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Evolution Weekender 2012: Day 2 Roundup

By on Monday, 18th June 2012 at 1:00 pm

Even before reaching the site, day two of Evolution feels like a more relaxed, comfortable affair. The crowds of youngsters hanging around the Sage, pre-loading on Frosty Jack before they enter the main arena where alcohol is unavailable to them on age grounds, seem pretty chilled-out. Casually ambling past the caravan that supplies comfortable seats and buckets for 14-year-olds to vomit into, the sun is sparkling off the waters of the Tyne, and one can forgive the odd pre-majority punter being escorted from the premises flanked by two burly men, being unable to walk themselves.

So – to the music. Delayed by bank holiday public transport, your correspondent is late for Spector, who are sorely missed. Nevertheless, a chance presents itself to catch up with the UMT stage: Newcastle music development service Generator’s Urban Music Training department get their own stage at Evo, and who should be up next but the winsome Amy Holford, who TGTF spoke to at Evo Emerging just a few nights before. What an excellent opportunity to work out whether she should be upgraded from a “maybe” to a “HIT!” The answer is… not yet. She is in possession of a stunningly powerful soul voice, burnished and brassy, but sadly accompanied by a somewhat less impressive clangy acoustic guitar, and material which undoubtedly means a great deal to her personally, but is unlikely to really light the blue touchpaper when it comes to making the step to a higher division, comprising as it does moans about inadequate ex-boyfriends. Given some decent backing and material, Amy will be a winner, no doubt about it.

Jessie Ware is up next on the main stage. I hope Amy saw her performance, as it proves how a decent, yet still minimalist band can showcase a lovely soulful vocal so much more effectively than a naked acoustic guitar. Ware’s electronic-urban-with-touches-of-dubstep material, such as the sumptuous ‘Running’, does suffer from unfamiliarity, but she is an endearing stage presence, and finishing off with recent single ‘110%’ is a wise if inevitable move. With impeccable credentials (collaborating with SBTRKT is never going to hurt anyone’s career), Ware is going to keep punting for the big time.

Oh, Band Of Skulls, thou heavy saviour of the day. Instead of a fanfare to announce the Queen’s longevity, BoS have brought a brace of beautiful Gretches, both of which are put to powerful use during the set of the weekend for this correspondent; ‘Sweet Sour’ catches the mood of the newly-revealed June sun, glinting off guitar hardware and polishing the dirty harmonies and unashamedly gritty riffs. Their talent is to take just the right elements of contemporary rock – power trio, female bassist, no perms – and match it with decent – nay, pop – songwriting. There’s hints of Stones, Cream, Stripes… and they’re all the better for it. Having displayed an intriguingly contemporary career path – digital-only releases, greater success as TV and advert soundtracks than as a formal chart act – BoS deserve close attention.

From the sublime to the… well, Evolution’s lineup is nothing if not eclectic. Rizzle Kicks, an urban duo from Brighton, come across as a likeable, non-sweary Odd Future, but with only two MCs. Or maybe that’s just because of the shorts. With song titles like ‘Mama Do The Hump’ they’re never going to be taken seriously, but it’s good, juvenile fun.

Onto the serious business – Noah and the Whale’s records seem to mature like fine wines with age. Tiny subtleties in lyrical content and musical delivery appear like little jewels on close inspection, and to their credit a similar level of attention to detail is paid in tonight’s performance. Clearly a deeply professional band, they go through their very deliberate motions with utmost sincerity. And the material genuinely unites the disparate crowd – there are so many well-known NatW songs it would be churlish to list them here – but after such an awkward weekend, everyone can relax and join in the simple pleasure of spelling out three short words for chorus after chorus.

Some people bought tickets for the whole weekend just to see deadmau5. His techno-wizardry is a sight to behold, his monolithic transformation of the stage as otherworldly as the permanent mouse head he wears, intermittently lit up into a disturbing rictus grin; as if Mickey were lain on a morgue slab. It’s impossible to sum up the set in terms of songs; this is effectively a live club set, and the churning crowd love it. Thankfully, there is little point in crushing to the front of the stage – Mau5’s podium is so high that a deeper viewpoint gives a better view of both him and his light show. Powerful stuff, and everyone lets off whatever steam they have left, before staggering in the vain direction of the taxi queue.

