FESTIVAL REVIEW: Last Train Home @ Various Venues, Darlington (07.09.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Reliably informed

Words: Robert Nichols & Tracy Hyman


Image: Ponyland by Tracy Hyman

Fifty or so acts, playing seven stages and all a mere hop, skip and a jump from Darlington Station makes Last Train Home a unique festival. First class entertainment was offered by many of the bright, up and coming talents drawn from Darlington, the North East and from further afield on the national rail network.

The Last Train Home Festival is about contrast and talent; from the beautiful melodies of The Lake Poets, Nel Unlit, Eve Conway, George Boomsma and all uplifting the brethren at St John’s Church, to the female-dominant Noisy Daughters line-up in Hullabaloo. Then there was the sheer power and intensity of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs in the Forum or the force of a double drummer drubbing from Ponyland upstairs at Hogans.

As a starter for ten there was Eye Bleach, not a pleasant thought yet a really pleasant listening experience. A spacey, psych-y post-punk blend of keys, guitars and understated effect-treated vocals which ebbed through the antique wooden school hall door at The Forum.

Over in the towering St John’s Church, Hartlepool’s own Charlotte Grayson charmed the musical congregation, offering life lessons next to the lectern on Don’t Date. Eve Conway would later turn on the boomerang pedal to send her vocals down the nave and soaring up to the rafters; while Nel Unlit augmented their angelic sound and soft-spoken narratives with cello. From one stop down the East Coast Mainline at Northallerton, George Boomsma showered us with the sweet and sour single, Streets Paved With Gold, invested with the spirit of Nick Drake. Magical.

The Broken Broadcast might be over and out but Methodical Beast share many of the same cast. Mr James Riggall and the gang have upped the tempo and turned up the guitar, to scale their mountain top upstairs at Hogans.

A quick jaunt across to The Forum and James Leonard Hewitson is blasting out single Deader to a room full of believers. They stay on to laud the glam-tastic superheroes Be Quiet. Shout Loud! who have camped it up in sequins and dayglo specs. Everyone simply has to join in with their big singalong chorus finish: it is simply obligatory, after all how can you refuse lead singer Jake Radio, a man quite literally glittering in gold?

Roxanne de Bastion is winning with her own audience participation at St John’s. Having captured her journeys to gigs in her published Tales From The Rails, the Berlin-born singer songwriter was an absolute must for this train-based fest.

Talking about stage craft, Ponyland have set up double drummers down on the floor of Hogans. On stage the music moves and shakes with guitars, bass and brass weaving a melting pot of Afro-jazz and European hardcore folk hiding behind face masks. A female vocalist rushes across the stage, and all while the beats pound on. At one point she urges the crowd up with her megaphone, coming down onto the dancefloor to form a cavorting circle. They duly oblige, dancing, arms linked, lapping up the carnival atmosphere.

Back to St John’s and The Cornshed Sisters are joyous. Playing as a five piece their sound fills every crevice and niche of the church, rich and full. A wonderful mix of folk and pop merging into melodic brilliance and a welcome period of calm to refuel and regroup before the last leg of the night.

I popped in to the Forum briefly to catch Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs and ‘Wow’, is all I can say. Intense. A wall of sound. I’ve heard them played a lot on BBC 6Music and they’re not really my sort of thing, but there in front of me surrounded by a large enraptured crowd I could appreciate their power and their charm.

For me, it’s all about headliners She Drew The Gun, who start off with Resister. Their punchy, psychedelic pop music makes you sit up, take note and want to dance. This is about telling the establishment ‘no, you can’t do that’ and politically it all seems very relevant. Singer Louisa steps into the audience, fist in air as she sings Pit Pony. Attentive eyes watch the powerful lyrics of Poem being spoken; a song about how society is portrayed, how it is treated, the homeless being moved on and laws being made to exclude the normal working people. It is a rallying call to find something to believe in. There’s one more song before cries for more from an inpatient crowd leads to an encore, the band clearly feeling the love in the room. Then, the curtain is down. To the station for the last train home. Timetable it in for next year.

Image: She Drew The Gun by Tracy Hyman

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