Review: Twisterella (08.10.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photos by Tracy Hyman

Streets bathed in golden autumnal sunlight, a warm breeze, bargain tickets, cheap parking, and all of the acts concentrated in a neat handful of venues located within a few minutes walking distance of each other? There’s little more I could have asked for from Twisterella, wrapping up the season with an event packed with strong headliners and a bounty of smaller artists and hidden gems. All this, and the online clashfinder is, simply put, the best I’ve yet seen from any festival, anywhere, ever, and organisers out there should be sitting up and taking note.

Stockton-On-Tees’ own Sisi, a young up-and-comer seen earlier this year at Leeds Festival, was an early stunner, the genre-fluid artist moving through her already bustling catalogue and showcasing her powerful control and strong voice on Simmer Down and I Know.

Looking for all the world like the Marvel Universe’s latest spin on seventies disco hero Dazzler, Cortney Dixon was delighted to find herself on the colour-changing floor of the Townhouse stage in a glimmering sequined outfit and a long way from the back lanes of South Shields. The lovechild of David Bowie and Goldfrapp, Dixon brought new tune Summer Love, alongside If You Love Somebody Don’t Fuck it Up, and a lush cover of Rebel Rebel, boasting unique vocals and a personality like the best kind of popcorn, salty and sweet. 

It was early in the day to find a venue packed to the point of barely being able to get through the door but BigFatBig only went and did it. All pink hair, stomping and shit-kicking attitude, the rising stars brought raucous positive energy with Shut Up, new tunes from upcoming EP Wrong Place Wrong Time and a cover of Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know.

London-born, Newcastle-raised Lizzie Esau brought a mellower vibe and new tune Brainchild; Phoebe Hall mesmerised with Just the Same and Secrets in a set of gorgeous queer, sad-but-fun bedroom-pop; Trunky Juno delivered a special brew of masterful lyricism and warped sounds, Serial Killer Vibes and Better Better delivered from behind moustache and makeup with a wink and a nod and more than a dash of nineties slacker rock, mock-bullying the crowd to follow them on Instagram (I caved) and shredding guitars.

Feel-good indie gang Komparrison brought the first panic of the day, the first floor of Westgarth Social Club displaying an alarming degree of bounce as the crowd lost it to their rocky, brit-pop-infused and thoroughly northern working-class vibe.

Alt-Pop artist EEVAH landed without her guitarist, going solo with a backing track a là Ian Brown (but good) for Wild Things, Out of Focus and Take Me To Bed, wrapping real human stories of heartbreak and fuckups in catchy pop hooks.

While the prog rock-inspired Jodie Nicholson was as rhythmic and haunting as ever with Move and Second Sun, Northern bratpop duo ZELA were greeted by a surging, heaving crowd as the sun went down. Fresh off their recent tour and setting the stage for the night to come, the future stadium-fillers landed a raucous, impeccable set packed full of fan favourites like Sober Lovin’ You and Sleep Real Bad, alongside new stompers Chaos Queen and High Wasted Genes.

Gothic trash outlaws Priestgate continued the high-energy streak in a flurry of sweat and eyeliner, fronter Rob Schofield a topless flurry of wild energy, combining the witling sincerity of early Morrissey, the hips of early Jagger and the abs of early Madonna with bright guitar-pop hooks and hypnotic lyrics.

Hewn from the craggy North East coast, the ferocious Pit Pony wheeled out new tunes Fuzzy Felt (title TBC), Accidental Doom, and Last Son, worrying the social club floor yet again as smashed drums and blistering guitars buoyed up a room packed to the walls and rafters with fans of the Tyneside five-piece.

Post-punkers TreeBoy and Arc were a frenetic, exhilarating force, with all the vibe of a punkier Talking Heads, telling searing stories of life in the North.

Forged in 2020 as a positive response to the covid pandemic, Dilutely Juice cut their teeth with street performance and the mastery over the public they honed was on full display as they combined ska, afrobeat, dance and oi! into a full-on party with people falling and phones flying to People Are Still Having Sex, Sick Boy coming on after them to flip the script with a grungy, heavier note to the night, a pounding set, and the lead ending by smashing his guitar to bits and walking off stage.

An angry blend of hip hop, industrial rock, electronica, and garage, Benefits are furiously political and vocal about the dismal state the country is in. ‘This place stinks of old wars’ they said, banging their chests and raging against austerity, Tories, and the drive for us all to ‘get back to work and shut up’ all through a furious, cathartic set. 

Hailing from the other side of the world—and the other side of the rainbow from Benefits—Little Quirks are a family affair that has been playing together since they were kids. An effervescent riot of bouncing, joyous folk pop, Little Quirks closed the day with bops The Rain, All My Friends are Birds and were dragged back onto the stage by a pleading crowd to wrap everything up with a cover of The Cranberries’ Zombie.

Eclectic, warm, and bursting with talent, Twisterella remains a gem of the local festival scene.

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