FEATURE: Brave Exhibitions Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Free Love

It’s been barely eighteen months since the management takeover at The Cluny but so much has already happened – everything from the massive new PA to the revamped layout of The Cluny 2 to the food menu, as well as last year’s mammoth Cluny 15th Anniversary run of gigs. And now venue manager Joel Thomson is taking things to the next level with Brave Exhibitions (the name comes from a song by Nick Cave’s pre-Birthday Party outfit Boys Next Door), a new festival at the venue which might be one of the best things to ever happen in the city, taking place from Friday 16th-Sunday 18th November. If you’ve looked at the line-ups for things like Raw Power, Supersonic or Supernormal and wondered why something like that didn’t happen on Tyneside, quit wondering and buy a ticket to Brave Exhibitions.

What Thomson has done is to combine the very best of the noise rock/‘new weird Britain’ (™ The Quietus) scene with some of the best musicians Tyneside and the North East has to offer, so the likes of Terminal Cheesecake, Part Chimp, Ill, Workin’ Man Noise Unit and Bilge Pump are programmed alongside GGAllan Partridge, Blown Out, Blóm and The Noise & The Naïve. And it seems that Thomson has been considering something along these lines for years, although it took playing at the aforementioned Raw Power to really spur him on.

“I’ve programmed stages for other promoters’ festivals numerous times in the past, and have promoted countless all-day events (Radgefest in 2008 being my personal favourite), so this year felt like exactly the right time to do something this size.” Thomson explains. “2017’s 15th Anniversary week, where I’d programmed a full week of events in both Cluny venues, was definitely very good training for putting a weekend festival together. After playing Raw Power in May [with his band Shy-Talk] and seeing how well that festival worked for the audience as well as behind the scenes, and also having a few not so great experiences with other festivals, gave me the kick up the arse I needed to actually get this done.”

As with most festivals of this type, the curatorial policy is a largely personal one. “With this being the first year, I felt that booking bands I genuinely love was the most important thing. Getting a line-up together that I would sing and dance about even if I wasn’t involved in it was definitely a good start. The basic idea was ‘a weekend festival based on the theme of my taste in music’, which hopefully doesn’t seem like an arrogant approach… But I think that’s a good place to start and a good way to give a festival a bit of a solid identity. Line-up-wise, I’ve tried to do something slightly different on each day, which may be noticeable… or may not be!”

Getting a line-up together that I would sing and dance about even if I wasn’t involved in it was definitely a good start

For noise hounds like myself, it was the announcement of both Part Chimp and Terminal Cheesecake (see an interview with the band on page 37) as headliners that really got my pulse racing, and Thomson clearly feels the same. “I’ve wanted to book Part Chimp for about as long as I’ve been putting gigs on. It almost happened in about 2006 but didn’t come off and I can’t quite remember why. They were actually the very first band booked for Brave Exhibitions and were basically the inspiration to build a full festival around this sort of music. I’m delighted that Terminal Cheesecake are coming back to Newcastle for the first time in a very long time as well. I’m delighted with every band on the line-up, to be honest.”

One of the most frustrating things with festivals where you want to see pretty much everyone on the bill is programming clashes, so Thomson has carefully avoided these. “There’ll be staggered sets with plenty of time for refreshments and ‘activities’ between bands. It’s always baffled me a bit when some festivals market themselves on having 1,392 bands on the same day. No one likes rushing around between bands and only catching the back end of a set that they’ve been looking forward to. I’m pretty sure bands generally don’t like going on stage to an empty room and waiting for it to fill up as they’re playing as well.”  

With guest DJs each day (The Candy Vortex posse, Kristian Atkinson and Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai) and an as-yet unannounced after-party, Brave Exhibitions is going to be an absolute blast, and one that has the potential to turn into an annual event that would see Thomson and The Cluny once again bring something really special to the city.


Brave Exhibitions Day-By-Day line-up

Friday 16th November
Part Chimp
The Girl Sweat Pleasure Temple Ritual Band
Black Helium
Blown Out
Okay Champ
DJs: The Candy Vortex, Box Records


Saturday 17th November
Terminal Cheesecake
Lower Slaughter
Bilge Pump
Snack Family
Kasper Hauser
The Noise & The Naïve
White Legs
GGAllan Partridge
Mean Caesar
Lovely Wife
Workin’ Man Noise Unit
DJ: Kristian Atkinson (Zerox)


Sunday 18th November
Free Love
Cutty’s Gym
Elisabeth Elektra
Ten Sticks
Waskerley Way
Pit Pony
DJ: Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), Carnival Moon

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