FEATURE: The Sound of Silence, Vol. 1 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s a familiar story for a regular gig goer, particularly at acoustic gigs – the hum of conversation from the audience nearly drowns out the act onstage, and the performer and fan is left disappointed and frustrated. Ben Muriel, founder of promotions outfit Sound of Silence and member of baroque popsters By Toutatis, knows the feeling all too well… “It really winds me up, when audiences chat all through someone’s performance, especially when it’s an acoustic or quiet performer. I’ve experienced it from both sides of the stage, and it’s awful!”

After his band played Ben Holland’s sadly now bygone night The Polite Room at Tyneside Cinema, he was blown away by the audience’s respect. “I decided to rip him off,” he says frankly, and promptly set up Sound of Silence at The Vic in Saltburn. “My intention was to bring internationally acclaimed artists to that small room, and we built up a loyal audience who trusted that we’d put on great stuff and loved the idea of keeping schtum throughout someone’s set. It really does create an electric atmosphere and I believe makes for a better gig.”

Similar events, like Hartlepool’s Pin Drop, have earned themselves a dedicated following, and it’s clear that audiences are clamouring for a respectful and immersive gig experience. But how does such a philosophy transmit to a multi-venue festival format? The good folks at Tees Music Alliance and ARC are keen to find out, and tasked Ben with putting together a line-up of traditional and alt. folk acts across several venues in Stockton.

“It really does create an electric atmosphere and I believe makes for a better gig”

The inaugural Sound of Silence Vol 1 (a tantalising reference to Vol 2 next year then…) on Saturday 12th September offers up a veritable smorgasbord of talent from a variety of folk-influenced genres. Traditional and modern styles rub shoulders happily, with Ben’s usual mixture of household names and up and comers making an appearance throughout the day. Mercury-nominated I Am Kloot frontman John Bramwell heads up proceedings at ARC, which also sees performances from spectacular harpist Rachel Newton; musician extraordinaire The Horse Loom; the wondrous talents of Kathryn Williams and Scottish guitarist RM Hubbert; the harmony-drenched acoustic folk of Bridie Jackson & The Arbour and many more. Folk royalty Eliza Carthy brings her fiddle-based tunes to The Georgian Theatre, where multi-instrumentalist The Lake Poets will offer up his thoughtful vignettes and Futurehead Barry Hyde presents his powerful new solo material. They’ll be joined by the stunning vocals of This Little Bird and Saltburn folk combo Secret of the Whipt, featuring Ben Muriel himself. The Green Room sees performances from gypsy folk band Holy Moly & The Crackers, storytelling maestro Nev Clay, folky blues duo Skylark Song, the lo-fi pop of Dressed Like Wolves and Broken Broadcast’s JP Riggall. Informal sessions at ARC’s café space plus entertainment at Stockton’s newest real ale bar, The Wasps Nest, are also on offer.

Ben’s hopeful that the festival’s respectful ethos and mixture of outstanding talent will offer gig goers an opportunity to immerse themselves in some quality music. “The people who are Sound of Silence regulars trust us already to bring the best, and hopefully others will too after this.”

Sound of Silence Vol 1 takes place on Saturday 12th September at ARC’s The Point, Studio and café spaces, Tees Music Alliance’s Georgian Theatre, The Green Room and The Wasps Nest in Stockton.

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