names like Narbi Price, Deborah Snell and Janet E Davis rubbing alongside emerging artists. Jenny’s interest was piqued in particular by Errol Theunissen’s vibrant painting, Brenda Watson’s investigation of colour, and the surreal qualities of ceramic artist Julia Roxburgh. Jenny explains that the gallery are passionate about supporting and developing work by local artists: “There is a vibrant art community in the North East and the North in general. This is a great place for excellent creative work to happen by a massive range of diverse artists and something I feel strongly about and will continue to advocate for.” Gallagher & Turner’s Open Exhibition takes place at the Newcastle gallery until Saturday 22nd January


BILL BAILEY @ UTILITA ARENA Words: Jake Anderson Over the last decade, the concept of sitting

down and watching the telly has disappeared as fast as my enthusiasm for education did in my first week of university. But for those of us that do enjoy the occasional sit down in front of the idiot box, Bill Bailey might be a face that you recognise. The comedian is a frequent participant on UK favourites such as Have I Got News For You, Never Mind The Buzzcocks and QI (not to mention Strictly Come Dancing, if that’s your cuppa), and will be bringing all his wit and charm with him when he visits Newcastle’s Utilita Arena for his En Route To Normal Tour on Monday 20th December. The comedian and musician will be exploring the deeper meanings of life from the perspective of lockdown through his charismatic performances, looking at parallels in human history, to a newfound appreciation of bird song – there’s nothing lockdown-related he won’t be tackling. And if that sounds too deep for you, fear not because there’ll also be plentiful amounts of singing and dancing – including a remix of video call ringtones! Bill Bailey is at Utilita Arena, Newcastle on Monday 20th December



John Robertson’s Dark Room



Words: Hope Lynes Sadism – with jokes; John Robertson brings ‘comedy through fear’ to The Stand on Wednesday 8th December. Rescheduled from earlier this year, fans can finally see Robertson perform his famous show The Dark Room. Initially a YouTube sensation back in 2012, Robertson’s interactive game The Dark Room received over four million hits, and was then transformed into a live comedy show and a live-action video game. If you liked Netflix’s interactive Bandersnatch, the premise is similar but in real life. Don’t go getting sucked into any portals, gamers! The phenomenon takes its audience and challenges them to a bizarre experience, trapped in an old video game where the choices they make affect how the show pans out. The interesting concept, which takes traditional video game motifs and applies them to a live comedy show audience, combines healthy amounts of fun, fear and the fantastical. Robertson’s creative nonsense is unique and


popular at both comedy and gaming festivals around the world. Join the cult of fans (who call themselves ‘Darrens’) in being immersed in a physiological experience like no other. With Robertson as the end-of-level boss, can you outsmart and defeat the quirky improv king? John Robertson’s The Dark Room is at The Stand, Newcastle on Wednesday 8th December



Words: Claire Dupree Earlier in the year we reported some good news for vinyl junkies and independent artists alike; a brand new vinyl production plant, Press On Vinyl, have set up shop in Middlesbrough and they’re committed to working with small-run releases and grassroots artists and labels. To further support their investment in the region, their very first pressing will be the debut EP from Teesside indie pop band Komparrison, You Say

She’s Satisfied is due for release in the first quarter of 2022. To celebrate the news, the band have digitally released a stripped-back version of their single Dancing With Demons, reimagined as a ballad and set to a cinematic arrangement of piano and strings, with Elise Harrison and Kaitlyn Kempen’s gorgeous harmonies at the forefront of the track. The announcement is a real shot in the arm for the Teesside quintet, whose stunning songwriting and engaging sound has seen them rightfully take their place among the region’s most treasured artists, it’s undeniable that 2022 will be a year to remember for the band. Press On Vinyl’s co-founder Danny Lowe commented: “We’ve watched this band evolve, grow and create music that makes our hearts sing, feet move and arms go goosebumpy. We started Press On to support independent music and the incredible scene we have here in the North East, so we’re so proud to have Komparrison as the first off the press because it shows exactly what we can do. There’s loads more to come. Onwards!” Komparrison release a stripped-back version of Dancing With Demons on 2nd December


CHLOE CASTRO AHEAD OF HER FIRST HEADLINE SHOW AT BOBIK’S IN JANUARY, CHLOE CASTRO TALKS TO KATE RELTON ABOUT COLLABORATION, CATHARSIS AND CRAFTING HER SOUND From a childhood spent hopping between France, Brazil and the UK, to reaching the quarter finals of The Voice in 2016, Brazilian-British songwriter Chloe Castro isn’t one for standing idle. Having now settled in Durham, she’s been writing songs since she was 11 and consistently wowing audiences with her incredible voice from a much younger age. Chloe’s talent has been recognised far and wide, graduating from BBC Introducing in the North East to Huw Stephens’ Radio 1 show with her debut single Drunk in 2019. Her 2020 self-released debut EP, Amid, has garnered even more acclaim and shows off her striking vocal range, which athletically vaults from husky rumble to Amy Winehouse-esque jazzy lounge vibes. Recent single Don’t Answer is a lo-fi trapsoul banger, calling on influences from the likes of PARTYNEXTDOOR, Bryson Tiller and Frank Ocean. “Don’t Answer was written after an argument that left me feeling like my relationship might be coming to an end.” She explains about the track. “That worry of things might be turning sour and wondering if it’s too late to save it. Knowing that your relationship can’t continue if they’re not committed but not wanting to let go.” Choosing a different approach from the usual break-up song, Don’t Answer is evocative of a moment in relationships that will resonate with many, and Chloe explains that writing the track was a cathartic


experience. “I usually go for the angry break-up vibe, but Don’t Answer is a little softer in the way it approaches it. It’s always cathartic to use my own experience to write, it’s the only way really!” Chloe’s partnership with producer and co-writer Jake Karno has helped to develop her sound into a contemporary mash-up of R&B, soul and trap. “Most of my songs start with what I call scats on my phone. Generally the bulk of my ideas lyrically and melodically will come out in a voice note I then take to Jake to develop into a full song, we build the beat and arrange and refine parts until we get to a place we like. For this one the lyrics kinda just came out of me so we didn’t have to do much work on those, it all came together quite easily. It was recorded in my bedroom and produced by myself and Jake in his home studio.” Chloe enthuses about the collaborative nature of working with Jake. “I love the ideas that can come from a bunch of bad ideas! Often Jake and I will go through a whole bunch of terrible ideas before we get to the right one. Knowing how to take criticism and have a joke whilst making music is so good. A huge challenge for us is when we’re both set on a different lyric, and neither will budge ‘cos we think it’s so great!” Having been tipped as an artist to watch in 2021 by BBC Introducing, Chloe’s star is certainly in the ascendency; an artist with a commendable work ethic, undeniable passion and the talent to match. Chloe Castro plays her first headline show at Bobik’s, Newcastle on Saturday 29th January



ROBERT NICHOLS & STEVE SPITHRAY AHEAD OF THE RELEASE OF STEVE SPITHRAY’S BIOGRAPHY OF TEESSIDE POWERHOUSE ROBERT NICHOLS, CLAIRE DUPREE TALKS TO THEM BOTH ABOUT THE POWER OF A DIY SPIRIT, THE JOYS OF UNPREDICTABLE PERFORMANCES AND MAKING THE MOST OF LIFE IMAGE BY AMELIA READ “In terms of degrees of separation, whatever you are involved in on Teesside you are never very far away from Robert Nichols. He’s like a kind of social web that connects the whole region; whether it’s music, football, local history or running. A uniquely positive influence.” Chances are, if you’re from Teesside or have even a passing connection to the area’s music scene, this statement from Steve Spithray will ring very true, and he should know; he’s spent the last 18 months writing a biography of the Shrug frontman, Middlesbrough FC fanzine editor and local history expert. Having first interviewed Robert about Shrug’s 2018 album Island


Complex, and noticing that their paths continually intersected – whether as music and football fans, or as writers (they’re both longstanding members of the NARC. team) – his interest was piqued. “Rob is one of the few people I’ve met in life who I can just sit and listen to talk for hours on end, so our quick 30-minute interview turned into an hour and a half of wildly off-topic musings about music, football and life that became the genesis of the idea for the book.” Steve explains. Steve discovered after a number of Sunday morning meetings over hot chocolate – handily conducted pre-pandemic – that Robert’s story was one of grassroots glory. Coming of age in Thatcher’s



Britain in the 1980s, amid times of punk, anarchy and squat culture, it was perhaps no surprise that Robert’s commanding DIY spirit would see him become an avant-garde performer, forward-thinking promoter and one of the founding fathers of the Teesside scene in the mid-late 80s. That DIY spirit extended into his love of Middlesbrough FC, as he went from committed contributor to owner of fanzine Fly Me To The Moon, which he proudly mentions is now on issue 620, making it the most prolific fanzine still in print. The correlation between music and football is, for Robert, what makes both things irresistible. “The crowd, the atmosphere, building up in anticipation for the performance. There are big similarities. It is an emotional experience watching football or music. A real release. You can lose yourself in the moment. A goal or a great song. A top performer’s artistry is going to stay with you. And that moment can stir a thousand memories afterwards.” On the subject of FMTTM, he talks of the early days of typing up hand-written articles and cutting and pasting images from magazines and programmes. “It was very DIY. In those days there was very little opportunity for supporters to comment and express themselves. The fanzine movement turned that on its head and became a platform to be creative, challenging and be humorous.” Whether that DIY aesthetic started with music or football is debatable; Robert’s post-punk band Shrug began in the mideighties, and were an eccentric bunch variously described as unleashing “torrents of noise” and “ramshackle melodic greatness” (local filmmaker Jay-Tee, who was interviewed for the book, even described them as making “the Fall look like Take That”). “I was brought up in DIY times of post-post-punk or whatever it is that John Robb labelled it. The late 80s were truly horrible times outside of football and alternative music. Yet there was scope for cottage industries in both. At Shrug we made hand drawn cassette covers. Some of our instruments were even hand made. We were all

mates, mucking in and enjoying entertaining people.” Currently the band is made up of Robert, Oli Heffernan (guitar), Richie O’Brien (drums), Kev Wall (bass), Sarah O’Brien (keyboards) and Richard Pink (guitar) and, while they’ve gone through a seemingly rolling cast of drummers over the years, the core group has largely remained the same (“we do keep adding younger guitarists – Oli went to school with the daughter of Sarah the keyboardist!” Robert interjects). “We play punky, hopefully uplifting stuff. Very simple when I write the music with one finger keyboards and more musical when written by Oli or one of the Richards. But we hope the songs strike a chord immediately. That is what we strive for.” Some of the most engaging parts of Steve’s book revolve around amusing and amazing anecdotes of Shrug performances; from crossing Checkpoint Charlie to perform a gig in East Berlin, touring with Sebadoh and being played by John Peel, to being rowed across an ornamental lake dressed as Captain Cook in an inflatable dinghy which kept going in circles and then being “beaten to death” at the foot of Middlesbrough’s Bottle of Notes sculpture. “Rob has witnessed and been involved in so much just within the music scene that I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface,” Steve comments, “particularly relating to the Shrug European tours that must have been so exciting and some of the bands Rob put on locally like No Means No and The Ex.” An engaging and unpredictable performer, Robert’s stage costumes are as legendary as his performances. “I like the idea of entertaining and being very visual as well musical. When we started getting gigs in Europe I thought no one will understand me so I started making cardboard props and friends chipped in making me more elaborate monster heads. I also had this concept – it was based on a half remembered vision of an old black and white silent film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari that I saw when I was a kid – I tried to look like a scary man running across the rooftops with wild eyes, dark coat and white face. Then I spotted a latex horse’s head in Camden Market in about 1998 and have never taken it off since. The horse leads me into running across and beyond the stage. Mixed with the stirring music I hope this makes for an interesting performance.” Robert’s love of archaeology and local history (he’s a respected figure in the community, and the organiser of local history festival Discover Middlesbrough) also bleeds into his songs. “Excavating something from the soil puts you in touch with real people from the past. I have always poured history and archaeology tidbits into songs. If you dig deep into the songs hopefully you will come up with nuggets that you can enjoy. People really connect with Whitby Kipper, it is like a guide book pulled apart and put back together in random fashion. Yet there is a mystery within it. I like a good mystery. Back to the archaeology again I suppose.” Steve’s book does much the same; unearthing the myriad threads in a web of a life well lived. “Robert’s story is simply one of making the most of life.” Steve concludes. “I came to realise very early on that although his story may be about football, history and music on the surface, Rob’s real passion is for the people he meets doing the things he loves, and that is why the book is as much about you, me and them.” From Shrug To The Moon – The Robert Nichols Story by Steve Spithray is published on 4th December. A book signing will take place at Base Camp, Middlesbrough before Middlesbrough FC’s home game against Swansea City, followed by a launch event with Robert and the author, hosted by writer and broadcaster Bob Fischer on Thursday 9th December, also at Base Camp



