LIVE REVIEW: Meet The North (27.4.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image of Avalanche Party by Nick Wesson

It didn’t seem to matter that Bank Holiday weekend hadn’t officially started, the ambitious teaser for the Hit the North festival the following day had enough bands and variety to more than justify itself as an event in its own right. For the uninitiated, Meet the North was more of a local affair. Spread over a number of venues a few minutes walk from Newcastle’s Central Station, it didn’t take much effort to get from gig to gig quickly.

While the focus of Meet the North was local artists, there was a smattering of national up-and-comers to take advantage of so it seemed rude not to start the evening with The Golden Age of TV in Think Tank? Underground. Hailing from Leeds, they’ve been on the tipster radar for a while and there’s a lot to like about them. Starting off like a more aggressive Cocteau Twins, I was about to fall in love until they wheeled out the slap bass. I’m so prejudiced against slap bass that I almost feel guilty. Then I hear the pop and slap and see the facial expressions perpetrated by the accused and I’m all like, “Hang them and bugger the consequences.”

Pushing my hatred for that darkest of arts to one side, they really were quite impressive. Layers of sound, an elfin singer, flowers wrapped around the microphone stand and an impressive ability to switch from freak-out noise into floaty dreamland seamlessly. Ones to watch, for sure. Staying put for La Bete Blooms was a wise choice. I last saw Humberside’s finest a couple of years ago on a cold night in Stockton-on-Tees and they’re one of those bands that manage to thrill without being flashy. With loads of restrained guitar chug, they’ve partially dispensed with the Pixies stylings and brought huge chunks of The Cure and Mudhoney into the mix. They’re one of those bands that are all the better for appearing so normal. No theatrics, no gimmicks; just really well written rock that speaks for itself.

A delayed start for James Leonard Hewitson‘s band meant that I could only stay for a couple of tunes. There’s a whole lot of spit ‘n’ polish shine on his performances these days. There’s so much attention to the craft in the songs that it seems disrespectful to keep relying on the ‘Slacker Pop’ tag he’s been labelled with. The full band experience is perfectly orchestrated to texture and amplify every single, simple idea. It’s been nice to see Hewitson grow over the last year or so and it surely won’t be long before he’s a talent we’ll be forced to share with the rest of the country.  The Isle of Wight’s Plastic Mermaids are a real treat. Slightly kooky and with a real DIY mentality to their music making, it’s like Mercury Rev jamming out nu-rave; those falsetto vocals breezing over huge synth and bass grooves with regular detours into psychland. It’s not the best I’ve ever seen them – mainly due to the sparseness of the crowd, they’re a band that seems to feed off audience interaction – but they’re an amazing listen. When the spectacularly emotional Alaska closes the set with an extended jammed outro, you’re left, to paraphrase the band, floating on your own private cloud. Stunning.

Think Tank? welcomes Avalanche Party and it’s getting more and more difficult for me to write about their live shows. Firstly, because I’ve seen them so many times and secondly because I’ve almost exhausted all the superlatives in my vocabulary. Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt though, because they’re genuinely the only north-eastern band that I get a buzz about seeing every time there’s an opportunity to do so. In part down to the energy they put into every performance and partially due to the way their songs are received. Garagey, rock ‘n’ roll anthems that are impossible not to fall in love with, there’s always someone who starts crowdsurfing and there’s always the same intensity from the stage. Tonight is no different and it’s great to see other bands from the evening in attendance and enjoying it just as much.

Was it necessary to have yet another local music showcase in the North East? Probably not, but Meet the North was a triumph anyway. Community and creativity combining in the best of ways, I’m looking forward to next year already.

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