FEATURE: Last Train Home Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs by Janina Sabaliauskaite

Railway puns ahoy, it’s time to jump aboard for the second annual Last Train Home Festival, taking place at locations in Darlington on Saturday 7th September. Capitalising on Darlo’s rich railway heritage, the festival encompasses seven “beautiful and bizarre” stages of live music and comedy, ripe for curious punters to discover something new, check out old favourites and be home at a sensible bed time as all shows finish in time for…yep, the last train home. 

Tracks music collective are behind the festival, which last year saw its inaugural event get off to a flying start, although it wasn’t without its challenges (a train strike on the day, being one of them). “We hadn’t a single moment when we weren’t flying around solving stuff, photographing the artists, or running through the streets of Darlington with guitar amps and yoghurt in our hands.” Says Rob Irish. “It can be pretty hectic at times to get everything done to the standard we aim for, and on schedule.”

Both Rob and co-conspirator Sarah Wilson have a passion for putting Darlington on the region’s cultural map. “Darlo’s been missed off the map for a long time when it comes to arts and music. We’re all about changing that, by just putting on loads of cool stuff here and making it a destination where people see things happening, getting it on more artists’ touring circuits, as well as helping create a culture locally which inspires more people to get into music to begin with.”

Darlo’s been missed off the map for a long time when it comes to arts and music. We’re all about changing that

Collaboration is a key part of many successful creative ventures, and LTH builds on already strong relationships with the likes of Legitimate Anarchy Records, Hilarity Bites comedy club and us here at NARC., in order to programme a line-up which reflects the diversity and talent on offer in the region. “A big part of what we want to do with Tracks as an organisation is help connect some dots around the North East.” Rob explains. “That could be making Darlington a more recognisable place when it comes to gigs and artist development, helping artists from here get opportunities further afield, and of course working with other organisations to build bigger things than we could ever do alone. I think good things happen when everybody’s helping each other out, and building friendships with artistic peers like this can only ever bring more good things for everyone.”

The line-up features an impressive collection of regional big hitters, up and coming talent and hotly tipped acts from across the UK. Colossal riff meisters Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs will bring their accessible doom rock to headline proceedings at The Forum, where they’ll be joined by melodic rockers YOWL, emotive hip-hop group Ceiling Demons, disco punk kings Be Quiet. Shout Loud!, the slacker pop of James Leonard Hewitson and North East supergroup Motel Carnation, plus there’s sets from Petals, Floral Detectives and more TBA.

At Hullabaloo, Tracks’ Noisy Daughters division takes over programming, with an impressive range of female-centred talent including political psych pop from headliners She Drew The Gun, Leeds’ punk trio Dead Naked Hippies, glacial atmospherics from Polo, electro pop from Peakes, False Advertising’s exciting alt. rock, radical all-grrrl rock from VENUS, the force of nature that is GGAllan Partridge and South Shields songwriter Cortney Dixon. In the Hullabaloo Café, Legitimate Anarchy Records present Newcastle rap trio Ronin Clan, who will no doubt cause chaos with their eye-opening live show, plus sets from Middlesbrough’s Eyeconic, hip-hop trio Rhyme Molesters, 90BRO and Max Gavins team up under their RuMaz moniker, plus Teesside MC Shakk and a special Legitimate Anarchy group set.

Certain to provide a series of memorable performances, St John’s Church will welcome emotive songwriting courtesy of headliner The Lake Poets, plus there’s harmony-drenched folk pop from The Cornshed Sisters, the charming vocals of Roxanne de Bastion, orchestral folk from Nel Unlit, roots artist John Stainthorp & The Laughing Hearts, folk musician George Boomsma, Darlington’s own impressive vocalist and storyteller Eve Conway, plus the lush sounds of songwriter Charlotte Grayson and poignant songs of Jodie Nicholson.

Image: Ponyland

Here at NARC. we’ve filled the Hogans stage full of superb North East talent. Alt. rockers A Festival, A Parade bring their epic sound to the headline slot, with support from punk pop duo The Noise & The Naïve, the astoundingly talented Afro-jazz-drum’n’bass-reggae combo Ponyland, Hartlepool indie popsters Mt. Misery, and darkwave duo Holy Braille, plus there’s swoonsome indie from Methodical Beast and indie pop from Middlesbrough songwriter Finn Forster.

There’s comedy talent on offer too, courtesy of supreme Teesside promoters Hilarity Bites at The Forum’s Room 1, who welcome North East favourites Gavin Webster, Lee Kyle and Catherine Young alongside household names including Sam Avery, Rob Kemp, Good Kids, Josh Pugh, Lindsay Santoro and Tom Toal, with compere Rob Mulholland leading the laughter throughout the day. All this plus a free pop-up stage on the platform at Banktop train station, and an official afterparty at The Pennyweight.

Serving as an accompaniment, Tracks have teamed up with Tipping Point to provide an industry event for musicians prior to the festival kicking off. The conference will give musicians the opportunity to speak to music industry professionals and gather information about how to further their careers. I’ll be hosting a ‘how to approach the press’ talk, designed to demystify the world of press and promotion, and there will be a roundtable discussion and A&R session with BBC Introducing’s Emily Pilbeam, Twisterella Festival/Quiet Crown Management’s Henry Carden, The Lake Poets’ Martin Longstaff, Humble Angel Records boss Kieron Donoghue, Andy Haggerstone from artist management and record label Kaleidoscope and Cornshed Sisters musician Jennie Brewis on the listening panel.

“Now more than ever, there’s a million different directions you can go in, and not all of them will lead you down the right track.” Rob says. “By adding a conference element to the festival we hope to provide an opportunity for people to charge their brains with knowledge ready to kick-start their next move.”

Last Train Home takes place at various venues in Darlington on Saturday 7th September

 

Sarah & Rob’s Top Tips

Baffled by choice? Want to see something unexpected and exciting? Last Train Home organisers Sarah Wilson and Rob Irish offer up their top tips…

Sarah

It goes without saying that each of the headliners is worth seeing, with The Lake Poets playing in a beautiful church with a four-piece band being a particularly unmissable one, and of course PIGSx7’s set will have the whole room jumping.

We’ve had our eye on PEAKES from Leeds for a while as they’re just totally beautiful, as is Roxanne de Bastion who’s been working with none other than Bernard Butler on her next project, and is coming from the far away land of London just to fill our church stage with her ethereal vocals.

I met up with False Advertising when down at The Great Escape this year, and just love everything they’re about (I mean, they even gave us free lollipops; who else is doing that?!). After being featured as a New Name by Annie Mac on Radio 1, not to mention playing festivals all over the country, they’re an amazing band to be bringing to Darlington, and an unmissable part of the festival for me!

Rob

I’m actually proper excited to see Ponyland, who seem to bring the boundless energy of a crazy European street party to every gig they do. I reckon North East supergroup Motel Carnation are a definite ‘one to watch’, and worth seeing this early in their career; same goes for Cortney Dixon (playing our Noisy Daughters stage with full band), who’s only just starting to release her highly anticipated music after spending a long time tweaking it to perfection, and it’s blooming good.

Be Quiet. Shout Loud! always bring the party with them, soaking the crowd with kaleidoscopic visions of glitter and confetti. Everyone had stories to tell after their recent set at Music Box Festival here in Darlo.

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