WEEKLY ROUND-UP (03.06.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: NikNak

Every week we pull together some of the best events taking place across the region, from music and theatre, to comedy, art and film. Read more on these, and other events, in the latest issue of NARC. magazine in print and online.

Three years on from his previous LP, Villagers main man Conor O’Brien heads out on the road in June with a full band, stopping in at Wylam Brewery on Wednesday 5th June, to promote his eagerly-awaited sixth album, and the award-winning Dublin songwriter has been taking online requests for which material should make the tour setlist. With such a vast back catalogue he’s spoiled for choice but, judging by recent singles, his impending release is also set to make a huge impact. O’Brien’s thought-provoking lyrics with just a touch of unsettling eeriness have been present once more in You Lucky One and title track That Golden Time, and are of course accompanied by his unmistakeable soulful vocals, while his vivid and beautiful melodies are bound to induce a few tears.
Continuing the theme of distinctive voices, support comes from the highly-rated Hamish Hawk. Edinburgh’s erudite wordsmith has announced that his new album, A Firmer Hand, is due to follow 2023’s critically acclaimed Angel Numbers in August. Recent single Big Cat Tattoos suggests Hawk has many more eloquent lyrics and killer melodies up his sleeve and while he’s more commonly seen with his excellent band, he’s a compelling live performer and this intimate solo slot promises to be equally magical. 
Wednesday 5th June @ Wylam Brewery, Newcastle

Light Years
Taking place on Saturday 8th June, Light Years is an all-dayer that combines the powers of two of the region’s most astute promoters, Wandering Oak and F54, and one of Newcastle’s best mid-sized venues, the Boiler Shop. Wandering Oak are well known for bringing the world’s best psych rock music to Newcastle, while F54 have been steadily building a reputation as a finger-on-the-pulse booker; Light Years assimilates their expertise to bring a stunning line-up of atmospheric rock music to the venue.
Local legends Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs headline, their pulverising live set has recently gained them international acclaim, including a live session on KEXP. Also performing are ĠENN, who describe themselves as “a sisterhood of psychedelic textures”, and their cosmic brand of Roky Erickson-tinged rock and roll is sure to delight; O. are set to release their debut record on Speedy Wunderground – their brand of art rock oscillates between dissonant and hyper-melodic seemingly at a whim – inspired by auteurs like Deerhoof and Lightning Bolt, and adding their own brass-laden twist to it; Newcastle’s Pit Pony have gained national and international acclaim with debut record World To Me, with another LP of galvanising garage rock in the way in 2024; Manchester’s TVAM’s colourful, noisy sonic landscape is reminiscent of Midnite Vultures-era Beck and Nine Inch Nails; and, completing the line-up, Plantoid are a four-piece jazz rock fusion band from Brighton whose debut album comes out on Bella Union this year.
Tickets are a relative snip at £27 for a more than a generous dollop of some of the UK’s best experimental rock music.
Saturday 8th June @ Boiler Shop, Newcastle

Image: Pigsx7 by Amelia Read

Gig For Gaza
Featuring a superb line-up of diverse North East talent, this special charity gig aims to raise funds for Medical Aid for Palestinians and features Teesside’s electronic radgecore group Benefits, alt. singer-songwriter Melanie Baker, Tyne & Wear hardcore punks Irked, rowdy rockers Dossers and a DJ set from Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith.
Thursday 6th June @ KU, Stockton

Brennan Leigh & Joshua Hedley
Fans of vintage country and Western swing will find much to adore about this line-up, which features hugely accomplished American singer-songwriter, guitar and mandolin player Brennen Leigh, whose storytelling style has earned her cult status among fans. Support comes ace fiddle player and singer with a granite twang Joshua Hedley, plus local heroes Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra.
Thursday 6th June @ The Fire Station, Sunderland

Elle Chante
Accessible Dreamscapes is a truly unique and innovative piece exploring performance and presentation from a disabled perspective, featuring dreamscape environments, sensory experiences and arts technologies, and taking the audience on a tender, vulnerable journey.
Thursday 6th June @ The Glasshouse, Gateshead

New Act New Material Night
Hilarity Bites present another night of brand new comedic talent, with sets from Anth Young, one of the hottest acts on the North East circuit; prolific talent Si Beckwith; and laidback chortles courtesy of Andy Fury, plus a host of brand new and established comedians testing out new material.
Thursday 6th June @ Hops & Cheese, Hartlepool

