WEEKLY ROUND-UP (04.03.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Jessica Fostekew by Matt Stronge

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.

Last year’s Meatraffle album, Base & Superstructure (their third), was their best yet, a brilliant realisation of the sound they’d been building up to across its predecessors. A heady blend of rinky-dink keyboards, dubby shuffly rhythms, plaintive trumpet lines, paeans to love, friendship and camaraderie and a serious – if wryly expressed – commitment to class struggle (even the title is a key Marxist concept).
Frontman/purveyor of aforementioned plaintive trumpet lines Zsa Zsa Sapien (there are rumours his real name is Warren, but that seems unlikely) lays it all out in a weary, Dury-esque manner, explaining “Why do I always bring class into it? It’s coz the people in the lower classes suffer most, innit”, which is a fine summary of what they’re about.
They’ve played Newcastle before, a brilliant if under-attended Cluny show a couple of years back, but hopefully for their Zerox gig on Wednesday 6th March they’ll have gained a little more traction and a bit of a following and can pull something like the kind of crowd their charming, funny/serious wonky pop deserves. Londoners Pink Eye Club and the alarmingly off-kilter No Teeth support in yet another beautifully constructed Wandering Oak line-up.
Wednesday 6th March @ Zerox, Newcastle

Manga Saint Hilare
London-based grime artist Manga Saint Hilare is to perform at World Headquarters on Wednesday 6th March, bringing his introspective and unique lyricism to a new stage. Formerly recording as part of Roll Deep, a noughties grime crew who achieved commercial success through songs such as Good Times and Green Light, Matthew Reid took on a new identity as a solo artist, seeking to be less explicit and outlandish in exchange for vulnerability. This shift has seen accolades and several successful projects as a result, and continues to show his multi-faceted artistry at play.
Promoting the latest in a series of critically acclaimed albums, Everything Is Under Control is a cathartic look at the formative years of his life as he faces newfound fatherhood, his own emotions and self-empowerment. He has been known for reinvention between projects, and this album is no exception; the latest life milestones have furthered a sense of fearlessness within his artistry, and the experimental quality of a variety of these tracks cements this.
The show itself is to feature special guests and will be a forward-thinking grime show which serves as a culmination of the dedication that has been put into the project.
Wednesday 6th March @ World Headquarters, Newcastle

Pointy Features
Since their inception in 2018, Durham lo-fi/chill-pop outfit Pointy Features have been racking up the Spotify plays, with a combined total of 100 million streams. Their sonic tapestry, complete with soulful vocals, shimmering licks and groovy beats, combines elements of blues, psychedelia, funk, folk and so much more, with notes of sixties big hitters such as Pink Floyd, Free, Grateful Dead and Savoy Brown.
These retro-revivalists are set to drop their debut album Hill End on Friday 8th March, a seven-song collection of finely crafted, masterfully played tracks that will dazzle the senses and have you scaling the walls of perception. The album was produced by Sam Fender and Pigs x7’s producer John Martindale, who has done a mighty fine job of weaving together the various classic rock-inspired components and giving it a contemporary gloss.
Pointy Features will be launching their debut album at Cluny 2 on the release date. It’ll be the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the band’s expansive sounds, witness the guitar virtuosity of guitarist Dan Leak (previously named Marshall’s British Guitarist of the Year) and check out the band’s analogue visual light show.
Friday 8th March @ The Cluny 2, Newcastle

Image: Toon Fans United, image by Hazel Plater

Toon Fans United
A new exhibition from Newcastle-based photographer Hazel Plater features compelling crowd, group and individual environmental portraits of football fans, both candid and engaged, uncovering the deep sense of identity and community forged through a shared love of a football team.
Thursday 7th March-Thursday 25th April @ Battle Hill Library, Newcastle

AND: A Dance Poem
Scottish contemporary dance artist Charlotte Mclean invites us to question and debate the complexities of life in her dance poem AND at The Witham on Thursday 7th March.
An ever-evolving piece that started life as a text message to a friend, Mclean has developed AND over a period of five years, resulting in a dance performance piece that explores culture, identity, politics and women’s health.
A combination of contemporary and highland dance, spoken word and political commentary, AND celebrates the vast spectrum of human experience, from the mundane to the bizarre. Born out of the desperation and loneliness she felt at university, Mclean’s original text message became a list of ways to survive, starting with dancing in the park with a friend.
Now a long way from its initial form, Mclean hopes the dance poem will be a lifelong experiment in expression, and one that grows and evolves with her.
Thursday 7th March @ The Witham, Barnard Castle

