A Look Back On 2023 – Ali Welford | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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So… how was your 2023?
I’ve had worse, I suppose.

What was your best moment?
Seeing the Patagotitan skeleton at the Natural History Museum. I’m as obsessed with dinosaurs as I’ve ever been, but when you’re an adult the sense of wonder they gave you as a child has largely worn off. The sheer size of this thing, though, was genuinely awe-inspiring, and made me feel like a four-year-old dino nut all over again.

And your worst moment?
Not an individual moment, but not attending as many gigs as I’d like (largely for cost-of-living reasons) has fucking sucked. Very much a First World problem, and clearly there are many, many people who’re experiencing far worse. But it’s still fucking sucked.

Who was your favourite band/artist this year?
Lisa O’Neill. I’d heard bits of her in the past, but her latest album All of This is Chance is comfortably my favourite of the year, and her two gigs in the region – at The Glasshouse in March and The Fire Station in October – were equally stunning. Locally, meanwhile, Fashion Tips are an irresistible live force and have spent the past 12 months slaying all before them. I can’t wait to hear where they go next.

Your favourite song of the year?
Oh Me, Oh My by Lonnie Holley (featuring Michael Stipe). Magical.

Recommended album?
Rachael Lavelle’s debut album Big Dreams is an absolute stunner – an absorbing jazz-tinged dreamscape, elevated by her borderline supernatural vocal. Give it a try!

Favourite TV show of the year?
The second series of Prehistoric Planet cemented its status as the finest prehistory doc of the 21
st Century, though I’d have preferred it to have explored a different era rather than simply retreading the Late Cretaceous. I also really enjoyed ITV’s Yorkshire Ripper series The Long Shadow – easily the best dramatization of the case to date, largely due to its focus on the victims and the ineptitude of South Yorkshire police as opposed to fetishising Sutcliffe’s crimes.

Your favourite film?
As much as I’d love to give an edgy, hip response, my answer is the near billion-grossing box office juggernaut Oppenheimer. It’s not perfect by any means (the scene where he puts on his hat is built-up like Bruce Wayne’s first time donning the Batsuit), but I thought the performances and pacing were both superb, and unlike some I had no issues with the runtime. As is customary, I should add that I also thoroughly enjoyed Barbie.

Best book you read?
The Last Days of the Dinosaurs by Riley Black. The most vivid (and evidence-based) account of the K–Pg extinction event to date. A real page-turner

Favourite new word that you learned?
Yimby. We need more yimbys.

Favourite venue that you visited?
The Cumberland Arms and Cobalt Studios remain my joint favourites. Honourable mentions to Pop Recs and The Fire Station, who between them have greatly increased the frequency of my visits to Sunderland!

What was your favourite gig/show of the year?
The Walkmen at KOKO, London. They’re a band I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed and was keen to see live, having missed them first time around – but even so I was genuinely shocked by how good they were. A perfectly balanced career-spanning set; beautiful at times, furious at others – and my word can Hamilton Leithauser sing. Honourable mentions to Young Fathers electrifying show at the Boiler Shop and a cracking day at Hyde Park seeing Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

Any up-and-coming artists/acts we should keep an eye out for in 2024?
Maius Mollis’ recent Waves EP underlined her prodigious talents, and I can’t wait to hear what she has up her sleeve for 2024. Onlooker, meanwhile, have really stepped up a gear since rejigging their line-up, and feel like they could be on the cusp of an even bigger year. And I’m already excited to welcome more robo-riffing rockers from Zilch Patrol into my life.

Any predictions for next year?
Humanity will continue its head-first charge towards inevitable self-destruction.

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