Evolution Festival: Day One

Newcastle's city centre festival
The Futureheads on stage at Newcastle's Evolution Festival 2010
A lot of the chatter surrounding Newcastle's Evolution Festival this year concentrated solely on organisational problems. Organisational problems that come hand in hand with the audacity of staging a, still young, 30,000+ capacity festival in the centre of a city, to the backdrop of a most iconic Northern scene; the Tyne Bridge.

So for those who spent the weekend dwelling on the fact that they were five minutes late for Paolo Nutini or had their Jerk chicken confiscated at the gates: lighten the fuck up. As Rob Rolfe of Enter Shikari quite gratefully observed backstage: “To get a festival this big, slap bang in the middle of a city, is amazing. A lot of places just wouldn't be up for this”.

As I approached the festival it seemed the whole city was on musical pilgrimage, passing through the buzzing Sunday market in a procession to the Spillers Wharf main stage. With tickets at only £15, the first day was a predictable sell out and it didn't take long for the main stage area to take on a maggots in a bait box appearance. And if the packed stages/quiet bars suggested anything, it was the young age of the crowd that surrounded me, which perfectly suited the first band I caught; Twenty Twenty. Pre-teen pop, that's so inoffensive I actually became quite offended, from what looked like three Hollyoaks extras. Why do they sugar coat it so much? Do they think I can't handle reality? I can handle reality... I sometimes watch The Wire.

The afternoon was set to be a more mature, regional affair with three Sunderland bands in a row. As a passionate Barry Hyde (Futureheads) taunted “Come on Newcastle! Where are the bands? The Sunderland boys are embarrassing you”. A confident Frankie & The Heartstrings led the parade with fiery enthusiasm, raising a previously relaxed crowd to it's feet for 'Hunger', as Frankie danced in a most ungainly fashion. Poor old Field Music followed, and even as an ardent fan I must admit that their music did not translate well onto the main stage. As the frustrating clash of Sunday's wind almost muted the main stage's speakers, I'd be honest to say that it's doubtful half the crowd even realised they were on.

Next up were the model professionals of post-punk pop, The Futureheads. Now self-financed and signed to their own label, the quartet have reverted back to their anarchic artistry, as lead singer Barry informed "We've finally come back to our original attitude. Just not giving a shit about what anyone thinks". This brazen attitude sat well with the ever increasing main stage crowd, and everything from the classic 'Hounds of Love' to the strong new track 'Struck Dumb' was greeted with crowd surfers and mosh pits.

By the time Calvin Harris came on stage, the youthful majority were hammered. The crowd scenes began to resemble that of a modernised, urbanised Lord of The Flies, where the kids were in charge but they had got so pissed on shandy that everything had gotten out a little of control. So when Calvin Harris decided to start off with two rather weak album tracks, there were more sweeps of drunken disinterest than a local by-election and abusing the water aid mascots dressed as taps became the new main stage entertainment. However, the lanky Scot turned it around with 'Flashback', and then turned it up with 'Acceptable In The 80s' and synth boomer 'I'm Not Alone', letting at least two taps escape with their dignity intact. Paolo Nutini finished off the night at Spillers Wharf, but the real climax was to be had at the smaller Baltic stage where electro-house tycoon Fake Blood battered the crowd with dance numbers until the perspiration of a thousand began to rise through the chilly Northern night.

Words by Joe Zadeh
Photos by Thomas Jackson


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View a full gallery from Newcastle's Evolution Festival on ClashMusic.com.

Read our full interview with The Futureheads' Barry Hyde at the Evolution Festival.

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