WEEKLY ROUND-UP (19.02.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World, image by Pamela Raith Photography

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.

ART & LIT
Brian Bilston & Henry Normal
Two of the most acclaimed wordsmiths in the country are embarking on a UK tour together, which drops in to Sunderland’s Fire Station on Tuesday 20th February.
Labelled both ‘the Banksy of poetry’ and the unofficial Poet Laureate of Twitter, Brian Bilston is perhaps best known for his palindromic Refugees poem as well as his verses set in Venn diagrams, Excel spreadsheets or in the shape of a Christmas tree. Henry Normal, meanwhile, is responsible for the excellent My Heart Will Not Be Shushed poem about falling for a librarian. Likened to a poetic Alan Bennett, he moved into writing rhymes a few years ago following his time as a scriptwriter and editor for the likes of The Mrs Merton Show, Gavin and Stacey and numerous projects of Steve Coogan.
It makes sense for the pair to tour together, since both writers have gained audiences via social media, both use pseudonyms and both have released several poetry books – most recently Bilston’s festive collection And So This Is Christmas, and Normal’s 13th collection, A Moonless Night. They are, apparently, “prepared to commit to delivering the greatest poetry show in the history of the world”, so you’d best go along and see whether they manage it.
Tuesday 20th February @ Fire Station, Sunderland

STAGE
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World
Thanks to the introduction of these wonderful books by Kate Pankhurst (yes, she is related), youngsters are aware of the impact of Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earheart, Rosa Parks and many other influential woman, past and present.
Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World is now an incredible pop musical bringing to life the inspiring stories of historical women who made a significant impact, and it’s performed at Theatre Royal from Wednesday 21st-Sunday 25th February. Young heroine Jade explores the Gallery of Greatness and encounters iconic figures such as Marie Curie and Emmeline Pankhurst.
The production boasts a catchy soundtrack by Miranda Cooper and Jennifer Decilveo, known for their work with artists like Kylie, Girls Aloud, Miley Cyrus and Beth Ditto. Many talented performers feature including Elena Breschi, Jennifer Caldwell, Chloe Hart and Millie Kiss, with backgrounds in Wicked, Kinky Boots and more, bringing a wealth of experience to the stage.
As the show brings to life the stories of remarkable women often forgotten by history, it will inspire audiences of all ages with the message that anyone, regardless of background, can change the world.
Wednesday 21st-Sunday 25th February @ Theatre Royal, Newcastle

MUSIC
Slowdive
Slowdive were considered by many to be the pick of the Thames Valley scene/shoegaze crop, with a reputation for immersive, forward-thinking sounds. They lasted for three albums before they faded and in the meantime their reputation grew, with middle album Souvlaki becoming recognised as a neglected classic.
Their reappearance in 2014 was greeted with delight and surprise and they’ve just released Everything is Alive, the second album of their unexpected second coming, an album borne of tragic circumstances but continuing the exploratory impulses that have guided their return, with electronics to the fore.
Their recent live shows have had excellent reviews – praised for the huge, almost overwhelming soundscapes – and that makes their return to Newcastle’s NX on Thursday 22nd February an especially tempting proposition. Support comes from dream pop band Whitelands, and it’s bound to be a cracking night.
Thursday 22nd February @ NX Newcastle

Image: Alison Goldfrapp by Mat Maitland

MUSIC
Alison Goldfrapp
Alison Goldfrapp will be performing at The Glasshouse on Thursday 22nd February in support of her debut solo album, The Love Invention, which was released last May to high praise. Audiences can expect to dance along to tracks from the new record, as well as songs produced and popular from Goldfrapp days, such as Rocket and Strict Machine.
Gaining critical acclaim and public notoriety in synth pop duo Goldfrapp alongside Will Gregory, the release of Alison’s debut album has further proved her innovative stance at the forefront of pop music as a soloist. The record brims with a shimmering sort of dance-ready synth pop, with instrumentation that calls back to decades past and compliments a timeless discography accordingly; the colourful project’s deep synths and programmed drums begging to return home to the dancefloor. The record showcases her identity and personality as a performer, and how she has been embraced by pop fans without losing her experimental edge.
The show will be a release for pop fans, and will provide the escapism which Alison herself recognises in the music: “There’s tension there, as well as euphoric freedom.”
Thursday 22nd February @ The Glasshouse, Gateshead

