SummerTyne Americana Festival 2018
What’s not to like about a music Festival in and around one of the world’s finest auditoriums featuring the music you love during a hot and sunny weekend only twenty minutes from your doorstep? Oh; and 50% of it is FREE!
Well, for some of my hipster-cool friends who appear to live in a) the past and b) Nashville… quite a lot actually; but to those doom laden miserabilists all I can say is “Shaddupa Your Face!”
While a tad smaller and more condensed than in previous years; there was still so very much to enjoy and write home about.
As I say every year SummerTyne is a festival of two halves, with two stages inside and outside the hall curated by the Jumping Hot Club and AMA UK which are FREE to the public and introduce acts of all hues and stages of their careers to the local music fans and cognoscenti alike.
During the afternoons and of course the evenings the three Sage concert halls buzz with proper World Famous acts singing on our door step; yet the entry prices don’t necessarily reflect that as Sage tends to subsidise the prices with a look towards bringing this music to the masses.
Sadly for me the ‘real world’ in the form of my day job took it’s toll early on meaning I missed all of Friday afternoon’s Home Fries performances, which took place inside Sage on the concourse stage as it was actually raining outside!
Later in the evening I cornered a couple of friends and even artistes who had been there and apparently Sam Gibson who opened the afternoon with half an hour or so of his own intense yet commercial take on Country songs went down very well with the freshly arriving fans; and local Country-Folk duo Jinski got the party started with their relatively high energy act.
Later RMHQ friend Gem Andrews made lots of new fans with songs from across both her albums and last minute substitute Sour Mash Trio turned this ultra-modern building into a Geordie Honky-Tonk with their blistering Rockabilly songs (or so singer Jimmi told me!).
Me? I arrived at 6pm just as Wandering Hearts from that there London Town were opening their own set on the AMA UK Concourse Stage and it was instantly evident why they are on the cusp of success with their easy on the ear harmony drenched Country-Folk songs. (I now need to re-address their debut album).
This year’s Friday night shows probably highlighted the strength and diversity that SummerTyne brings better than many other years; with Shawn Colvin who would normally headline Hall 2 actually opening for the legend Graham Nash in Hall 1.
Shawn was a powerhouse of intensity during her half hour; and while I only got to see and hear about 30 minutes of Nash’s performance (I was running around photographing elsewhere all night) his on stage charisma and understated songs set the audience to ‘stun’ and ‘smile’ as they left the venue later in the evening.
Personally I hung around Hall 2 as a new name to me, Texan Country singer-songwriter Charley Crockett totally blew me away with his simple and timeless songs that spanned the last 50 years of the genre; and any guy in a cowboy hat with a Texas state flag draped over the piano who includes a T-Bone Walker song has to be a good and indeed cool guy in my book.
The headline act in that hall was English Rockabilly star Darrell Higham and the Enforcers who had the immaculately dressed crowd dancing from the get go.
My long day and another impending 5am alarm call meant that I only stayed for half an hour; but regretted missing the rest of his set.
As I made my way out I spotted a few friends arriving for the closing act of the night and another one that in previous years would have been on my ‘gig of the year’ list; a double header of RMHQ favourites Rob Vincent and Yola Carter which had those friends still salivating the next day.
If there was one single act that I wanted to see it was Arkansas Dave who played twice; with the first being a 4pm set on the JHC stage; which I missed; arriving as I did at 4.45! But I did get to see the left of centre William the Conqueror at 5, who were a strange choice to close the afternoon as it sounded the type of music more suited to late at night. But what do I know?
Earlier a singer-songwriter from Liverpool called Tom Blackwell opened proceedings and as the day progressed six different people told me I had to check him out; and as happens at SummerTyne a mate actually introduced me to Tom later in the night and as we chatted a couple of advancing years tentatively approached him to tell him how brilliant he was! (I now have a copy of his latest cassette/album….. so watch this space).
Saturday night at SummerTyne was every inch as good if not better than previous years; starting with RMHQ favourites Curse of Lono opening for Steve Earle and mesmerising the rock crowd so much so there was a queue later at the merch table for their CD. They were followed by The Mastersons who I personally love to bits and again; on another night would have headlined Hall 2 on their own.
