FEATURE: Evolution Emerging – Ones To Watch | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s that time of year again -yes, already – where artists and fans alike gather in their droves to the Ouseburn Valley for one of the most important events of the north-east gig calendar. Over the last nine years, Evolution Emerging has unearthed some of the most exciting talent the region has to offer. The Generator funded and curated multi-venue mini-festival efficiently developed a model that sees a collection of promising local acts benefit from industry experience and the opportunity to impress on a big stage. Last year saw bands like A Festival, A Parade, Avalanche Party and Kingsley Chapman & The Murder thrive in ecstatic performances that will go down in regional folklore. This year looks just as promising, with over forty acts of various genres and styles on offer once again, across Ouseburn’s most treasured venues.

I caught up with some of the talented lot at this years’ Media Bootcamp to give you a better insight into who is involved and help you draw up that all-important itinerary for Saturday 27th May.

Callum Pitt (Cluny 2 – 5pm)

This years’ lineup sports a hefty contingent of singer-songwriters and Callum Pitt is one of those leading the charge. His first two releases You’d Better Sell It While You Can and Least He’s Happy have been racking up the plays on Spotify and receiving praise from across the blogosphere. Describing his sound as ‘Energetic indie folk with lots of harmonies’, the Geordie artist is brimming with confidence and optimism. He also seems more than ready to impress at Evolution Emerging for the second time running, “It means a lot to be involved this year”, says Pitt, “I played last year and it was at Blank Studios which is a smaller stage, so it’s really nice to be asked back this time to a bigger stage like Cluny 2. It’s cool, because it shows that Generator believe that I’ve made progress over the last year and I can’t wait.

As well as performing as a solo artist, Pitt has been working with other local musicians to refine his live show in time for the main event, “This set will be my first ever with a full band. I’ve been playing a lot with guitar, bass, drums and piano, but for this show It’ll be the first one with electric guitar added in the background. Reece Spencer will be joining me from A Festival, A Parade along with Luke from Shields, so I can’t wait to play in full collaboration with everyone. It’s nice playing with people who are your mates as well and having a different perspective on the live sound. All I’d like out of it is just to develop the show and get all of my mates together, have lots of love for musicians, a big sing-a-long and to have a good drunken night!”

BLESH (The Cluny – 6.30pm)

South Shield-based trio BLESH have been going strong since the release of their self-titled debut EP last year. The four-track recording including grunge-pop tracks like Swings and Roundabouts and Fruit came as a surprise to most, as the band had only just birthed into existence, “We were all skint, so the main choice was, ‘Andrew has Ableton, so let’s make an EP’”, explains Reece Monaghan (Vocals, Guitar). “We launched the band at the same time which most bands don’t do and the buzz can kind of die.  But It’s still getting quite a lot of traction now, seven to eight months down the line which is really good. Festivals like this are good for bands of my level because it gives us opportunity to bring a good crowd but also get people from the industry. It’s not highly probable that industry types are going to go to smaller venues, so this kind of thing is a great opportunity to get noticed. Some of the songs off the EP getting added to the Spotify playlists is great for us, 10,000 monthly listeners which isn’t amazing compared to bigger bands, but it’s great for a band from Shields.”

The band’s Facebook bio reads, “3 Geordie lads making music out of beans”, and has caused a bit of confusion, I don’t want people to get the wrong impression thinking we just write songs about beans”, says Reece Monaghan (Vocals, Guitar). “Saying that, we have just written a song called Takeaway, so… We are just a sort of energetic alternative rock band, with quite poppy structures, easy to follow, the odd long song now and then and some shredding guitar solos.”

BLESH are set to play one of the most prestigious venues in Ouseburn, The Cluny, but Monaghan remains very chilled when explaining what people can expect,six or seven pretty hard hitting tunes with the occasional chilled one. That’s all a good gig should be, a good mixture.”