L-R: Emeli Sande by Olivia Lifungula, The Shires

THE FIRE STATION WITH SUNDERLAND’S FIRE STATION POISED TO BRING A PROGRAMME OF MUSIC AND PERFORMANCE TO THE CITY, CLAIRE DUPREE TALKS TO VENUE DIRECTOR TAMSIN AUSTIN AND FIELD MUSIC’S DAVID BREWIS ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE A WORLD-CLASS VENUE CAN MAKE What is it that makes a scene? Venues, infrastructure, money, an engaged audience…? Arguably the most important element for a healthy and supportive music scene comes from those with a passion to make it work. Sunderland has had passionate people at its heart for many years; spaces like The Bunker and Pop Recs Ltd. offer fruitful training grounds for musicians to learn, grassroots venues like Independent and The Peacock provide spaces for audiences and artists to connect, and organisations like Sunderland Culture and We Make Culture’s Young Musician’s Project nurture the next generation of stars. So perhaps the most logical next step on Sunderland’s journey to be recognised as a vibrant musical city is a world-class venue...enter The Fire Station. “Sunderland has a rich music heritage and a fine pedigree of artists. It deserves a world class, purpose-built music and performing arts venue to be both a community hub for artists and audiences and a place to have fun but also to welcome and to see world-class performers. There’s no doubt it will help put Sunderland on the map nationally and internationally.” So says venue director Tamsin Austin, whose enthusiasm about the state-of-the-art auditorium is infectious. Having undergone an £18m redevelopment programme, the area


around the so-called Cultural Quarter promises to provide opportunities for local audiences and artists alike to connect. “The Fire Station programme is there for Sunderland to enjoy so it needs to meet the tastes of the city and the region in their broadest sense. The programme will be both popular to the extent that everyone wants a great night out, however it will have a curated programme with more specialist offerings as well. I would love to develop the standing gigs and try to attract a broader range of dance/electronic artists to the venue, and with our theatre and dance programmer I’d love us to develop some multi-art form events.” The venue’s Firestarters programme is already yielding some pretty exciting bookings. In the venue’s opening month alone Northumbrian pipes maestro Kathryn Tickell, celebrated local songwriter The Lake Poets, funk and soul kings Smoove & Turrell and up and coming rapper Kay Greyson will grace the stage. Into January and beyond their stage will welcome the likes of folk star Teddy Thompson, local avant-garde artist Richard Dawson, pop superstar Emile Sandé, country stars The Shires, multi-instrumentalist and activist Allison Russell, The Maccabees’ singer Orlando Weeks, Kate Staples’ extraordinary alt. rock project This Is The Kit, and celebrated folk group Flook among many others.



L-R, T-B: Orlando Weeks, Allison Russell by Marc Baptiste, Flook by Naoki Fujioka

SUNDERLAND HAS A RICH MUSIC HERITAGE AND A FINE PEDIGREE OF ARTISTS. IT DESERVES A WORLD CLASS, PURPOSE-BUILT MUSIC AND PERFORMING ARTS VENUE The venue’s official opening event The Firestarters Revue will see Field Music joined by guests Martha Hill, Faye Fantarrow, Reali-T, Barry Hyde and Ross Millard from The Futureheads, Frankie Francis and many more on Friday 17th December. “We’ve tried to make this something fun and celebratory and maybe even a little bit silly, with a mix of the guests’ songs and surprising covers, and we were also keen for the line-up of guests to be fairly diverse and show off different facets of music in Sunderland and the North East.” Explains Field Music’s David Brewis. “I have many more ideas and artists up my sleeve to work on!” Tamsin enthuses about the programme. “It has been a very strange experience working through a pandemic, remotely from home, programming a venue I have barely set foot in, but I hope most people can find something they fancy in the programme we have released to date. I can’t wait for us to be on site and really living the live experience in there then we can really develop the programme. I also want to work with partners to develop our contribution to Sunderland’s festival offer.” In addition to live music, theatre and dance are a priority for the venue; Dance City and Live Theatre are in residence in the building, and NAME (Northern Academy for Music Education) will run some of their courses there too. “It feels like a holistic offer of learning opportunities and performance, which is an energising combination.” Tamsin is clearly in awe of her neighbours, and Sunderland’s legendary musical community have welcomed a new member into the fold. “As well as the Empire, now in the capable hands of Marie Nixon, we have The Peacock, now run by Barry Hyde and Dan Donnelly both as a live music pub and as a teaching space for their

new Modern Music degree and the beautifully refurbished Dun Cow pub which is developing a small-scale comedy programme. We’re close to a network of brilliant grassroots venues like Independent, Pop Recs and The Bunker. Sunderland is a close-knit city and there is a feeling of support and camaraderie and excitement among the neighbours in the Cultural Quarter.” While the Fire Station may be a shiny new jewel in the city’s musical crown, artists have plenty of options in the region already; is it simply a case of ‘build it and they will come’? “Sunderland is not traditionally a primary touring market, but we hope the auditorium can change that!” Tamsin remarks. “There is a thriving community of musicians, performing artists, promoters and advocates for Sunderland who regularly work in partnership to deliver festivals and special events in the city. There is a huge collective energy that originated from the City of Culture bid which continues apace and it is this that will keep Sunderland thriving and make it a success as a national centre.” “For a long time, Sunderland’s music scene was kind of hidden,” affirms David Brewis, “without a venue or two on the main regional or national touring circuit there’ll always be a limit as to how much music in the city can develop. The to-and-fro between renowned bands visiting a city and local bands being inspired by, or getting support slots with, those bands just feels essential. The opening of the Fire Station is only a piece in the jigsaw of making that happen but I think it’s given a jolt to the rest of the Sunderland music community. I think we’ve got some good reasons to be optimistic and The Fire Station is a central part of that.” For full listings visit the venue’s website




STAGE Reece Connolly’s Antichristmas at Laurel’s in Whitley Bay sees two down-on-their-luck millennials cut a deal with a shifty looking fella in a red suit and beard, who offers them a pile of never-ending cash in return for helping to deliver a very special baby into the world...what follows is a “very weird and pretty dark comedy” which takes in the impending apocalypse and the true meaning of the season (8-11 Dec). There’s further unusual tales of the Big Man himself at Alphabetti, as store worker Nadia copes with demanding customers, minimum wage, no time off, zero hours contracts and a terrible boss on Christmas Eve. As the elves stage a riot, Santa Must Die! is a show about finding joy in unexpected places and how it’s really shit when Christmas is all work and no play (16-31 Dec). If it’s a lavish production you’re after, look no further than Northern Stage’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a magical new adaptation by Laura Lindow of the classic tale; set on the streets of Newcastle, audiences will be wowed by puppetry, live music written by Katie Doherty, magic and illusion as they follow the adventures of Hatty Rabbit who has been invited to interview for a sorcerer’s apprentice (until 31 Dec). It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Scrooge or two, and Arts Centre Washington oblige with their take on A Christmas Carol, created by live storytelling duo The Book of Darkness & Light (16 Dec). For some adult-themed fun, get yourself to Bonnie & Fanny’s gaff (otherwise known as Live Theatre) for a collaboration like no other as comedy troupe Your Aunt Fanny and drag trio Bonnie & The Bonnettes team up for their legendary Bonnie & Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular. Prepare for the unexpected, with sketches, lip-sync, dancing and a fair amount of raucous bad behaviour (1-23 Dec).

COMEDY There’s festive fun for all ages as Sammy Dobson, Lee Kyle and Hannah Walker offer up a family variety show at The Stand, which promises songs, stand-up and sketches with an alternative twist (18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 29, 30 & 31 Dec). Another regional comedy favourite comes in the form of The Suggestibles’ Impro Pantso at Northern


Stage; proudly proclaiming ‘no script, no score, no kids’, the legendary improv troupe will take a hilarious epic misadventure on the venue’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice set (16-17 Dec). South Shields’ Customs House plays host to the much loved Jason Cook’s Christmas Comedy Club, where you could expect to see huge TV names, daft guests and a few surprises along the way (20 Dec). Comedian Aidan Goatley presents a heart-warming stroll through his 12 Films of Christmas at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, which have helped to shape his love of the festive season. Certain to warm the heart of even the toughest Grinch (13 Dec). New comedy kids on the block Felt Nowt have shows popping up all over the North East throughout December which would make a perfect Christmas night out, of particular note are the New Act of the Year Competitions at Laurel’s in Whitley Bay (30 Nov, 7, 12 Dec); their new club at Sunderland’s Dun Cow features superb line-ups including Nick Cranston, Kelly Edgar, David Hadingham and host Si Beckwith (10-11 Dec); South Causey Inn in Stanley welcome Mike Milligan, Julie Grady Thomas, Ben Van Der Velde and Gavin Webster (17 Dec) and Carnival Inn in Southwick’s show features Simon Donald, John Whale, Julie Grady Thomas and host Lee Kyle (18 Dec). There’s plenty more on their website too. Loveable Mackem Matt Reed is as busy as Santa himself this year, hosting several high profile nights across the region. First up is ARC Stockton’s Beat The Gong Christmas Special, where twelve brand new acts go up against the gong and win over the audience (3 Dec); Matt takes on compere duties for Big Mouth Comedy Club’s shows at Middlesbrough Town Hall, where he’ll be joined by musical comedian Christian Reilly and comedy powerhouse Mark Nelson (4 Dec), and award-winning raconteur Larry Dean and one-liner supremo Mark Simmons (18 Dec); while back at ARC he’s at the helm of Catch 22 Comedy Club’s Christmas Special, alongside the twisted comedy of Omar Abid and cocky banter from John Fothergill (10 Dec). Over at Play Brew Co in Middlesbrough, Ace Comedy Club’s Christmas Night Out sees Teesside-based Irish-Iranian funnyman Patrick Monahan take the headline spot, with supports from Tom Taylor, host James Kilvington and more (17 Dec).


T-B, L-R: Bonnie & Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular, Matt Reed, Cattle & Cane by Ally McErlaine



T-B, L-R: David Hadingham; Aidan Goatly; 12 Films of Christmas, Patrick Munday as Rats and Beth Crame as Hatty in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, image by Mark Savage



FILM Tyneside Cinema provides a full month of festive flicks. Top of the tree are screenings of old school classics like It’s A Wonderful Life, Meet Me In St. Louis, The Bishop’s Wife, The Apartment, The Shop Around The Corner and White Christmas; there’s family favourites including How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Elf, Gremlins, Home Alone, The Polar Express, Frozen, The Nightmare Before Christmas, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, Jingle All The Way, Batman Returns, The Muppet Christmas Carol and, of course, Die Hard. If you’re looking for a gift for that person you don’t really like, you can also buy tickets to The Holiday Popcorn and Prosecco event. For those looking for a chilled out experience, head to Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema, where the usual suspects – Arthur Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, Polar Express, White Christmas, Jingle All The Way, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Scrooged – are accompanied by ‘pay as you please’ ticketing options, affordable snacks and a bevy or two. Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle’s bastion of indie cinema, choose to forgo the cheesy classics and instead offers up a series of socially distanced and subtitled flicks which include Christmas In Tokyo, a festive adventure from celebrated anime director, Satoshi Kon (12 Dec); a relaxed adaptation of CS Lewis’ beloved book, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (18 Dec); and zombie apocalypse singalong Anna And The Apocalypse (19 Dec). There’s also festive screenings at Gosforth Civic Theatre, including the ubiquitous Holy Trinity of festive movies: Die Hard, Muppet Christmas Carol and Home Alone, among others. Check individual venue websites for all the screening dates.

