MIXTAPE: Ben Wall | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: GoGo Penguin by Arlen Connelly

Words: Ben Wall, manager of Independent, Sunderland

I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved, in one way or another, at Independent for its now ten-year existence, and I’ve seen hundreds upon hundreds of bands play. Picking a mixtape of acts hasn’t been easy, there are so many worth shouting about, so I’ve picked the ones which have proved the most memorable after all these years.


Absentee – We Should Never Have Children
The first band booked to play Independent, unfortunately cancelling on the night leaving support Lucas Renney to carry the show. That still doesn’t take away from the fact that Absentee – and Dan Michaelson in particular – were a massively underrated talent whose songs are full of wit and humour. The opening lines of this song are the perfect example.

Bonobo – Days To Come
I was lured into a false sense of security when I booked Bonobo for a gig, one of the first ‘proper’ bands I booked and someone I was a massive fan of. Back when I thought this booking bands things was gonna be a piece of piss…how wrong youngish Ben was! Anyway, what a gig – and what a man he is – I could pick almost any of his songs but the title track of the album he was touring at the time seems appropriate.

The Wooden Sky – Our Hearts Were Young
Taken from their most recent album, this little-known Canadian band are unfortunately still little known on Blighty’s shores but have become Independent regulars over the years. Their first gig landed on a snowy night one Autumn (2009/10?) in the midst of the Sunderland indie folk scene that supported the likes of The Lake Poets, Matt Stalker and Chased By Wolves, and they fitted right in from the off.

The Sound Of Rum – Life Of A Scribe
The amazing Kate Tempest’s hip-hop three-piece, pre-Mercury nomination, who played to around 12 people for the most of her set and pretty much blew all of those dozen people away. What was, for most, a rather uncomfortably small crowd suddenly became irrelevant when a passing MC crew stumbled in, resulting in joyous mayhem as a 25 minute battle ensued. Kate won of course.

Baths – Hall
Once just the wonderfully named William Wiesenfeld, this track from Baths sums up fairly concisely what one man and a laptop can achieve. Layer upon layer of vocals, sampled guitars, percussion, white noise and clunky bass builds until Will’s falsetto brings it all together. Without sounding like an ‘it’s better live’ knob, Baths are a band you’ve gotta see in person to fully get.

Hiss Golden Messenger – O Nathaniel
HGM’s Lateness Of Dancers album got all the reviews last year, with appearances on David Letterman sealing the deal, but it’s O Nathaniel from his From Country Hai East Cotton EP that first made our ears prick up. He didn’t play this at his Independent appearance, which would’ve been the icing on the cake on what was probably the best gig I’ve ever seen, anywhere.

GoGo Penguin – Hopopono
A band we’d followed for a year or so before getting the opportunity to book, the thought of trying to sell a jazz gig at Independent would normally give me cold sweats, but GoGo Penguin are jazz for the people who don’t know they like jazz, and thankfully there’s a few of them around Wearside.

This Aint Vegas – Short Term Long Term
The only local band I’ve included and not only because they’re not about anymore. This song feels like a parting shot from Vegas and the YouTube vid for this is, I think, their last ever gig in Sunderland in the old Independent’s Little Room. Adam and Ricky’s vocals intertwine in such a distinctive way, that even eight years of listening later it still leaves me with a warm yet empty feeling of what might have been.

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