FEATURE: MUSIC BOX FESTIVAL | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Rick Fury by Amelia Read

Indoor multi-venue music festivals are mint for many reasons; chiefly (for me anyway) because there’s always guaranteed to be a place for a bit of a sit down that doesn’t involve mud and/or being trampled, a wide variety of local (often independent) venues are utilised and artists from across the region and beyond are deposited handily in one place providing an excellent music-to-laziness ratio.

Praise be then, for the return of Darlington’s monstrous Music Box Festival, which returns to several venues on Saturday 9th June for its fourth year, and welcomes over 35 performances which take in everything from hip-hop to folk, indie to electro, offering a prime opportunity to try something new while also providing a platform for a diverse line-up which seeks to champion grassroots artists.

The Jukebox stage at Avalon ably demonstrates the festival’s commitment to cross-genre fun, with headliners Llovers providing suitably swooning indie pop, alongside the disco punk sounds of Be Quiet. Shout Loud!; lo-fi jazz electronica from Dundee’s st martiins; hardcore grungers Heel Turn; psych sounds courtesy of Sonder Minds; punky rock ‘n’ roll from The Shakin’ Nightmares; garage grit from Petals and alt. indie from newcomers Neon Waves.

The Roofbox stage at Hash Bar shows a softer side, with headline duties taken on by the atmospheric Southern Gothic sounds of songwriter Megan Dotchin. There’s expansive operatic folk from Nel Unlit, whose recent triumphant Stockton Calling set served to further prove what a special band they can be; plus acoustic storytelling from the beguiling Zarahruth; honest Northern pop from Eddie & The Valkyries; acoustica courtesy of Jonny Goodwin; and soulful chill-out from Caitlin Morrow.

Noisy Daughters step up to programme the Soapbox stage at Hole In The Wall, with a line-up which shines a light on the considerable female talent of the region. Heading the charge is phenomenal electro trio and regional champions Twist Helix; the girl gang spirit of Leeds band Venus; guitar looping maestro Girl From Winter Jargon; exciting electronic sounds from Talk Like Tigers; and linguistically lyrical rap courtesy of Leddie MC.

Legitimate Anarchy Records continue to lead the hip-hop renaissance in the area, and their Beatbox stage at Hash Bar welcomes some justifiably hyped performers including one of the region’s finest MCs Rick Fury. There’s also grunge-infused sounds from Freddy, energetic rap courtesy of E-Mence & Claymore; thought-provoking bars from Shakk and Reali-T; plus sets from Legitimate Anarchy’s own Endem, Rex Regis and AdamSpekz Jones.

Darlington’s evolving dance music culture is in the spotlight on the Disco Box stage at Avalon, curated by Terrace Sessions and featuring a plethora of disco, house and funk. Resident at Leeds’ superclub Mission, expect funky house and disco from Lee Willow and local talents including Chris Ryan, Chris Tarn, James Carter, Adam Bellew and Stuart Carver, who between them introduce obscure funk, groove-fuelled disco and soulful sounds to the festival.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s two free pop-up stages at Hatch Luncheonette (one outside, one inside the venue) featuring diverse sounds which will encompass bluesy singalongs from The Dead Seat, folk songwriter Jamie Farrell; up and coming acoustic duo Komparrison; the country melodies of Charlea B; folk punk from Bubamara; Matty Allenby’s alt. pop; upbeat soulful jazz from Stefan Coates & Emily Whitfield; ethereal sounds from Jodie Nicholson; and Joe Treacy’s finely crafted acoustica.

Given that the festival has been organised in association with music collective Tracks and Darlington’s Butterfly Effect records, audiences can be assured of a well-organised and pocket-friendly day out (with tickets priced at a mere £8).

Megan Dotchin by Darran Moore

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