MUSIC If it’s a sing-along you’re looking for, there’s a great variety of events looking to bring some festive cheer. Great North Museum: Hancock provide traditional entertainment in the form of their Christmas Ceilidh featuring renowned ceilidh band The Shipsters (10 Dec); it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Baghdaddies Xmas Blow Out at Cobalt Studios – expect a radgy party, lashings of booze and silly hats (17 Dec); while The Cluny welcomes more local favourites in the form of Archie Brown & The Young Bucks (18 Dec) and Martin Stephenson and his musical frolics in that awkward in-between Christmas and New Year time (28 Dec). If you’re looking for something funky to strut your stuff to, Smoove & Turrell’s Xmas Party at the Boiler Shop also sees sets from Voices of Virtue Gospel Choir and King Bee, making it a must for funk, soul and blues fans (18 Dec). The Smoove & Turrell lads also take their show to the Spiegeltent on Stockton High Street (4 Dec), which also hosts a festive feast of cabaret and variety from Black Cat Cabaret (3 Dec). Over the road at The Georgian Theatre, Andy Jones & Chris’s Christmas Party will feature a piano-based sing-along and acoustic 80s tunes providing a rousing soundtrack (18 Dec); while ARC’s offering sees The Wildcats of Kilkenny celebrate 30 years of Irish-infused Christmas cheer, jam packed with dance and song (16-18 Dec). Also making Stockton the place to be is a lovely gig at the brand new Globe venue featuring Teesside treasures Cattle & Cane, who present a Christmas show which promises to sparkle with their incredible songwriting and magical sound (18 Dec). Sage Gateshead’s Here For Christmas season includes the rescheduled date for folk singer Kate Rusby (9 Dec); songs and festive cheer from celebrated songwriter Jez Lowe and his intrepid band for a part folk

concert, part music-hall revue (17 Dec); or maybe it’s A Jazzy Christmas you’re after? Brilliant local pianist Paul Edis and friends can oblige (22 Dec). Coming from left-field, expect wonky vintage synths, doo-wop and a bit of rockabilly from Teesside oddballs Old Muggins at Eaglescliffe’s Waiting Room (22 Dec); there’s more odd-pop from Head of Light Entertainment at Tynemouth Social Club, at a gig which also features local songwriter Sarah Holmes (17 Dec); sounds of the electronic underground come courtesy of the Method Radio crew and their Christmas Party at The Tanners Arms, which also features live art and fire dancing (11 Dec). Bursting with local talent, Middlesbrough’s Base Camp usher in a Xmas Nightmare, put together by post-punks Casual Threats, and also featuring The Shakin’ Nightmares, Marines, Rudi Beatamax and Mally (17 Dec); and at Westgarth Social Club the annual Idiot Savant Christmas Band return for their annual pageant with support from fellow Teesside legends Pellethead, Nel Unlit and Faithful Johannes (17 Dec). After the Big Day has been and gone, there’s still the 15th anniversary of the Boxing Day Big One at The Studio in Hartlepool to look forward to, with sets from respected local artists including Leopard Rays, Marines, The Warrens, Ocean Floor, Market Place and Giraffes (26 Dec). Also containing a selection box full of regional goodies, Little Buildings are raising money for neighbours St. Vincent’s Community Centre, with sets from stoner rockers Dunes, surf band Milk Lizards, noisy upstarts Ballpeen and quirky Hives tribute The B-Hives (9 Dec). For something entirely different head to Jonny Lee’s Cumbo Christmas Lounge at The Cumberland Arms for an evening of music, drag, dance, poetry, storytelling and advanced silliness from the likes of The Velvet Snatch, Melody Sproates, Ms. Martha Maudlin, Shipcote, Nev Clay, Mushi Mushi, Koo & Co and more, with funds raised in aid of East End Women (19 Dec); if you’re itching to put on your dancing shoes, The Old Coal Yard welcome a queer celebration as Rock n Doris present their Camp Vamps Christmas Party (18 Dec). Check out the Previews section for details on the excellent Avoid Shit Christmas Parties gigs, and head over to the Mixtape to find out more about Festive Window’s event too!

OTHER STUFF There’s a handful of great opportunities to bag some unique gifts at alternative Christmas markets across the region. Of particular note is Sister Shack’s Christmas Market at The Cumberland Arms, which welcomes all kinds of fab indie makers (12 Dec); the Vinyl & Vintage Christmas Market at Tyne Bank Brewery mixes excellent booze with live music, street food and tonnes of records and vintage gear (11 Dec); The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle features artisan makers and small local businesses at their annual event (17-19 Dec); and the much-loved Orange Pip Market return with their festive edition at Middlesbrough Town Hall, which is certain to contain their usual brand of indie stall holders and live music (18 Dec). Liven up your work’s Christmas party by shimmying down to Dance City for their Dance-Along Christmas Party, where dance teachers will lead willing participants through beginner-friendly moves to pop classics (11 Dec); or if testing your knowledge of obscure festive tunes is more your bag, head along to Middlesbrough’s Play Brew Co for the Rewind Big Daft Christmas Quiz, complete with Heffe Mojo Street Food and that all important well-stocked bar (23 Dec). Alphabetti Theatre’s Festive Fundraiser Auction may provide one lucky bidder with a gift they can’t refuse, as Gary Kitching and Steve Byron host a festive auction of props, memorabilia and all kinds of weirdness (11 Dec).












Image by Lucy Oldfield

JAKE ANDERSON TALKS TO THE NORTH EAST ARTIST ABOUT HIS CINEMATIC APPROACH TO SONGWRITING AHEAD OF THE RELEASE OF HIS NEW ALBUM Releasing a follow-up record is always a daunting task, however Cameron Scott’s newest album, Spiral Into Nothingness, seems to have overcome the sophomore slump. It’s a stark contrast to the upbeat indie pop of his debut, The Big Sulk, and instead manifests its sonic environment to be one of gloom and despair, with the semantics of the album tackling nostalgia and vulnerability. It’s an album that Cameron best recommends for a “Late night last-drink-on-your-own listening session” vibe. Cameron explained how his approach was different for this record: “I go through phases of being inspired by certain things and then write about them and the inspiration informs the lyrics and the sound. I exhaust this route until I feel I’ve addressed the inspiration and I can’t get anything else out of it. Once I look back over these periods, I see a clear pattern and then it presents itself to me as a concept and only then do I dare say it’s an album. I worry that if I set out to make an album, the pressure will sour the quality.” Cameron sees it as crucial to keep his discography fresh, and as a result Spiral Into Nothingness has a melancholic tone. “It can be daunting to change but once you embrace it, you’re continually improving by swimming in the deep end. I find it very exciting to constantly challenge myself into doing something different. I don’t want to be predictable, so get ready for my third album – Broadway


musical with hip-hop elements infused!” But until we get that game-changer of Wicked meets Nas, there’s plenty to enjoy in Cameron’s back catalogue. One of his most interesting releases is the video game soundtrack inspired The Last Laugh EP. “I really wanted to make electronic music – I was obsessed with Thom Yorke, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno in lockdown. I got about three songs in and exhausted the inspiration – hats off to anyone that could make an album’s worth of that stuff because it’s hard!” He cites Radiohead and The Smiths as recent influences, but there has been an emphasis on non-musical influences too. “This record is mainly derived from memories. The approach was usually a session of sitting and thinking or going for a walk around places I’ve been a hundred times, remembering certain times in my life and then becoming inspired to capture that feeling of that specific era.” Cameron mentioned how his Super-8 camera influenced Super-8 Soundtrack, one of the standout pieces from Spiral Into Nothingness; beginning with a gorgeous ambient piano piece it quickly descends into a haunting vocal array. “It’s one of the pieces I recorded a while ago before the record was conceived. I added it to the record because I feel it’s a true capture of the way I felt in the moment. I always seem to write about events in retrospect, but Super-8 Soundtrack was recorded at the time when I felt a completely different way and it overloads me with nostalgia. I added in the ghostly ending because it’s kind of a goodbye to that feeling and that era. If I developed the Super-8 film and made it a music video, perhaps it would make more sense, or just ruin me – it’s an avenue I am debating.” Cameron Scott releases Spiral Into Nothingness on 7th January



Phyllis Christopher: Contacts

Open Wed-Sun 10am-6pm Free entry Except 25& 26 Dec 21 1&2 Jan 22

Top left: Phyllis Christopher, Elvis Herselvis Klubstitute, San Francisco, 1991. Top right: Phyllis Christopher, Protest against Christian Fundamentalist Preacher Larry Lea, Halloween Night, San Francisco, 1990. Bottom: Phyllis Christopher, Lex, San Francisco, CA, 1997. All images courtesy the artist.




Illustration by Wolfgang Paradiso

HIDE AND SPEAK PODCAST LINSEY TEGGERT DONS HER BINOCULARS AND JOINS MUSICIAN, BIRDWATCHER AND PODCASTER MATT SAXON ON A HUNT FOR THE LESSER-SPOTTED POP STAR... Gone are the days when birdwatching was seen as a stuffy hobby for tweed-wearing twitchers. As more people seek to escape the relentlessly fast pace of society and reconnect with nature, the mindful benefits of observing nature are once again being recognised. Pairing musicians with birdwatching may seem somewhat niche, but indie rock and birdwatching have a long history: did you know Elbow’s Guy Garvey spent his Mercury prize money on fancy binoculars or that Paul McCartney spends time between gigs birdwatching when he’s on tour? Then there’s all the iconic songs with bird-referencing titles: Blackbird (by the aforementioned McCartney), Songbird, Bird on the Wire, Free Bird – the list goes on. So it would seem that musician Matt Saxon, current member of Little Comets and former member of local legends Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister and Grandfather Birds (ahem), is on to a winning formula with his new podcast, the cleverly titled Hide and Speak, which sees him interviewing musicians in bird hides across Northumberland. “For me birdwatching isn’t just a hobby, it’s a form of therapy and meditation,” Matt explains. “In 2016, I found myself suffering from stress and anxiety as well as panic disorder. My friend suggested the benefits of birdwatching so, almost every night that summer, we would walk to the bird hide in the early evening and stay there until it was pitch black. Almost instantly I found the anxiety levels dropping and the panic attacks almost disappeared. I believe that those trips to the hide played a huge part in my recovery, and I gained an appreciation of the nature around my home town. As well as reaping the therapeutic benefits from birdwatching, Matt


realised he could mix two of his passions. “I love listening to podcasts but never thought I could host one. I remember I was sat with Rob Coles [Little Comets’ lead vocalist and guitarist] one night, just the two of us deep in conversation. He said to me that I had gotten stuff out of him that no one ever has, and he jokingly said, ‘you should start a podcast’. It’s a competitive market, so I thought that if I can make a podcast that’s a little different, I might be in with a chance. I’ve made some amazing friends in the music industry who I was sure I could convince it was worth their time.” In terms of content, listeners can expect the fascinating rather than the fast-paced. “I don’t plan the podcast as an interview, so it’s more a relaxing conversation about my guests’ career and life, with wholesome (and admittedly amateur) bird knowledge, recorded in the tranquillity of Northumberland’s countryside. One of my guests described it as the Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing of podcasts. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon.” Hide and Speak has bagged some high profile interviews already (though we can’t reveal names just yet) but for Matt, one of the greatest perks is hearing how his guests have also benefited from birding. “Each guest brings something different to their episodes, so they all have great moments in them, but really I like hearing how much they enjoyed themselves and their new appreciation of the hobby. One guest received a FaceTime call from Sir Elton John while we were together, that was pretty mad.” While Matt may not have Elton on speed dial just yet, he’s set his ambitions on spotting some new feathered friends instead. “In the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve still not seen a Kingfisher in the wild. Almost everyone has seen one but me. If it happens during an episode, it’ll be a big fuss.” The first episode of Hide and Speak will be available on various platforms including Spotify during the first week of December. Follow @hideandspeakpod on Twitter or @hideandspeakpodcast on Instagram for further details