And thus with a sparkling rodent’s siren call Evolution Festival 2012 draws to a close. It’s a difficult event to strongly recommend to anyone on its merits – if you’re young enough to want to go, you’re too young to properly enjoy the music, and if you want to see the music you’re too old to enjoy the festival. A challenging sell, then, but the concept of a decent annual music event on the banks of the Tyne is such a strong one that I get the feeling that it will be around for some time to come.

Grumpy postscript, for adults only: In all seriousness, the question is – do kids get up to this sort of thing (drinking heavily, staggering around, vomiting, crying, passing out) because they are at Evolution Festival, or would they be doing it anyway on a bank holiday weekend? I don’t care what anyone of the age of 18 or over does; it’s their choice, they’re old enough to suffer the consequences of their actions. But below that age, in theory parental consent is required for this sort of thing. Do parents know what their kids are getting up to? If not, this review should enlighten them. If they do, and consent anyway… I wouldn’t say we’re lost as a society as a consequence, but it’s a pretty worrying sign nonetheless. Personally, I love to drink beer in the pub of an evening with all and sundry, and if it happens as frequently as once a week then that’s just fine by me. But even with a drinking history as long as your arm, I wouldn’t for 1 minute consider downing spirits or chugging strong cider in great quantities at lunchtime as these youngsters seem determined to do. It’s not good for one’s health, and it’s certainly not good for enjoying a bit of music. And in the end, Evolution have to apply for a licence again next year, and a bit more consideration of that fact by their customers, and the parents of their customers, would go a long way to seeing Evolution 2013 being more than just a glint in a promoter’s imagination.


Evolution Weekender 2012: Day 1 Roundup

By on Friday, 15th June 2012 at 2:00 pm

Author’s note: This festival is not meant for me. The admissions policy admits anyone of 14 years of age or over without a chaperone, making this event one of the most significant dates in the social calendar for pre-legal-drinking-age schoolchildren. The fact that there were several bands on the bill that appealed to me seems nothing more than a coincidence in hindsight. So I pray the reader will forgive what may come across as something of a grumpy outlook in the forthcoming prose. I would have loved to have heard the bands properly, but the sound of a thousand squeaky voices dominated. Here we go…

Not long into his first song, headliner Dizzee Rascal halts proceedings to allow several paramedics to safely extract a particularly distressed child from the crowd. Security had spent at least 15 minutes before he took the stage pulling crying children over the fence to safety, whilst commendably providing umpteen cups of water from a dustbin to those youngsters who had spent the interval awaiting his appearance, only to find themselves crushed hard against the barrier as stage time approached. The less mentally able members of the crowd took it upon themselves to throw the generously proffered drinks backwards over their heads, drenching those behind them, and wasting the potential succour that fresh water could have given those who were unprepared for the demands of such a populous event.

At all times the conduct of the security staff remained beyond reproach – they rescued all who were in need, and provided refreshment and comfort to those who decided they were prepared to remain and brave the onslaught. What remains questionable is the target demographic of the event itself. Live music events with large numbers of attendees are usually an adult affair. Allowing 14-year-olds to attend alone, guarantees that substantial numbers within the crowd are emotionally and physically unprepared for the climax of such a busy event. Imagine grown adults being hoisted desperately crying from the barrier of the pyramid stage at Glastonbury, just as the headline act is about to appear – it simply doesn’t happen.

The most drunken and incapable members of the crowd were the youngest. Who on Earth consents to their teenage daughter leaving the house in her underwear with only a bottle of vodka for company is beyond me. Whoever they are, they should read this and hang their heads in shame, for they have knowingly exposed their children to grave risk of injury and distress. In future, this event may consider requiring under-18s to be chaperoned into the main arena. Since the dance-orientated Ballast Hills venue was full from early afternoon, your correspondent cannot comment on conditions there. It may be that that venue was more appropriate for those of a more inexperienced and excitable temperament, being a wide, grassy space, rather than a long, narrow, fenced car park.

All that said, there were some fine musical performances. Miles Kane proved that if the promoters cannot afford the services of Paul Weller or Arctic Monkeys, he can act as a reasonably adequate substitute. His plum tailored suit was a particular highlight.