MUSIC
Thee Alcoholics
The Lubber Fiend continues to give us that good, good stuff with a night of glorious aggro noise on Friday 23rd February that promises to be all the fun. It’s the first Newcastle visit from South London’s Thee Alcoholics who include long-time Hey Colossus drummer Rhys Llewellyn, who also records as Drumcunt and – confusingly – is on guitar here. The first couple of Alcoholics singles were fine little ragers on the Hey Colossus-affiliated/Britain’s best label Wrong Speed, followed by a live set on Human Worth, but now they’ve fetched up on Rocket Recordings alongside two Tyneside bands, Pigsx7 and Smote.
There’s an album threatened on said label in the near future and hopefully it’ll be more of the same gnarly, brink-of-collapse blend of huge riffs, crushing rhythms and electronic scree. Subtle they ain’t. Support comes from local ‘scum rock’ outfit Louse (who by mentioning Drunks With Guns and Kilslug in their promo should appeal to anyone with exactly the right taste for hellishly noisy misanthropy) and New Wave No Wave New York-influenced outfit Boy Latex.
Friday 23rd February @ The Lubber Fiend, Newcastle

MUSIC
Heatwrays, Grotbags & Irked
A rock ‘n’ roll triple bill at Head Of Steam, Newcastle headed up by garage-punk oddballs Heatwrays who are on tour promoting their latest album, Drip Down. Joining them are Manchester’s pop-rock mastercraftsmen Grotbags along with indie-punk radgies Irked, who have recently dropped their new single, Move.
Friday 23rd February @ Head Of Steam, Newcastle

MUSIC
Sarah Jane Scouten
Canada’s Scouten brings her blend of regularly award-nominated classic Americana sounds – folk, country, bluegrass, ballads and the rest – to the Globe, to promote her forthcoming fifth album Turned To Gold. Immersed in the music of Christine McVie, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Tom Petty, the album is considered her best yet. Support comes from Errant Moose.
Friday 23rd February @ The Globe, Newcastle

MUSIC
The Unit Ama
We’ll keep writing about The Unit Ama – and people like Endless Window will keep putting them on – until their name is written proudly on every cool kid schoolkid’s school bag and tattooed on every punk’s arm, and their albums top all the right end of year charts and guitarist Steve Malley can afford to get his beard tidied up a bit.
Their phenomenal, unique sound is a blend of Louisville-tinged (post) hardcore, jazz-imbued rhythms from killer rhythm section Jason Etherington and Christian Alderson and songs which betray Malley’s other incarnation as a folk artist. Last year they released Toward on Gringo – 18 years after their debut, with just a live album midway between the two – and it was magnificent; a beautiful summary of how they’d evolved in that time. They’re playing a bunch of dates this month, including a return to The Cumberland Arms on Saturday 24th February. Support comes from Dancer, a new Glasgow outfit with a fine pedigree and a promising pair of EPs, and local outfit Boy Latex – equal parts caustic wit and radgy noise. Not to be missed.
Saturday 24th February @ The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle

Image: The Unit Ama by Jo Higgs

MUSIC
Pink PoisonStannington & Bullion Train
New events company, Lush Events, will be putting on their first show at The Central Bar in Gateshead. Heading up this three-band bill are local supergroup Staninngton who are made up of members of New Horror, No Teeth, Swine Tax & Beige Banquet. They’re joined by “devil-possessed” blues rockers Pink Poison and one-man synth and guitar project, Bullion Train.
Saturday 24th February @ The Central Bar, Gateshead

