Songs from Northern Britain 3
By Robert Nichols
Thursday 13 Dec 2018 13:31:00
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Many years ago I released a flexi disc with my band Shrug and an Edinburgh act, Archbishop Kebab. At that time, the late 1980s to early 90s, acts such as Dog Faced Hermans, The Pralines and the Stretchheads would often drive south of the border to play Middlesbrough and Tees, acts such as Spit the Pips would drive in the opposite direction. That was so last century as things moved to a whole different level with promoters The Kids Are Solid Gold. Songs From Northern Britain is a public display of a truly special relationship between the north east and Scottish music makers and music fans. It was the third event this year and long may that not so auld alliance flourish.


Teesside has become a home from home for so many Scottish bands. Fatherson are only the latest of a long line of acts that Teesside audiences have backed from the start and truly taken to their hearts. It is all thanks to promoters The Kids Are Solid Gold and to the roll call of fantastic artistic talent that they have drawn here, slightly south of the border. Acts that have proven a match for TKASG in enthusiasm and sold gold quality. Solid gold is an apt description of the Teesside support and once again this event, now in its third year attracted solid support.

The festival is so important that BBC Scotland and 6Music presenter, Vic Galloway, travelled down to personally present every band playing on the three stages at the magnificent Georgian Theatre/Green Room complex. A real endorsement.

My watch at the festival started in the Green Room with T-T-Teessiders, Nel Unlit. T stands for talent by the way. With tracks and even future albums based on books and authors these guys and gals are learned. They weave songs that are almost like modern folk or fairy tales, the subtle guitar effects, keyboards and softly spoken vocals take the audience to a semi spiritual plain. But at the same time it is all so grounded. Although I cannot really believe that softy spoken singer songsmith Jon Horner can be the ogre and tyrant his band members make out.

Down from Scotland, Dancing on Tables had the main Georgian venue on their feet and looking for furniture to gyrate on. In their hurry to get here, two of the band had left the keyboardists instrument behind. Freed from his keyboard he was a focal point on vocals. Vic Galloway later reckoned they should give serious consideration to playing live without the keys, they certainly looked and sounded like a complete band.

From Dunfermline, the home of the Skids, Dancing On Tables share a love for a winning, uplifting pop melody with lots of glittering guitar riffs, more than usual this time through.

Over in the Green Room, the wonderful alt electro trio Twist Helix were soon blasting out numbers from their recently released album, Ouseburn. It has to be one of my favourite albums by anyone from this or any recent year. And they are stunning live performers. From the off there is a real drumming bombardment, the bass man is up on his toes and as the singer sparks up her big, big vocals, he is mouthing along to every word. The near classical synths shower the crowd with wonderful reach for the heavens pop melody. They dedicate the set to struggling local bands but this is no wake, as Twist Helix and the festival as a whole shows the little people coming out on top, a triumph against the odds. Soon everyone is wearing smiles as broad as those of singer/keyboardists, Bea Garcia.

I mentioned Fatherson in my introduction, well, Nieves share the intensity and the giant size emotional bite of their Scottish compatriots. Nieves go straight for the heart of the matter with their melodic melodramas. Nieves

Keyboards as well guitars are to the fore, one of many reasons why Nieves stand out. Their outstanding songs and that surge of raw emotion mark out the Glasgow band. Looking around the audience everyone is clearly smitten after only a couple of numbers. Big numbers. The final song was acoustic song, a tender way to finish.

Leddie MCLeddie MC set up her pitch in the Georgian Bar. This means we can all Raise a Glass to and with the Teesside MC. Raise a Glass is of course the title of Leddie's brand new long player, the full on follow up to her dynamic solo debut, A Piece of Cake. I say solo but Alex Bailey is very much in evidence these days, his bluesy guitars and backing voice lend an extra depth charge to the live as well as studio recordings. Leddie thunders through her lines and you cannot take your eyes or ears off her. She confronts the prying head on in They Want To Know. There is no therapy in Leddie's retail position. She is Rising. Don't get too close, the two girls almost dancing her into a corner are confronted with a witty dressing down. Leddie is serious in her intent but her ready down to earth Teesside wit is never far from the surface. Can you keep up with this talent?

SerinetteThere was sad news about this being Serinette’s final show in this line-up but that soon turned into a celebration for a Teesside band that always, always entertain.

From the uplifting Russia, with its natty Cossack coursing guitar line Serinette bombarded us with indie pop jewels left, right and never centre. All with that driving drum beat. Singer Louise was leaping around and singing with a voice and sentiment from the soles of her dancing feet and the bottom of her heart. In fact that disco beat proved too pounding for the kick pedal and Twist Helix had to save this day. This proved the signal for a stage invasion, party finale. Bigger and Better, Serinette took us higher and allowed a little sunshine to break into this wintry day in Stockton.

Serinette stage invasion

Headlining in the Green Room were Billingham's own turbo terrific twosome, the mighty Mouses. Fresh from work relaying the anti-bullying message Mouses set about including everyone in their set. The drummer stayed on stage but guitarist/vocalist Ste sallied forth into the crowd at every opportunity. In fact he even left his guitar behind for the, bass player with Twist Helix to step up from the floor and fill in. With scratchy, punky guitar, blockbusting drums and singalong cartoon cat vocals Mouses make everything feel fab. Tracks included, Fiends taken from the next album, telling the story about when you meet your hero and he turns out to be a nightmare. Doris is about chosing to wearing a dress. No one wears a dress with more style than Ste. Poison, explores and exposes the anxiety worm and turns it into a triumphant anthem. Everyone shared in a little of Mouses Poison and took it to their hearts.

Final act of the day Rascalton brought the festival to a close with a riff-tastic explosion of indie guitars and energy-excess. There is youthful vigour in abundance from the Glasgow quartet. Am thinking shades of The Jam, Lurkers and lots of post punk bands their (grand) parents might once have watched. How old do I feel?


Hotly tipped for big things ahead, Rascalton have been named in the early list for next summer's Deer Shed extravaganza. Punky power popping all the way through to the finishing line, they give everything and more. There is carnage on the Georgian dance floor by the end.

And what a day/night it has been. Scotland and Teesside have never been closer. Here's a radical suggestion, lets redraw the border, somewhere south of Stokesley. We'll ask Andy Carr and The Kids Are Solid Gold to get on it. Thanks for the memories of a wonderful festival of bands and a music scene very much on the UP.

Photos by Karen Jane Hutchinson

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