L-R: Steve Mason by Gavin Watson, Andy Kelly Andy Kelly has worked as a promoter for over 20 years. Starting in Teesside, he’s covered venues all over the North East. His latest endeavour, Off The Beaten Track, takes big artists out to rural communities, making use of local performance spaces. Andy explains why he started this venture: “Over the years I’d promoted bigger shows; I had that usual ambition to do bigger and ‘better’ things throughout your career. I just felt that I was losing some of the love and passion I had for what I do. I realised that the bigger the show, the less magic I felt.” Inspired by walking back into his local village hall in County Durham, Andy decided to change tack. “I decided that the future was going to be about intimate, special little shows,” he says, determined to bring back the connection between artists and audiences, while also using under-utilised local spaces. “I knew some artists would love the locations, the intimacy of the show, and visiting these places that artists don’t usually visit. It just feels like we’re doing something really fresh.” For Andy, and the artists he’s worked with, it’s all about the audience; creating an experience for people who “don’t always get that opportunity on their doorsteps”. With intimate venues and rural communities, Off The Beaten Track can provide people with a night of amazing entertainment and a real connection between artist and audience. When asked about how he decides which artists to work with, Andy described one crucial experience that has led Off The Beaten Track to be what it is today: “There was one artist, King Creosote, who I pretty much had this idea about, initially. I knew he’d love the concept and would appreciate the intimacy of the shows. With the experience I have, it’s been a case of approaching artists we’ve worked with historically who this would appeal to. Some folk may not want to be touring around village halls in the countryside. For


I KNEW SOME ARTISTS WOULD LOVE THE LOCATIONS, THE INTIMACY OF THE SHOW, AND VISITING THESE PLACES THAT ARTISTS DON’T USUALLY VISIT others, it’s a really refreshing change from the rigours of more conventional touring!” One such person is Beta Band main man and revered songwriter Steve Mason, who brings his show to Hutton Rudby Village Hall on Friday 10th and Corbridge Parish Hall on Sunday 12th December. Andy has a particular soft spot for the Corbridge venue. “It’s a beautiful, small, kinda quintessential hall. Every time I get there I just think ‘Wow, this is exactly what it’s all about!’” However, rural touring presents a unique set of challenges that established venues are more prepared for. “We’re dealing with these different and unique spaces that aren’t always set up for these kind of events. Things like dressing rooms can be an issue, just little things that you can take for granted in purpose-built spaces and you have to work around with what is available.” Crucially, both artists and audiences have embraced the concept. “Audiences have loved it. People generally can’t believe that some established artists ‘are coming to play in my village hall!’” Far from being forgotten, Off The Beaten Track ensures that rural audiences are not only considered, but the priority. Off The Beaten Track presents Steve Mason at Hutton Rudby Village Hall on Friday 10th and Corbridge Parish Hall on Sunday 12th December




Image by Victoria Wai

HOPE LYNES SPEAKS TO NEO-SOUL ARTIST KATE BOND ABOUT HER UPCOMING SINGLE, FEMINISM IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AND HER CAREER SO FAR “This first EP is very political. It’s how I write the best. I can write love songs, but they always tend to call [men] misogynists.” Bradford-via-Newcastle songwriter Kate Bond takes the melodic groove of Amy Winehouse and makes it her own, with forcefully moving vocals and powerful feminist tracks that tell of her experiences. “Feminism has accidentally become my brand, that’s not a bad thing though because I am very politically minded, so I think without even trying my songs tend to take that sound,” she explains. “It is good juice for the songwriting, because I can actually methodically write what I think men are, which is usually a prat!” Preceding her aforementioned EP, the neo-soul artist will release new single Thinking of You on 7th January. Although different in content to her other tracks, it remains quite similar in style. If it’s anything like recent single Yasmin, you can expect a funky soundscape with a strong yet sweet vocal that is addictive to listen to. The love story narrative may look different from her previous feminist anthems, where Kate explains the song is about her experiences of a rather toxic relationship. “I was seeing this guy and I ended up breaking up with him because he treated me like shit. This song is about battling the urge to text him when I know he’s not good for me.” The feminism that reigns strong in Kate still plays its part in her self-respect within the narrative, and her awareness of stopping


similar situations from happening to her friends or herself again. “I stand by the concept of always taking the advice you would give to a friend in that situation. I always give my friends the same advice, like ‘dump him’, but in reality if you had a relationship with him, it’s so hard to just sack him off, but you should!” The hotly-awaited new single is going to show a softer side to Kate and explore romance in a refreshing way. “This is the first song where I’ve actually shown that I did like a boy once! Most of my songs are just savage. I feel a bit bad for any boys I’m involved with because they just get absolutely roasted.” Kate jokingly fears that we might not get any more singles as in recent romantic experiences men have been too nice to her. “It’s bad now because I’m running out of material, all the men I see now are really pro-feminist!” Having established her sound and become part of the recently formed NEWISM (North East Women In Soul Music) collective, she’ll be expanding her live show by being joined by a full band in the future. “I’m lucky that I’ve actually found a full band now, which I didn’t have when I first started out. It’s really going to help with arranging the songs that I’ve written live. You get a lot more experimental stuff, a lot of what I write is quite simple, then they add the seasoning.” Kate Bond releases Thinking Of You on 7th January






FOR THE SONGS ON A WORRIER’S DREAM, I WAS DETERMINED TO DRAG THE BEST OF MY HALFBOILED IDEAS OVER THE LINE Returning to music after a five-year hiatus, folk singer songwriter Mat Hunsley will release his majestic latest EP on 28th January. Featuring six tantalising new tracks, two of which – Friend & Foe and Backward Steps – are already fan-favourites, A Worrier’s Dream is a most worthy successor to his debut EP, To Being Free. “By the time To Being Free came out I was pretty burnt out with music.” He admits. “Even as Dropping [the EP’s lead single] was picking up steam, I could feel in my heart of hearts that I needed a break. So that’s what I did. It was probably terribly timed given the buzz the first EP generated, but hey ho. Sometimes you’ve got to look after yourself first.” It seems that taking some time for himself ended up paying dividends: “I barely picked up the guitar for about two years after that. It wasn’t until early 2020 that I started writing again with any real gusto, but when I did it felt great. I was back to playing for the fun of it, without any real agenda, and that was something I’d missed massively.” A Worrier’s Dream is opened by the lush Rambling, a track fronted by Mat’s tender acoustic guitar and vocals and supported by an abundance of backing voices, reflecting some of his indie rock roots. “It’s probably my favourite song that I’ve ever written. But it was definitely a labour of love. I recently found a voice memo of me


sketchily playing the main acoustic guitar riff that dates back to 2018… Not only does Rambling feel like my most accomplished and relatable release to date, but it’s also the most important to me. It’s written about one of the most personally difficult periods of my life and is a clear reminder of how far I’ve come.” A notable difference in Mat’s new material is its fuller sound. “Whereas To Being Free was a very stripped back and simple record, this time around I was keen to create something bigger and more ‘band-like’. For the songs on A Worrier’s Dream, I was determined to drag the best of my half-boiled ideas over the line. I wanted to learn how to develop my songs into full arrangements and build in more layers, so I reached out to two of my best friends in music Ben Helm [Tessera Skies] and Matt Hardy [Tessera Skies, Lovely Assistant, Soup]. Together we were able to develop the songs and present them in the professional way I was so keen to achieve.” Fans looking for a live rendition of Mat’s new release will be in for a treat on Sunday 30th January, when Mat will play an afternoon show at Bobik’s alongside his band. “Support comes from the sensational Nadedja. Her recent Transient EP is simply stunning and it is an absolute honour to have her join in on the celebrations.” With suggestions of new material to be recorded and possibly released later in 2022, now may be just the time to become a part of Mat’s growing fanbase. Mat Hunsley releases A Worrier’s Dream on 28th January, he plays Bobik’s, Newcastle with support from Nadedja on Sunday 30th January



LANTERNS ON THE LAKE MICHAEL O’NEILL TALKS TO HAZEL WILDE FROM EPIC INDIE ROCK BAND LANTERNS ON THE LAKE AHEAD OF THEIR HEADLINE PERFORMANCE AT THE BOILER SHOP It’s quite safe to say, given the developments of the last two years, that Lanterns On The Lake have safely secured the privilege of being a band who need little introduction. Indeed, it’s hardly hyperbole for me to declare that the genre-defying quintet have entered into their ‘imperial phase’ since the release of 2020’s Spook The Herd set them on an upward trajectory that hasn’t even faltered at the mercy of *that pandemic*. Now that the world has returned to a slight degree of normalcy, they’re gearing up to tour the LP a mere twenty months after they released it. These shows will be poignant to those who found the immersive and engrossing masterpiece to be a healing balm during the surreal days of lockdowns and isolation. It was during this time that the band discovered that the LP had been nominated for the Mercury Prize. For singer/multi-instrumentalist Hazel Wilde, it proved to be a strong beacon of reassurance at such a bizarre time. “It was fairly surreal because we weren’t able to all get together and hug each other or go to the pub to celebrate! It’s weird to look back and think that earlier that day I was feeling so low in general, and a huge part of that was because I thought this album we’d put so much into was just going to fizzle out – we hadn’t been able to play gigs or do anything to promote it. It was one of those ‘give me a sign!’ kind of days. Then I got the sign!” The band have been anything but idle since then though; following


on from the companion EP The Realist, their ethereal single Don’t Have Nightmares acts as the theme song to the BBC podcast Uncanny, a 15-part exploration of the paranormal and otherworldly. The opportunity came about due to host Danny Robins’ love of Spook The Herd, and posed a rewarding creative challenge for the band. “For us, this was a totally different kettle of fish. The key thing for Danny was that the lyrics needed to fit the world of the podcast, and as a band we had an idea of how we could make it sound. That was the easy part. The challenge was to find a way to write lyrics that could cover 15 individual episodes, all telling very different stories. Some episodes include stories of ghosts, one involves UFOs, there’s poltergeists and there’s an episode that touches on mental health issues. I wrote it from the point of view of someone being haunted by their experiences, exploring the way in which these memories can behave much like ghosts in the mind. Danny was absolutely buzzing when we sent him the demo over!” This finally leads us to the band’s next undertaking: taking these songs on the road after two long years of stasis, with a headline show at Newcastle’s Boiler Shop coming up on Friday 10th December. “In all honestly I was initially dreading it. I had gotten so adjusted to hiding away and was feeling a bit anxious about going to play live again. But once we were playing our first gig something clicked! I think we all feel there’s something different this time around, the whole experience has felt beautifully charged, and I’ve loved every minute of the gigs so far!”. Lanterns On The Lake play The Boiler Shop, Newcastle on Friday 10th December






Harriet Sutcliffe, Rosie Morris and Gayle Meikle by Jade Sweeting


EVIE LAKE DISCOVERS HOW ARTISTS AND CURATORS ROSIE MORRIS, HARRIET SUTCLIFFE AND GAYLE MEIKLE PLAN TO LOOK AT THE NORTH EAST ART SCENE THROUGH A FEMINIST LENS AS PART OF THEIR ARCHIVE RESIDENCY AT BALTIC Rosie Morris, Harriet Sutcliffe and Gayle Meikle wear many hats: artists, curators, researchers, lecturers and now residents at the BALTIC for six months as they investigate the archive and women’s position within it. As the collective Undutiful Spirit, they seek to look at BALTIC, its archive and the North East art scene as a whole through a welcomed, feminist lens. “It’s a really interesting site to attach this idea of female identities and perspectives in archives and history,” says Gayle, with Harriet adding: “we’re also interested in what’s not included in the archive.” The canonisation, preservation and inclusion of female artists in exhibitions and, consequently, archives are at the forefront of the trio’s minds. “We’ve been trying to bring out the hidden voices, which are typically female, we’re interested in addressing the imbalance,” adds Rosie. Off the back of their discoveries within the archive, they want to evolve Undutiful Spirit beyond the three of them by creating forums and a network of female creatives. With the feminine experience transcending one dimension, they understand that it’s personal to everyone: “we’re open to other perspectives, different lived experiences.” Creating for the future, but indebted to the past, Gayle quips that “Undutiful Spirit has come from a long lineage of feminists around


this idea of not being expectant of a woman’s role and being resistant to the perceived notion of what that should be.” They’re adamant that creation shouldn’t be competitive and that the network and voices they find are for the purpose of communal progression, as Rosie states: “At times it feels like a competitive community in the arts. We want to support, nurture and lift others up within our practice and residency.” She adds: “The idea of Undutiful Spirit comes from this idea of polyphony and the synergies and divergences between different voices and we really want to bring lots of different voices in and not just our own. It’s super important to spread beyond that.” Rosie and Harriet both champion site-specific work, and so for them BALTIC will assume the position of canvas for investigation, discovery and creation. The residency will culminate in an exhibition in July to mark the end of their journey, and will also coincide with BALTIC’s 20th birthday celebrations. The six-month residency is full of possibilities for Undutiful Spirit, but still shrouded in uncertainty and excitement. They find themselves heading into the archive partly blind, knowing the things they want to look for, but unsure of the impact this will have on their artwork and practice. “The more voices we bring in, hopefully empowering them, the more we’ll learn from it. I’m sure it will feed into our practice, it feels like everything is coming together, but we don’t know where the snowball is headed yet.”