Maximo Park delivered a set greater than their tenuous grasp on relevance; Paul Smith remains an excellent frontman, despite his band lacking a killer dynamic. Newly-unveiled album title track ‘The National Health’ was a particular highlight. But it falls to Dog is Dead to be the unlikely winner from a very peculiar day of music. Their easygoing jangly guitar pop didn’t harm anyone, nor did it cause a crush, and perfectly served the clearing clouds. And damned with such faint praise is the first of the two days of Newcastle Evolution Festival 2012.

Martin’s musing of day 2 at Evolution will be posted early next week!


Preview: Evolution Emerging 2012

By on Thursday, 24th May 2012 at 9:00 am

There’s not long to go before Evolution Festival, held on the quaysides of Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne over the Queen’s Jubilee weekend. To supplement the main festival, those who prefer their acts a little more underground can rejoice: Evolution Emerging – being put on with North East music supporter Generator, alongside Amazing Radio and Narc. Magazine – takes place on the Friday before the festival proper, taking over the cultural mecca that is the Ouseburn Valley, just a stone’s throw away from the main site. Several venues are dedicated to showcasing the best in North-East talent, with a sprinkling of proper royalty at the head of the bill: local lass Beth Jeans Houghton and her Hooves Of Destiny (pictured above), whose star has gone stratospheric in 2012 in response to their debut album ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’.

Other sources might argue that the bill is too long to preview properly. Not us. Exclusive to TGTF, here is a venue-by-venue run-down of who to watch, who to miss, and who to dance alone with your top off to, conveniently in the style of Live and Kicking’s low-brow musical critique spot Hit, Miss, or Maybe. Clearly there is far more to see than can be seen, unless one is in possession of a Tardis, so at the end there will be a clear recommendation of how to spend one’s Evo Emerging evening wisely, maximising exposure to great new music. Here we gan…

Beth Jeans Houghton – needs no introduction. HIT! [Post-Great Escape, Mary heartily concurs. – Ed.]
Lulu James – does trip-hop make a comeback with this darkly-styled songstress? HIT!
Deerhart – Trev’s mahogany voice can’t paper over the maudlin, lengthy arrangements and clichéd lyrics. MISS.
Boy Jumps Ship – American FM radio polished garage rock, no space to breathe. HIT!
Eeves – Going nowhere fast. Song Silhouette nearly five minutes long – post-punk? Not. MISS.
Total = 3/5 = 60%

Cluny 2
Fantasy Rainbow – classy twee-pop troubadourism from Gateshead. What’s not to like? HIT!
Natasha Haws – foetal, sparse singer-songwriter with pain in her heart. She could use some warmth – could you be the one? MAYBE?
Amy Holford – despite being yet another acoustic singer-songwriter, voice has the power to amaze. MAYBE?
Let’s Away – brilliant dreamy arch-pop from the musical honeypot that is Sunderland. Bottom of the bill for not much longer. HIT!
Total = 3/4 = 75%

The Tyne
We Are Knuckle Dragger – like being repeatedly kicked in the brain. Resistance is futile. HIT!
Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister – dirges for slothly moshers. MAYBE?
O’Messy Life – jaunty arms-wide-open guitar pop, best band name ever. BULLSEYE!
Acrobatic Society – completely mental avant-garde drone-pop. Drugs essential. MAYBE?
The Watchers – 60s guitar pop, 70s psychedelic trips, 90s baggy, 2012 movers and shakers. HIT!
Total = 4.5/5 = 90%

The Tanners
Bird Island – self-assured American-influenced guitar pop. Get that top down and go for a drive. HIT!
Iceni – underdeveloped piano-led jazz-pop. MISS.
Reckoner – nothing of any note online. MISS.
Ben Watson – nothing of any note online. MISS.
Total = 1/4 = 25%

The Cumberland Arms
Symphonic Pictures – superbly funky psychedelic alt-pop. HIT!
Collectors Club – Teesside youngsters with the catchiest products this side of a north sea trawler. HIT!
Lilliput – utterly sublime folk-pop from windswept Wearsiders. Desolation, beauty, cups of tear. BULLSEYE!
Crooked Hands – minimalist instrumentation, cracked vocals, gently beautiful. HIT!
Total = 4.5/4 = 112.5%

