SummerTyne 2012 Review

SummerTyne Americana Festival
Sage Gateshead, UK
20-22 July 2012

This was the seventh Annual Sage Americana Festival on the Southern banks of the Tyne and as usual, most of the acts on the Jumping Hot Club stage were virtually unknown to 99% of the audience at the beginning of each day; but judging by the noisy applause each act received at the end of their set everyone went home with at least one brand new favourite band.

The Jumping Hot Club Hot Fries stage on Friday afternoon is always full of local acts and this year it was surprise after pleasant surprise, as bands I’d only seen in listing magazines performed like road hardened veterans.

Fischer-Price opened proceedings with some remarkable Delta Blues, then Shipcote and Friends followed with their blend of lilting Country Swing which was just perfect as the sun tried to peek through the clouds. Regulars at the Cumberland Arms in Byker, Newcastle will know Holy Moly and the Crackers and they won’t be surprised to hear that the Raggle Taggle Gipsy Folk got the first of the dancers up and kept them jigging and bobbing for a full 40 minutes. The artist formally known as Staggering Jon Lee had put a band together especially for the Festival and they put on a show fit for the main stage at Glastonbury! Without taking anything away from the magnificently be-whiskered Mr. Lee; his moment in the sun was stolen by rhythm guitarist and poet Nev Clay’s ‘Geordie homage’ to Hank Williams; as it was one of many highlights spread over the whole weekend.

Next on stage was the Classic Country sound of the Honeybop Triofeaturing the delightful voice and fiddle playing of Hannah Rickard and they were so good they had people demanding an encore. Kontiki Suite from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Cumbria ended Friday with an exquisite hour of jangly guitar music that put me in mind of Teenage Fanclub at their best.

The sun made a surprise all-day appearance on Saturday which meant that the crowds were out in force very early, with the Sage hill already quite full as the dapper Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra got the party in full swing with their danceable Ragtime offering.

Glasgow’s City Sinners kept the spirits up with a healthy mix of Country Rock and a dash of Blues before Viper Central wowed the crowd with some charming Bluegrass. Londoner Errol Linton; who I’d been desperate to see, received rapturous applause mid-song a couple of times as his deep soulful voice and mighty mean Blues harmonica captivated the large crowd.

One of the biggest surprises of the SummerTyne Weekend was the Pine Hill Haints who produced a spectacular Hillbilly show that was as easy on the eyes as it was the ears and they even managed to play on the Cruise along the Tyne on Sunday afternoon before rocking a packed and sweaty Central Bar on the evening.

With hardly time for another beer Jerry Lee Lewis’s niece, Mary Jean Lewis and her Starlight Boys were the perfect band for the Saturday tea-time slot ss they gave us a Masterclass in Rock & Roll before Mama Rosin from Switzerland ended the day with some white hot Cajun music that included the trio clambering off stage to join the dancers!

On Sunday I arrived just as Lera Lynn was thanking everyone but did get to see the mysterious Big Red and the Grinners; who were dressed in Tuxedo’s and welly’s and twisted a host of classic pop and disco songs and turned them into Hillbilly tunes. Pure genius!

The whole afternoon was spent running between the outside stage and inside the main Sage building to see a host of films and secret gigs, meaning I only saw 10 minutes of Eric Brace and Peter Cooper but made a mental diary note to see them if and when they return to the Region.

I hung around to see the first half hour of the Treetop Flyers tip-top Country Rock; which seemed even more impressive, as when they sat in front of me later they only looked like bairns!
Roots duo Morrison and West held the audience awestruck with their intricate mandolin and guitar playing….and their songs and harmonies weren’t half bad either.

To many regular Jumping Hot Club fans it was a bit of a surprise to see Larkin Poe playing the outside stage at SummerTyne rather than one of the (pay to get in) inside stages; but that is to the Club’s credit that they can still call on acts of this stature to play at SummerTyne. The Lovell Sisters akaLarkin Poe took Gateshead by storm with a set chock full of great Country Rock songs full of awe-inspiring mandolin and slide guitar playing. Yet again the crowd called for an encore, but in this case the sisters had to get to Newcastle airport for a flight to Switzerland for a gig the same night.

Not to worry; the visibly disappointed audience were soon being wowed by the Belfast Blues Rocker Grainne Duffy, who elicited memories of the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 and many more sweaty nights at the Mayfair; only this time the fiery guitarist was female! Yet again there were cries for an encore; but time was against it

How do you follow that? What about legendary Folk Rock band Slim Chance? When they perform these days Welsh singer Geraint Watkins takes most of the lead vocals and the band rocked and rolled through nearly an hour of their own hits and even shoehorned in a couple of Ronnie Lane’s songs from the Faces too – Debris and Ooh la la spring to mind.

As their allotted time slot quickly passed by they were joined by a mysterious figure in a long brown overcoat and bowler hat. Most of the attendees were baffled as the stranger took his place behind a set of keyboards, but the stage was swiftly surrounded when word spread that it was Dr John’s legendary piano player Jon Cleary who guided the band and audience to the end of yet another SummerTyne Americana Festival.

Photos of the whole weekend at
Soundtrack available –

Alan Harrison

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