22nd – 24th July
This was the 11th Annual SummerTyne Americana Festival; the yearly collaboration between Sage Gateshead and the Jumping Hot Club.
Unlike just about any other Music Festival this one has evolved into two; with the Jumping Hot Club curated ‘outside stage’ being FREE and drawing crowds of over 3,000 per day to sit on the banks of the Tyne experiencing Roots music in all its formats and in all its Glory too.
Inside the magnificent building there are also FREE showcases by Americana UK artists; but the main draw as always are the World Class headliners in Halls One and Two.
As always I flit around for three days like a butterfly on steroids trying to see and hear a little bit of just about everything on offer; occasionally staying for up to a mind boggling thirty minutes whenever possible! All to give you a taste of what you are missing!
As always the weekend begins at noon on the Friday with an afternoon of local Roots acts under the guise of ‘Home Fries’ on the Jumping Hot stage; and this year the opening act was a previous visitor and friend of the Rocking Magpie, the passionate singer-songwriter Tony Bengtsson. In his heart Tony would love to be an angsty Politico/protest singer like Billy Bragg; but can’t help but write beautiful works like the timeless Rebecca and an as yet unrecorded song Hearts of Stone. His set closed with another gorgeous Folk tinged Love Song called Count Me In.
While primarily based in the NE Tony does make the occasional foray North, South, East and West; if he plays near you….go see him, you won’t be disappointed.
By the time Kari MacLeod and the Fugitives took to the stage I was sitting atop Shipcote Hill, basking in the sunshine. Billed as a Folk-Bluegrass band I certainly wasn’t prepared for sweet sounds and the beautifully rich voice that seeped from the stage.
Although I could see two sets of friends gathering on the forecourt I stayed where I was so I could hear every note of every song this young quintet produced; and I wasn’t disappointed; especially their ‘grungy waltz’ Lady of the Night; which featured the Red Arrows flying over as they practised for the Airshow further down the road in The Dark Place.
Originally from the Highlands of Scottish Land; but now residing in Newcastle, Kari MacLeod was my first (and not my last) ‘discovery’ at SummerTyne 2016; and one I will be keeping a beady eye on.
No Jumping Hot Club SummerTyne stage would be complete with some authentic Geordie Delta Blues and this year it was supplied by the legendary Hokum Hotshots; who’s youthful good looks bely the years they have been purveying their wares on the local Chittlin’ Circuit.
With the vast array of International acts on show over the weekend it may surprise you to hear that one of the acts that I was most looking forward to was on stage next; the Teresa Watson Band, opening her set with Blues Is My Business which got at least a dozen brave souls dancing in front of the stage. A stalwart of the local scene for many years, Teresa disappeared a few years ago and ‘got a proper job’ but as she told us; “3 years ago I was sitting out there and thought….I want to play on that stage!” So; ‘she got the band back together’ and here she was in all her sexy/strutting glory. Always great value; Teresa hasn’t aged a day and is still Geordieland’s answer to Dame Maggie Bell.
I normally start or end my SummerTyne reviews with the signature ‘You will arrive on Friday not knowing 90% of the acts on offer; but leave on Friday with your favourite band of all time!’
That may be the case with The Sons of Bido Lito who lobbed a series of musical hand-grenades into the assembled throng that could only loosely be called Americana. Sounding like a cross between the Psychedelic era Byrds and something off a Nuggets album; they look like a gang of football hooligans but play like seasoned professionals.
Somewhere in the mix was a homage to the Yardbirds, a most Blues-wailin’ harp solo and I’m sure Cap’t. Beefheart got a mention too; and lets not forget their super surfy guitars and Farfisa style organ; so what’s not to like?
Oh….just as the band ended their set; there was a two minute ‘sunny shower;’ even though all weather forecasts had said ‘bright sunshine and hot, hot, hot’about 200 umbrellas mysteriously appeared! That’s what British music fans are like; always prepared for the worst and they never trust weather forecasters!
Finally another friend of the Rocking Magpie, Chloe Chadwick closed the day in the sun. There’s not a lot more for me to tell you; she writes and performs really good, personal songs that are very ‘radio friendly’ if radio was worth listening too; and after seeing Chloe in a series of small venues she looked very comfortable on this biggish stage in front of perhaps 1,000 music fans.
As that crowd filtered away; the ‘paying customers’ made their way into the main building and were serenaded by a Close Harmony Quartet from New England called Windborne. Not necessarily my first choice of music; but their harmonies really were spine-tingling and when they added a banjo and washboard to the mix; they cooked up a mighty fine sound.
My AAA Photo-pass allowed me to flit between Hall to Hall each night; getting a flavour of each act for three songs or so; and I have to tell you as a huge music fan that is a small piece of Heaven on Earth!
First up on Friday was the quirky Gemma Ray who was opening for and would later be joining Howe Gelb on stage. Playing a big ole Gretsch semi-acoustic with a carving knife jammed into the Bigsby, she straddled the divide between art and music that lives in the shadows of a very dark part of Country Town.
From their I ran into Hall 1 to see Callaghan open the British Country Package. I really liked her last year in an AMA UK Showcase at the festival; and liked her again tonight; but can’t remember anything now apart from the fabulous song Best Year and her leather loon pants!
Regular Sage attendees know that things here move with military precision; and SummerTyne is no different; meaning I could then run into the Lounge to see Gill Landry (Old Crow Medicine Show) perform a couple of songs; and …..BOOM….he was amazing. Leaving me staggered as to why he was hidden away in a support slot.
A quick check of the watch and I slinked into Hall 2 just as Howe Gelb himself was being introduced. Looking like a Southern Gospel Preacher (or Col. Sanders) Gelb was dressed head to toe in white and sporting a matching Fedora; and sat himself at the grand piano. Of the two songs I heard I only just recognised his slow, talking-Blues interpretation of He Stopped Loving Her Today.
Not quite ‘my cup of tea’ it has to be said; and I must mention it was a noticeably small audience for such a ‘big name.’ I was later told it had been ‘an amazing performance alongside Gemma Ray’ but that was from a man whop wore the same Giant Sand t-shirt for three days.
Thankfully Ward Thomas who nearly stole the show on the outside stage in 2015 were a refreshing change in Hall 1. Delicately avoiding the poppy end of Modern Country these British sisters really are destined for a headline slot here sometime soon.
With barely time to gulp down a pint of Golden Sheep (beer) it was back into the lounge to see the highly rated Mike & Ruthy Band. Normally used as a practice room for the orchestra this room really comes into its own at SummerTyne and the fairy lights strung from the ceiling, coupled with the Roadhouse style stage made for a perfect backdrop tonight.
Earlier in the day three musician friends had recommended this gig; and it was quickly apparent that this is where the ‘cool kids’ were hanging out; and the danceable, foot stompin’ and sing-along Country/Hillbilly crossover certainly didn’t disappoint.
A few songs stood out in the half hour I was there; Bright As You Can and their representation of one of Woody Guthrie’s unfinished songs; but their Ghost of Richard Manuel was simply outstanding.
By now I was visibly and mentally tiring; but there was still Striking Matches to see and photograph. Well; their energy is infectious, meaning that I was shaking a tail feather too, as I moved around the ‘mosh pit’ like a photography-Ninja.
Apart from 10 minutes watching Jess and the Bandits rocking the Concourse area on the way out; that was it for me; missing the Kentucky Headhunters close the day in Hall 2.
photos by Harrisonaphotos