Star & Shadow Cinema (afterparty)
Young Liar – mute, melodic, hard-hitting. Newcastle’s answer to Mogwai. HIT!
Weird Shapes – obscurantist neophiles with their head in the clouds. Could hold the answer to life, the universe and everything. HIT!
Apollo Gets The Girl – the love between Chris Lowe and Nicolas Winding Refn as soundtracked by a Yamaha SY77. Simultaneously classy and cheesy, like a Parisian croque monsieur. MAYBE?
Ghosts Of Old Berlin – as architectural and stark as the name suggests, nevertheless display a strange beauty. MAYBE?
Total = 3/4 = 75%

Scores on the doors
Cluny – 60%
Cluny 2 – 75%
The Tyne – 90%
The Tanners – 25%
The Cumberland Arms – 112.5%
Star & Shadow (afterparty) – 75%

The Tanners’ sparse musical offerings mirror its outlying geographical location – an uphill struggle. Bird Island are the only reason to venture there, and I suspect few will bother, unluckily for them. The central Ouseburn offerings are all strong, with The Tyne showcasing a particularly strong line-up. But the Cumberland is the clear winner here. All four acts are superb, and a canny punter will ensconce themselves in a comfy chair in the corner and nurse several pints as the night unfolds. Beth Jeans Houghton is undoubtedly the biggest name of the event as a whole, and will attract the biggest audience – all the better to thin the crowd at the modestly-sized Cumberland, for those who wish to see acts who are genuinely emerging. Not all of them can be stars of tomorrow, but I’d put good money on one of these acts becoming a household name within twelve months. Be there to see it happen.

Under the cut: an interactive poster for Evo Emerging.
Continue reading Preview: Evolution Emerging 2012


Preview: Evolution Festival 2012

By on Friday, 2nd March 2012 at 9:30 am

Evolution Festival, held between Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead, has, appropriately enough, evolved considerably since it was first held as a free, 1-day event in 2005. Now in its eighth year, the event boasts a 2-day, two-stage line-up, held in the stunning location of the Newcastle and Gateshead quaysides. The event is no longer free, but at a mere £35 for the weekend, it represents fantastic, inflation-busting value. This year the event is held over the Sunday and Monday of the June Bank Holiday weekend 3-4 June: there surely can be no finer way to celebrate the 60th year of a monarch’s reign than going out and hearing some fantastic music with one’s fellow mankind. Here we break down the acts on the Spiller’s Wharf stage, just to prove what a delicious prospect awaits:

Sunday 3rd June
Kicking things off are the Lake Poets, the slightly confusingly-named solo project of Martin Longstaff of local favourites B>E>A>K. Amazing Radio favourites Theme Park offer intriguing ‘80s-style tunes with shades of Talking Heads. The local influence continues with Lulu James, a freshly-minted South Shields soul-step diva with huge potential; if her material stands the test she could go far. Melodic Nottingham indie five-piece Dog is Dead bring bits of summery Beach Boys vying with Arcade Fire-style bombast, which should go down well if the sun shines.

Next up are two chalk-and-cheese acts: Benjamin Francis Leftwich, limp-wristed posh-boy singer-songwriter who needs plenty of balls to win over the fickle Newcastle crowd, followed by Devlin – fresh from the streets of Dagenham, grime hits the big time with superstar MC Devlin and his hard-hitting flow. The real, undiluted deal. Good mate and collaborator with Alex Turner, Miles Kane brings his Mod-influenced solo material to Evolution. Take two measures Arctic Monkeys, add a twist of Paul Weller, and dilute to taste with the Coral. Can Kane carve a niche for himself at Evo?

Local lads and “very special guests” Maximo Park make their long-awaited comeback with new material and a new look. This set should give us a sneak preview of their new songs for 2012. And to wrap up the Sunday evening we have the one and only Dizzee Rascal: in between his own headline tour and masterminding the careers of several new urban artists via his own Dirtee Stank label, lovable urban pop scamp Dizzee is somehow finding the time to support the Red Hot Chili Peppers and play countless UK and international festivals this year, including several headline slots. This will be his third appearance at Evolution, making him the most popular act ever to grace the Evo stage. Let’s hope this festival holds as fond a place in his heart as it does for him, and that in return the audience are treated to new material from the forthcoming album on Island records. Given the Bank Holiday scheduling, chance of trance-pop anthem Holiday making an appearance? 97.6%.