Trailblazing DJ and producer NikNak blesses the stage of Cobalt Studios on Thursday 6th June with an audio experience like no other. Her immersive compositions and captivating improvised performances fuse turntablism, experimental synthesis, haunting vocals and dynamic electronic sounds, crafting a cinematic experience that traverses genres like jazz, jungle, soundscape and trip-hop.
Embracing her identity as a self-proclaimed nerd and advocate for diversity, NikNak will be showcasing her forthcoming album, Ireti, which delves into Afrofuturism and explores the intersection of humanity and technology. Inspired by iconic films and video games like Blade Runner and Cyberpunk 2077, the album follows a dystopian narrative, centred around the journey of reclaiming humanity from the grasp of machines. As NikNak explains: “If there was a Black Blade Runner, this would be the soundtrack.”
As well as being the first Black turntablist to win an Oram Award, she has collaborated with household names such as Grandmaster Flash, Princess Nokia, Akala and Madlib and has graced many legendary stages at places such as Berghain, Glastonbury, Fabric, We Out Here and Outlook. 
Be sure to seize the opportunity to see this boundary pushing artist tantalise your senses.   
Thursday 6th June @ Cobalt Studios, Newcastle

Image: Laura Smyth by Jiksaw

Laura Smyth
Award-winning comedian Laura Smyth will be bringing her open and honest show Living My Best Life to The Stand in Newcastle on Thursday 6th June. In her latest show she unveils and explores aspects of modern life and how ‘living your best life’ is actually achieved.
She brings topics to the stage that aren’t always easy to talk about including body positivity, ageing gracefully, spending all your wages, motherhood and so much more. She’s hailed an utterly hilarious, comedic powerhouse and has quickly risen through the comedic ranks with previous performances going down a storm at Live At The Apollo, the BBC New Comedy Awards in 2023 and as support for Jack Whitehall.
Smyth has found a way to be hilarious without the frills; she’s simply herself and tells some of her life’s stories as they are in a naturally comedic way. Besides being a comedian on stage, she’s also a writer of at least one of my favourite series, Bad Education, as well as Deep Fake Neighbour Wars. There’s clearly no stopping Laura Smyth’s rise, and her upcoming tour will only add heat to the fire.
Thursday 6th June @ The Stand, Newcastle

Joe Kent-Walters: Work in Progress
In 2021 Joe Kent-Walters won the BBC New Comedy award as his signature character Frankie Monroe, a strange, rash cream-smeared old man obsessed with the working men’s club and his trusty trowel. On Friday 7th June he is bringing Frankie and so much more to Stockton’s ARC for a work in progress show all around his signature character, and his attempts to save the working men’s club he owns as it becomes a literal portal to hell. The show boasts an impressively strange and absurd mix of comedy and fun as Joe’s style of comedy fuses audience interaction, comical song and bizarre characters into a show likened to that of League of Gentlemen and The Mighty Boosh, and is bound to be a hit with anyone keen on seeing strange characters put into strange situations. It also means a great deal that Joe is bringing his show to Stockton following his impressive win, as when asked about what the award meant to him Joe replied: “I think I’d mostly feel proud to be representing the weird Northerners of the comedy world. There’s some amazing people and stuff that happens up here that doesn’t really get that much of a look in. Would feel great to shine a bit of light on that chunk of the comedy pie.”
Friday 7th June @ ARC, Stockton

Image: Otis Gibbs

Otis Gibbs
Hailing from Wanamaker, Indiana, folk singer-songwriter Otis Gibbs heads back across the pond on Friday 7th June to treat The Cluny 2 to some alt. country folk goodness. A self-proclaimed songwriter, storyteller, painter and photographer (and planter of 7176 trees, no less), Gibbs’ albums have been bringing compelling stories to keen audiences since the early 2000s.
Otis Gibbs holds a high opinion of Newcastle, and it definitely feels the same way about him. The music video for his popular 2014 track The Darker Side Of Me was filmed in the city and is a huge hit with fans of folk old and new. We’re really lucky to have Gibbs in our Northern midst for a show this summer.
Also the host of his own podcast, Thanks For Giving A Damn, which invites musicians, journalists and historians to share stories and insight – an evening with Otis Gibbs is likely to not only break your heart a little bit with the vulnerability of his craft, but also make you break a smile with his character and tales of being a ‘creative misfit’. Gibbs’ rare cameo in Newcastle is not one to miss.
Friday 7th June @ The Cluny 2, Newcastle

