LIVE REVIEW: Evolution Emerging @ Various Venues, Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle (09.06.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Okay Champ by Sam Wall

Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice

Now in its tenth year, Evolution Emerging’s continued expansion is both truly impressive – to make an event focusing on local music such a long-running affair is no minor feat – but occasionally concerning given the increasingly formulaic fare that’s favoured on some of the bigger stages.

There’s plenty here to get the teeth into, and although this writer unfortunately misses a couple of acts they’d hoped to see due to their early stages times (apologies to Talent Show and Zico MC),

Archipelago make for as fine a start to the evening as could be hoped for. The trio of Faye MacCalman, John Pope and Christian Alderson have been reaching far beyond the jazz community over the last year, but an outdoor set next to an American diner is a different thing entirely. No matter though: in their brief set, they demonstrate the potent energy and near-telepathic understanding that has made them such a truly remarkable unit. Climaxing with a fiery, impassioned reading of Don Cherry’s Sangam, the cult of Archipelago has surely found some new devotees here.

Rushing over to Cobalt to catch the end of Pit Pony’s set, it’s evident that despite being a mere two gigs old, this new combination of known faces (members of Retriever, Slurs, Cheap Lunch and Black Lung Club filling the band’s ranks) make a hugely enjoyable garage-pop racket – it’s a joy to be re-acquainted with Jackie Miller’s grandiose vocal howl.

Squeezing into the sweatbox of Little Buildings, Blom acknowledge the uncomfortable environs and wrap up their set in less than twenty minutes. Not that anyone here feels short-changed mind: this trio’s Lightning Bolt-informed feminist punk fury proves such an onslaught that you’re left trying to get your breath back after even a short dose. A new but essential addition to the scene.

It might have been Okay Champ that was billed down at The Tyne Bar, but it’s something quite else that those in attendance get to witness. Down a guitarist for the day, the band instead resurrect the greatly missed Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister for one night only, playing through the Ribs EP in full. Nostalgia’s one thing, but the doomy riffs of Babies and Regards, Bison offer far more than just a throwback. It’s a chance for both band and audience to bid a final farewell to a catalogue that never got a proper goodbye, and the Okay Champ line-up does these brilliant songs proud.

Back at Cobalt, Cheap Lunch are offering the kind of wilfully absurd psych-punk fun that’s made them something of a cult favourite around Newcastle: slabs of molten riffage and surf rock rhythms, served with tongue-fully-in-cheek lyrics and a winning enthusiasm.

Returning again to Mustang ‘S’ Alley – by way of a burger closer in consistency to liquid than solid – Shy-Talk prove that there’s more to their work than their love of gimmicks with a finely-honed set full of grizzled punk anthems with considerably more intelligence behind it than the band might want to let on. Dismiss them as a joke at your peril.

The BBC Introducing stage up at The Cumberland Arms might be eclectic to the point of sheer confusion, but no matter: having played the best set of the day last year, Jennifer Walton plays the (joint) best set of the day this year too. A year on, her productions have somehow become even more deliriously visceral and intricate. Alongside a taste for sweet, earworm melodies and carefully considered textures, Walton showcases a mastery of low-frequency delights – the floor of the pub vibrating for almost the entirety of the performance – and even a taste for the less celebrated but inarguable delights of gabba and hardstyle. Both violent and consoling, cerebral and unavoidably physical: right now nobody is marrying contradictions or carving their own musical path in these parts as defiantly or as brilliantly as Jennifer Walton.

Having made waves with a headlining performance two years ago, A Festival, A Parade use this year’s festival to make a grand re-introduction. In the interim, they’ve become a far spikier proposition, and the change in sound suits them: between the sharper guitars and unchained rhythm section, their new material lands nicely. They’re certainly a hugely likeable band – the bigger challenge however is to see if they can generate this kind of momentum outside of the region.

