Stockton Weekender 2012

Showcasing Northern music and more
Stockton Weekender 2012
Big name headliners aside, this diminutive town centre festival serves as an admirable bulwark for the local music scene in Teesside. Most of the line-up is made up of North East bands like The Chapman Family, whose official line is that they’re “not a cult”, but there’s definitely something dark occurring. Clinical black shirts covering their greyscale pallor, this Interpol-lite five piece is very much a frontman-focussed operation. Kingsley Chapman is a Nietzshean crier, the modern crooner, whose angry vignettes about the royals and abject misery punctuate a solid sound that’s gothic in some parts and U2 in others.

Young Rebel Set counteract the bleakness with their driving bluegrass gospel, local likely lads serving up the driving ‘60s-inspired energy of Black Lips or The Coral. US bantamweights We Are Scientists deliver a safe but concrete set, buoyed by dorkish charisma and hits from a golden debut album. Sheffield foursome The Crookes bring things back home with some Postcard Records-era indie beatpop brimming with youthful candour.

Celtic punks the Pogues headline Saturday, storming on with ‘Streams of Whiskey’. Frontman and pickled marvel Shane McGowan is a static beast. He’s practically wheeled on and off stage throughout, allowing a more coherent Spider Stacy to take up vocal duties on three songs. Through the racket, the tender lyrics of ‘Waltzing Matilda’, ‘The Body of an American’ and ‘A Rainy Night in Soho betray’ a band whose main line is in crashing, piss-splattered sonic pandemonium. ‘The Irish Rover’ provides the perfect closer in blissful disarray, although it gets off to a stilted start while a nicotine-ravaged Shane struggles to spark up one of many snouts.

In a binary twist, Sunday begins with purity in the form of Thornaby’s Cattle & Cane, a family band with a round package of insightful lyrics, emotive delivery and all the pastoral bounce of Mumford and Sons or Laura Marling. The gracious patter of 18-year-old Jake Bugg veils a steely determination – this prodigious Nottingham teen is aiming for neo-Dylan status. He’s on the right track with a nasal voice tantamount to the infamous whine of his hero Zimmerman.

The high bridled roof and historic walls of the Georgian Theatre make it the perfect place for some heady afternoon jazz, courtesy of the technically dumbfounding modern outfit ACV. After a considerable passage of time since their first incarnation, it’s hard to recall whether Tim Booth of James has always been a messianic Gollum. A harbinger of flower power with irksomely itchy dance moves, those cynical of his seemingly forced eccentricity are swiftly hushed by an absorbing orchestral frenzy. The Britpop outfit firebomb into tribal double drumming and soaring brass notes and the set culminates in blind euphoria with ‘Laid’.

Stockton Weekender is in its infancy, but ticks all the boxes for a town centre festival. It’s mind-bogglingly resourceful in its use of a teeny pitch on riverside, and sensitively curated, mindful of a broad demographic. Community-focussed and inclusive, this is a gem of a festival that serves the North East in fantastic fashion – we can’t wait to see what they come up with in their third year.

Words by Natalie Hardwick

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