FESTIVAL REVIEW: A Stone’s Throw Festival @ Various Venues, Tynemouth & North Shields (25.05.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Another Sky by Victoria Wai

Words: Laura and Leigh Venus 

Back for another year, A Stones Throw Festival is a multi-venue event encompassing nine venues between Tynemouth and North Shields with scores of the hottest touring and local artists and, brilliantly, loads of free buses running all day carting the crowd from gig to gig.

County Durham singer-songwriter Elizabeth Liddle brought an uplifting Joni Mitchell by-way-of Bob Dylan chilled vibe to the gathering early afternoon, rich, organic and chillingly personal. The Early Purple (ironically enough 40 minutes late on after an interminable sound check), an early career bunch whose debut EP landed last year, delivered feather-light harmonies across an ethereal, oftentimes haunting set. 

The furiously magnetic Flat Party duo of Jack Lawther and Rory ORourke owned every chipped, nicotine-infused inch of the social club stage, careening around tunes like Shotgun like, well, a bunch of lads at a flat party, but arty enough that you wouldnt mind them being your neighbours. Twanging guitars, smatterings of synth, and a whiff of the Strokes in the air. Sounds Mint were a flurry of cool hair and shades, upbeat pop-punk pulled along by chugging, propulsive bass, the whole thing infused with strident social commentary and a neat break in the middle to check the football results. 

Coming out swinging, you could smell the testosterone dripping off HMRC from down the street, and while theres only four of them they had an outsized presence in a tight room for a phenomenal performance. Newcastle-based and specialising in poetry-driven multi-genre post-punk, this is the sound of a country on its back, Boots on the Ground and Frank Bruno among the heady howls evocative of the very best of the eighties cultural response to Thatcher. As chirpy as it is cynical, these are agro beats to dance to. Relentlessly entertaining, as full of humour as they are of heart. 

Conor Michael, fresh off the back of Februarys Come and Kiss Me, delivered an easygoing, summery gig at Karma Koast, all acoustic and threaded through with neat foot station loop business. Another act rendered oddly transcendent in a social club setting, Fiona Lee was a revelation. Mesmerising and emotive with a nice handful of grit thrown in, her songs played like a tear-stained photo album of her life, Lavender encapsulating the mythic, tender qualities of motherly love. 

Back at the Exchange, Birmingham-born Sipho captured the audience in a near-silent reverie, with a dusky, searingly soulful and sweepingly lyrical set. London prog rockers Another Sky arrived with a sizeable fanbase in the room, Catrin Vincents lauded, haunted vocals feeling like something from another world, anchored by avowedly earthy tales like the time she wanted to throw her phone in the sea during Covid but decided to write a song instead. The space filled out by time they got to I Never Had Control and The Pain, and the whole thing wrapped up with a call to dance.

Essex indie rockers Bilk owned the Salt Market later in the day with a beefy blend of angsty, punky indie, tongue firmly in cheek throughout Fashion, Daydream, and a superfluous set that led to the first mosh pit of the day and some incredible moves from the crowd to the clear delight of lead Sol Abrahams. Skidmark was dedicated to Rishi Sunak, the crowd asked to sing along to the explicit but oddly touching chorus.

Straight up after Bilk, a surprise set from Teessides Moon Wax in the complete other corner of the Salt Market, the soundcheck leading the crowd across the venue and through a whole dining area to a silky smooth show and some astonishing, profound even, guitar solos. Lit with a sole bulb and a bunch of fairy lights, this was a laid back affair and highlight of the day, the band clearly having an incredible time knocking off new single Golden State Getaway alongside Tequila and Words to Say. Like laying by a Miami hotel pool in the eighties, this was sizzling, synthy, and sun-kissed, and just a proper good time. 

Old hands Sundara Karma headlined, the Reading rockers completely packing the Exchange to the point of madness, Wishing Well and Better Luck Next Time rejuvenating the crowd after a long, balmy day across the coast. 

Another fantastic year for the festival, the only problem being the best kind to have, which is so many great acts and no chance of seeing them all. As ever, its well-run, easy to get around, and no matter where you choose to go, the programming is impeccable and youve every chance of discovering your new favourite thing. 

Image: HMRC by Victoria Wai

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