FEATURE: Evolution Emerging Travelogue | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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What better indicator of the health of the North East’s music scene that it can sustain an annual new music festival that boasts several stages and over forty artists on one glorious night right at the start of festival season? Evolution Emerging, run by Newcastle’s very own artist development agency Generator, has gone from strength the strength over the years; starting out as a free-for-all bunfight of loosely-connected stages, Evo has grown to boast ten venues scattered throughout the Ouseburn Valley, long known as the city’s fertile playground of all things cultural (and counter-cultural, for that matter.) Primarily a showcase for the artists that Generator helps gain traction, the offer of exposure to lesser-known acts is a generous one, and has helped give many a band a boost up the slippery pole. So let’s take a virtual wander, a non-literal literary tour of the shebang, and see if we can work out what a perfect Evo night should be all about.

The easy option for the perennially lazy is just to park up at the Tyne Bar and stay there. Its outdoor stage, under a cavernous arch, grows busier and buzzier as the evening progresses, and the bands are always great. In the past the bands have been more on a rock tip, but this year’s card is more eclectic, if still on the heavier, guitar-laden edge. Figmennt’s spacey, widescreen rock will have you swaying, Shamu are a brilliantly evocative minimalist electronica two-piece, and if you like a side of math with your rock, Mongeese are your chaps.

But for the full Evo experience, a crawl is in order, and if you can take in every venue on your rounds, so much the better. The Cluny is really the showpiece of the whole affair, so early on is just as good a time to visit as any. Kicking off proceedings first thing in the late afternoon are Twist Helix – their 80s-influenced Scandi-esque electronica (imagine the Drive soundtrack sung by Robyn) could easily headline any of the other stages.  Later on you’ll see Blesh, channelling a tasty slice of poppy post-grunge through their chorus pedals, the industrial-influenced femme fatale Keiandra, and the polished, stargazey pop of Cape Cub.

But we’ve got an appointment with Sloe Kid, right next door in Cluny 2. Where they came from, nobody knows, but nobody does soulful mid-afternoon chill better than the Sloes. If you fancy a triple-bill of skilled singer-songwriters, stick in C2 – Callum Pitt does a great line in dreamy pop, Fletcher Jackson is gunning for the uptempo Scallybeat market which has proved so useful to Jake Bugg, and expert hip-singer Mat Hunsley offers up his delicately somnolent acoustica.

One might consider a diversion back to C1 to catch the inscrutably lo-fi Japanese TV Club before heading up the hill to the Tanners. The site of many a classic urban gig, including the spectacular final appearance of the sadly defunct Bi:lingual, if you’re a fan of hip-hop, this is where you need to be. You might catch Jister, a Middlesbrough-based MC, and imbibe his precisely-enunciated Teeside flow. Speaking of Bi:lingual, Chaos Jigsaw is the new project of their be-afroed singer Dylan Cartlidge, which is essentially his astonishing rhymes laid over a crazily eclectic DJ mashup. Has the potential to be the gig of the evening.

Now we’re approaching the sharp end, no time to lose. Borrow a skateboard to roll down the hill, resign yourself that you’re not going to get to Ernest tonight, although their three-artist lineup would be appealing any other night, and try and decide between Novyi Lef, self-confessed “bedroom punk” coming from retro synth lines, or Ludd Heat’s enchanting psych-folk (sample lyric: “then the man comes back – like a tumour!”) at the endangered and entirely spiffing Ouseburn Farm.  Then back up the other hill (it’s not called a valley for nothing, you know) to the Little Buildings for the superbly named The Black Sheep Frederick Dickens. On record TBSFD are stunning; their bleak baritone storytelling soundscapes will sound just as good outside, because, as the name suggests, the Little Buildings surely can’t contain the enthusiasm generated by such a spectacle.

Undeterred, it’s headliner time. The Cumberland go first, and with craft beer in hand The Old Pink House are neither as aged nor as twee as their name might suggest – think a touch of Carib-jangle (is that still a genre? Was it ever?), highly-strung vocals and people hanging out the fire exits to get a better look. By this time the night will be balmy (it never rains at Evo), the crowd refreshed, and the brace of Clunys full to the brim. Never mind, all you’re missing are Generator alums Coquin Migale (C2) and Lulu James (C1) – the former a delicately powerful guitar outfit who have come up through the Evo ranks to deserved headline status, the latter a world-class nu-soul diva with urban underpinnings. You’ve missed them. Deal with it.

In fact it’s easy to deal with because that leaves Eat Fast the headliner of choice – seemingly from nowhere they’ve slathered a Pavement-esque racket over the local scene, and with such musical delicacies such as Scrambled Egg proving their scuzzy right to top the festival bill, it’s a fitting end to a long, hard day. If you’re one of the ones that didn’t move from The Tyne, you’ll have a prime seat, you swines.

If after such a smorgasbord you can handle yet further musical nourishment (enough with the food metaphors already!), there’s a history of afterparties with cocktails, DJs, and chin-stroking analysis. And if all of the above sounds like too much thinking for a Saturday night, just get yourself down there, chuck this article away, and have the best-soundtracked pub crawl in the country.

Evolution Emerging takes place on Saturday 27th May. Tickets are £10.00 in advance or more on the door (subject to availability.)

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