WEEKLY ROUND-UP (22.01.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Reliably informed

Image: Sarabeth Tucek by Paula Bullwinkel

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.

Roll For Initiative
Roll for Initiative are a troupe of performers bringing live, Interactive, playable, theatrical experiences to audiences based on well-loved role-playing games.
They bring their production, The Wizards Tower, to Alphabetti from 23rd Jan to 27th January. It’s a ‘interactive improvised fantasy comedy quest adventure’ for fans of Dungeons and Dragons, complete with a quest master. who will steer the evening based on the audience’s suggestions, and heroes, NPPC’s (non-playable, playable characters), monsters, villains and more performed by the actors.
Tuesday 23rd January – Saturday 27th January @ Alphabetti, Newcastle

Connor Burns
Things are looking up for Scottish comedian Connor Burns. You may well have encountered him at one of his Edinburgh Fringe shows during his sell-out run, or maybe as the opening act on Daniel Sloss’ Can’t tour. It’s less likely that you caught him at the Sydney Comedy Festival or New York’s Fringe Encore season, but not impossible. What’s most probable, however, is that this is the first you’re hearing the name Connor Burns. In which case, you’re not too late to get in on the action. Burns has been near-universally praised for his straight-forward delivery that sends quips a-flying, so intimate shows at Darlington’s Forum Music Centre, Newcastle’s Stand, The Witham in Barnard Castle and The Forum Northallerton may well be the first step towards even greater things for the Scottish performer. His new show Vertigo will be an introduction for many to Burns’ brand of no-nonsense comedy that, while unafraid of striking out, never punches down. At this point in his career, there’s nowhere else for Connor Burns to go but up – but he’s getting there real fast.
Thursday 25th January @ Forum Music Centre, Darlington (and Newcastle’s Stand on Saturday 6th February, The Witham in Barnard Castle on Saturday 17th February and Northallerton Forum on Sunday 18th February)

Image: Connor Burns by Melody Joy

Dreams of a Life
Sunderland Film Club presents Carol Morley’s third feature – Dreams of a Life. Would anyone miss you? Nobody noticed when Joyce Vincent died in her bedsit above a shopping mall in North London in 2003. Interweaving interviews with imagined scenes from Joyce’s life, Dreams of a Life is a portrait of Joyce and eighties London.
Thursday 25th January @ Arts Centre Washington

Gavin Webster
In what’s become an annual tradition at Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Geordie comedy favourite Gavin Webster offers up quick one-liners, ranted routines and comedy songs on his trusty ukulele, promising a witty and hilarious new show to kick off the year.
Friday 26th January @ Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Newcastle

One of a handful of screenings cropping up across the region of the new film which profiles Tish Murtha, a Newcastle-based working-class photographer who captured the impact of Thatcherism on the region but was unable to escape the poverty and inequality she exposed. Followed by Q&A with director Paul Sng and Ella Murtha.
Friday 26th January @ Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle

Mary Ocher
A wildly inventive musician who fuses boundary-pushing experimental pop with thought-provoking and socially-motivated themes, Mary Ocher’s sound ranges from trad folk to 60s garage via ethereal vocals and abstract synths. Support comes from the equally as beguiling local artist Me Lost Me, whose experimental songwriting is a true delight.
Sunday 28th January @ The Studio, Hartlepool

Four of the finest albums of 2023 have emerged from the same Dublin folk scene, from interconnected artists all doing amazing and radical things within the folk tradition: Lisa O’Neill, John Francis Flynn, ØXN and perhaps most notably Lankum, whose astonishing, game-changing album False Lankum is just now starting to rack up Album Of The Year ratings all over the press. What this Dublin four-piece do with mostly trad folk songs has to be heard to be believed: Swans-like dirges, head-spinning instrumental breaks and the rest. And live they go above and beyond, a truly breathtaking experience that’s almost psychedelic in the proper sense of the word, harmonium and pipe and fiddles and the rest coming together to raise a mournful noise unto the creator. There’s immense melancholy in much of their music – well it’s still folk after all – and when they play something like The Young People or Go Dig My Grave, there’s a lot of surreptitious eye-wiping in the crowd. They’re still promoting False Lankum and this latest leg of the tour brings them to Newcastle – for the first time in a long time – in January for a show at The Boiler Shop. If they keep topping end of year polls, tickets are going to fly out for this so don’t miss out!
Saturday 27th January @ Boiler Shop, Newcastle