COMEDY
Garth Marenghi’s Incarcerat
Matthew Holness is best known for playing the fictional horror author in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and he’s coming to display his comedic wares at Stockton’s Globe on Saturday 24th February. For fans of horror-comedy and especially those who enjoyed the first book, Terrortome, the sequel INCARCERAT promises to be a thrilling continuation of Nick Steen’s adventures, in which is he is now imprisoned at an eerie technological research facility hidden deep among the Stalkford downs, where he must battle for his own mind.
This event will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience and Holness, well known for his blend of horror and humour, will provide plenty of opportunity to hear Garth’s serious insights, his creative processes and what inspires him, culminating in a night likely to be both incredibly entertaining yet…terrifying?
Incidentally, the film Possum (written and directed by Holness) is one of my personal favourites and when I recommended it to several family members, one of them actually fell out with me when experiencing a traumatic nightmare after watching it. If that’s not a glowing review of Holness’ work, then I’m not sure what is.
Saturday 24th February @ The Crypt, Middlesbrough Town Hall (4pm)

COMEDY
Jesterval
The newly-refurbished Gosforth Civic Theatre hosts a comedy night with a packed bill that’s bound to be big on laughs. The biggest name is probably Dave Johns – popular stand-up and star of I, Daniel Blake. Making up the strong line-up are John Mann, Mark Meier and Catherine Young. It’s bound to be a laugh-riot.
Saturday 24th February @ Gosforth Civic Theatre, Newcastle

MUSIC
Prancey Dog alldayer
When you’ve been promoting gigs for as long and as regularly as Chris Trew (AKA Prancey Dog), it stands to reason that you must be doing something very right. Repeat business – programming regular dates and building local audiences – has proved key to Chris’ success over the years, and that’s reflected in this latest all-dayer, which sees a host of familiar faces take over The Cluny 2 on Sunday 25th February.
And truly, who better to headline than Edinburgh’s Withered Hand; a songwriter synonymous with Prancey Dog shows who’s still pulling crowds in spite (or perhaps, as a result) of the frequency of his visits. He’s backed by Sheffield power-pop trio Mock Tudors (featuring members of Mr. Ben & The Bens), London-based Creation Records alumni turned solo supremo Pete Astor (The Loft, The Weather Prophets), plus mercurial and bewitching Liverpudlian multi-instrumentalist Laura J. Martin.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Prancey Dog event without a topping of esteemed local acts. As such, we’ll also be treated to illuminating tales (and occasional songs) from Nev Clay, wonky wordsmith Faithful Johannes in collaboration with producer Neocia, as well as the cathartic sounds of stalwart singer-songwriter Dressed Like Wolves.
£20 doesn’t buy you much these days, and with further names still to be announced, you’ll struggle to put one of those purple notes to better use!
Sunday 25th February @ The Cluny 2, Newcastle

MUSIC
Editors
Editors, one of the UK’s best bands of the last two decades, make a highly anticipated and long overdue return to Newcastle in support of their latest, and arguably career best album, EBM, on Monday 26th February.
Consistently reaching greatness, whether they’re in the studio or in front of an audience, the addition of latest band member Benjamin John Power, aka Ivor Novello winning producer and composer Blanck Mass, to their line-up has notched the sonics up to 11. EBM sees Editors revisit the experimental electronic textures of In The Light And On This Evening, painting dark, angular post-punk guitars with shadowy synths and drum machines; Heart Attack, Strawberry Lemonade and Strange Intimacy in particular are up there with their very best work. Live, the EBM tracks slot seamlessly alongside their enviable back catalogue, sounding like instant classics. The current setlist is a tremendous two-hour slam dunk through their entire career that simply refuses to let the audience up for air, but this is no nostalgic trip down memory lane; Editors sound cavernous, urgent, on fire. Miss them at your peril.
Monday 26th February @ NX Newcastle

Image: Editors by Rahi Rezvani

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