LIVE REVIEW: Generator Live Festival @ Boiler Shop, Newcastle (25.06.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Straight Girl by Laura Venus

Now stunningly repurposed – with just the right amount of industrial flavour remaining in the bricks and rafters – as eclectic cultural venue Boiler Shop, the former manufacturing base of industrial revolution icon Robert Stephenson saw the ghost of the Father of Railways blown out the doors by self-proclaimed ‘Overlord of Electropunk’ Straight Girl. Closing out the inaugural Generator Live Festival, their caustic, merciless set saw the genre-bending musical alchemist closing the day with what was undoubtedly one of the world’s first grave rave congas.

Madness unravelled, drinks were sloshed, and one poor bugger caught in the moment slammed into an unsuspecting table so hard mid-conga that even the pigeons winced. A phenomenal and genuinely memorable end to a packed day, all the fun of this new festival started well before Straight Girl claimed the night with an impressive array of events across the week.

Both blessed and cursed by the most maddening weather the North East has to offer, Saturday saw a lighter-than-anticipated crowd pumping in and out of the Boiler Shop like red blood cells as the weather swung from searing heat to torrential, borderline tropical rainfall.

Threaded in and around the nine-strong roster (tenth act Venus Grrrls sadly pulled out last-minute when fronter Grace Kelly was hit with a dose of quinsy), DJs Tequila, Bl4ckstar, and Lively Up kept the momentum going as artists arrived like trains in a station on the hour, every hour.

Following on from mellow lounge-Americana revivalists Lovely Assistant, John Dole delivered a subdued, soulful set. The authentic voice of North East hip-hop let us in on poor dietary choices and a deep-rooted fear of Silent Hill, slinging witty, distortion-heavy tunes like Wanna Know and Acid Rain, his collaboration with Newcastle-based dark-alternative artist Xaatu. 

Already on a roll with a bunch of sellout shows and national-level festivals under their belts, bigfatbig brought serious noughties pop-punk energy with their first-ever tune Science, and fuzzy anthem Don’t Wanna Be Sad. Throwing in new songs Wrong Place Wrong Time (all about nepotism) and Shut Up, bigfatbig were big fat fun, way too humble, and assuredly good vibes only. 

Now an Artist in Residence at Sage Gateshead, Sagaboi showed why he’d earned comparisons to Kanye West and The Weeknd, his gripping melodies and exceptional lyricism wrapped up in a Geordie accent across a bunch of new songs, including Geezer. An effortless showman, the closer saw him sampling Toca’s Miracle, getting the crowd jacked up, then walking off stage mid-song to rapturous applause.  

Fresh from her American debut at SXSW, alt. pop artist Ruth Lyon captivated with her special brew of honesty, attitude and melancholy, delivering a bounty of riches with the joyous Lemon Tree and a cover of Cold War Kids’ Hospital Beds, wrapping up with Motormouth and Fast Food, two songs offering contrasting inspirations from her time in Texas and living her best life in lockdown.

Early-career rapper and actor Kema Kay brought a West End of Newcastle flavour to his personal and deliberately inspirational work, while Jodie Nicholson embraced her first time at a festival as a band, playing Be Back Soon, Losing Track and Move, leading the set from a haunting start to house party close and steering perfectly into the home stretch of the festival. 

With one foot in the flair and style of modern hip-hop and the other in the sensibilities of the golden era, Kay Greyson has earned a reputation as one of the hardest working artists on the local scene, with chops that have already seen her support The Game and Akala. Bursting with talent and exploding with positivity, Kay commanded the stage, ramping up the energy with a blistering, exuberant set that filled the room with sunshine.

Then, darkness fell. Smoke filled the stage as, illuminated by a single spotlight, a lone, hooded figure walked up to a synthesiser. Monastic chants (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail; a nod to the subversion to come) grew louder and more distorted to the point of being unrecognisable. When our ears could take no more, the robe was flung off and out burst Straight Girl. “I am not straight, and I’m not a fucking girl!” they screamed, and we were off.

Still hot from tearing through the alternative, electronic and progressive scene over the past few years, Straight Girl served up remorseless beats throughout an intoxicating and adrenalin-fuelled set, gurning, dancing and even ending up in the crowd picking out punters and promising “I’m gonna fuck you up” before kicking off the aforementioned conga.

We ended up so far from where we started the day with mellow noodlists Lovely Assistant that the tonal whiplash solidified the eclectic and refreshing feeling of the whole festival. A solid year one, Generator Live is a welcome new entrant on the local scene and a solid showcase for local talent with massive potential for even greater things in the years to come. And, thanks to Straight Girl, I’m still fucked up. 

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