Stockton Riverside Fringe Festival Featuring Calvin Harris, British Sea Power, John Power, Idiot Savant, Cattle And Cane, Russell And The Wolves, Jimmy And The Sounds, British Lichen Society, Chased By Wolves And Soviet Disco.

The 20th Stockton Riverside Fringe Festival on Saturday 31st July 2010

“We all know our manners, and how to spend our tanners”

Well what can we say? Big name stars with number one singles and albums, ex members of the Las, plenty of foilage on stage and a wealth of local talent. Stockton Fringe Festival is a great place to spend the day. Last night we missed The Human League and the Lightening Seeds due to other commitments. Today we are there on the dot of 12:30 to see as much as we can. The amount of great local bands on show is staggering. From Middlesbrough up to Newcastle via Sunderland this year has seen so many new bands explode out of the blocks that it may seem to some outsiders that we are simply making all this up!!! Well we aren’t. There is no pictorial evidence as our camera is having an off day. (If you are a photographer and want to get some pics up on The Northern Line then please get in touch.) Now on with the show;


Great name, great demo we reviewed a while ago and on todays performance, a great live band. They certainly didn’t have it easy. It is very hard to build up any sort of atmosphere at 12:45 on a Saturday afternoon with only a few hardy souls bothering to watch. But they went for it and the crowd visibly grew as they played. A few Soviet Disco t-shirts were seen in the audience so they are obviously getting their name heard. I compared them with Cooper Temple Clause when I reviewed their demo and yes I can still see that but today I was drawn to their broody darker side which reminded me of Holy Bible era Manics. This is no mean compliment as I consider the Holy Bible to be far and away the best Manic Street Preachers album. I know sales do not agree with that but who cares about how many units an album shifts? Throw in a bit of Smashing Pumpkins and you have an excellent live sound. I look forward to seeing Soviet Disco in more comfortable surroundings.


Surely this is the first and only time that bands with the word Wolves in their name have shared the same bill? Nothing to do with the boys from Molineux I presume.  Chased by Wolves are a 5 piece from Newcastle who play Americana alt-folk with a touch of the blues. They play it very well and I thoroughly enjoyed their set. The female vocalist reminded me of Dolores from the Cranberries. Their sound mixed all sorts of influences together and it was hard to pinpoint them into one thing or another. This is a plus point as often bands sound like one artist and after a while this can be boring. I will certainly keep an eye out for them and I suggest you do the same.


They sound like The Fall. Thats it really. I quite enjoyed their short punky set as I am quite partial to Mark E Smith and the various boys and girls who have supported him. But if you don’t like the Fall then thats basically it. Also bad language at 3:00 in the afternoon is never going to go down well with any families in attendance!


Another local band that I have been meaning to see for a while. And now that I have seen them I wished I had done it a lot sooner as I’ve obviously missed a lot of great gigs. I discovered afterwards that they used to be called The Cutters. Now I own a demo by this band and really liked it. Often wondered what happened to them. Well now I know. Jimmy and the Sounds aim for their audience to have a good time and they certainly made this happen. Short, sharp tunes got a hefty crowd into the real festival spirit. They also set about getting everyone on their side by giving out free t-shirts. Now the lead singer may be able to sing and play guitar. At the same time. But he cannot throw for toffee. His application to join any netball team in the near future is sure to meet with refusal. They are starting to gain some notice of the bigwigs down in the smoke. Catch their sing-a-long anthems while you still can.


Another set of Wolves but completely different to the last set. This lot from Teesside looked like The Cramps dressed in your aunties blouse whilst playing along to the B52s. And yes, as that description implies they weren’t too bad. I feel that a dark dingy cellar at about 12 at night would have been far more suited to their graveyard stomp.


I know you are probably bored of me going on about them. I even got someone else to write the last review but he is as smitten as as I am. I even thought about not mentioning their performance but I know Mrs Hammill would not have been impressed! So I will keep it brief. They played. They had a string quartet which didn’t really add a lot for me. They were their usual brilliance. It was Helens birthday (or the day after). Liam has passed his driving test. I love them. I think you should all know that one day you will realise that I am right and you should have believed me all along. Now onto the next band……


Allegedly their last ever gig. But if you know anything about this bunch of historical-intellectuals you will know that they have done their final gig about 100 times. If it is their last hurrah then it is a great shame as they play witty, wordy songs about past kings, rivers and anything else that they’ve read about that day. They reminded me a lot of a great Teesside band called Junior Elvis. Now whatever happened to them? Someone is going to tell me they changed their name to Idiot Savant!!! I wouldn’t be at all surprised. (Have just read Idiot Savants myspace to discover that their drummer was indeed in Junior Elvis!!!! Small world!!!!)  If it was their last gig then it was a belter and the by now sizeable crowd much appreciated them. If it is not then I look forward to hearing them again.

The Northern Line then went home for his tea. Returning in a taxi, so as to partake in the delights of the beer tent, just in time to see….


Now I have a few confessions to make. Firstly, I love the Las. Secondly, I quite liked Cast. Thirdly, I saw John Power in a cafe bar type gig in Ripon a couple of years ago. He did all his own solo stuff and it was awful. So awful that when he played Middlesbrough Music Live last month I deliberatley went somewhere else to watch anything but him. So I wasn’t holding out much hope as I arrived back in Stockton but you know what? He was great. The main reason being he played a lot of the Cast songs that everyone loves him for. This meant people were up for listening to his newer stuff. It went down a treat. His between song banter about smoking pipes and beach balls was met with genuine laughter and a warm glow hung over his whole performance. If you’ve written songs that have sold millions of copies and everyone loves them then play them. It really is that simple.


What is it with the names on display today? We’ve had 2 bands of Wolves. A British Lichen Society and now we have British Sea Power following John Power. I honestly thought the headliners were going to be an amalgamation of all the names on offer today. Jimmy Cane & Disco Wolves anyone? Anyone who knows BSP knows they are a great band. Anyone who knows Stockton festival knows that this was a strange choice for second on the bill. Calvin Harris is a million selling pop star. BSP are indie kids who decorate the stage in branches from trees and flags and sing songs about sea birds and coastal antarctic shelfs!! But again, much to my surprise they pulled it off. The crowd seemed to like and appreciate them and they played a belting set of all their favourites. Whether or not they genuinely loved their quirkyness or their stage props I don’t know. Whether they were just getting in the mood for Calvin I don’t know either. I hope it was the former.


Now normally we have a rule on The Northern Line which says if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything. So I would probally have used this as my reason not to mention the final act of the day but a number of reasons prevent me from doing this. Firstly, the crowd loved him. The arena was packed from front to back and everyone seemed to be having a great time. So good on him. Secondly, my wife loves him and demanded we stay and watch his set. Thirdly, Calvin, like this writer is a Doonhamer. (Those of you who don’t understand what this means don’t worry. Those who do understand probably appreciate the sentiment as well) So I thought he deserved a write up. All the hits as well as all the girls were reeled out. He did that shouty thing that pop audiences seem to love and he put on a show. Well done to the organisers (Tees Music Alliance) for bringing a genuine pop star to Stockton for the night. For free!!! You really are spoilt, do you know that? And with that the fun was over and we all went home. I look forward to next years show already.

Tees Music Alliance:

Stockton Fringe Festival:

By peter on August 5, 2010

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