Sarabeth Tucek
SBT, or Sarabeth Tucek as you may know her, might have spent a decade swaddled in the cosiness of musical hibernation, but the American singer-songwriter has emerged from her figurative cocoon more potent and canny than ever. Last May’s comeback double album, Joan of All, was a triumphant return to her coolly captivating best, and has been championed by the likes of BBC 6Music, Uncut and Mojo, whilst also bothering the upper reaches of all manner of UK charts for the first time in her rich and journeyed career. On Saturday 27th January, SBT will bring her arresting live show to The Glasshouse, celebrating a full twenty years since she first erupted into the public consciousness performing a series of spellbinding duets with Bill Callahan on the Smog album, Supper. Since then, Tucek has established herself as a creative presence of extraordinary depth and beauty, supporting towering figures like Bob Dylan, Ray Lamontagne and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Drawing on material from the aforementioned Joan of All, as well her self-titled debut and sophomore record Get Well Soon – the latter an uncompromising introspection on the devastating weight of grief – SBT’s visit to the banks of the Tyne is not to be missed.
Saturday 27th January @ The Glasshouse, Gateshead

Image: Wolfred

North East band WOLFRED bring their own brand of anthemic, alternative indie to The Cluny on Saturday 27th January with some exceptional guests rounding out the bill. The headliners’ marriage of brooding atmospherics, slow burn and explosive choruses are cathartic. Songs like recent release Hounded have a knack of reverberating inside the mind. Subjects tackled include mental health, relationships and self-destruction but they are never preaching, merely sung as a way of making sense of the world, and the often built-up musical exuberance never overshadows the vulnerability at their heart. Two-piece synth-pop band Iris Brickfield bring their gentle catchy songs to the party. The debut EP from Ilana Hawdon (vocals, guitars and drums) and Elis Knowles-Levitt (synths, keys and backing vocals), Hold On My Lovers, is an evocative, bittersweet, futurist pop collection of tunes with nods to prog and Krautrock. This nostalgic synth sound coupled with charming vocals makes your neck hairs tingle and the body sway. Completing the line-up are Night Flight, a melodic experimental folk outfit founded by singer songwriter Sam Holmes. Their music is an ideal bridge between the other performers; fragile, glassy guitar textures weave effortlessly among the joyful melodies and contemplative lyrics, with an occasional jagged edge coming to the fore as their newest album, Songs From Echo Zoo, so beautifully demonstrates.
Saturday 27th January @ The Cluny, Newcastle

Foxing’s core trio of Conor Murphy, Jon Hellwig and Eric Hudson may have seen other band members dwindle away, seemingly at a rate of one per album since they began in 2011, but augmented by a touring bassist and an additional guitarist, they remain intent on bringing their theatrical and intimate indie rock to a Cluny audience on Sunday 28th January, and they’re not shy in their love of post-rock, emo or math rock. That’s not all Foxing are about though. Over the years their albums have experimented with synths (Nearer My God) and strings (The Albatross) and seen their sound expand with the help of producers like Matt Bayles and John Congleton getting the most out of the guitars but also challenging the songwriters to implement more from a wider musical palette. Singer Murphy has also grown in his own position as frontman, with all the swagger and moves an eye-catching lead vocalist can muster as his voice alternates deftly between singing full of emotion and screams of anguish. A mid (post…are we there yet?) pandemic tour supporting Manchester Orchestra has seen his on-stage persona honed and shaped into a vital, indeed pivotal, position full of eccentricity and jittering performance, complementing the band’s music perfectly.
Sunday 28th January @ The Cluny 2, Newcastle

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