FEATURE: Tipping Point Live | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Brooke Bentham by Grace Lightman

Since its introduction in 2008, Evolution Emerging became a highlight of the Ouseburn Valley events calendar; providing local acts with an invaluable platform and audiences with a grassroots alternative to larger events in the City. Now though, local development agency Generator have given their flagship event an extensive makeover…say hello to Tipping Point Live!

Expanded over two days on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd June, the revamped festival boasts an impressive and diverse musical line-up, accommodating for all manner of disparate genres and tastes. Crucially, in addition to successful applicants, this year’s bill also features artists handpicked by an esteemed cast of curators – who include Bernard Butler, Nadine Shah, Maxïmo Park’s Paul Smith and The Futureheads’ Barry Hyde. With a selection of industry events, workshops and family friendly activities also on offer, you’d have to travel some distance to find a broader programme of entertainment and opportunity.

Certainly, organisers have spared little expense on a busy opening night. Emphasising their commitment to artists, Friday’s proceedings get underway with a free-to-attend music industry mini-conference, covering everything from getting gigs to masterclasses on publishing and Spotify. Featuring panels and talks with a wealth of experts and industry heads, expect an invaluable crash course on how to propel your music into the wider world.

Friday’s live offerings, meanwhile, are split across four venues. Headlining at The Cluny is one of the region’s finest songwriters in Martha Hill, whose superb, socially conscience alt. pop was honed during time spent travelling the continent as a street musician. Before that, there’s stirring, cathartic indie folk from Dansi, while Portraits’ irresistible neo-soul and jazz-inflicted grooves are sure to get the stage off to a buoyant, sax-splashed flyer. Next door, The Cluny 2 goes several steps further by introducing the festival’s first ever dedicated jazz stage. Topping the bill are Taupe; a trio whose dazzling fusion of experimental sensibilities and anarchic punk aesthetic has only been enhanced by their geographical separation. They’re preceded by avant-garde, genre-fluid and topical soundscapes from J Frisco, as well as the sensational Archipelago, whose sonic invention and thirst for collaboration has already drawn much admiration beyond North East borders. 

Additional action can be found up at Warwick Street, with an exciting assortment of performances at both the Star & Shadow Cinema and Blank Studios. Following a full-band opening set from adventurous singer songwriter Spell Token (AKA Josh Ingledew), the former hosts a pair of specially commissioned audio-visual collaboration projects. Having built his own pipe organ and mixed media setup, live drummer Brad Field will be working with renowned visual artist Tim Shaw, while art pop outfit Sauvage explore the links between music and movement with contemporary dancer and choreographer Lila Naruse and audio-visual artist K Pfennich. Blank on the other hand has plenty for fans of electronic music to sink their teeth into, with special performances from rich, atmospheric producer Cal Rasaay, experimental-looping-ambient-voice-drone-folk artist Me Lost Me and ambient indie/R&B adventurers Worry Party.

you’d have to travel some distance to find a broader programme of entertainment and opportunity

Saturday’s festivities kick-off mid-afternoon with a special songwriting workshop with Bernard Butler, in which the renowned producer and former Suede guitarist will select both a young artist and a selection of musicians to work with; developing their material before an audience at The Cluny 2. Participants will be selected via an application process, with Butler promising “a largely spontaneous 90-minute journey, setting questions and challenges in front of the writers, and posing the group a set of ‘what-if?’s around the song arrangement.”

What’s more, Generator have teamed up with Chalk and Seven Stories to deliver an extensive daytime programme of child friendly activities across the valley. These include opportunities to make your own instruments, throw shapes to a surprise DJ, immerse yourself in an interactive gig and much more besides!

As for the music, Saturday sees Tipping Point Live pick up where its predecessor left off, delivering an utterly stacked evening schedule across six stages. Prior to a much anticipated headline set from Bill Ryder Jones – in which the Liverpool favourite is set to showcase last year’s excellent Yawn album – The Cluny hosts exquisite London singer songwriter Brooke Bentham, as well as Leeds’ Freese Trio, who intriguingly describe themselves as “heavy trip-hop dark jazz”. They’re joined by two of the local scene’s finest in irrepressible Parisian duo The Noise & The Naïve and Swine Tax, who’ve scaled new heights since introducing synths to their live show. Fans of fuzz and garage rancour, meanwhile, are well catered for at The Cluny 2, with sets from FEVA and The Yada Yada Yadas along with one of the North’s most thrilling live outfits, Leeds’ Dead Naked Hippies. Earlier, the stage witnesses the ambient synth pop soundscapes of Blamaire, as well as a deliciously psychedelic starter courtesy of Mr. Comfortable.

Down at the Tyne Bar, party vibes are provided by indie dancefloor favourites Vandebilt and funky feel-good jazz specialists Picnic, while appearances from Philth Like and Reali-T ensure there’s also a hefty hip-hop influence. Those seeking more intimate delights have their choice between Kaleidoscope and The Cumberland Arms. The former presents the bass-driven electronica of Xaatu, local grime duo NE Dons and John Dole’s off-kilter hip-hop, while the latter’s folk-centric bill backs beguiling Londoner Grace Gillespie with ambitious storytellers Nel Unlit, hook-laden quartet Many Moons and acoustic songwriter Amy Hopkinson.

Finally, after the glacial atmospherics and lush R&B-tinged pop of Polo, Cobalt Studios carry the festival into the early hours, with Tipping Point DJs providing tunes at the official afterparty.

With a range of reasonably priced ticketing options starting at £15, Generator promise an event that’s “bigger, better, and fresher than ever” – not a bad way to spend a summer weekend!

Image: Portraits

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