Monday 4th June
Sore heads from the night before will be soothed by Mausi, Newcastle newcomers whose recent sunny single ‘Sol’ is brightening days across the land; and the Milk – party like it’s 1967 with their brand of big band soul and funk… Craig Charles, eat your heart out. Jessie Ware, urban vocalist and SBTRKT collaborator gets her own set; but with only two singles to her name, and SBTRKT with his own headline DJ set later on, what chance is there for him turning up to run some backing tracks for Ware?

In the middle of the undercard, we have widescreen synth-led bombast from hotly-tipped London quintet Spector; Luke Temple updates ’60s American pastoral psychedelia for the new millennium like a mini-Flaming Lips with Here We Go Magic, and Band Of Skulls bring some heft to a Bank Holiday Monday – sweat ‘n’ beer ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll trio BoS will leave no ears unbled. Fans of De La Soul, Arrested Development and Madness will love cheeky Brighton hip-pop chappies Rizzle Kicks… who bring us to Noah and the Whale. After an astonishingly successful 2011, NatW richly deserve to be the last band on at Evolution 2012. Their album ‘Last Night On Earth’ (#1 on editor Mary’s Top Albums of 2011) is chock full of classic songs, surely most of which will make an appearance here. Expect crowd singalongs and lighter-in-the-air moments galore.

As a finale, there’s nobody better than deadmau5 (pictured at top). His atmospheric, dubstep-influenced dance music and enormous mouse head will surely wrap up Evolution 2012 in fine style. I’m anticipating a wild light show, deep, deep bass, and a massive crowd, paying tribute to the fine music which has passed over the previous 2 days – by dancing like mad into the small hours.

Phew. Not only that, but a full, separate dedicated dance music stage with a strong drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep influence (notably DJ Fresh, Jack Beats, Shy Fx, Toddla T, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, SBTRKT), an as-yet-unreleased but undoubtedly superb Americana strand from local promoters Jumpin’ Hot Club, and not to mention the chance to see the big names of tomorrow at the Evolution Emerging shows on the preceding Friday. This is an event that any city would be proud to hold, and it stands as the jewel in the crown of the North East’s popular music diary. Get your ticket now (from the official Evolution Web site)!


Preview: Evolution Weekender 2011

By on Friday, 18th February 2011 at 11:00 am

The line-up for Newcastle’s Evolution (taking place during the second May Bank Holiday, 28-29 May, at Gateshead Quayside) was announced yesterday, with some great bands lined up to perform at the weekender this year. Some major acts on the bill: Saturday headliners Iggy Pop and the Stooges and Sunday headliner Plan B (pictured above), and TGTF favourites Two Door Cinema Club, Fenech-Soler and Detroit Social Club. Acts TGTF have introduced to you including cockandbullkid and Delta Maid will also make appearances at the festival.

Considering what some of the biggies are charging this year, tickets to Evolution are a pretty good deal: £35 + handling for a weekend ticket and £25 + handling for a single day ticket. You can purchase tickets through TicketWeb. Check out the entire line-up after the cut.

Continue reading Preview: Evolution Weekender 2011


Preview: Evolution Weekender 2010

By on Wednesday, 24th February 2010 at 12:00 pm

The line-up for Newcastle’s Evolution (taking place during the second May Bank Holiday, 30-31 May, at Gateshead Quayside) was announced last Friday, with some great bands lined up to perform at the weekender this year. Some major acts on the bill: Paolo Nutini (pictured above) and Delphic (one of our favourites) are just two of the headliners, and Ellie Goulding, the Horrors, Frankmusik, Tinchy Stryder, Calvin Harris, the Futureheads and Field Music are some other major names scheduled to perform. Bands TGTF have introduced to you including Frankie and the Heartstrings, Everything Everything, Egyptian Hip Hop and Ou Est Le Swimming Pool will also make appearances at the festival.

Tickets are a steal: £25 + handling for a weekend ticket and £17.50 + handling for a single day ticket. You can purchase tickets through TicketWeb. Check out the entire line-up after the cut.

Continue reading Preview: Evolution Weekender 2010


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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