The Kids Are Solid Gold Christmas Spectacular @ The Westgarth Middlesbrough 08/12/12

Mince Pies, tinsel, Santa, snow, wrapping paper, sprouts, mistletoe, crackers, Baileys, stockings, the birth of our Lord………. add to this list The Kids are Solid Gold Christmas Spectacular. Eight bands over two stages on one fun packed evening. Local talent, national talent, international talent, stars of the future, stars of today. All for a scrooge like £9. Yes £1.12 a band. Now that’s a present you shouldn’t refuse. And here at Northern Line Towers we didn’t refuse. Gig of the year??? Probably!!!


“How can someone so young sing words so sad?” (Sheila Take A Bow THE SMITHS 1987)

Indeed. Natasha Haws is 18 years old. Yet her tender years belie the maturity of her talent. Her short set is received like an old friend coming home for Christmas. She sings her new single “Stranger” which is proving to be as good as the hype would suggest. She also sings the B side “Heartbeat Song”, yes The Futureheads song. A cover I hear you cry!!! I know but occasionally covers can be good. Tonight we get the good and the bad. Natasha’s is certainly in the good camp. A stripped down version that highlights the beautiful lyrics. You didn’t realise those Futurehead boys were so poetic did you? Natasha is a star in the waiting. First on at 6:30 is not the best slot but she manages to win over everyone who has turned up early. A great start to a great night. Let’s all throw our homework onto the fire. Cos I’ve already found the one I love.


These boys from Saltburn are first up on the big stage upstairs and like Natasha before them prove that being first on is not always a bad thing. Their mixture of old folk songs and new folk songs is both original yet somehow familiar. A great voice and songs that go so far off the beaten track they come back round and creep up to scare you. Songs about now defunkt working men’s clubs; “Dead Men’s Cues”, are not your usual fare but By Toutatis do it as if its the norm. Another great local band. Another reason to always get to a gig when the doors open.


Another young lass on guitar singing sad songs and doing a cover. Another absolute star. I’d never even heard the name yet alone the voice. But what a voice. Beautiful. I try to shy away from comparisons as it spoils how good a lot of artists really are. Let’s just say Pip Mountjoy is brilliant. Honestly you will love her when you hear her. Her cover of “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver makes it 2-0 to the cover versions. Am I changing my mind about covers? Not yet. Will I be seeking out more of Pip Mountjoy? Certainly.


In a night of great bands it is difficult to pick out a favourite. Do we need to rate bands against each other? No. Out of the 8 on show tonight I loved 6, quite liked 1 and even the least favourite was ok. If it was a league then Deerhart would be up at the top battling for the title. Front man Trev Gibb used to be a solo singer. He has now got a band around him and world domination is on the agenda! Another great new band from the North-East. They mix Wild Beasts with Lloyd Cole and a coating of The Band over the top. Trev’s voice is amazing. I have been listening to the CD they gave me; “Can’t stop thinking of you” has turmed into can’t stop listening to Deerhart. It a bona-fide classic. Go to Bandcamp and get it for nowt. You will love it. I assure you. The rest of the set is not bad either. My new favourite band? Maybe!!!


Now you’re probably bored of me telling you how good Martin Longstaff is, aren’t you? But judging by tonights set and the reaction of the audience no one is bored of seeing or hearing him. Sunderland’s own Roddy Frame is gaining a reputation that firstly, he fully deserves and secondly, will take him way beyond the confines of the Westgarth. New single “Rain” is another classic. But the B side “Edinburgh” is even better!! This is the mark of the man. Every track tugs at the heart strings, conjuring up images of days gone by, lost loves and chances we’ve missed. But instead of making you sad it brings a big smile to your face. His every day tales of every day folk conjure up memories of High Land, Hard Rain, Blonde on Blonde and strangely, Word gets Around (A great album regardless of what they did later!) The Lake Poets are planning an album next year. If you recorded tonights set and released it, it would be as good as the 3 albums I’ve just mentioned. When he actually records all his great songs it’s going to be even better!


A set of shy bairns from Leeds. Now there’s a contradiction. Formerly known as Joseph & David. When they arrive on stage the crowd, good naturedly, boo their geographical roots. Rather than reply or laugh they look like they might burst into tears and run home!! This fey image reflects their fragile tunes. But as long as they don’t snap under the pressure they will go from strength to strength. They have tunes a plenty and an infectious enthusiasm that wins over even the hard hearted locals! “Father” and “Here’s to my old Friends” are my favourites but the whole set is superb. Like a young Belle & Sebastian they mix lovely tunes with dreamy lyrics. I’m sure we will hear a lot more about these boys in the near future.


Eric Bachmann, formerly lead singer of Archers of Loaf, hailing from Seattle, he is a big guitar playing American in the tradition of Bon Iver, Woodpigeon and Elliot Smith. He plays tunes, he bashes his head off the ceiling tiles, he and his singing partner play without mics. A packed downstairs lap it all up. He knows how to win over an audience and does it well. He’s been around for a while so I will have to explore his back catalogue. Another pleasant surprise on another great night at the Westgarth.


Final band of the night and probably the one I enjoyed least. Maybe it was their dress sense, maybe it was the mix of songs that went from Tindersticks type Indie to chart friendly pop. Or maybe it was the godawful cover of Born to Run that sealed it!! Just when cover versions were looking like being back in my good books The Slow Show manage to remind me why they are the devil himself. I am no big fan of The Boss but I don’t mind him or his work but why does a band feel the need to cover one of his tracks when they’ve got loads of songs of their own? With the look and the covers it all became a bit X-Factor. Maybe I should have gone home early. This is a bit tough on the Slow Show as they did have some good tunes but they just couldn’t seem to make their minds up what they wanted to be!!

Overall though, a fantastic night. Great value and some great performances. A big thank-you to all the bands, the staff at the Westgarth and especially to Andy and Phil at The Kids are Solid Gold. They continue to bring the best to the North East and the New Year looks like being just as good. They have the mesmerising Daughter, Stornoway and Fossil Collective all lined up. Excited? You should be!!!











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By peter on December 16, 2012

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