Gail Porter
There can’t be many people out there, of a certain age at least, who don’t know part of the Gail Porter story. TV presenter of Top of the Pops and a host of other high profile gigs in the 90’s, Gail lived it up as a mid-twenty something celebrity at the height of Britpop and ‘lad culture’. Then it all soured, spectacularly and not through any real fault of her own. Skip forward, rather disingenuously, 25 years and a hell of a lot of heartache, depression and more besides and Gail is taking last year’s hugely popular solo stand-up show from Edinburgh Festival on the road, dropping in to Middlesbrough Town Hall on Thursday 7th March.
Something Gail Porter has maintained innately is an ability to see the laughable and absurd in amongst her own tragedy, and let’s not beat around the bush – this is a deeply affecting and heart wrenching story dealing with life and its unforeseen roadblocks. There’s no shying away from the mental health struggles she’s experienced, but it also says a lot about her willpower and vibrancy that she shares and documents everything: the good, the bad and the outright bizarre. Gail Porter’s career has been a roller-coaster and she’s enjoying a rising profile again thanks to her hilarious comedy and taking back control of her own story.
Thursday 7th March @ Middlesbrough Town Hall

Image: Dirty Electronics and Tim Shaw by Winston Yeung

Beyond The Loudspeaker
Beyond The Loudspeaker is a performance-installation created by the collaborative duo John Richards (Dirty Electronics) and Tim Shaw. The installation explores alternative methods for producing electronic sound without the use of conventional loudspeakers.
High voltage sparks, plasma speakers and electromechanical devices are used to summon sounds for a real immersive experience enriched with sequences of camera flashes and electromagnetic pumps among other things like dry ice (who doesn’t love the smell of dry ice?) and ‘Jacobs Ladders’ which I had to look up, as I was sure this did not refer to the terrifying film from 1990. Clue: it’s a high voltage climbing arc and they look pretty cool to be honest.
As a duo, Richards and Shaw have performed across Europe, completed a residency in Japan and organised many sound art workshops. Beyond The Loudspeaker was recently developed and presented in Hong Kong at the Sound Forms Festival but fret not, no long distance travel is required, it’s coming to Newcastle Contemporary Art from Thursday 7th-Saturday 9th March and it promises to be a unique experience for electronic music lovers.
Thursday 7th-Saturday 9th March @ Newcastle Contemporary Art.

XTRALIFE is an exhibition that showcases Seb Trend’s unique technique of ‘melted photographs’ in artist-made frames. In this exhibition, which comes to Sunderland’s Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art from Saturday 9th March to Sunday 9th June, the photographs are being displayed together for the first time.
The artist’s technique involves manipulating photographic emulsion through a painting process similar to alchemy, which results in a combination of photographic and painted elements, the metamorphosis of photograph to painting. The exhibition explores the concept of ‘in-between’ states such as molten and solid, representation and abstraction, permanence and momentary. The photographs are printed on KODAK XTRALIFE paper, known for its longevity and is reflected in the name of the exhibition.
Seb Trend, now based in Gateshead, was originally born in Finland and graduated from Northumbria University in 2008. Seb has previously exhibited his work in shows such as Fake Paintings (with Jane Millican) at 36 Lime St, Newcastle (2021), Liquid Mud Paintings (solo) at Slugtown, Newcastle (2018), Painting in the Dark (solo) at 36 Lime St, Newcastle (2016), and RIFF/T (group) at Baltic 39, Newcastle (2013).
Don’t miss this opportunity to see a unique blend of photography and painting that challenges traditional art forms.
Saturday 9th March-Sunday 9th June @ Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland

Amateur Trepanning
The alt. lo-fi artist presents his new EP Tang Ping!, a collection of four songs about work, deindustrialisation and late-stage capitalism, mixed and mastered by David Brewis, it’ll be released digitally and on a limited run cassette by Win Big Records. Support comes from Nev Clay, Bitchfinder General and Jenni Mac.
Friday 8th March @ Zerox, Newcastle

