Festival review: Songs From Northern Britain


On 11th November 2017, a rather exciting new event occurred in Stockton. I know for some of us, it may come as quite a shock that something we can describe as ‘exciting’ could ever occur in the mysterious, far-away town which houses Durham University’s other campus, but nevertheless, it definitely did happen. The event I am talking about was the launch of a new biannual music festival, entitled “Songs from Northern Britain”. Although the name of this festival isn’t remarkably catchy, the names on the line-up were enough to persuade us ­­­­to take the long trip to Stockton in order to experience it.

The event was held in the Georgian Theatre, and hosted many acts which began in the middle of the afternoon – however, due to prior commitments, we arrived late and thus only made it for two of the artists. Nevertheless, we weren’t disappointed: all the staff were exceptionally friendly (perhaps this can be attributed to the southerner in me being continuously surprised by northern friendliness), and the size of the venue was perfect for an intimate gig, whilst still allowing for a large number of fans to be present.

Onto the bands we saw:

First, The Van T’s. We hadn’t heard of this Scottish four-piece before, but we certainly have now! Their sound had a somewhat 90s alternative rock feel to it, and their performance was very memorable. The harmonies between the two vocalists, twin sisters Chloe and Hannah Van Thompson, were particularly strong – however there was a lot of distortion on the vocals which, at times, rendered the words rather incoherent. Whilst the other members of the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves despite this, for me personally, it detracted slightly from an otherwise very interesting performance. The main consequence of this, however, was simply that we looked the band up after the event to hear what the lyrics actually were – and have ended up listening to them on multiple occasions since!

The headline act, Avalanche Party, were the main reason why we came to the festival. Having seen them perform before on multiple occasions, we already had an idea of what to expect, and had anticipated that we would enjoy it. And we weren’t wrong – for me, their performance at “Songs From Northern Britain” was their most memorable show to date. Despite quite a long wait for the band to take to the stage, when they finally made an appearance, they were absolutely full of energy. They really are a live band, made for performing. Sure, I have their EPs and listen to them on occasion… but their strength is in the way they are able to build up a crowd, and somehow make a lot of noise that still remains musically pleasing, despite how rowdy their performances become. It’s hard to fit their music into a certain genre – there are elements of rock ‘n’ roll and punk rock, but the crux of it is; it’s very guitar heavy, and at times a little (or a lot!) manic.

Avalanche Party opened with crowd-pleaser ‘I’m So Wet’one of their strongest songs – which had every member of the audience jumping and singing along at the top of their lungs. The performance continued on this high, building to the point where half of the crowd was on each other’s shoulders and the lead singer was crowd-surfing bare chested – this did affect the sound quality a bit (unsurprisingly, jumping through a crowd and dropping the mic on the floor can make singing coherently rather difficult!), but the performance was centred around the atmosphere induced in the crowd, not reaching perfect musical quality, and so this was in no way a negative.

The gig ended perhaps a little suddenly, with members of the crowd uncertain as to whether there would be an encore (in the end, sadly, there was not). But we were all left with a buzz, filled with the same energy that had filled the band and definitely glad that we had attended.

It was an exciting, energetic, rowdy event and definitely set the scene for the second part of the festival happening in the spring.


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