Shame by Rhiannon Banks

SONGS FROM NORTHERN BRITAIN @ THE GEORGIAN THEATRE & THE GREEN ROOM, STOCKTON (20.11.21) Words: Tracy Hyman Now in its sixth instalment, Songs From Northern Britain has crossed the seas and brings the sounds of Dublin to Teesside for the first time, alongside the usual Scottish and Northern English fare. Vic Galloway once again came along to introduce the established grassroots showcase, with everything from indie and rock, to folk and punk – there was something for everyone and far too many highlights to mention. Chief among the highlights was North East folk pop artist Me Lost Me, who filled the Green Room with her folky, atmospheric soundscapes. Her ethereal vocal sits upon layers of electronic effects and natural sounds of North Eastern beaches and looped sounds. A highlight of Twisterella, Lizzie Reid once again wowed the Green Room audience. She told us that she had been here before, playing in a punk band, a far cry from the mesmerising, melodic folk songs of love, loss and heartache which have led her to be shortlisted for Scottish album of the year. In sharp contrast was Shakk’s energetic performance, which had everyone jumping and singing along to the catchy rap sounds of Young Pablo. Somebody’s Child was tipped as one of the ones to watch; a largely unknown band from Dublin, they had everyone dancing in The Georgian Theatre to their upbeat indie pop sounds. Headliners Declan Welsh & The Decadent West, who joined the line-up as part of their UK tour, regaled us with hip swaggering action galore, their infectious indie rock bringing the event to a fantastic close.

NOYA RAO, LYRAS @ COBALT STUDIOS, NEWCASTLE (18.11.21) Words: Chris Maltby Live music, board games and a home cooked meal. That’s what’s on offer at Cobalt on a Thursday evening. Already a trusted addition to the weekly regime of avid music and food lovers alike, FRESH offers ticket holders dinner in front of one of Newcastle’s most understated installations of recent times, Cobalt’s new sound system. Mumbling diners were beautifully interrupted by the dreamlike vocal stylings of LYRAS’ Ada Francis, gliding smoothly over the top of developing jazz-rooted R&B rhythms elevated by a rich layer of synth. LYRAS provide


their own brand of neo-soul doused pop (the subversive kind) and they do it with style. By the time they closed off their set with the brilliant Paradise, the crowd were visibly left wanting more. Not for long though. Next up Noya Rao; the Leeds based electronic future-soul quartet were breathtaking from the start. The drums were tight, the bass moving beneath a tectonic dreamscape of synthetic wizardry firmly embedded in the organic. The vocals were mesmerising; everything you wanted from the recordings, played with energy and conviction, every space, in every groove coming from every instrument luring you in to move along to. Comfortable head bobbing was not an option. A beautiful imagining of analogue sounds delivered across slow-movers, dancers, thinkers and everything in between.

SHAME, THE GOA EXPRESS @ BOILER SHOP, NEWCASTLE (21.11.21) Words: Lee Hammond Following the release of their highly rated sophomore album Drunk Tank Pink, Shame return to Newcastle for a triumphant show. Before they take to the stage though, there is the small matter of Manchester’s The Goa Express to contend with; theirs is a set filled with smart indie pop, the kind you cannot help but tap along to. Inoffensive and wholesome, they seem to be somewhat at odds with tonight’s headliners. Their brief set though is one to savour as they are certainly set for greater things. Shame are an altogether different beast, bursting onto the stage in a fervent fashion. Frontman Charlie Steen controls the crowd like a circus ringmaster, who are putty in his hands from the off. Tearing through the likes of The Lick and Concrete early on, without doubt older tracks cause a greater stir, but Drunk Tank Pink finds its time to shine. With Harsh Degrees and Snow Day receiving raucous reactions, you quickly forget the usual sedate nature of Sunday nights. Shame light up the stage with their passion and enthusiasm, Charlie continues to hold the audience in thrall as he is lifted atop the crowd which has now transformed into one seething mass of bodies flailing over the barrier. By the time the band launch into crowd favourite One Rizla the room has reached the point of hysteria. This is Shame at their absolute best, riding the excitement of the crowd and using it to channel their own scintillating performance!


black midi by Idene Roozbayani

SOPHIA, LOTTIE WILLIS @ LITTLE BUILDINGS, NEWCASTLE (19.11.21) Words: Jake Anderson Newcastle’s Little Buildings hosted an evening that was saturated with heartfelt bangers by two of the North East’s rising stars – Lottie Willis and Sophia. Lottie Willis opened the event, flexing her great vocal performance straight away with her first track Long Roads. It’s a beautiful piece with a warm progression and mellow writing. Performing at Little Buildings brought out the best in her style, as the intimate venue bolstered the easy-going vibes, as evidenced on the gorgeous piano-based Mirrors. I felt the same for Sophia’s set. Suddenly, the singer’s bittersweet tracks became upbeat tearjerkers, her songwriting skill and sublime voice only emphasised thanks to the cosy venue and the new addition of a full band backing her; given the band’s chemistry, you would’ve thought they’d done this a million times. Having seen the songwriter perform acoustically at Waves festival earlier in the month, I found every song translated to a full band performance smoothly – giving Sophia’s usual pop production a fresh rock edge. Tracks like the ethereal Danced All Night and the dazzling Said You Loved Me worked especially well with the band, and were made even better with Sophia’s sincere stage presence and personality shining constantly throughout.

WARGASM, DEATH BLOOMS, BAMBIE THUG @ NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY STUDENTS’ UNION, NEWCASTLE (20.11.21) Words: Hope Lynes First up came Bambie Thug, an emerging artist evidently discovering their sound with a discography of sex-positive tracks, like the booming Pussy Money Power, and Billie Eilish-inspired vocals on track Necromancy. Metal three-piece Death Blooms (who performed again as Wargasm’s backing band) opened with their collaboration with the headliners, Shut Up, a violent chanting anthem which shuts down anything in their way, creating a wave of middle fingers from the crowd during an energetic mosh pit. This energy was maintained throughout the night, as written on Wargasm’s stage backdrop, the night promised to be ‘a sordid collusion of euphoria and violence’ and it certainly delivered a wickedly joyous yet angry night. The screamo punk duo effortlessly portray an unconventionally cool energy;

vocalist Milkie Way brought the chic and the slower romantic energy to the peaking tracks thanks to her bountiful vocal range, whereas her counterpart Matlock, jumping up on platforms and rising into the crowd, brought the aggression and the passionate engagement. The band revelled in the live energy, creating an immensely different listening experience to their singles, where passion was injected through screams and experimentation in a performance that felt more like an entertainment show than a gig. They opened with punchy new track Scratchcard Feeling which added an electric vibe to their heavy discography, and finished with electric fan favourite Spit, which sounds like five samples mashed into one. A work in progress track, Drilldo, was an aggressive anthem with a crudely addictive chorus.

BLACK MIDI, O. @ WYLAM BREWERY, NEWCASTLE (17.11.21) Words: Jake Anderson Denizens of the internet, such as myself, will definitely have heard of black midi (who style themselves in lowercase, typography fans). But for people with lives, black midi are a UK experimental rock/post-punk band with a soundscape deriving from progressive and math rock. It’s a style that has seen a rise in popularity the past year or so, with black midi’s acclaimed albums, Schlagenheim and Cavalcade, being at the forefront of the genre. The night started with O., a jazz punk duo with an interesting dynamic. With no vocals, they carried their set with just a saxophone and drum kit. Their songs had really nice grooves to them, capable of becoming antagonistic at a moment’s notice. black midi offered up one of the best translations from studio to live performances I’ve ever seen. This group of misfits danced their way onto the stage to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, picked up their instruments, and within seconds a mosh pit had formed. They bombarded the walls of the venue with intense instrumentation, each member giving it everything, as evidenced spectacularly on the ruthless-sounding Speedway. However, the real MVP of the night was saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi who had a fantastic stage presence and impressively swapped between brass instruments. It was a fantastic experience hearing my personal favourites like the violent 953 and the unpredictable Chondromalacia, but it was even better seeing the band’s oddball humour come through – perfectly evidenced by a disarming sea shanty performed during the set.



Jarv Is by Carl Chambers

ANNA MEREDITH @ SAGE GATESHEAD (12.11.21) Words: Leigh Venus Blasting off from a fantastic opening set that saw electro-classical composer Carmel Smickersgill smash a cracking cover of the relentless 2021 Ukrainian Eurovision entry, Anna Meredith was radiant throughout a majestic, mind-bending show. Anchored around 2020 Mercury Prize-nominated second album Fibs, a packed set accelerated immediately with the frenetic, boundless electro double-act of Sawbones and Inhale/Exhale. By turns keyboard-mashing and flaying the skin off a nearby drum, highlights (in a show composed almost entirely of highlights) included the ‘Empire Strikes Back by way of 4am in an out-of-town nightclub’ that is Bump, synth nightmare Vapours, the fantastically-monikered BPM 194: Tom Cruise Runs, and the four-songs-in-one beauty of Paramour. The band, as ever, were no slouches. Spine-tingling electric guitar from Jack Ross abounded, a goosebump-inducing cello-led tune from Maddie Cutter took the breath out of the room, and a filthy duet between Meredith and drummer Sam Wilson is the closest thing I’ve yet seen to on-stage foreplay. Only settling down once for a delightful cocktail-lounge muzak-backed advertisement for the post-show merch stand, a heartfelt Nothing Compares 2 U/Purple Rain mash-up bathed the room lilac for a joyous encore, sealing the deal for a rapt crowd. Mesmerising and drop-dead affable, self-described ‘farmer of dreams’ Meredith thrilled throughout a bountiful show that affirmed everything excellent about the return of live music.

JARV IS…, ALEXIS TAYLOR @ BOILER SHOP, NEWCASTLE (03.11.21) Words: Tracy Hyman Tour support Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip demonstrated tracks from his prolific but little-known solo project which ranged from slow, delicate and atmospheric otherworldly pop tinged with a beautiful melancholy, to semi-instrumental electro-synth numbers with a rhythmic slow dance vibe and repetitive hook line. Onto the main event and the light show was something else, a backdrop of a portal to another world. Jarvis Cocker strutted about the stage as only he can, ever the eccentric. An amiable showman for the most part – apart from


when he stopped second song, House Music All Night Long, short to curtly dismiss the photographers who were “killing the vibe” by pointing a camera at his face. The songs are a contemplation of mankind, life and society. Save The Whale, with its spoken word lyrics and soprano backing, and Must I Evolve (with its cult like chants of “yes, yes, yes yes” from the audience as they join in) seem apt with the ongoing COP26 conference in Glasgow. Then comes the singalong Cunts Are Still Running The World. Influences from dance, 70s and 80s merge together with harp and violin, all in time with the stage lights. Then, a brief detour to Aline, a cover of the French classic that Jarvis has re-recorded for The French Dispatch soundtrack. Jarvis reflects on the last two years, how we have been missing human connection and interaction. In front of an audience the songs come alive and radiate around the room alongside the rays of the stage illuminating a backlit Jarvis.

