LIVE REVIEW: Songs from Northern Britain #11 @ The Georgian Theatre/Green Room, Stockton (18.05.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Bull by Tracy Hyman

Songs from Northern Britain is a unique bi-annual Anglo-Scottish showcase of emerging talent. With every act introduced by BBC Scotland’s Vic Galloway in the historic Georgian Theatre and adjacent Green Room, it is a special day. It was an opportunity The Larches could not pass up; stepping away from their GCSE revision to blast away the cobwebs in the Green Room. The Larches’ raw power and presence is something Georgian opener Grave Faces also have in abundance. There is a deal more experience packed into the punch of singer Phil Saunders and co, although the band itself is very new, and they appeal to us to join them on their journey. “Raise your glasses high” Phil sings. A bit early in the afternoon for me, as yet.

And now in total contrast, CHAT take us back to the 1980s. They wear their Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Stock, Aitken and Waterman influences on their blazer jacket sleeves, and they impress everyone with their sparkling pop melodies and even throw in a Eurovision type chant chorus. Definitely not nul point from this enthused crowd.

Blackout the Arcade have travelled along the A66 from Darlington on a mission to entertain. Their upbeat, high energy indie is played with a smile and even with an occasional audience singalong on the chorus lines. Recent single release Overdrive is a pretty good summation of their ethos.

Marina Josephina is a late replacement but the local lass has earned her call up off the bench having played her first ever gig in the bar at the same event last year. Seated at a keyboard Marina fuses jazz, soul, lounge and also R&B – “as I fit a lot of words into a short space” into her self penned songs. Great songs too, those wordy verses are deep and probing. And what a voice!

Talking of ones to watch, we cannot keep our eyes off our first Scottish outfit of the day, Edinburgh’s Day Sleeper. Especially the big, brooding, presence on vocals, who seems to wind up the intense, indie rock into a maelstrom as he bounds and rebounds off the stage. Dramatic, gothic even, and many’s stand-out band of the day. For others though, that accolade lies with the next act.

Twayn are another talented, young North Eastern band centred on singing twins Hannah and Grace. They played their second ever gig in Nashville, and came second in the Liverpool International Songwriting Competition but today at the festival they are top of the pops. Upbeat, catchy, with lots of harmonies and yet with an occasional not so harmonious sting in the tale, like final song Mr Perfect or present single Out The Door: “I’m doing community service telling the world that you are worthless.”

The quality acts and musical contrasts continued until the end of the night. There were fast guitars from indie force Girls.Speak.French down from Scotland playing their first English gig. Duncan Lloyd from Maximo Park played in a trio with plenty of mellow, melodic guitar indie. You could almost describe the voice as gentle. The music slow but building into a psychedelic whirl. Irked punked it up big style in the Green Room, singer Helen catapulted herself out through the audience and back warbling at the top of the top of her voice over the power chords. The Second Hardest Man in Billingham, second single, Backstreets but no second bests or half measures for a band that are full on and intense but never short of an inter song joke or smile. Perhaps an overlong stay in the Golden Smog micropub has had some influence here.

So, to overall headliner Bull. Full credit to the York band for standing and delivering what they rightly describe as “jangling indie joy.” It has been a very long day/night and it has started to take its toll on the audience with buses, trains, taxis and lifts to catch. Bull keep playing all the same, taking us on a ride to Weston-Super-Mare and through many more highlights from their new album Engines of Honey.

Then it is home time from another Songs From Northern Britain – and I cannot help thinking how right Vic Galloway is to stress we are so very lucky to have venues like this on our doorstep and to have been served up with so much talent from promoters The Kids Are Solid Gold and Tees Music Alliance.

Long may we keep experiencing songs from Northern Britain.

Image: Irked by Tracy Hyman

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