This being my first gig I decided I was going to be extra punctual, and since my plus one had come down with fresher’s flu or some other debilitating illness, I had no one to wait up for, and so I set off one hour early. The venue was split into 2, the bar at the back and the stage and dance floor at the front. It was big enough not to be cramped, but small enough to feel intimate, enough room to dance and not feel completely obnoxious. Looking at my surroundings I felt amongst my people, beards were common place, t-shirts with good bands on them and people seemed to be there genuinely for the music. I took my place left of the stage, cider in hand, ready for the night’s entertainment.
Up first were Black Mountain Lights, a bluesy-folk quintet who wouldn’t have looked out of place on the porch of a rundown shack on a mountain in Missouri, despite being from just up the road. They were the perfect start to this evening, easing us in with a gentle, spine-tingling song from the pianist and building up to a full blown folk-extravaganza that had the two women to my left dancing like no-bodies business. Finishing up with a version of Joy Division’s ‘’Love Will Tear Us Apart,’’ I couldn’t help but draw parallels to artists like Hozier, with their soulful-blues, back-roads of the US sound. This seems to be becoming a more and more popular genre, so don’t be surprised if you hear more of these guys.
The next support was up-and-coming indie kids, Lisbon. Their jingly-jangly guitars and the way their northern accents came through in the vocals was reminiscent of Little Comets, who are also a part of the new music scene developing in the Tyneside area. Front-man Matthew described the band’s style in a recent interview with the Chronicle as ‘Juicy oozing alt-pop – with unforgettable guitar riffs, captivating choruses, and songs full of energy.’ Nowhere more was this shown than in last song of the set, first single ‘’B L U E L O V E,’’ that had gained attention and plaudits from the public and ended up with Radio 1 putting it on their playlist earlier in the year. This was the highlight of the set as everyone got up dancing, and you just couldn’t help but sing along to the chorus and bounce to the drum beat.
Around 9pm Eliza and the Bear made their entrance onto the stage met by loud applause and several whoops, and the band instantly burst into ‘‘Friends,’’ a personal favourite of mine. There was a real sense that the guys on stage were in love with what they were doing, Callie (Keyboardist) rocking all over the place, Martin (Guitarist) smiling and dancing and James, who has arthritis and to who playing and performing is his only relief, looking thrilled to be there. The music was an enthusiastic as the guys themselves; upbeat indie-rock, with a little folk in there which just made it that much more enjoyable. But the fact-pace wasn’t all they had in their back pockets; half way through the gig the other members of the group left Martin and James on stage to change the pace and bring it down to a calmer mood with acoustic song ‘’Cruel’’. It was a lot like Oasis’s slower songs, reminiscent particularly of ‘’Songbird.’’ This had the whole room swaying and looking thoughtfully into nothingness, showing that these London based indie-boppers weren’t just another throw away nothing band but actually had some substance behind them.
The rest of the group returned to the stage, and business as usual resumed. The audience duly obliged when James suggested everyone ‘had a boogie,’ and when it came to the grand finale ‘’Light it Up,’’ the trumpeter had everyone clapping and James had everyone jumping in time with the song. I feel lucky that it was these three great acts that I would write my first review of, despite there not being any girls called Eliza or a bear of any description. Great Venue. Great bands. Great cider. Great gig.
Words: Ruben Murphy