LIVE REVIEW: Last Train Home festival @ Various Venues, Darlington (22.09.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: The Lovely Eggs by Tracy Hyman

Words: Ben Lowes-Smith

Darlington is an often-neglected cultural spot in the North East, but today Last Train Home Festival reveals some beautiful performance spaces that would hint at very positive, vibrant potential.

Ronald Raygun at Hullabaloo opens my afternoon with a fairly affable slice of yacht rock, with an impressive level of consummate musicianship on display. Then it’s over to the Greyhound to check out the Hilarity Bites comedy stage, where the perfect, dimly-lit back room has been fashioned. We see Stephanie Laing amuse the gathered with her anecdotal, self-deprecating brand of stand-up. 

We then wander over to Bank Top Central to see Talk Like Tigers present their immaculately put together synth pop, followed by the earnest, confessional songwriting of Martha Hill, whose songs today are complimented by an excellent group of musicians.

Barry Hyde – over at St. John’s The Evangelist – has an immensely engaging stage presence; funny, charismatic and engaging. We are treated to renditions of Futureheads classics First Day and Decent Days And Nights, before the church is fittingly filled with the powerful and elegiac songs from his solo record, Malody.

Finally, it’s over to Hogan’s for a pint at Eastern European prices to see The Lovely Eggs storm through their greatest hits; a powerful, propulsive performance from one of the UK’s most exciting live bands draws a close to an energising day out.

Image: Ronald Raygun by Tracy Hyman

 

Words: Damian Robinson

Rising from the ashes of Green Fuzz, Oilbirds take on the early(ish) shift at Hogan’s, bringing us their unique blend of drone and swagger. Structured around death and redemption, the Birds turn their guitars up to 10, feed them back with the intensity most bands would use if this was their last ever gig, and then play the shit out of them. 

Timothy Oxnard takes control of most of the proceedings with his William Reid-style Pete Townsend chords and renegade guitar solos, met with his deep blues, Eric Burdon-esque, vocals. It’s an electrifying combination and one which makes everything screech and howl. There’s talk of recorded work coming out soon and if it’s half of good as this then it’ll be one of the most vital sounding records in a long time.

I spent the rest of the day immersing myself in hip-hop at the makeshift stage at Legacy Skate shop. John Lennon used to talk about the importance of an artist finding their true voice, the one that they were too scared to let others hear. Only once an artist had found that voice, and spoke with it, would they have anything meaningful to say.

Not only have the hip-hop artists at the Legacy Skate shop stage found their true voice, but they spoke more with it during their sets than I have in my entire 39 years. They would have make John Lennon proud.

Opening up about mental health challenges, paranoia and suicidal thoughts, each MC brought descriptive and detailed insights into their experiences of living in Broken Britain, and finding meaning in a society which gives our young, at best, an uncertain future, wrapped up in the effects of high unemployment, zero contract work and a minimum wage culture.

Opener Kv$hnoodle, the most impactful of the MC’s I saw, was also the most honest. Cuts Red Rum and Paralysed, as well as the moments of collaboration with sharp intellect 90BRO, stood out in a set especially hard hitting and delivered not just with a fine flow but also with painful screams.  His was the sound of a man breaking himself apart for everyone to see.

Second up Jister, though more West Coast and De La Soul styled, took a less aggressive, more casual, delivery style to similar causes of anxiety. Standout track Shut Them Down, a smooth take on Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang, may well have been the best track of the day thanks to its accessible sounds and brave lyrics.

Duo Endem & Leum, followed by Liam Hope, kick the sets back into a more aggressive style of beat and delivery. Hope, in particular, with tails of violent glassings, and his pattern of breaking supportive relationships, asks deep questions about what we value in society and, more importantly, about his own shortcomings. There are no answers, just questions.

The work of those at the Legacy Skate area was a true testimony to the DIY nature of hip-hop and its ability to enable artists with little financial support to speak their truth in an open, supportive, environment.

Passionate, painfully honest, and brilliantly insightful, all of those artists spoke with the kind of truth difficult to configure, let alone to speak out loud. There’s a lesson for us all if we listen.

 

Image: Legacy Skate stage by Tracy Hyman

 

Words: Sherilyn Appleby

Samantha Durnan’s mesmeric voice echoes throughout St John’s Church, charming the space with hauntingly angelic vocals and exposed acoustics. Plucking tracks from her 2017 EP Want To Wander, Steph Hooton and Louise Redford provide striking harmonies (and shaky eggs) throughout. The poignant vocals of Silence ricochet off the empty walls within the Church, hypnotising the crowd. Durnan ends with newest track Satellite, where an edgier, faster bass comes into play, and we get to see a grittier side to her serene voice.

Tom Joshua’s hypnotic vocals find themselves at home in the resonating walls of St John’s, where each delicious drop of sound is delicately exaggerated. Track Magnolia coerces every pair of eyes onto the stage; the acoustics of Joshua’s guitar and accompanied cello pair beautifully with his exquisitely raw vocals. The blissful opening chords of Meteor Showers force the hairs on the back of your neck arise; Joshua’s stunning vocals flow into the track effortlessly and the hall becomes seduced by mesmerising lyrics.

Over at Bank Top Central, Harri Endersby’s headline slot sees her stunningly pure vocals draw in an entranced gaze, and effervescent melodies create a calming ambience. The room is enthralled; Endersby is angelic. Let Me Run increases the pace with a heavier bass, bringing a pop element to her folk sound. She leaves the Bank Top crowd with folksy track Close To Home, the stripped, vivacious melody is buoyant, and the contented room disperses.

Bang Bang Romeo finish off our night with force back at St John’s. Lead singer Anastasia Walker’s astounding vocals fill the high ceilings of the Church. Walker moves about the hall, bobbing in and out of empty chairs in search for the perfect acoustics as she fulfils a stripped cover of Radiohead’s Creep, altering from the band’s heavier sound. Finale song Adore Me concludes the day with a bang; instrumentals are stunningly echoed by the Church walls and we see both the stripped prowess of Walker’s exquisite vocals, as well as its impressive heights. With sass, instrumental flair and breath-taking vocals, Bang Bang Romeo are undeniably ones to watch.

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