LIVE REVIEW: Twisterella @ Various Venues, Middlesbrough (09.10.21) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Fatherson by Tracy Hyman

Boasting an impressive and eclectic line-up, Middlesbrough’s Twisterella always proves itself to be head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to North East festivals. The venues are within spitting distance of each other, which eases some of the burden of the multiple clashes throughout the day, but choosing who to see is still a challenge due to the sheer amount of local and national quality on the line-up.

Starting the day with a trip to see Teesside favourite James Leonard Hewitson is certainly the right decision. Spirited indie rock has this packed crowd bouncing throughout his set. Hefty singalongs pair with an undoubted excitement shared between the crowd and the band, culminating in a raucous rendition of his track Deader, which sees the entire room screaming along. There really isn’t a better way to start a festival.

From these guitar-driven singalongs to something altogether different. The full force of Straight Girl hits you as you walk in the door. With pounding beats pitched against forceful vocals, Straight Girl is a ball of energy, perched on the end of the venue bar enticing the crowd further forward. There’s a raw passion and excitement that transfers through to the crowd, leaving them in awe. It’s a euphoric rave at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, that lifts everyone’s spirits for the day ahead.

A mere few minutes’ walk away is someone at the other end of the spectrum. The softly spoken Jake Whiskin’s heartfelt, delicate songs provide the antithesis to the madness of Straight Girl. Understated and compelling, you can’t help but be drawn in and find yourself hanging off his every word. Stand out track Slow Motion provides another highlight to the day.

Something of a supergroup are up next in the form of Fortitude Valley, whose debut album is due imminently. There is an expectant buzz around the venue as this four-piece take to the stage, without a doubt as great as the sum of their parts. Their upbeat indie pop has the whole room captivated, but with tracks like Baby, I’m Afraid and All Hail the Great Destroyer how could you not be? Fortitude Valley are without doubt one of the highlights of this year’s Twisterella.

Bored at my Grandma’s House is currently on the rise, with an acclaimed EP already out there. She has only recently started playing live, not that you’d know it from her performance today. Songs from Sometimes I Forget You’re Human Too shine, particularly Skin. There’s a rare quality that permeates through this set. Seen live, her brand of toe-tapping shoegaze comes to life, and tonight it proves to be something really special.

From shoegaze to the vibrant punk stylings of the brilliant Dream Nails. Bounding on to the stage, this fearless foursome bring the party with them. Tearing through an incredible set, whilst effortlessly dealing with a couple of problematic individuals, their chant-along tracks have everyone in fine voice, particularly latest single Take Up Space. There’s a passion and a unity that doesn’t occur at any other show at Twisterella. Everybody needs Dream Nails in their life and the world would be a better place for it!

The eclecticism of Twisterella continues as Blanketman take to the stage. They could easily be dismissed as yet another post-punk group in an overcrowded market, yet they have something a little different about them. Some may call it an edge. Though a little less dour than most of the stuff in the genre, there’s a lot more to Blanketman than a fun element, something that this impassioned crowd pick up on, tracks like Beach Body providing grooves to ignite this fervour further.

Headliners are starting to appear thick and fast by this point, venues are filling up and there’s a real buzz around Twisterella. Closing the Townhouse stage is pop-punk princess Lauran Hibberd, who bounds onto the stage in wonderful form. It’s an infectious performance that enthuses even the most sedate of audiences into dancing along with her. With tracks like Call Shotgun and Bleurgh though, you’d expect nothing less!

Jordan Mackampa provides yet another about-turn. Crooning to a packed room, his soulful tracks provide a different kind of joy. His effortless style hits differently and you can’t help but be drawn in. These laidback grooves are faultless, his voice is so rich, and it flows through on tracks like What Am I. Amongst the soulfulness coming from last year’s album Foreigner there is the odd folk tinge to some of his tracks, which just adds another facet to this incredible performance. This feels like a very special set. The addition of the Teesside chant helps that along a little, but I think you’d struggle to find anyone who has a bad word to say about Jordan’s set this evening.

A very short walk up the stairs at the Westgarth Social Club for the last act of the day. Scottish indie rockers Fatherson, who take to the stage in front of a packed room and immediately set about tearing the place apart. It’s energetic, powerful and anthemic, and they have the crowd belting back their tracks at the top of their lungs. It’s the end of a long day, but you’d never believe it, new tracks like End of The World slot in perfectly against old favourites as they cap off an incredible day.

Having been to many multi-venue festivals across the years, Twisterella is completely different to the majority. There is a different feeling, the variety of acts is much more eclectic, the venues are within five minutes of each other. It all makes a difference. You really cannot fault this year’s Twisterella at all.

Image: Lauran Hibberd by Tracy Hyman

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