Shamu (The Tyne Bar – 7.45pm)

Electronic alt pop enthusiasts SHAMU are another band on the rise, who have garnered attention for their brilliant live shows and complex take on indie-pop. We were absolutely buzzing to be offered it to be honest,” says Jonathon Evans (Vocals, Guitar, Electronics). “This kind of event is rich in local talent and I think it’s important that people support each other. It’s like the cream of the crop of local talent and we’ve tried in previous projects to get in. So, to be on it and see the lineup is really cool. Just to be in same realm as some of our favorite artists like Sagaboi and Cauls.”

The band have been hiding away for the best part of a year, honing their songwriting skills and getting to know their sound. Their latest single Where To Land is a great indication of just what the band are capable of doing and shows exactly why they’ve already drawn comparisons to experimental bands like Battles and Wild Beasts. “There’s a lot of multi-tasking and we wanted to master what we do live. We make a lot of samples by recording guitars and chopping and stretching so it’s got that glitch sort of weird sound going on but at the core of the songs is a kind of solid alternative pop song. I guess we are for fans of stuff like Alt J, Everything Everything and even Bonobo.”

Shamu will be one of The Tyne Bar’s many great attractions and their set may have a little surprising twist for those in attendance, “We’re hoping to do a collaboration with another artist. We want it to be something more than what people might have seen from us before.”

Novyi Lef (The Ship Inn – 8pm)

There’s never been a better time to be a politically charged punk band. Everything is pretty shit right now, so there’s plenty to rant about. Rather than simply bashing guitars off speakers, Novyi Lef (named after a 1920’s Soviet arts publication) are channeling their anger into something a lot more intriguing. Taking their cues from synthesiser-driven noise and the concrete structures that enclose our cities and towns, the duo offer an analogue free-for-all, where sounds take on a whole new meaning. “We kind of describe ourselves as ‘electro-clash with a modernist conscience’”, says Thomas Reah (synths, production), “all the instruments are synths and drum machines. We sing songs that are mostly about brutalist architecture and modern art, like we have a song about a sculpture by Henry Moore, so it’s quite arty.

Novyi Lef will play the more intimate space of The Ship Inn and their well-informed chaos is a great alternative for those looking for something a bit different, “Our singer Euan has a tendency to deliver some sort of sermon about art and the symbolic nature of brutalist architecture. If you’re into local architecture or that kind of thing, you can probably learn a thing or two. I think we’re quite different, we have our own sound. The songs are quite short, like ninety-second punk songs. It’s all high pace, high energy, noisy synths, you know it’s gonna get a bit loud, a bit experimental, a lot of knob twiddling and stuff like that. It’s a lot of fun!”

The Black Sheep Frederick Dickens (Little Buildings – 8.30pm)

Named after the mysterious and wayward younger brother of Charles Dickens, The Black Sheep Frederick Dickens is the electro—goth brainchild of Darlington-based duo David Saunders (Vocals) and Rob Irish (Production, Keys). We do a type of music where people just say ‘What the fuck is that’…”, says Saunders, doing well not to pigeonhole his band, “so for us to be included it just says to people, ‘Do what you want!’. It’s great that they’ve accepted us, when you get to my age, any acceptance with the cool kids is mint!”

The pair released their debut EP Shrines last year; a cinematic and atmospheric take on gloom-ridden synth pop. Tracks such as Penny Buns and Gin references Frederick’s decent into alcoholism, whilst Sibling Rivalry encapsulates an estranged brotherly relationship in a dramatic piano ballad. It’s a bit prog rock in terms of a concept, but the songs stand alone. We wrote them around relatable themes, using modern reference points. It’s great ‘cos we’ve managed to incorporate everything…our town, heritage, mine and Rob’s friendship and various styles of music. There’s a punk spirit to it too…like with [the track] Austerity Measures. It’s dead easy to just say ‘Fuck the Tories’, but we wanted to give it a bit of drama and used the analogy of when he (Fred) was severed from his family. We’re using something that everyone can relate to…the floored individual, I guess”. As the frontman of local blues rock behemoths Goy Boy McIlroy, Saunders became renowned as an intense and powerful frontman. That stage presence has becomes even more pronounced alongside Irish’s dark and dramatic production, colliding with the duo’s thirst for experimentation, Sometimes you have to work out how to play it live, and you’re thinking ‘wouldn’t it be great to get the sound of seventeen bus exhausts at different keys?’ But you can’t do everything.”