Not hugely inspired by the choice of headliners on offer, this writer decides to take a chance on Ronin Clan at The Tanners. To say this proves a fine idea is some understatement, because Ronin Clan offer the perfect antidote to any corporate smoothness or identikit fashionistas out there. The self-built, stringently DIY nature of the local hip-hop scene is hugely admirable, but even more admirable is a performance as resolutely chaotic and out of control as the one Ronin Clan deliver here. Hugely charismatic and with some instantly infectious material, to say the crowd at The Tanners goes crazy for them is understatement: this is a set full of crowd-surfers, stage-divers, jumping pits and shout-a-long choruses, with MCs Shoshin Noel and Lungcat at the front of it all, offering their all to the Saturday night crowd. No industry insider is ever going to suggest to a new act that what their performance needs is for a crowd member to bring things to a halt by standing on the DJs laptop by accident, or the kind of whiplash-inducing gear shifts this set possesses, but that’s their loss. This is as joyous and inspiring a show as I’ve seen in years, and one that absolutely refuses to be taken on anything other than its own terms. Vital, essential proof that not everything out there has or can be co-opted.

Image: The Pale White by Sam Wall

Words: Sammy Sadler

The first act I caught was Sunderland six-piece Social Room, who were on top form at the Tyne Bar stage with their early noughties-style British indie rock. Opening with psychedelic synths and funky riffs in Be Forever Mine, the guys may have been limited with the amount of space on the stage but it didn’t stop frontman Matty Smith strutting around the little area he had. With similarities to Reverend And The Makers, Social Room are everything you want from proper British guitar music with their foot-tapping hooks and anthemic choruses.

Moving over to the awesome Cobalt Studios I caught Newcastle’s dream-pop perfectionists Headclouds. With their hazy, surfy riffs and breezy soundscapes, the five-piece have been turning heads recently so it was no surprise that the venue was packed out. From the feel-good vibes in Never Will to Seen It Before with its Americana undertones, these guys are no strangers to creating euphoric melodies.

The biggest surprise of the day was stumbling across energetic Teesside disco kings Be Quiet. Shout Loud! and their fabulous, eccentric electro punk at Mustang S’Ally. There were sequins, impressive dance moves and a whole load of sparkle as frontman Jake Radio bounded around the stage in one of the most fabulous jackets I’ve ever seen. With 80’s-style synths, catchy lyrics and heaps of passion, it was the best stage performance I saw all day. A proper festival band that I could happily watch again and again.

Heading down to the Cluny 2, electro indie trio Polo took to stage with their soulful soundscapes embellished with hip-hop influences. Frontwoman Kat Mchugh swayed under the fairy lights as her impressive vocals rang through soaring synths and delicate drum patterns. With a dancey undertone flowing throughout the whole setlist, the mellow backdrop against funky instrumentals provided something very different to what I’d heard all day. Bravo.

Mooching up to the Backyard Bike Shop stage, I caught headliners FEVA and their chaotic indie rock anthems. These guys are quickly becoming one of my favourites in the North East due to their lively sets of piercing riffs and their ability to have the crowd jumping around and dancing. Although my ears were ringing for hours afterwards and I may have lost my voice from screaming the lyrics back, it was everything I wanted and more from a headline set. With building instrumentals and explosive choruses under their belts, FEVA can do no wrong in my eyes and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were packing out the bigger venues within the next year or two.

Closing the day at the Cluny main stage, North East superstars of the moment The Pale White were probably the most highly anticipated acts of the whole day. Although they weren’t as lively as the majority of bands I’d seen earlier in the day, which did take a bit away from their overall stage presence, musically they can’t be faulted. Delighting with the super cool Loveless and the Black Keys-esque Turn It Around, it’s no surprise that this trio have pulled in comparisons to indie legends The Clash and The White Stripes, oozing with rock vibes from their grunge-soaked guitars to a heavier garage feel with crashing percussion. I’m not surprised these guys are as big as they are. If booming melodies and bags of attitude are your thing, and they’re definitely mine, you’ll want to catch these guys live.

 

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