GEORGIA MAY @ ALPHABETTI THEATRE, NEWCASTLE (10.11.21) Words: Damian Robinson Participating in the third of Alphabetti’s three-week long Women Are Mint festival, Georgia May’s stripped back, soul high vibe fits perfectly with tonight’s desire to step out of a cold November evening and into the laid-back surroundings of the venue’s lounge and bar. Performing as a two-piece, with support from keyboardist and producer Daps, May’s sound tonight is designed to hang loose – gentle beats and background piano providing sufficient space for the focus of the evening to be on her superb, soul-driven, vocals. Standing out with blissful versions of Soul Sister and Fire, it’s nevertheless the jazzy Hesitation which steals the show thanks to its light synth drum textures and delicate jazz piano undercurrent, both combining to blow through the room with a groove-heavy delivery. A couple of reimagined covers, including a smooth version of Valerie, and a dance-party-starting take on Crazy, provide further evidence of how effective May’s production and set is; every texture and sound being precisely placed to support the star of the show – her voice.


Venus Grrrls by Victoria Wai

VENUS GRRRLS, ZELA, ABNORM @ HEAD OF STEAM, NEWCASTLE (08.11.21) Words: Paul Broadhead Citrus was an incredibly infectious poppy debut, but the rest of Abnorm’s set is a heavier affair, from the dirty blues rock stomp of In No Particular Order – calling out inattentive boyfriends – to the metal fest Burn In Hell, making Abnorm undoubtedly Newcastle’s next big thing on the rock scene. Since her days in The Silence, Liv Griff was destined for the stage and in ZELA she’s found the band to display her rock star credentials. Opener Sleep So Bad is a sleazy slice of rock pop, shimmering with catchy riffs and lyrical soundbites that grips the attention like a vice. Liv struts, bounces and owns the stage, belting out future single Chaos Queen, an epileptic fit of a tune that leaves its audience in a post-bliss daze. Leeds’ Venus Grrrls are the coolest gang in town, Freaky Friday letting rip with spits and snarls, in no mood to take prisoners. The amalgamation of five very different personalities and styles, they make music full of both style and substance. Only their song Amy – introduced with a plea to open-up about mental health issues – slows down the party/riot. Anthemic single Goth Girl threatens to make the Head of Steam boil over before closer Deranged, an angsty #metoo diatribe about being female in the music industry, blows the lid.

HOLLY REES @ ALPHABETTI THEATRE (04.11.21) Words: Hope Lynes Alphabetti Theatre’s stage is adorned simply with a wooden chair, acoustic guitar and mic. Usually armed with her band to rock out, Holly Rees instead performed her last solo acoustic set of the year, a stripped-back performance which channelled the rawness of her voice. Holly was confident and full of laughs (“I’m 29, and I’ve done my back out… if I’m a bit crap, don’t tell me, just clap anyways!) and there was also a vulnerability from her heartfelt songs which added to the intimacy of the night. Setlist rarities featured, such as the 2019 b-side Back of my Hand, an ode to the North East; an amorous track, both soulful and heartfelt, it leaves you focusing on the artist’s fascinatingly soft vocal range. Holly also debuted an upcoming single, English Bay, a beautifully romantic song which was a treat to catch live.

The highlight of the night was the upbeat Getting By, which packed a punch and injected playfulness to create the perfect balance in atmosphere within the dimly lit bar. The uplifting rockier track was reworked from band to acoustic, but you could tell Holly missed her band despite the fun, “You’d think I’d be full of patter without the guys, but I’m actually worse!” The night ended with Holly stating “Thanks for feeling things with me”, and that’s exactly what the night was – an outpouring of emotion that was shared between friends, fans and newcomers alike.

HENGE, SUNGOAT, SHUNYA @ COBALT STUDIOS, NEWCASTLE (05.11.21) Words: Evie Lake This was the gig that reminded me of how great it feels to dance. Electronic mastery that ranged from the moody to the joyfully insane; shimmery goats and minotaurs dancing around the stage and aliens who claim to not understand earth words, but sure as hell can make a great tune out of them. First up was Shunya, whose violin-led electronic alt. pop folk was all-consuming and seamlessly produced. Next was Sungoat. It’s not often that an encore is demanded from a support, as lamented by the frontman: “but we’ve only got shit ones left”. A combination of traditional Gaelic violin and electronic beats native to Powerhouse, Sungoat were sheer madness, with two musical contributors and an excess of four goat-clad dancers whose sole job was to run around and have a great time. The high-energy, neo-traditional bangers were irresistible and the atmosphere felt more like a pub lock-in rather than a Friday at Cobalt. Finally, Henge topped off the madness with convincing alien characters and their brand of cosmic rock. The tunes were fun and so electronic it truly felt we were on some mission through space. Mushroom One and Indigo Dust established the sublime elevation that comes with floating between prog rock and cosmic beats. It took some time for me to re-ground myself after the gig was over; the joy and the weightlessness of the atmosphere was spectacular and it was the most fun I’ve had in ages.


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Bryan – Tin Head

This. Is. Excellent. Whilst Tin Head may be a track about living with trauma, the listening experience is anything but traumatic. Comforting, in fact. Drawn in amongst waves of intertwining guitars gliding atop charming drum machine percussion and subtle synth tones, Middlesbrough’s Bryan (the duo) have created a soundscape so honest you’ll feel part of it. The bassline is brooding

Valley 59 – Only Just Begun

Pop punk laid bare in all its innocence, Only Just Begun is a student night fishbowl of palm muted guitars, adolescent vocals and catchy melodic hooks. It’s pop that you couldn’t feed to your parents and punk that punks would hate, is there a better space to occupy as a pop punk band? They’ve nailed it! Described as Britain’s answer to Blink-182 (was this a question that ever needed to be asked?) Valley-59 are sure to give you a hit of carcinogenically sweet late 90’s/early 00’s nostalgia packaged with wonderfully refined production. Well I guess this is growing up.

Andy Francis Johnson – Soldier With No Orders

An ambitious undertaking for solo artist Andy Francis Johnson, Soldiers With No Orders is the first single from his debut classic rock and blues EP Back To Square One (release date pending). The track is torn from the pages of the headbanger’s bible (1980’s edition) with all

and provides perfect grounding for the vocals; the delivery is raw and unrefined yet frighteningly beautiful, there’s no hiding here despite the wealth of effects and production. This is a collaboration in its infancy and I cannot wait to hear what else comes from it. Bedroom pop has found a foothold in this strange landscape we find ourselves in and Bryan should firmly be in your thoughts.

the riffs to back it up until you get to the chorus, but thankfully the lead guitar comes charging back. Redemption. All the nuts and bolts are there and I’d love to hear what this track would sound like with a full band, it’s begging to be jammed and enjoyed by an ensemble. I don’t know what the future holds for this project but I hope it gets the enjoyment it deserves. Now pass me the brown ale, I want to play along.

The White Line – Accept Not Expect

A fun soundscape closing out Sunderland indie rockers The White Line’s debut album, Accept Not Expect is a track that will surely get the crowd dancing when played live and also leave you lost in your own sofa when enjoyed alone. A psychedelic journey in a surprise package, it’s groove from the get go as enticing percussion lays the foundation for ethereal bursts of guitar that guide you towards its expansive centre. A driving

bassline paves the way for an abundance of dancehall sounds broken up by the hook. It’s slick, texture-rich and tactfully anthemic with all the right components to get you moving regardless of where you are.

Graeme Richardson – Ticket To Hide

Consett-based singer songwriter Graeme Richardson brings us Ticket To Hide, “a short tongue-in-cheek song about jumping on a plane and escaping to a warm and sunny island away from the awfulness that is the current world we live in.” A lashing of summer sun packaged into 100 seconds, this is Americana-inspired folk that you can’t help but daydream along to. Listen more than twice and you’ll end up singing along; upbeat, playful and borderline hymnal, Graeme wants to escape and for those 100 seconds, you’re dreaming of the sunshine with him.




TALES NOSE DIVE Words: Luke Waller Nose Dive, the third and latest single released by Newcastle and Sunderland-based alt. rock band TALES, is a marvellous mixture of modern anthemic punk and old-school heaviness, all topped with a hypnotic, futuristic gleam. There’s more than a smidgen of Foo Fighters about the whole affair – but who’s going to complain about that? Following 2019’s dissonant, psychedelic debut single Amitriptyline and 2020’s more sober Muscle Memory, Nose Dive seems a natural progression for the group. Inspired by an episode of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian series Black Mirror, the track deals with the role social media plays in young people’s lives. From its bright opening bars through to its crowning, innovative outro, Nose Dive is perhaps TALES’ finest work yet. Released: 10.12.21

THE BAND FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION GLITTER TITS EP Words: Michael O’Neill It’s very rare that a band with a Really Fucking Good Band Name can deliver the unique goods that their eye-raising moniker promises. However, The Band For Disease Control And Prevention certainly are up to the task on this six-track release. The title track alone, a spell-binding riff-laden ode to basking in one’s own excellence, is a delightfully goofy and chest-pounding banger, brilliantly showcasing the ferocious talent of vocalist/guitarist Karena Serdeka. Elsewhere, the social commentary on the direct Stories and Read All About It sits effortlessly alongside the playful pop songcraft on Space Invader. It makes for a relentlessly entertaining, refreshingly thought-provoking and gloriously unpretentious twenty minutes of unadulterated DIY widescreen punk, fit to burst with character and glorious riffage. Released: 06.12.21



Image by Scarlet Kane

Words: Jake Anderson Festival season might be over, but for some it never truly stops. Some of us like to bring those dirty guitar riffs that entrance thousands back with us, to add a sense of escapism to our mundane lives. On the other hand, some of us just like indie rock. No matter the side of the fence you’re on, Jarpsy have something for you with their new single Desolate Towns. The Mackems hook your ears from the opening strutting guitars, which become the foundation looping throughout the track. Once the riff is drilled into you, the track builds up with rhythmic drums and thick vocals, climaxing with a guitar solo you could mosh to. Released: 03.12.21

SISKIN ELECTRIC LOVE Words: Evie Lake The electronic duo transport us right onto the dancefloor for nearly seven minutes of epic, soulful and joyous 90s trance. The push and pull of the beat see textures build and then fall away, creating a cycle of give and take reminiscent of human connection and the Electric Love that pervades the track. Whether that love is shared between two people or a person and the music, the repetitive vocals haunt the background establishing an ecstasy of feeling. It’s a tune intended for the speakers of a club, where we can dance sweatily but carelessly, allowing the mammoth beats to dictate movement and energy. Electric Love is melodic and bright and makes you want to experience that kind of love too. Released: 03.12.21

SAM FRENCH D|W|F Words: Hope Lynes Sam French, an alternative pop solo artist and producer, brings a uniqueness to his new track D|W|F through the inclusion of spoken word broadcasts into the soundscape. The news report-style voice adds a layer of depth which makes the atmosphere feel like floating. You can feel the layering and advanced production in this uplifting piece, which is unsurprising given French’s position as a skilled producer. At times, it’s a genre-blurring piece; the vocals are reminiscent of emo rap, although they’re backed by instrumentation which is more indie pop in style. The raspy voice is almost haunting, and the track is certainly memorable through the catchy and fun chorus. The song is ultimately based on a reflexive experience, and evident through a rising and falling ambience. Released: 17.12.21

