FESTIVAL REVIEW: Twisterella @ Various Venues, Middlesbrough (12.10.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Dylan Cartlidge by Andy Lochrie

Words: Steve Spithray

If anything epitomises Twisterella Festival, now in its sixth year, it’s a band like Mt. Misery filling Westgarth 2 at twenty-past-one on a Saturday afternoon; the sublime track Lonely Pines, a couple of new ones and their beautiful rendition of Brian Eno’s Baby’s On Fire set this year’s bar high early.

Over at the Townhouse Nel Unlit are already running late but, logistically, just getting the nine-piece experimental folk troupe all on to the iconic floor-lit stage is an achievement in itself. And they are the first big highlight. Tri-harmonies, oboes, violins and deft percussion all based around Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. Band leader John Horner has crafted filmic interpretations that envelope like autumn itself and just as the leaves begin to curl on the trees outside too.

By the time we get down to TSOne there is already a healthy mid-afternoon crowd lapping up Kay Grayson’s super-confident and relaxed old school flows. But, Come Down and Squad on Tour add a grime element while Sweet Rum Punch and Sauce gets everyone bouncing at the knees and really showcases the Newcastle rapper’s versatility.

Next on the same stage, and a credit to Twisterella’s eclectic programming, are Pit Pony. Dense psychedelic rock and just loud enough to prickle the ear drums. Smoke is still their best effort but tracks like Lambs and Osaka are knowingly abrasive but infectiously melodic and singer Jackie Purver has got the best rock voice around.

Canadian Micah Erenberg is this year’s Pied Piper and obligatory surprise of the day, so Love Is Gonna Find You, Chicken Town, and Into The Night has another packed room in awe. With the expert backing of Mt. Misery, for today’s show and a short UK tour, the singer is following Lou Reed and Adam Green in a long line of North American storytellers.

Roxy Girls upstairs at Westgarth 1 are seemingly designed to bemuse. For fans of Futureheads and Parquet Courts with the Libertines’ early sense of urgency their unrelenting bursts of speed punk and abstract power pop are lost on some but should be a triumph for the Moshi Moshi signed Mackems as long as they remember to take a breath.

Back downstairs there is a real buzz for Benefits’ first ever show in an absolutely rammed Westgarth 2 where they smash and grab through seventeen minutes of pure filth and fury while also treating us to an unexpected reprise of The Chapman Family’s Kids, while elsewhere new track Taking Us Back and squalls of guitar and sequencer noise jostle for ear space. Some of the political message may be lost in the melee but the band’s cynical performance art means the Teesside music scene is suddenly that little bit edgier again with Kingsley et al back in it.

I do like Llovers but sometimes they are a bit rubbish in bed. Luckily tonight, a few technical issues aside, it was (and I can’t stress this enough, metaphorical) hand jobs all round, so by the time they finish with Feeling Sound, shaking hot white coconuts from the Townhouse’s veiny love tree, they have got everyone right in the mood for the first headliner or the day, Uxbridge’s Bloxx. Mixing Hard-Fi’s indie-pop credentials with a youthful take on relationships and/or lack of Go Out With You is a coming-of-age indie anthem. Equally the youngsters down the front and pissheads at the back can’t get enough of them.

Dylan Cartlidge made his Twisterella debut in a hospital gown (a la Kurt Cobain) in 2015 after discharging himself for the show, last year his mid-afternoon TSOne slot was chaos on the back of The Mighty Redcar TV show and this time he was back to stake a claim for a little piece of Twisterella folklore by headlining Westgarth 1. Dylan is his usual quietly-confident self as each track from Scratch, Sniff to Love Spoons to Strawberry Blonde’s Snip is delivered with increasing aplomb while his trademark freestyle segment never fails to impress, so by the time he wraps up another amazing Twisterella Festival with Wishing Well and Yellow Brick Road I could see NARC. photographer Andy Lochrie precariously balanced stage right still trying to get that perfect shot amongst the throng.

 

Image: Benefits by Andy Lochrie

Words: Damian Robinson

Kicking off Twisterella’s Student Union stage, and in keeping with the festival’s legacy of opening with well-known artists, Red Rum Club pack the venue out. Full of South American flamencos and horn sounds, they get the festival off to a very ‘up’ and ‘pop’ sound, though the fact that not everyone can make it into the venue feels like a shame.

A run through the rain to Westgarth 2 means we arrive just in time for Leif Erickson, whose moody indie and delicate guitar sounds are an early festival highlight. Building into a slightly haunting, slightly Americana-style of space rock, Leif Erickson are on fine form today with a sound close to turn of the century Wilco. Stand outs Sleep Like A Child and 21 Grams steal a tight, emotive, set. 

A tough act to follow, it’s Talk Like Tigers who meet the challenge with a similarly empassioned thirty minute set. Driven by their familiar blend of electro pop and delicate vocals, TLT match their 80’s synth sound with glorious vocals to build a great set. Highlights Tropical, Diamonds and an unplugged and impromptu Metallic showcase evidence of a great act on great form.

It’s back to the Student Union for Fever Days‘ first ever Middlesbrough gig. Part rock, part electro pop, their set fizzles in places (notably What’s Your Problem and Drugs) but fails to take off in others, in a set showcasing a band full of promise but with a little tweaking left to do.

The Townhouse provides a fine venue for packed out Only Sun, who provide loud, shaking, indie rockers before The Vegan Leather push things into new wave with a terrifically over the top performance, including stand out The Hit, showcasing the sound we can expect from their glorious debut album.

Continuing the performance art element of Twisterella, Babyteeth pick up the mantle of genuine pop stars with their punk and colourfully comical approach to live playing. Highlights Cut It and Siamese Twin are fine demonstrations of a band whose search for punk takes them into the more sleazier elements of rock than the straight forward ‘three chords and the truth’ approach to punk.

A trip back to the main stage for Far Caspian settles the atmosphere from punk to indie shoegaze, before Dylan Cartlidge across at Westgarth 1 closes the evening with bass driven funk and good times.

 

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