Monday 31st May 2010
If day one of what has been defiantly pronounced “the North East of England’s premier music event” was anything to go by, festival-goers may be anticipating more revelries of a dub-infused order. Yet the refreshing diversity this city centre spectacle encapsulates means such presumptions are far from reality, with the wealth of today’s schedule presenting a wealth of talent both emerging and established. With the overcast and gloomy conditions of Sunday favourably suppressed by the more tranquil and contrasting sunny skies reminiscent of last year’s occasion, the new ‘summer’ theme is lightening up the main spillers wharf stage conveniently in time for the arrival of Manchester quartet Everything Everything.
For what has most recently been marked a largely stale period for the indie scene, frontman Jonathan Everything’s falsetto vocals are entertainingly interwoven with the tight, retro harmonies that make tracks like ‘Suffragette, Suffragette’ a captivating experience that the crowd are only too happy to jump along too. Where many emerging bands may falter in constructing a set list of up-tempo but largely indistinctive tracks, Everything Everything’s unique approach is a surprisingly refreshing experience with the variance of mid-tempo instrumentals juxtaposed against up and coming crowd pleasures like ‘Schoolin’, which make their performance one of the (unexpected) highlights of the day. Scottish six-piece and festival regulars Dananananakroyd are next to disseminate on stage, who just before falling into popular number ‘Black Wax’, demand a universal ‘wall of cuddles’ which the younger generation were more than happy to indulge in. After another accomplished performance from the family friendly sounds of the aforementioned (the name is too ludicrous to recite again) it was time for the lengthy hike towards the Baltic Square stage to catch a glimpse of the much hyped Frankmuzik.
22 year old Vincent Frank most recently undertook a 20-date UK tour with only £20 and no accommodation, and it is this kind of willpower which has seen single ‘Confusion Girl’ A-listed over at music mecca Radio 1 and more importantly, adored by his already strong fan base. Powering through hits like ‘Better off as 2’ and ‘3 little words’ the die-hards are singing every word, with its electro/pop fusion so feel-good a bright future is surely on the cards. After a brief chat with the band (who were very eager to know the ins and outs of mewbox!) it was time to contemplate the hardest choice of the day, with the massively popular Example clashing with Hip-Hop legends De La Soul, the chance however to see New York’s finest in the flesh was too much, so off I scampered towards the main stage. At this point it is worth noting the sheer scale of people attempting to catch a glimpse of Example, who had earlier promised a set to remember, with this mass quite blatantly the biggest crowd the Baltic Stage had experienced all weekend.
Nearly an hour later and the furore surrounding Example on the Baltic stage becomes difficult to comprehend, with Long Island trio De La Soul rocking the stage in a manner so effortless it’d be of value for today’s other bands to take note. Although it is clear sections of the crowd may be in attendance for later acts, the hip-hop trio have a career spanning some 21 years and it is evident to see why. Assuredly Steamrolling through classics like ‘Me, Myself & I’ and ‘Ring, Ring, Ring’, the positive energy and youthful ‘swagger’ these legends still exuberate is wholly admirable. With the two MCs (Kelvin “Posdnuos” Mercer, David “Trugoy” Jolicoeur) wilfully stirring the crowd through bellows of “I can’t hear ya’l!!” and “make some noise!!”, by the time final smash ‘A Rollerskating Jam Named Saturdays’ drops, the crowds initial apprehension is visibly upended as they depart to a unanimously healthy applause.
With my principal desire to see De La fulfilled and with no interest whatsoever in hanging around for downbeat Gothic fivesome The Horrors, all attentions turned back to the euphoria surrounding the Baltic stage with the more seasoned ravers Hadouken! shortly due to overwhelm expectant gatherers. With the sun retreating and the night sky submerging, heads immediately drop and the bouncing begins as the Londoners’ grime-oriented high-energy transmits itself to the crowd through a mixture of new material and familiar classics. Although the familiar sampling of Double 99’s ‘RIP Groove’ can be heard during the catchy ‘Mic Check’, the highlight falls with the introduction of ‘Turn the lights down’, taken from new album ‘For the masses’, with singer James Smith sending the crowd into a senseless frenzy through his own on-stage absurdities (it’s at least refreshing to see a band truly up for it!). As the ‘grindie’ stars descend from the stage and head for the backstage bar, myself amongst the majority begin to anticipate the arrival of the music industries corporate outlaws, St Albans’ all-conquering Enter Shikari.
Primarily it’s important to note, as vocalist “Rou” Reynolds points out the acoustics of tonight’s set (their first ever festival headliner) are apparently lower than that of your domestic lawnmower, yet having only briefly flirted with the insanity of a Shikari experience from the fringes of a bursting Reading Festival tent some years ago, the prospects of unadulterated moshing destruction looked a certainty. After catapulting into latest album opener ‘Common Dreads’, singer Reynolds (sporting a politically motivated ‘free Gaza’ t-shirt) and co. seem intent on rousing everyone into as much a frenzy as the deplorably soft acoustics will permit them too. Yet as the unmatchable jubilation of final encore track ‘Okay, time for plan B’ reaches its climax, so too does the conclusion (and an epic one at that) of an exceptionally entertaining 48-hour musical venture across the Brown-Ale enthused banks of the Tyne. Same time next year? As your local Geordie neighbour would say, Why Aye Man!