Pama International
Pama International are making a triumphant return after six years with their long-awaited reggae album and live shows, dropping in to Gosforth Civic Theatre on Friday 8th March courtesy of promoters Jumpin’ Hot Club.
Established in 2001, the band’s self-described ‘dub-fuelled ska, rocksteady and reggae’ style has resulted in a rich history, with 18 albums and notable BBC sessions under their belts, including appearances on Radio 1’s Maida Vale and BBC 6Music’s Craig Charles show. Their influence extends with being the first new band signed to Trojan Records in 30 years. Joining them are exceptional supporting acts Radikal Queen, Tyneside’s leading Black poet, who promises a profound performance with award-winning poetry and cultural activism, and Georgia May, a ‘Nigeordian’ neo-soul vocalist whose captivating vocals are infused with 90s hip-hop, R&B and acoustic soul influences.
This event is a celebration of diverse musical talents coming together, and an evening filled with groove and soulful melodies!
Friday 8th March @ Gosforth Civic Theatre, Newcastle

Northern Tape
Local ‘non-label’ Northern Tape continue in their support of electronic artists in the region and beyond with the latest weekender, taking place at The Cumberland Arms on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th March.
Friday’s show will see performances from hip-hop producer Neocia and self-proclaimed ‘sincerity rapper’ Faithful Johannes, whose recent collaborative release has served as a nostalgic preview to the duo’s forthcoming album; composer, producer and member of experimental collective Grey Tapes, Calum Howard; electro chill artists Space Bros and special guest Ellis Clasper.
Saturday’s performances will include sound artist and essayist Hurrian Cult Legacy, whose hip-hop and beat-driven set will include flute, live electronics, sampling and home-made instruments; Newcastle-based beat maker and performer Potaito; furiously exciting two-piece Badger, whose post-punk/IDM/hip-hop sound and often unhinged performances are a real delight, plus special guest Slobject.
Friday 8th-Saturday 9th March @ The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle

Michael Gallagher
Get ready for a night of electrifying indie rock as Michael Gallagher, Hartlepool’s rising star, takes the stage at KU in Stockton alongside his full band on Saturday 9th March.
Known for anthemic 90s influenced sound and sharply observed lyrics, Michael has enthralled audiences at renowned festivals including Isle of Wight, The Gathering Sounds and Stockton Calling, and has sold out headline shows across the UK, including his home-town show at Hartlepool Town Hall.
With influences ranging from The Strokes to The Beatles, his music has received critical acclaim from Radio X, BBC Introducing and Clash Magazine, so don’t miss the chance to see Michael perform his well-loved songs along with some brand new material, recorded with Manchester-based producer Alex Quinn at the former Parr Street Studios. Support comes from singer-songwriter Megan Wyn and indie artist Stan Buckroyd. This is sure to be an unforgettable gig at a class venue!
Saturday 9th March @ KU, Stockton

Image: Michael Gallagher

Jessica Fostekew
You might have seen her on QI, Live at the Apollo, Celebrity Pointless, Motherland or heard her hosting The Guilty Feminist or her own Hoovering podcast. If you enjoyed Jessica Fostekew on any or all of those things, you won’t want to miss her live! The actor and comedian brings her brand new stand-up show, Mettle, to ARC on Saturday 9th March and Newcastle’s Stand on Sunday 7th April.
A show about “passion, pace and purpose”, Mettle gives you a glimpse into the life of the hard-working, critically acclaimed comic, at the peak of her career. Her previous show Hench won numerous awards, and you can head to Soho Theatre’s Live Comedy Season on Amazon Prime to watch that if you’re looking for a taste of what to expect.
Jessica’s last stand-up show, Wench, sold out an Edinburgh Fringe run and UK Tour, so it’s worth booking your tickets now if you don’t want to miss Mettle!
Saturday 9th March @ ARC, Stockton

Benjamin Amos
The musical expression of Benjamin Amos has been pummelling a large and much-loved path through the North East music scene over the last decade. His last album, Letters, is a stunning culmination of contemporary influences intermingled with the artist’s Celtic roots. His music describes deep, uniquely human experiences of relationships and heartbreak with intricate soul writing, beautiful vocal harmonies and reflective tones.
Next on his musical travels, Amos is performing at Middlesbrough’s Toft House on Saturday 9th March and attendees will discover a stirring display of diversity within our local art scene. Also performing are inventive, youthful indie up-and-comers Maeve & The Trains, whose witty ponderings and subtle humour is self-described as ‘punk leftist riot grrrl fight jazz fan feminist rebel rockers’, with tunes that will be lodged in your head for weeks. 
The evening promises to be an event of impressively creative sound all within the welcoming walls of Toft House, a not-for-profit venue, who with proud conviction have established themselves as The Home of Unpopular Music. With alt. style abounding, this is a night of live music loaded with great ideas and melodies, jam-packed with insights to relate to and reflect on. 
Saturday 9th March @ Toft House, Middlesbrough