BOSOLA ME ON A GOOD DAY Words: Hope Lynes Bosola’s new track Me On A Good Day is a certified gloomy banger. The atmospheric sad mood of the lyrics are in stark contrast to the uplifting nature of some of the guitar riffs, and the unique vocals also work to blend misery with the eccentric. With a modern shoegaze edge, this track is for fans of JAWS, spinning melancholic winter content with slightly springy soundscapes. The tune is the first taste of a new EP from the Heaton-based alternative three-piece, which is due for release in Spring 2022. With an old-school vibe that resonates a state of familiarity, this is a powerful song that is rather hard-hitting to listen to due to the tortured emotions the vocalist projects. Released: 06.12.21

TOM CAT E AND THE STRAYS EMILIO’S MONSTER Words: James Hattersley If I heard these stray cats prowling around the alleys in the dead of night, scrapping with each other and howling up a storm, I wouldn’t be mad. Formed over the height of the pandemic in Newcastle, Tom Cat E And The Strays have pawed together a collection of hard rock hitters, starting with debut single Emilio’s Monster. Grab your cat nip and buckle up for a non-stop, relentless head banger which purr-fectly blends together the genre’s more fur-miliar elements; punctuating guitar, galvanised bass and paw-erly drums and still invites an air of flair and originality. The Strays deliver it in a frantic, driven and convincing manner that keeps it as fresh as door delivered milk. Last one – Mew-sic. Released: 01.12.21

THE BLYTONS I THINK THE WORLD OF YOU Words: James Hattersley Not to set expectations too high or anything, but The Blytons’ I Think The World Of You has one of the catchiest choruses I’ve heard in a while. An ode to the pitfalls of our social media, quick fix, one hour photo, instant oatmeal society, the song takes aim at online dating and the authenticity and fleetingness of those ‘connections’. Running at 2.37, there’s a bit of meta self-referential humour as the song is over before it even begins (like my dates at uni). The hodge podge of instruments thrown together; aggressively happy ukulele and over-the-top mariachi trumpets are akin to swiping right so frantically that you are saddled with a stub for a thumb. Don’t swipe left. Released: 03.12.21

ANALOGUE BLOOD EQUINOX EP Words: Jake Anderson Have you ever wondered how it would feel to be forcefully given hallucinogens and then shoved straight into a psychedelic vortex? You have? That’s a weird thing to wonder in your free time, but you’ll be happy to know that Analogue Blood’s newest EP, Equinox, is as close as you’ll get to this feeling. This five-track EDM project is full of distorted guitar loops, punchy drums that’ll go mano-a-mano with your ears, juxtaposing with the hypnotic vocal samples spliced throughout. Some of the vocal layering synergises with the clean production of the EP really well, such as the electrifying Hypnotize, but on tracks like opener Celestial Equator it slightly misses the mark – having an odd vocal effect and being too quiet in the mix. Released: 14.01.21

MOTHERLAND WAITING Words: Michael O’Neill A ferocious and unapologetically loud transmission from the Newcastle-based alt. rock quintet, Waiting is a glorious dose of heart-on-sleeve anthemic rock which charts, in the group’s words, “the various stages of love wherein the narrator is completely giving their self to someone but doesn’t know where they stand within it all”. Despite being a well-trodden narrative in the pop songbook, Waiting’s narrator never comes off as insufferable or self-pitying (the typical pitfall of any song that deals in frustrated love and power chords) and I adore how the shifting tempos, the squalls of evocative melodies (the intertwining lead guitar lines are just divine) and the brilliant lyricism really evokes the frenzy of emotions that can accompany such a conquest with phenomenal accuracy. Released: 03.12.21

SUDDENLY WE STOPPED DREAMING BECAUSE OF YOU EP Words: Evie Lake Suddenly We Stopped Dreaming’s latest release is characterised by collaboration and resolution, the tracks are defined by variation. The voice and lyrics of Orion Lake defines the first and last tracks, Because Of You and Sea Of Blue, as dreamy and wistful odes to lovers that seem native to a coming of age drama. The alluring, shoegaze melodies weave in and out of emotive beats that sees the EP come full circle by completion. Someday sees Max Shephed enter on vocals, striking a different note of clean, affecting, indie rock reminiscent of Car Seat Headrest, whilst Silent Movie 2 is a reworking of a previous single with Juniper. This version establishes a more active and passionate tone, with more guitars, oomph and feeling. Released: 07.01.22

CORAL SNAKE SLOW MOTION Words: Luke Waller Coral Snake dance on the border between hard rock and modern progressive metal for the first time in just over a year with their latest release, Slow Motion. And masterfully, at that. Formed in 2019 on Teesside by three former bandmates and singer/guitarist Jamie Farrell, Coral Snake are on the rise – soon to play alongside veteran Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell and his band, the Bastard Sons. Like their two previous singles, Pierce The Heart and Waiting In Line, Slow Motion blows the listener away. Between the gentle, contemplative intro, mind-boggling guitar solos, passionate screams and elephantine rhythm and bass section of this latest track, there is nothing not to love for fans of Alter Bridge and the like. Released: 03.12.21



4.5 / 5 Image by Denise Else

KATHRYN WILLIAMS AND CAROL ANN DUFFY MIDNIGHT CHORUS (ONE LITTLE INDEPENDENT RECORDS) Words: Laura Doyle With the potential for a somewhat normal Christmas this year, two linguistic powerhouses have come together to create something suitable for everyone’s festive celebration. Former poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy has built her career on a foundation of transforming everyday experiences into fantastical works of literature. Now, thanks to the musical prowess of folk artist Kathryn Williams, the Yuletide season has been condensed into Midnight Chorus: a collection of harmonic pieces that can serve as this December’s soundtrack. Refreshingly, this isn’t a record full of saccharine songs about how it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas preparations can be as stressful as the day itself is enjoyable, and sometimes it’s overhyped to the point that it can never live up to expectation. Midnight Chorus could go some way to remedy over-expectations: Hidden Meanings reflects on realisations that only come about at the end of the year when writing Christmas cards reminds you of all the folks who deserve more contact than a glitter bomb through their letterbox. (Please Be) Somewhere’s gentle folk melody masks a sadder, more desperate plea to absent loved ones. While this isn’t the work of the devout, the influence of traditional carols can fool the ear into thinking the television set has been tuned to Songs of Praise. Really, though, it just means everyone around the dinner table – devout or secular – should find something pleasing to listen to whilst tucking into their turkey, goose or nut roast. Apostle’s chiming bells invokes Christingle services, while Dear Lord is technically a prayer to a higher power, albeit for the chance to meet Dolly Parton. While it would be a difficult Christmas list item to achieve, there are maybe more pressing problems that currently hold the Almighty’s attention. But it’s the songs about the little things that stand out best on Midnight Chorus. Snow Angel takes a child’s memory of playing in the snow and shares it with a backdrop of soft, ethereal music that transforms it into a tangible scene of childlike imagination. Titular track Midnight Chorus sees the album out into the New Year – wishing everyone good health has never been more poignant as we wave 2021 goodbye. Released: 03.12.21

ALSO OUT THIS MONTH Arca – KICK ii (XL Recordings, 03.12) // Bonobo – Fragments (Ninja Tune, 14.01) // Samm Henshaw – Untidy Soul (AWAL, 28.01) // Elvis Costello & The Imposters – The Boy Named If (EMI, 14.01) // Thyla – S/T (Easy Life Records, 28.01) // Aeon Station – Observatory (Sub Pop, 10.12) // Brimheim – can’t hate myself into a different shape (W.A.S Entertainment, 28.01) // Amber Mark – Three Dimensions Deep (EMI/PMR Records, 28.01) // Elujay – CRKMVNT (AWAL, 03.12) // Silverbacks – Archive Material (Full Time Hobby, 21.01) // Toundra – Hex (InsideOut Music, 14.01) // Love Object – New Flesh (Italians Do It Better, 04.12) // Fazer – Plex (City Slang, 14.01) // Pearly Gate Music – Mainly Gestalt Pornography (Bella Union, 03.12) // Mothermary – I Am Your God (Italians Do It Better, 28.01) // Combo Chimbita – Ire (ANTI-, 29.01) // Logan Lynn – New Money (Kill Rock Stars, 21.01) // Treetop Flyers – Old Habits (Loose, 03.12) // Eve Adams – Metal Bird (Basin Rock, 14.01) // Madmess – Rebirth (Hassle Records, 10.12) // Jake Xerxes Fussell – Good And Green Again (Paradise of Bachelors, 21.01)


Words: Jonathan Coll Forthcoming Years & Years album Night Call is Olly Alexander’s maiden solo project, and first album since his incredible performance in It’s A Sin. Following the arrival of Starstruck earlier this year, Olly recruited Kylie Minogue for a collaborative remix of the single. It sets the tone for an album which explores identity and desire in a much more visceral way than his earlier indie pop albums. Kylie’s influence is evident throughout, no more so than on new single Crave. It’s a sound which leans heavily into the sort of fizzing, giddy disco pop which has made the Australian so iconic. It’s a marked change from Years & Years’ earlier work, but one that feels necessary given Olly’s recent personal journey. Released: 07.01.22

4/5 JOSEPHINE FOSTER GODMOTHER (FIRE RECORDS) Words: Robert Nichols Shimmying into Godmother is like slowly immersing yourself in a rich and wondrous nursery rhyme delight. American singer songwriter Josephine Foster sets out on opening track Hum Menina with an acoustic guitar and folky floaty voice before opening the floodgates to a sea of swirling synths. We are dangled on a golden thread in a magical psych folk dreamland. You might fear that the weird electronics could overtake and overwhelm the fragile double-tracked voice and careful strumming, yet Josephine is toying with us because instead the tender voice remains on top of the mix and its message is amplified by the otherworldly synths. Beautiful and beguiling, mellow and melodic. What an absolute enchanting treat. Released: 28.01.22








Words: Laura Doyle Begone one hit wonder mentality – The Wombats have been going steadily for years with acceptable amounts of success since that Joy Division song first hit indie club nights country-wide. They may not have been the first to couple upbeat pop melodies with nihilistic commentary of modern life, but they’ve been doing it far longer than a lot of contemporaries who fell by the wayside long ago. Whether it’s the existential crisis set to a carefree jazz groove of Everything I Love Is Going To Die or the optimistic, atmospheric mellowness of Method To The Madness, Fix Yourself Not The World updates that tried and tested formula with songs recorded remotely in lockdown that will have you contemplating all your life choices on a dancefloor of your choosing. Released: 07.01.22

Words: Paul Broadhead Jay McAllister’s 14th serving is a celebration of life when we all need it the most. The pastoral folk rock opener A Beautiful Place contains the sort of lyrics that should be part of the national curriculum, whilst even its direct sequel, Stones, finds hope amongst the ruins. McAllister’s a true wordsmith incapable of cynicism; the jaunty Not Everybody Thinks We’re Doomed being the perfect anecdote for what’s been a crazy two years by anybody’s standards. Getting more experimental and playful towards the end of the record, the shuffling Apples flirts with rap whilst Ready For Action embraces beats and samples before finale Love Yourself epically brings to a close a truly life affirming record. Just what the nutritionist ordered. Released: 01.12.21

Words: Laura Doyle Since the good ol’ days of 300BC, ‘Spartan’ has come to mean primitive, without excess, or barren – everything this ambitious musical project isn’t. The Dutch metal band took a look at Ancient Greek Mythology and thought, “Nice, but could do with a bit more pizzazz.” Sprinkle on some buttery-smooth riffs from dual lead guitars, overlay the war drums and punctuate everything with growls intimidating enough to have Leonidas quaking in his sandals, and you’ve got yourself a Spartan track. ‘Former mythology-obsessed kids who have become full blown metalheads’ is a niche audience – but Spartan do an exceptional job at catering to their crowd with gusto so theatrical you can practically smell the dry ice. Released: 14.01.22



