Evolution Emerging 2013 Roundup

By on Thursday, 6th June 2013 at 2:00 pm

Evolution Emerging is very much the North East’s version of something like Liverpool Sound City: a showcase of the very best up-and-coming artists from Tyneside, Wearside, Cumbria and Yorkshire, sprinkled with a few more familiar names who treat it as a homecoming celebration, having made that all-important move towards the mainstream over the preceding 12 months. Arranged and facilitated by that shining beacon of regional artist development, Generator, Evo Emerging is possibly the most important evening in the North East musical calendar, held at several boutique venues scattered about the Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle’s creative and cultural hub. What follows is a flavour of what went down this year.

First up are Blank Maps in the Cluny. Theirs is an uplifting sound, with soaring guitars and gently keening vocals, perfect for a summer’s evening, being reminiscent of the balearic influences that swept through guitar music a couple of years ago. Think Friendly Fires, with at times a bit more stadium rock, at others a more ambient, chill out vibe. It’s a shame they’re performing indoors tonight; they’d be perfect playing from the balcony of a beachfront bar as the sun drifts below the sea’s horizon, before the disco really kicks off into the early hours. Lovely stuff.

Agerskow, aka Yorkshire-born singer-songwriter Kate Edwards, fronts a sparsely-instrumented three-piece that trade in gentle, confessional ditties that sound a lot like Hem, which is a perfectly good thing. On record there’s cello everywhere; tonight the sound is very simple, letting songs like recent release ‘This Train Terminates’ sigh their modest evocation. Edwards’ voice is lovely, falling somewhere between American country twang and pristine English-rose folk – as striking as her looks. Influences appear numerous; like a complex glass of red, there’s several flavours at once: Joni Mitchell is there, along with the aforementioned Hem, overlaid with the redoubtable Linda Thompson. A fine list of influences then – and it would seem Agerskow has the voice and the songs to compete with the best of them.

Mickey Moran Parker is a fresh-faced chap who purveys a decent slice of urban soul, aided by a crazy-haired producer dude, and some live instrumentation. He’s got a decent voice – although in the interests of full disclosure he sounds just that bit more in tune on record than live, and tuning is all-important in this genre which relies so heavily on a strong vocal performance. For some reason all I kept thinking was he’d go a long way on the X Factor, which I’m sure isn’t a thought that has escaped the man himself. But credit that (for now!) he’s ploughing an independent furrow. For although white soul might not be everyone’s cup of tea, this is a very competent example of it, broaching the credibility gap between chart-bothering pop and more underground urban stylings. Competent stuff, and Moran has plenty of time to refine his sound and persona.

Goy Boy McIlroy take the prize for best set of the evening, not in small part down to an astonishing, fourth-wall-smashing performance from singer David Saunders (see what I mean here). Not content with the ample stage down at The Tyne, he and his enormously long microphone cable wander through the unsuspecting audience, gyrating, falling over, and generally acting like a rock ‘n’ roll frontman should, but rarely, do. The music is self-confessed alt-blues, with a hard, snare-skin-puncturing edge. It’s difficult to fathom what Saunders is on about, but he gives a spellbinding performance when he’s on about it. What is possible to determine is the gothic atmosphere, the dirty riffs, and more than a splash of unexpected camp. Well worth checking out online, before experiencing the ear-bleeding live show.

Richard Smith’s slow-burning balladry is a welcome rest for the ears after the cacophany of the previous set. Although it’s not a particularly quiet affair, featuring as it does three guitars and expertly-thumped drums from Hyde & Beast’s Neil Hyde. Things certainly are much more deep and cerebral though; Smith manages to conjure a distinctive, desolate soundscape, his languorous vocals and washes of reverbed guitars evoking backwoods loneliness, occasionally blossoming into Editors-style tightly-wound rock riffing. Recent track ‘The Water’ sums up his style perfectly, commencing with an elegant acoustic guitar riff against a murmuring backdrop, perfectly framing Smith’s baritone musings, until finally unfurling a gently driving end coda, like the first shoots of spring after a particularly chilly winter. Lovely mature songwriting, excellently executed.

Nadine Shah takes the headline slot in the Cluny 2 for what appears to be something of a homecoming for her: she’s been playing a few dates across the country to crowds of variable numbers, on the way berating Mancunians who think they’re from the north (“It’s just the north Midlands, right?”. It’s her first gig since The Great Escape, and she seems pleased finally to be playing to a partisan crowd. Shah’s performance is highly emotionally-charged – whilst there’s seemingly nothing particularly happy in her songbook (sample song titles: ‘Cry Me A River’, ‘Dreary Town’, ‘Aching Bones’), it’s an engrossing spectacle to see her dispense with each nugget of bitter wrath in her beautifully highly-strung South Tyneside contralto. As is common with musicians from coastal towns, around Shah’s work hangs the salty tang of the sea shanty, and the careworn drama of an out-of-season seaside resort. She’s about to release her début album, produced by no less a luminary than Ben Hillier, so she’s just getting started with her career proper, and we can assume we’ll be hearing far more of her unique delivery. A beautifully unsettling end to a night of superb music.

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One Response

5:27 pm
6th June 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Evolution Emerging 2013 @EvoEmerging #EvoE13 Roundup: http://t.co/ZYkmxifAHp

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