Losing The Plot film retreat
Love films? Love going to events that offer a different, more relaxed vibe? Then the Star & Shadow Cinema’s Losing The Plot, a film retreat with a family friendly approach, is one for you. It’s not for experts, or those who want to be alone, it’s a community experience, to explore cinema that you wouldn’t see in the local multiplex, to talk about the films, the stories, ideas, themes and characters in a friendly relaxed environment. There are shared meals, the opportunity to camp and there is even a fire to sit and talk around.
This 10th edition of the festival takes place from Friday 7th-Sunday 9th June at The Burnlaw Centre, Hexham – a small and magical community which offers space to think, talk, socialise and make connections with others. This year’s selection has a theme of love that criss-crosses the films, not just the romantic kind but love across race, asexual love, and the love of a created family. Christo Wallers curates the festival in an unusual way; making a selection based on what is accessible and different, a change from straightforward Hollywood plot narratives. The festival aims to be inclusive, with tickets priced as low as possible, and all include communal meals, accommodation and of course tickets to the films themselves. As Christo says: “You don’t need to be a film connoisseur, more someone interested in humans.”
Friday 7th-Sunday 9th June @ The Burnlaw Centre, Hexham

Ferocious Dog
There’s nothing more glorious than a band who are completely unafraid to do everything in their power to resist the urge to conform to the all-too-comforting boundaries of genre. It can be quite the tightrope walk to try and craft music that takes elements from various genres and concoct a unique and boundary-pushing sound, in which anything goes. All too often, the results can sometimes come off as rather frenetic and disorganised, with different aesthetic shades colliding to create a murky and overwhelming sonic assault.
Sometimes, the balance can be struck perfectly, almost to the point where it starts to sound too effortless to be true. Nottingham’s defiant quintet Ferocious Dog are an exceptional example of the latter, boasting a singular sound that takes in Celtic folk, gypsy folk, blues, dissident folk, pop punk, full-on hardcore punk and straight-up rock. On paper it sounds like a recipe for disorganised chaos, but in practice it’s an enthralling unique experience, with recent release Kleptocracy, their seventh LP, boasting a breakneck sixteen tracks over 55 minutes which soars across a History of the Last 50 Years of Guitar Music. It’ll translate gloriously to the boards of Stockton’s Georgian Theatre, which they’ll tread on Friday 7th June.
Friday 7th June @ The Georgian Theatre, Stockton

A new exhibition curated by artist Sue Loughlin, exploring the relationship that artist mothers have with themselves, their children, society, politics and the artworld, bringing together a variety of artist’s perspectives on parenting. The selected art works by Hannah Cooke, Katie Cuddon, Sarah Maple, Lauren McLaughlin, Kübra Müjde, Sara Qaed and Kate Sweeney, explore caregiving  within systems which often overlook, exclude, censor, minimise or legislate their experience.
Saturday 8 June – Saturday 10 August @ NewBridge Project, Newcastle

Pillow Queens
Dublin quartet Pillow Queens are back in the North East this month, promoting their third album Name Your Sorrow at The Cluny on Monday 10th June, as they continue their insatiable rise up the indie rock echelons.
Already lauded for their powerful and personal pop punk-inflected songs beset with themes of catholic guilt, betrayal, hypocrisy and relationship minutiae of all kinds, their new material adds further layers of atmosphere and emotion to the mix. Adding extra hazy passion to their already indomitable music has seen the Irish foursome rack up a wave of glowing reviews as they take to the road, visiting the region again after two years away.
Previously releasing an acclaimed pair of singles from the album already this year, the brooding Gone and the intense dreamlike sound of Like A Lesson, it’s clear that Name Your Sorrow also continues the band’s trademark pursuit of pulsing beats and punishing guitars. It’s not only the music that has won the band fans from all corners, it’s the fact that they “explore the intersection of religion and Queerness.”
Monday 10th June @ The Cluny, Newcastle

Mike Watt & Il Sogno Del Marinaio
For someone so unassuming and diffident, it’s amazing how people of a certain age (old punks in particular) become dumbstruck around Mike Watt. But then Watt was the bassist in Minutemen, one of the greatest bands ever and the square pegs in the round hole of the US hardcore scene with their jazz, African and funk influences.
When that band ended in 1985 because of the tragic loss of guitarist – and Watt’s best friend – D Boon, Watt played with fIREHOSE for a few years and then became a peripatetic collaborator who even did a stint in the reformed Stooges. One of his most impressive projects is Il Sogno del Marinaio (The Sailor’s Dream), a trio with Stefano Pilia and Paolo Mongardi that have released a handful of records but have a reputation as a fearsome and fascinating live act. And they’re coming to the UK as part of a short tour, taking in The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Monday 10th June.
Monday 10th June @ The Cluny 2, Newcastle

Image: Mike Watt & Il Sogno Del Marinaio by by Matilde Piazzi

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