TBSFD will be playing Little Buildings at 8.30pm and Saunders doesn’t mince his words on what to expect from their set, “There’ll be some darkness, but with light. Seriousness, but with a touch of daft. Epic soundscapes, but with intricate intricacies…no, just expect a good musical show with plenty of expression and beautiful soundscapes.”

Rebecca Fitch (Ernest – 8.30pm)

Performing since the age of 15, Rebecca Fitch is a singer-songwriter with a vision. The Belfast-born musician has been given plenty of airtime on radio stations back in her native Ulster, as well as receiving praise from a bunch of north-east publications. Now she is looking to impress on the biggest local stage there is, I tend to describe it as alternative pop, which is sitting on the fence a bit! Whenever I do songwriting I tried to write catchy melodies but I also love experimental production. I’m a composition student at Durham, so I spend most of the day in the studio trying to work out different sounds.”

Fitch has a huge amount of confidence in her skill seems as if she’s got the blueprint of a career already mapped out. She also lists a wide variety of influences from Lana Del Ray to KLF and Bjork. In a live setting, the artist has built her performances around her multi-instrumental talents, which forms the basis of her sets, “I mostly perform by myself, but I do a lot of live looping stuff so I have two keyboards with drums synths, lot of pedals. You can do so much more than just looping your guitars, loads of people are doing it but it shouldn’t be overlooked because it’s such a massive tool and allows you to express the sound you want when you’re performing”.

Chaos Jigsaw (The Tanners – 8.30pm)

Teeside-via-Stoke Rapper Dylan Cartlidge is one of the most exciting additions to this year lineup, solidifying the hip hop-based lineup of The Tanners. Already established as a brilliant performer round with the band Bi:Lingual, Cartlidge is now heading for solo stardom. With a huge afro and red tinted teashade sunglasses, he’s the most stress-free person you’ll ever meet. As well as nailing the image bit quite brilliantly, Cartlidge creates some of the most intriguing alternative hip hop around right now, under his puzzling pseudonym Chaos Jigsaw, “It [Chaos Jigsaw] was my Xbox Live gamertag when I was thirteen and that’s when I decided I was gonna be a rapper. The Gamerscore wasn’t as high as I wanted it to be to be honest.”

Tracks like You Make It lead with slickly produced beats and a quick-witted lyrical style, flirting with the darker sides of rap, something that makes the rapper stand out amongst the vast sea of hip hop and RnB, “It’s kind of like alternative hip hop, instrument-driven alternative hip hop. I have a quite dark past, so I guess that can crop up from time to time, but really it’s just about life, day to day life. Not in terms of like ‘day to day’, like ‘insert generic rap song here’, it’s just about the beauty of the world and how it inspires me every day.”

As sub-headliner of The Tanners, the artist has plenty in store for punters wishing to come along, “I have a guy that does the harmonies and things and general hype man duties. Then we’ve got a bass player and a drummer. It should just be an immersive, really cool experience that I guess people can get into and really go places with.”

So what does Cartlidge want to gain from the EE experience? “If I were to be humble about it…women, money and hard drugs”.

Eve Conway (Ouseburn Farm – 9.30pm)

As one of the most promising young talents in the region, Darlington-born Eve Conway uses her voice as the centerpiece for her expansive RnB sound, incorporating elements of Gospel, folk and blues. Her debut single Hunger was released just last month and is a powerful mission statement from the singer-songwriter. With the help of David Saunders (TBSFD, Tracks), she has managed to go from strength to strength. “I started by writing stories really, I’ve always loved words,” Conway tells me. “I think generally just singing a song that’s so honest in front of people is a great thing, especially if there is stuff going on in your life and the people in the audience are part of that. It gives you a platform to say things that you wouldn’t usually say in a medium that’s quite sincere.

For most artists, Evolution Emerging acts as a great learning curve and hints towards future success, but for Conway it’s mostly about learning from other more established acts and their achievements.This is a great opportunity to watch other artists and you can learn so much from it. Like going to see the headliners who have been asked back and released records. This year I’m wiser about how fast you need to run between venues to catch everyone!”

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