Sadly a combination of financial cuts from Gateshead Council and a number of Arts groups meant that the free outside stage at this years Sage SummerTyne Americana Festival was much smaller than previous years and the PA system was sadly ‘lacking’ for several of the quieter acts. But anything is better than nothing and I don’t know how they did it but the Sage and Jumping Hot Club still managed to coral a stellar array of acts to perform over the two days.
Opening the bill on Saturday was the current Princess of Bluegrass, Sarah Jarosz who played a short 20 minute ‘taster’ set and showed why she is being lauded across the Roots industry. Abigail was followed by Londoner Sean Taylor whose folk songs sadly got a bit lost in the cavernous Sage foyer. It was then outside to see Sarfend’s fieriest Country Rockers, The Lucky Strikes who gave the weekend an almighty kick start before being followed by John Miller and his Country Casuals who treated the sun drenched hill dwellers to an hour of sweet Country sounds.
The sun also shone for Hogeye and their beautiful Appalachian hillbilly harmonies before the ever smiling Chris Scruggs took to the stage with a cool looking electric guitar and went on to criss-cross Country, Pop and Indie Rock with the greatest of ease.
Headline act and living legend, Justin Townes Earle closed the afternoon with a strange set for a Festival. Looking a lot skinnier than when he appeared in February Justin did sing 4 or 5 songs from the very commercial Harlem River Blues but interspersed them with slower brooding songs from his earlier albums. His fans were obviously thrilled at the performance but the casual music fans started drifting away midway through the set; which was a huge shame.
Sunday afternoon began with the unfeasibly young banjo virtuoso Dan Walsh who mesmerized the crowd with some very playing. I then hung around to see 25 minutes of Yorkshireman Jon Strong before running upstairs in the Sage to see a 30 minute film from the 2010 Festival when a number of stars (Rosanne Cash, Howe Gelb and Elizabeth Cook to name 3) were filmed singing acoustically in a Secret Garden somewhere in Newcastle. It was simply wonderful and I urge you to hunt the videos down on You Tube (SummerTyne 2010 Secret Garden). The film was followed by a free 20 minute set from the dazzling Abigail Washburn. I’d heard good things about her concert the previous day and if this was anything to go by I must see her play when she returns next year.
I then had to run back outside (not a pretty sight!) to see the criminally underrated Redlands Palomino Company and their laid back West Coast Country tunes which were just perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Think of an amalgamation between Poco, The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers fronted by a sexy smiling girl with a chirpy London accent! It was well worth run as I sat back, beer in hand and let the sounds wash over me.
Ex-Stalwart of the Pub-Rock scene Charlie Dore and her Hula Orchestra played their to folk rock strengths, much to the crowd’s delight. Just as she was finishing I was back on my toes to see Sarah Jarosz play a second short free concert; only this time in the more intimate Foundation Hall. Sarah plays a mean banjo, mandolin and guitar and she has a delightful voice but I still think that there is something missing from her songs. Perhaps it’s just me.
Then it was back again to the Jumping Hot Club Stage to see Newcastle’s finest Funk and Soul groovers; Smoove and Turrell; who lived up to the hype and gave the packed crowd a scintillating performance that owed more to Detroit than Gateshead. The lads were not just the surprise hit of the weekend but instantly became my new favourite band in the whole wide World.
Next onstage were the Richmond Fontaine Acoustic duo of Willy Vlautin and Dan Eccles who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time with their melancholy songs of anguish and pain. Thankfully the actual Richmond Fontaine beat combo will be back later in the year and playing before a more appreciative audience.
The weekend ended on a high note with the Savoy Family Cajun band who bashed out song after song in Creole but still had people of all ages dancing their socks off in front of the stage.
As usual the Jumping Hot Stage on Gateshead Quayside was the perfect place to spend a sunny weekend and everyone left with a smile on their face and a bucket full of happy memories.