In between sets I ran across the concourse to photograph Natalie Merchant; she of 10,000 Maniacs fame. It’s fair to say she’s never been my ‘cup of tea’ but looking at the adoring faces of the sold-out crowd, told me that I was in the minority; but such is SummerTyne……it brings all of the disparate and loose ends together under one magnificent roof.
Before I went back into Hall 1 I nipped into the Barbour Room to see a few minutes of another recommendation; Jade Bird. It was difficult t pass judgement on the diminutive young lady in a red jump suit and battered converse playing a jumbo acoustic guitar nearly as big as she was; because her stories were nearly as long as both songs I heard. But; I did hear enough to know I need to investigate further.
Then of course there was Steve Earle and the Dukes!
I’ve been a fan for over twenty years and previously seen him live 6 times; being a bit underwhelmed the last twice……but tonight PHWOAR! He was back on form with that ‘fire in his belly’!
He opened the set with a song about and dedicated to the firefighters who were still busy putting out forest fires in his Home State then interspersed the ‘Greatest Hits?’ with fiery songs from his latest album and you could barely see the joins. Tonight Steve let the music speak for itself without too much literary interaction introducing them; and the world was a better place for it.
A long awaited day off meant that I could arrive at a sunny SummerTyne in time to see the immaculately attired CD Wallum Trio and their lovely tunes.
Next up were The Strange Blue Dreams, whose album we loved earlier in the year. The crowd seemed initially confused by the strange Gypsy infused Country-Folk, but quickly got into it and I spotted the first of the days dancers on Shipcote Hill.
As they finished I moved inside to see another recommendation on the AMA UK stage; Foreign Affairs. Hmmm; for me this sibling duo were a bit more Folk than Americana but they still went down very well with the packed to the gills audience.
Unlike previous years there wasn’t any ‘paid for’ gigs on the afternoon which left me at a loose end a couple of times; but that allowed me time for a 99 from the ice cream van and later a delicious burger and fries from one of the myriad of pop-up food stalls.
Back on the Jumpin’ Hot Club stage regular visitors Hymn For Her really ripped it up with their very own Hillbilly Country sound; much to the delight of the knowledgable and appreciative crowd.
Normally the closing act outside is something loud and rip-roaring; Blues Rock or Cajun acts being a speciality; but tonight it was the job of Southern Gothic specialists Curse of Lono to bring events to an end.
I had my reservations, and don’t know why but ……it worked. At last I could hear why I once heard them described as an Americana Doors; but that was only because the assorted keyboards came to the fore alongside Felix’s smoky vocals on a hot and steamy Gateshead afternoon.
As I’m prone to do I spent a lot of time looking at the crowd; and I’m pleased to announce that the 1,000 or so people present all looked very happy at the closure; and again there was a steady stream of people buying that CD.
Yet again I have to applaud the diversity that Sage Gateshead brings to an Americana Festival with Sunday night showcasing the very best in new, young Country Music in Hall 1 with Nashville TV star Sam Palladio headlining over the wonderful Sarah Darling who just gets better and better; and darling of the new movement Striking Matches who were so loud they would have been more suited to a Rock Festival (NOT FOR ME I’M AFRAID!).
Palladio? Interesting; as he is still looking for a specific style. He seemed more comfortable rocking out on electric guitar; but sounded more at home on the ballads from the TV series. Only time will tell which direction he ends up in.
Hall 2, just like the previous evening was completely sold out with people begging for ‘spares’ all afternoon.
I know very little of Iris Dement; but just like the Natalie Merchant audience the 1,000 or so in residence sat in stunned silence all night; but interspersing the songs with loud and long applause; and at the very end several had tears in their eyes during a long standing ovation.
My night ended with another twenty minutes in the concourse with Orphan Colours regaling the departing crowds with some delicious Country – Rock of the finest hue.
As I drove home I got to thinking again, “What exactly is Americana Music?” I couldn’t think of a definitive answer, and I doubt you have either; but Sage Gateshead have to be applauded yet again for trying and succeeding in providing some clues; and rather exciting ones too.