Twisterella Magic Moments
By Robert Nichols
Thursday 14 Nov 2019 14:38:00
Browse all Music articles

How was your Twisterella? In the week leading up to an all day festival, Songs From Northern Britain, I thought I would pause and look back a month over this year's Twisterella. So, while you are preparing for a day of Anglo-Scottish musical exchange at the Georgian Theatre this Saturday, take a few moments to remember what I reckon was a vintage all dayer in the Boro. There were so many highlights and here are a few of mine. With the help of photos from Tracy Hyman.

One Saturday a year in mid October Middlesbrough becomes music central. I had an absolute ball discovering new sounds and reacquainting with a few not-so-old favourites. Blending the local and the (inter) national and grasping my Clashfinder in both hands I set out and entered a brave new world of musical enjoyment that is the staple of this October festival year in year out. Anything seems possible on a day like this. Even the cloud bursts soon cleared up and the changeable autumn weather was pretty manageable throughout. This meant that you could meander between the five venues and pop up extras a place for chat and catch ups and exchange of views and quick reviews, rather than make a mad dash for shelter and warmth.

So, which way did you go round Twisterella?

Red Rum Club

My first port of call was at the University Students Union for Red Rum Club (above). With their trumpet and top tunes they had attracted a full house. What a way to kick off in early afternoon. There was real excitement in the room for a band that had been one of the stand outs from Stockton Calling at Easter. Indeed the Ku Bar venue that day had been so rammed I came across two lads from Norway locked outside but with ears to the wall because they were so thrilled by the sound.

Nel Unlit

Nel Unlit

I left the glitzy University precinct for the equally glam Townhouse where Nel Unlit were spread out across the disco dancefloor. A string section of violin and cello and multi-instrumentalist Dilettante aka Francis Pidgeon broadened the sound and added depth and texture but did nothing to interfere with the fragility of songs inspired by the writing of sci fi writer Neil Gaiman. It is really powerful stuff as the music builds up to flood over half whispered, almost secretive vocal refrains.

Leif Erikson have a smooth, melodic sound. As far as I know the London based indie band were making their Teesside debut and will surely be back again having left a warm, afterglow on all that gathered in Westgarth 2.

Cherry Head Cherry Heart have recently released a sparkling five star pop album, It's Complicated. Andy and Naomi entertained the Student Union by simplifying It's Complicated with stripped down versions of songs which when recorded are sheathed in dynamic musical arrangements. At (Cherry) heart the songs stand up in either format as quality pop, in the Student Union they shimmer with the golden harmonies of the duo.

One of the facets of Twisterella to look out for are the hidden gems of pop up sessions at outside venues. The Bottled Note micro pub was already pretty rammed before Jay Moussa-Mann picked up her guitar beneath the window. Jay is a singer songwriter with a wonderful voice and a penchant for storytelling in her lyrics. The crowd loved the whimsy of Hammersmith and City Line. We were overfilled with admiration as Jay shifted seamlessly between her two native tongues of English and Turkish in a debut for a new song. I think there is more than a hint of the Karen Carpenters about the tender tones of Jay (pictured below), I cannot think of a better compliment to pay her.

Jay Moussa-Mann

There is nothing contrived or showy about Pit Pony they just get on and get down and blast out furious tunes. TSOne was the venue for rockier, craggier acts and Pit Pony fit that bill. One of many female fronted acts, she anchors herself and her steadying vocals while all around her guitars crash and weave. I loved them and the feeling seemed mutual throughout the fully-engaged crowd.

Talking of female vocalists I entered the room as Eve Conway opened the Westgarth 1 upstairs room for the day. The Darlington soloist switched seamlessly between acoustic guitar and boomerang samples. It is those high flying harmonies and human percussive loops that have the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end. Eve looks so comfortable constructing something of complexity and real beauty. An outstanding talent.

Talking of talents, Dressed Like Wolves Rick was playing pop up, upstairs in TSOne. Hidden away behind the Venetian Blinds it had the air of a secret gig, or rather it would have done if it had not been absolutely packed full. Shambling, rambling, humorous, an understated genius really is Mr Rick Dobbing. Every song a Booker Prize story set to a tune that sits up and challenges you not to whistle it for the rest of the day.

Which is exactly what I was doing as I crashed into the crowd scene for the full force of Benefits debuting in Westgarth 2. Wow! Kingsley Chapman. Feel the power. Bathe in the rage. The uncompromising sonic wall of anger as an energy. A Teesside 21st century Public Image headcharge impact. Jack hammer drumming, keyboard all on one sour note. Sleaford Mods Tees trash style. They're Taking Us Back. Back.. back.

Kingsley - Benefits


Upstairs and the “interestingly” named Peaness. We are back into a case of the John Lydon's again, never judge a book by its cover. Because Peaness could be taken to be a butter wouldn't melt, demure female trio in contrast to that “memorable” name. The Chester lasses play delightful melodic indie pop refrains. Guitar that could be abstracted from Chic, but played in classic lo-fi fashion around a shiny, summery, bouncy pop. You cannot fail to raise a smile.

Am on a relay back and forward between the Westgarth rooms at this time of the proceedings. But downstairs are another of the real star turns of the day, Mush. Continuing in the lo-fi tradition and condition. Big hair, almost Dylan Cartlidge big but more of him later. Lively suits and lively sounds. The Leeds art-rockers remind me of the kind of quick fire soundlings that once forged Franz Ferdinand. Frantic elevating rhythmic guitars. Stop, start, meander. Voices discordantly yours. Sloganeering choruses like Eat the Etiquette. Marvellous Mush (photo below).


We have reached the headliners and The Pearl Harts bring the house down at TSOne. The all female dynamic duo rock out with power and attitude. Dark forces. Pounding. Driving. Pullin My Brains Out. Infectious. Suck It Up. Roared back for an encore. Glorious winners. Warning: heavy riffing in the area.

Headlining at the Townhouse, BLOXX pack their set with big pulsating pop numbers. Yet another female fronted band, it is so good to see so many at this year's Twisterella. Alt rock backing from the 4-piece band with a real ear for a big melodic, lapel grabbing chorus. Go Out With You is certainly all that and is more radio friendly than the equally catchy Headspace. A centrally placed oath sees to that. All credit to them for not shying away from the impact of a good swear word.

Vistas have a full Teesside University crowd to enthral to their chummy Scottish sound. A three piece with the personable, impassioned vocals pressed out in front. Great songs that bob and weave. Fast paced, down-sliding guitars. Tune into the voice. Enchanting chanter. Lively, likeable. Exciting, excitable. Stand outs include, Eighteen. Their own Headspace. Everyone's a winner. A great way to finish.

Hang on it is not over til its over and it is never over until Dylan Cartlidge has picked up his bass and amazed and delighted, bewitched and beguiled from the microphone. And had everyone in stitches also.

The Mighty Redcar hip hop star, went to SXSW and back and is a real tour de force of nature and hair. He received the T-T-Teessider chants in Stewart Park for Radio One Big Weekend in the summer and in autumn Dylan is once again gracing a Twisterella stage, this time the final act of the day. Freestyling, rapping, grooving. Always, always getting people up and moving and planting a smile across faces. What a way to round off a truly memorable musical maelstrom.


Hope this monster review is a way to celebrate and remember one of the great one day festivals to hit Teesside. And maybe whet the lips for this Saturday's Songs From Northern Britain in Stockton's Georgian, Green Room and Georgian Bar. We are lucky to have so many truly great acts and promoters who promote from the heart as well as with their minds. The music community on Teesside is in good hands. As always use it and don't lose it. Musically at least these are marvellous times.

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