When Stockton Came Calling - 2018
By Robert Nichols
Monday 16 Apr 2018 17:34:00
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It sold out weeks in advance. Eagerly awaited for months. The opportunity to pick between 70 bands across nine different venues was too good to pass up. Not even the persistent rain outside could dampen anyone's spirits inside where the atmosphere was special. I am looking back on my Stockton Calling with the photos of Tracy Hyman.

It has become an Easter staple, now in its 9th year. Advance tickets are so ridiculously cheap offering the chance to see international acts headed by the Lightning Seeds and We Are Scientists accompanied by so much up and coming talent at a price cheaper than you might pay to see the headliners on their own. No wonder it is the hottest ticket on Teesside and beyond.

My Stockton Calling began in Storytellers, always a wonderfully warm atmosphere in the Kids Are Solid Gold curated pub. When the male/female duo Upstairs Open switched off the mics and moved down from the stage to serenade us from the middle of the audience they took that warm glow to another level.


Upstairs Open


Talking of another level, I first saw Llovers perform on the Storytellers stage at Stockton Calling and here they were drawing applause and admiration from a packed Arc. Their melodic guitar pop sense and sensibility is really building the Teessiders a growing following.

Another male/female duo Tomorrow's Bird enchanted the more intimate Green Room with beautiful vocals and songs. As soon as the set was complete I had to fly that nest quickly to get back to Arc to see a great entertainer in Mark Morris. Mark was holding the audience ion the palm of his hand by mixing up new material and the songs that once rampaged through the charts for the Bluetones. A great singer songwriter and ever a witty line between the hits and the newies.

Mark Morriss

I believe my next port of call was to lurk beneath the low ceiling of the Ku Bar, for Uncle Buzzard. Funky, rocky with a lead singer that knows how to engage with the big crowd. There was a knowing nod of the head from that musical sage, Henry Carden. That is a good enough seal of approval for me.

Then I just had to catch up with my worthy wordy hip hop neighbour MC Leddie at the wonderfully named Whole Latte Love venue. For me Leddie is a genius, pure and simple. Her album “A Piece of Cake,” is shear brilliance. The lyrics just flow, they are so contemporary and challenging. The audience tunes in on the first song and is glued into Leddie's world for the whole set.

That is certainly the advice for the incredible Black Sheep Frederick Dickens, do not take your eyes off him for one moment. The giant presence of David Saunders dressed in his Victoriana does not confine himself to the stage, he wanders into the audience and beckons people into the act, joining his community singing, whether they want to or not. He was like a caged bird bouncing off the low ceiling and breaking out into the crowded dance floor of The Vault.

Back to Whole Latte Love and The Lhymes. A highly distinctive looking singer/guitarist I have often seen at gigs and for the first time I had the privilege of enjoying his psych guitar and voice. There is a whole lotta melody in those Lhymes.

Upstairs at Room 21 everyone was rocking out next to the Duzza darts mural to The VolunTears. High riffing, pumping, melodic indie rock guitars and vocals from the Newcastle band.

The Georgian Theatre was absolutely rammed for home grown hero, Tom Joshua. What a voice and what lyrics. They are special songs that could be about ordinary subjects made extraordinary through Tom Joshua. Tom Joshua

Observational storytelling, that could be based in a car park, a well known Teesside bus route or as in recent single, Boys in Cars. It is not all transport but they are lyrics you can instantly relate to. He delivers with such verve, personality and style.

Tom Joshua and Harriet

I made a short detour back to Whole Latte Love to catch the soaring climax of the awe inspiring Twist Helix. Almost orchestral synth pop with a driving beat, scintillating voice and towering choruses, I am a real fan of this Tyneside based outfit.

At the Georgian Theatre following up the advice of Chris and Thomas Bartley Man and The Echo had begun their art alt pop set. With a capital P in that Pop. First single. Honeysucker is a jaunty almost Beatlesque tune with catchy and hard-hitting political lyrics. Catchy but contemporary and political are the watchwords for much of the impressive set.

Next door in the Green Room Tynesiders Nine Tons blazed a trail of blistering guitars, staccato almost spoken word vocals, blockbuster drums and a confetti sprinkle of keyboards. Fuzzy, indie anthems like Ride Leon, the dark march of Dog That Hangs Its Paws won me over. I was totally hooked, my new band of the day (as in new to me).

It was rammed in Arc for Twisted Wheel. There were people going absolutely crazy at the front for the Manchester post punk revival band. No wonder, reformed and revitalised the old school indie guitar rock brand is alive and kicking. Exciting melodies, strident choruses. Real stage presence. The Twisted Wheel is spinning in top gear again.

On exiting Arc there was a healthy queue building up for Lightning Seeds. It would be out of the door before Twisted Wheel had finally finished their set. I had other bands and venues to peruse.

Am not sure how the whole line up of Birmingham reggae band Kioko managed to squeeze onto The Storytellers stage but pretty soon the whole pub was moving around to their music. What an atmosphere!

Back and forth across the widest High Street and all that, ducking under cover to avoid as much rain as possible. An appeal for next year, perhaps some sign posts might be a good idea. I was with two Norwegians who had flown in for the festival and Boro game on Friday they were amongst many visitors who could have benefited for temporary signage to point out the direction to the nine venues.

I don't know whether I have all these bands in order, I was doing a lot of rushing around. Over at Room 21, The Wainstones were making musical waves. Named after the Cleveland Hills landmark, the indie mod four piece are staking a claim on stage.


With his big, big hair and burners and his big, big talent to match Mr Dylan Cartlidge is going places, there is no question of that. Incredible lyrics, his freestyling along with partner in rhyme, Jordan McNeice is amazing. Listen to those totally mad tunes. Love Spoons has hints of Beck as well as Hip Hop and funk etc. And the big man is also hilarious live. What a guy.

Great to see Serinette back in action and deservedly headlining a stage, at Music Lounge. They were delighted by the big crowd, especially with so much big-name competition around the other stages. Yet Serinette have energy in abundance, lead singer Louise was bouncing off the walls and all over the stage, pouring her heart into the performance. Around her the windmilling guitars and punchy, punky drumming. It was high drama and entertainment with uplifting, Bigger Better pop songs and the anything but Routine of the Week with its high flying chorus.

Almost over now but I had to catch the mentalist, drastic, blast-ic, post post Weezer punk rock rack-it, dynamite duo that is Billingham's own Mouses. They were absolutely on fire and chaotic at the Green Room. A fitting climax for the whole festival was Mouses somersaulting, serenading and chaoticly cavorting mid audience to bring the curtain crashing down on an amazing day in the life in Stockton. Cannot wait for next year.

All photos - Tracy Hyman - below Cape Cub. October Drift, Field Music, We Are Scientists, Lightning Seeds

Cape Cub

October Drift

Field Music

We Are Scientists

Lightning Seeds

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