FESTIVAL REVIEW: Hartlepool Live @ Various Venues, Hartlepool (15.06.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Paul Smith by Tracy Hyman

The inaugural Hartlepool Live took place across five strategically placed venues in the town and, while it was plenty busy, there were thankfully no queues which made it perfect for maximum stage hopping. Props to the organisers too for ensuring 75% of the line-up was either from the town or had a link to it. 

The first highlight of the day are Pool’s own Leopard Rays at The Studio who are a grungy delight despite the tricky sound and weird back-lit stage set-up that made it feel like a soundcheck at first. Poppy and loud, recent single Wealth And Comfort is the first big hit of the day.

Venus are next up on the awesome Town Hall Theatre stage, which is inset into the wall and feels a bit like watching a giant 3D television. Singer GK bounces around like a young Lauren Laverne and the Leeds punkas really suit the bigger stage. Starting with a long intro featuring keyboardist Grace (ex-Armpit and the Glitterbabies and their link to the town) followed by an extended version of, as yet unreleased, Freaky Friday was a bold and successful move as fans piled in from the bar to see what was going on. Another even newer track, Amy, sounds like a distorted Stevie Nicks power ballad before they finished with an immense version of debut single Deranged. There should be no stopping this band over the next couple of years.

Thankfully the lights in The Studio are functioning just about satisfactorily by the time Lost State of Dance arrive for their last ever show. Their truly infectious blend of disco, rock and dance remains as spellbinding as it was when they first started out. As closer Dance Floor comes to a suitably cloud scraping finale singer Dan is on his knees wringing the last out of his synth, a stage invader is pounding the drummer’s crash cymbal just about in time and even a photographer has leaped on stage to document the band’s final moments. But don’t be sad that it’s over, just be happy that it happened and it was awesome. 

There is barely room to swing a cat in the Chilli Cake cafe where Onlooker are taking no prisoners with their fast and furious garage-rock-in-a-major-key. Down the road at a rammed Hops & Cheese Mt. Misery are bringing the summery pop vibes in the form of recent local hit Lonely Pines and Tell Me What’s On Your Mind from the accompanying EP, plus a glorious cover (that I’ll dangle here untitled and urge you to get to one of their live shows to see) that they could really make their own – all as people still struggled to get in at the back. 

I just missed the end of Mouses’ headline slot round the corner at The ConTemporary, a mint looking community space sponsored by Durham’s Empty Shop, so new it still smells of sawdust and perfect for the band’s DIY ethos I’m sure.

Back at the Town Hall Para Alta rattle through a set of very polished heartland rock to a partisan hometown crowd, while those other Hartlepool heroes Plaza are running 10 minutes late at a still slightly shambolic Studio but sounding suitably trashy before we had to hot foot it back to the Town Hall one last time for Paul Smith and the (New) New Intimations now featuring David Brewis on guitar, Field Music’s Andrew Lowther on bass and Tom English from Maximo Park on drums. 

The Field Music influence is present from the start in In The Public Eye’s new funky mid-section but it’s Brewis’s inventive backing vocals that are a highlight. Lady of Lourdes becomes a soaring indie gem with layers of harmonies and North Atlantic Drift has an added vocal depth. Smith’s banter is on top form, often nearly losing himself in anecdotes about Teesside and his days at the art college next door. To recurring shouts for Maximo Park songs the singer finally responds that he doesn’t know them before teasingly picking the riff from Books From Boxes. They do however run through a punkier version of The Night I Lost My Head before Contradictions and Jump start to ramp the stagecraft up as only four seasoned pros know how and Silver Rabbit is reinvented as the big set ender the recorded version threatened. But there is just time for a quick medley of By The Monument and Apply Some Pressure (Dave’s backing vocals are majestic as they bend a stone cold classic into something soulful and beautiful) to send everyone on their way happy.

Here’s to Hartlepool Live 2020.

Image: Venus by Tracy Hyman

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