The Society of Wood Engravers 86th Annual Exhibition
The Society of Wood Engravers represents an international group of artists who produce prints using the relief printing technique known as wood engraving, which was used by well-known North East-based engraver Thomas Bewick in the 1800’s. This open submission exhibition showcases the best contemporary work from the UK.
Saturday 9th March-Friday 26th April @ Northern Print, Newcastle

Amid the folly of Eat Out To Help Out and socialising’s awkward, constrained return to legality, the rise of bdrmm is one bright spot from summer 2020 tarred by neither circumstance nor ill consequence. Vindicating years of underground buzz, debut full-length Bedroom heralded the Hull quartet as prominent torchbearers of a welcome (and, I’m told, partly TikTok-induced) shoegaze renaissance. Lifted restrictions brought an ecstatically received headline tour and dates opening for the likes of Ride and Mogwai – yet in signing with the latter’s Rock Action Records, this enterprising outfit projected that their best days still lay ahead…
Last year’s keenly awaited sophomore record I Don’t Know bore early signs of that theory yielding fruit. While washed-out guitars and motorik rhythms remained firmly front and centre, here they arrived embellished with a rich assortment of electronics, strings and fresh production flourishes; an expansive, frequently thrilling advance from a band who – contrary to their label – have their gaze set firmly towards the future.
It ought to make for a compelling evening when they visit The Cluny on Monday 11th March, having enjoyed nine months worming its way into fans’ affections, and with the shadowy, late night contours of Nightbus offering support. The challenges we face in 2024 may differ to those of four years ago, but with tickets a snip at £12.50, bdrmm’s knack for illuminating tough times endures unabated.
Monday 11th March @ The Cluny, Newcastle

Joe Wells
According to Joe Wells, an autism diagnosis is essentially a qualification in comedy – because what else is stand-up other than a one-way conversation about a person’s special interests? There are 700,000 autistic people in the UK today (even if your nan still insists that there was “none of this autism nonsense back in my day”) yet autistic representation on stage and screen is still woefully lacking.
Whether autism only sprang up in the past couple decades as a side effect of all these damn vaccines we’re all forced to have (/sarcasm) or if it’s actually been around the whole time but we as a society have only just started to touch on the issue of neurodivergency, Joe Wells has taken it upon himself to organise the autistic community – with himself as its leader. His credentials? He’s an actually autistic person making a living from raising awareness of this under-representation with his relatable comedy for an autistic audience, people with autistic friends and family, or just anyone who enjoys a bit of a laugh, really.
Neurotypical folk are welcome at The Stand on Monday 11th March, if they can deal with a comedy show without unplanned audience interaction for just one night.
Monday 11th March @ The Stand, Newcastle

Simon Evans
The wildly eclectic career of comedian and writer Simon Evans is a resounding testament to his unique command of the fine art of giggle-inducing. A regular mainstay of TV stand-up, alongside an extensive set of successful runs at Edinburgh Fringe, you’ll also spot his writing work for the long-running sitcom Not Going Out.
His more recent stand-up work has found him teasing at the boundaries of the form, using comedy as a platform for more than just big laughs and buoyant musings. Previous shows have included Genius 2.0, which found Simon grappling with the nature-versus-nurture debate and Nietzschean ideals, whilst Work of the Devil (which initially found acclaim at the Fringe under the working title of Dressing for Dinner) found him solving the mystery of his existence and true identity. His new show, Have We Met?, which he performs at Darlington’s Theatre Hullabaloo on Monday 11th and Queen’s Hall Hexham on Tuesday 12th March promises to be equally as unconventional and as thought-provoking as his past exploits have proven to be, with his unique brand of stand-up serving as a platform for his further explorations into the inner workings of the soul and the passing of time. All in all, it’s a unique reminder that the boundaries of the stand-up form are still there to be pushed.
Monday 11th March @ Theatre Hullabaloo, Darlington

Image: Simon Evans

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