FESTIVAL REVIEW: A Stone’s Throw Festival @ Various Venues, North Shields/Tynemouth (28.05.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: ZELA by Victoria Wai

Blessed by a scorcher of a day, new local festival A Stone’s Throw took over the North East coastline, peppering 50 hot touring and local artists across nine venues between North Shields and Tynemouth, all hooked up by regular (and free!) open-top buses.

Kicking off our day at Salt Market Social, North Shields band Club Paradise wowed with a euphoric set. Ernest and knee-deep in sun-kissed eighties vibes, this is life-affirming music for the freshly-broken hearted. Ryan Young’s voice (check out that falsetto!) soared on Teenagers, Do You Feel The Same and Closer, pumping the crowd and setting the tone for a festival primed to be good vibes only.

Next up, Sheffield singer-songwriter Frankie Beetlestone was all hair flicks and leg kicks over at The Exchange, the genre-bender making jokes about the near-empty room (it was early, and a seriously overbearing smoke machine didn’t help) while belting out Work On Me and Lucky Day. Frankie’s MO is working-class bangers about love, being young and all that good stuff.

A short bus trip landed us at Three Tanners Bank for thrashy Liverpudlian fun with Bandit. All poetic shanties and tales of best friends and even better enemies, Sefton In The Summertime captured the feeling of summer days merry in Merseyside, while I’d Try Anything Twice got the crowd singing as a techie repaired the bassist’s drooping instrument with gaffer tape in the middle of the song with zero beats lost.

Rolling down the hill, we ended up at the bijou Engine Room stage for a hypnotising set from August Charles, walking in to Take Me Away and being, well, taken away; transported to somewhere distant and painful via the soulful voice of the Zambia-born melancholist. Spotlit by BBC Introducing as one of their upcoming artists to watch, August took the room from sad to singalong, mixing Gorillaz’ Clint Eastwood with sexy new single Lately, before landing us back on Earth With Blessed, a heartfelt tune about his mum.

Another quick bus trip got us to Sunderland’s Faye Fantarrow upstairs at Karma Coast. Mixing indie, pop and a pinch of folk with unique vocal stylings, Faye was mesmerising; all piercing observations and devastating side-swipes (“this one is about Sunderland dickheads”), new track Dafty unpacking the madness of Boris Johnson. Faye talked between tunes about questionable characters in the music industry, channelling righteous rage into a “selection of unflattering songs for people I wish I could say this to in person.”

Round the corner to Barca El Globo for Manchester’s boisterous alt. pop band Hi Sienna, lively second single Lovesick gave their bruiser drummer plenty to do, while whirligig stomper Pride was dedicated to “record labels who don’t give a fuck about us”. Gorgeous guitar and melodic basslines drew the early-evening-flagging crowd onto the dancefloor, the deal sealed with an unexpected, fist-pumping take on ABBA’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) and some dubious dancing.

A quick pit-stop to smash some chips and curry sauce, and we were off to Tynemouth and District Social Club for spicy brat-poppers ZELA. A band so captivating even the soundcheck got a round of applause, they played that working men’s bar like they’d just learned they’d sold out Wembley Stadium. With the floor packed a minute into opener Sleep Real Bad, it stayed that way throughout the metal stomp of incandescent new single Chaos Queen, bisexual national anthem Lemonade, and the candycorn joygasm of Sober Lovin’ You. Bringing it home, ZELA left the crowd higher than they found them with the jubilant I’m Healing.

Headliners looming, we hopped the last bus back to catch rapper, producer, and songwriter Berwyn bathed in red and solo on a keyboard, wrapping up his set with the goosebump-machine that is Glory; a tale of dreams, immigration, ambition and closeness to God.

Up a menacing flight of steps we ran back to The Exchange for Heidi Curtis and the return of the smoke machine (seriously, I can still taste it). Flitting between keyboard and trademark pastel blue guitar, Heidi took a stroll through her increasingly impressive catalogue, belting out Tempelhoff, Comfort Me, Wicked Games and more, wrapping up with piano-pounder Give Me Up. By turns elusive (try finding her music online) and down-to-earth the way only Geordies can be, Heidi is never anything less than ethereal.

Back at the Exchange, Brightonian singer-songwriter Sam Tompkins came with a beguiling stage presence borne of busking, his music a potent cocktail of R&B and hip-hop with a dash of pop and lashings of mood. From the toxic relationship drama of The Deceiver to a beautiful love letter to family in My Brother, Tomkins brought the crowd in close and the lights down low for a mellow, sensual and surprisingly personal end to the festival.

All this and done in time for the last Metro home too.

Image: Sam Tompkins by Victoria Wai

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