3.5 / 5




Words: Paul Brown The last Blood Red Shoes album, Get Tragic, heralded something of a rebirth, with a broken arm for Laura-Mary Carter forcing her to put the guitar down for a bit, which made for a synth-heavy record. They’re continuing their explorations on Ghosts On Tape, pushing them even further to create something deliciously dark in mood. It’s never more ominous than in the menacing pulse of Morbid Fascination or the almost oppressive brood of Sucker. Old-school fans may be gratified by the level of aggression on the record too, exemplified by the dominant 1/2 of Steven Ansell’s vocal and drumming on I Am Not You and Give Up. This is a powerful record which reminds you just how brilliantly Carter and Ansell work together. Released: 14.01.22

Words: Paul Broadhead Lockdown has done nothing to dampen the feel-good spirit of Fickle Friends, their sophomore record finds them full of positivity from the opener Love You To Death’s in your face dance vibes and dirty guitar riffs, to the high adrenaline blast of Yeah Yeah Yeah. Won’t Hurt Myself is a nice slice of emo pop and a potential single whilst both Write Me A Song and Glow are big fun party anthems – the latter with a distinct 70s groove – that will please fans of the band’s debut. Pretty Great’s summery vibes will warm up the winter blues and the title is a fairly apt summary for a band that haven’t let the small matters of global pandemics get in their way. Released: 14.01.22

Words: Elodie A. Roy Ichiko Aoba’s seventh studio album relates the journey of a young girl across the South Pacific sea, as she travels to the fictional island of Adan. We hear the faint tinkling of bells, waves, birds, faraway flutes, muted pianos and the dispassionately sirenic voice of Aoba, hovering above everything. This is extremely slow, sub-maritime music. Life seems to happen behind an opaque glass – it is simultaneously precise and muffled, obstinately impenetrable and lonely. The coldness of the digital recording reinforces the feeling of distance. And I cannot help contrasting Windswept Adan with Pacific’s 1978 album – an earlier musical imagining of the South Pacific sea, composed by Haruomi Hosono, Shigeru Suzuki and Tatsuro Takahashi – where every element seemed magically alive. Released: 03.12.21








Words: Lee Hammond This highly anticipated debut album certainly lives up to expectations. Yard Act flourished in lockdown and with The Overload they’ve only compounded that initial fervour. It’s an album that captures the state of the nation, lyrically adept, these tracks demand your attention. The nation’s cognitive dissonance is called into question with the likes of Dead Horse and Land Of The Blind, whereas Tall Poppies provides an all too stark and relatable story for those who originate from ‘small towns’. James Smith’s observational brilliance and ability to portray these characters is what makes The Overload exceptional. His wry wit, poking fun at society, appealing to everyone’s conscience, will make you question yourself. A truly incredible record. Released: 07.01.22

4/5 BAND OF HORSES THINGS ARE GREAT OUT (BMG) Words: Stephen Oliver Founding member Ben Bridwell has put together a new line-up to record the first release in five years from the South Carolina outfit. The personnel changes and the changes in Bridwell’s own relationships has clearly had an impact lyrically, as he emotes about the issues he has been facing. Most of this album was written pre-pandemic which has resulted in numerous reminders of life’s journey in normal times. The songs talk about the connections that we once took for granted and the difficulty in sourcing the truth. Musically there is an expansive room-filling sound of energetic guitars over which the almost ethereal vocal melodies are laid. The sensitive final result treads the fine line between fragile and epic. Released: 21.01.22


Words: Robin Webb Screamo as a genre comes of age, as do foxtails themselves with this their fourth long player; a tale of angst and loss in the face of rejection through self-assertion. The album sounds live and vital, with reverberating up front production capturing every sonic nuance, guttural wail and emotional harmonic in remarkable clarity. It’s a collection full of twists and turns where delicate introspection suddenly transforms into soaring screeches of agony and pain elevated by full frontal hardcore math rock clamour, whilst the introduction of violinist Jared Schmidt has added a lilting dimension complementing the heartfelt lyrical anguish of Megan Cadena-Fernandez. Closing track Paper Tiger is a gloriously complete full stop to this blistering magnum opus. Released: 14.01.22

Words: Robin Webb Osees frontman John Dwyer further propagates his burgeoning musical family tree in this improvised fusion of fuzzy freaky prog, jazz and driving 70s motorik space rock. It’s incidental, a colour soaked soundtrack to a failed heist where the crim, high on dope, has a fever dream speeding a hapless getaway down flickering neon highways haunted by visions of perps, peers and the cops man, dig it! There’s a real nostalgic retro feel to tracks such as Toagut, Oneironaut and the opener Gong Splat, with its wild wah-wah stabs and full force funky drumming. Meanwhile the jazzier numbers like Cultivated Graves and Yuggoth Travel Agency channel Hendrix and Sun Ra. Our possessed protagonists are truly angels and demons at play. Released: 17.12.21

4.5 / 5




Words: Stephen Oliver PENGSHUi’s latest album is a refreshing angry cocktail derived from its three constituent cultural parts: drummer Pravvy Prav was originally a heavy metal kid before mixing it up by DJing jungle and drum ‘n’ bass in his teens, guitarist Fatty studied jazz before going on to play with the likes of grime duo Newham Generals and P Money, and frontman and MC Illaman would play his Grandfather’s reggae music before finding himself surrounded by the worlds of pirate radio, rap, rude boys and skaters. Distil it together and you have an assertive political social commentary rapping over crushing guitars and urgent drumming. They acknowledge the problems of surviving in the UK from political sleaze to mental health. This is an urgent call for change. Released: 28.01.22

Words: Stephen Oliver Chastity’s songwriter Brandon Williams has created some cathartic songs for the Whitby, Ontario outfit’s third long playing release. There is more than a passing reference to The Smashing Pumpkins, and these beautiful songs show how influential they were in the way many of the tracks are arranged. This is an enjoyable album however, more than easy listening fodder for BBC Radio 2 listeners. The gentle, emotional songs are initially easy on the ear, but underneath each one lies some clever hooks and catchy lyrics. There is a darker side to this album too; Williams explores the potentially nightmarish existence of his own suburban life, and the futile need to find a sense of community within our society. Released: 14.01.22


3.5 / 5


4.5 / 5




Words: Jason Jones Connecticut upstarts Anxious have come piling into the fray with debut album Little Green House, proudly sporting a bruising canniness and a tender gratitude for the dynamism of proper, classic emo and the grit of DIY hardcore. Boasting ten slabs of luscious, heartfelt angst, the five-piece introduce themselves with a record that earnestly meditates on the exploration of coming-ofage, the empty bewilderment of divorce, and the aching inevitability of change. Borrowing heavily from the hook-laden fuzz of ‘90s alt. rock, Little Green House isn’t lacking in admirable moments, but the sage composition of More Than A Letter and the pounding freneticism of Speechless are particular peaks. Anxious will still have higher gears to find, perhaps, but as far as debuts go, this is a decidedly commendable effort. Released: 21.01.22


Words: Lee Fisher The perpetually, gloriously baffling Boris follow 2020’s self-released NO with W (it spells NOW, see?). Where NO was 40 minutes of thrash and D-beat fury, W is mostly a delve into their dreamier tendencies, and it’s lovely. Aside from the riffs of The Fallen there’s not much here that’s metal. The opener is a languid but unsettling drift, while Icelina is so Cocteau Twins-indebted it’s surprising when Wata’s voice comes in rather than Elizabeth Fraser’s. Drowning By Numbers is a twitchy dub-punk workout and Beyond Good & Evil sees their MBV fetish return unabated. The latter half of the album is more abstract but still very much in a shoegaze/dream pop vein. Not their most cohesive album, but there’s a lot to love. Released: 21.01.2022


Words: Lee Fisher As with their wonderful 2018 debut, Black (clarinet) and Jones (piano) have reinterpreted a handful of songs with a simplicity and grace that makes my heart hurt. There’s something almost naïve about their sound, like overhearing a practice in a school music room, which isn’t to say their playing isn’t sublime. There’s some lilting electronics, even a drum machine on Y Cwsg, while answerphone snippets wash across the slightly discordant Five Hundred Miles, adding a little tension to the general bucolic mood. In fact the most adorned track – All Of A Sudden – sounds out of place and jarring. The closing version of Neu’s Seeland is a heartbreaker, and it would take a harder heart than mine not to get a little wistful over their Camberwick Green rework. Gorgeous. Released: 28.01.22




We’re Endless Window, a sort of non-physical, gestalt entity that exists beyond all human concepts of physiology, geography and holy mathematics that – for reasons even we struggle to fully comprehend – appears to you in the form of sporadic DIY gig promotions around Newcastle. Our next event, Festive Window, is the sixth instalment of a mostly annual (2020 being what it was) New Year’s Eve Eve party that also raises funds for a variety of worthwhile causes (previous nights having raised money for Mermaids, The Refugee Council and PAPYRUS amongst others). This year, we’re back at our home venue The Cumberland Arms on Thursday 30th December with live performances from Ponyland, Pit Pony, Badger and Emergency Librarian 2 to raise funds for Newcastle West End Foodbank. Here are a few tracks which float our boat...

BROADCAST - UNCHANGING WINDOW & WENDY & BONNIE ENDLESS PATHWAY We have been asked multiple times over the years (twice, in fact) where our name comes from. As our actual name will cause your tongue to turn to ash and salt your family lineage for centuries to come, we chose a more human-friendly nom de plume from two songs by artists we admire: Wendy & Bonnie, a short lived psychedelic folk sister act who made one cult classic album (Genesis) and Broadcast, influenced by Wendy & Bonnie amongst others but who crafted a world of electronic beauty and hazy revelation all their own. (We still miss you Trish).

THE NOISE & THE NAÏVE WASABI We have been blessed/deeply fluky to host early doors shows for many artists we adore – Me Lost Me, Straight Girl and Blóm amongst others – but getting to host the first and last Newcastle shows for The Noise & the Naïve, a delightful, life-affirming Francophone garage rock

duo was a real honour. It was love at first listen to their demo, and we hope they find their way back to these shores for a visit some day down the road.

GRUMBLING FUR THE BALLAD OF ROY BATTY A band that sums up so much of what we love at Endless Window: standing in defiance of easy categorisation or strict genre delineation, pushing at sonic possibilities but with a taste for exquisite pop euphoria nonetheless. Bringing them up for a show in 2017 was at once the most financially irresponsible and incredibly rewarding thing we’ve done to date. No regrets, no refunds.

BADGER BISCUITS FOR DINNER Joining us for approximately the thousandth time at The Cumberland Arms on 30th December to help raise money for Newcastle West End Foodbank, we love Badger as a band and as people. Surreal spoken word rants, off-beat hip-hop beats and splatterings of punk all over – what’s not to like?

THANK GOOD BOY Looking to the future, we’re incredibly excited to be bringing Thank up for their first Newcastle show in February. A dizzying collage of noise rock and synth experimentation all coated in tar-black wit – think an unholy union of The Body, These New Puritans and Scooter.

GALAXIANS CHEMICAL REACTION Having started as more of a dual gig/club night before segueing into more standard gig promotions for reasons of practicality (although if you need someone to lunge wildly at their laptop playlist in front of other people sometime, we’re a cheap date), the possibilities of communality, surprise discovery and actually enjoying yourself are still what drive us. We’re against backwards bores, concrete stuckists and dour nothingness – the future is happening, whether you like it or not. For our part? We intend to see it through dancing.



Chemical City

26 November 2021 – 24 April 2022 An innovative look at links between historic synthetics production in the Tees Valley and contemporary art and design. MIMA presents Chemical City, a major thematic exhibition on the legacies of synthetics production in the Tees Valley. Opening with a focus on the development of plastics in the area, the exhibition expands into broader social, economic, material and ecological themes. Selected design products and historical archives chart relationships between early experiments with synthetic fibres and dyes and


contemporary innovations in more sustainable fashion. Painting, sculpture and film by artists trace societal and material impacts of twentieth century manufacturing on people and places. Featuring three major commissions bringing together talented artists based in the Tees Valley, London and Rotterdam. Follow us @mimauseful for updates on our programme and activities.

Image: Courtesy Annie O’Donnell, ICI Christmas Party



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