Amidst the season of large-scale, transformative summer festivals – the likes of which require great preparation and commitment to a lack of hygiene – Newcastle’s Live At Central offers up a simpler, cleaner, more convenient proposal – pop up a beer garden and fill it to near bursting with indie favourites.
Having had plenty of practice on the local live circuit and beyond, Lizzie Esau proves a fitting opener as she softly warms up early attendees. With her name projected on the big screen, Lizzie pulls in listeners with a charming rock-based first impression but her already impressive range plays out over a heft of stellar material. The vocal reach of ‘Bitter Weather’ seems apt as a consistent cloud cover holds back the afternoon glare, and current single ‘The Enemy’ brings a heartfelt and reflective tone to life – unreleased material shines bright with new teases continuing to display a measured balance of light noodling and driving rhythm, with the end result sounding subtly enchanting.
Despite their disruptive soundcheck, Birmingham four-piece The Clause return with a style that’s rough in all the right places, particularly with Pearce Macca offering a vocal grit that leads a swaggering sonic. A synthpop flair sprinkles mild 80s influence throughout their set, but clear fan favourite ‘Electric’ paves the way toward a riotous finale as the group promise to venture North again soon.
The crowd continues to edge forward as The Royston Club begins their performance, and their joyous indie seems ever more vibrant as the pints start to flow. Although ‘Tangled Up’ implicitly references the fact that their songs repeatedly centre on troubled romances, the sentiment is irrelevant to a crowd interested in nothing other than busting moves to ‘Infatuated’ and echoing back the smooth vocal hooks of ‘Mariana’.
The Mysterines’ suffer sound issues throughout their raging intro ‘Life’s a Bitch (But I Like it So Much)’, but once they’re back on track they comfortably deliver great tunes from a great debut record. Unfortunately, this comfortability is taken a step too far as crowd interaction is left extremely minimal, leading to a noticeable lack in audience engagement. ‘Old Friends / Die Hard’ sounds tight and groove-led as the band continue audibly refining their craft after a year of constant shows, but some encouragement and gratitude wouldn’t be amiss from beneath the shroud of attitude.
Kawala pop straight into their light and bouncy pop and reinvigorate the Toon’s energy with colourful and summery cuts from first LP ‘Better With You’; a relaxed crowd respond with huge applause as Jim Higson gives some fun stage banter: “our name is edgy ‘cause its spelt wrong – any dyslexics in the crowd tonight?” Claiming to celebrate something every show, they choose Friendship Day for this event but in all honestly, their enthusiastic tone alone is enough to get dancing.
The Magic Gang are next up with their onslaught of feel-good, adoration-fuelled tracks with the jangling ‘Think’ awakening sophomore record ‘Death of the Party’; the pure innocence of their self-titled full-length still shines brightest on songs like ‘Getting Along’. The constant switching-up of frontmen bolsters the outfit’s dynamic and potent energy but when all three voices collide on ‘Caroline’, the harmonies are a tad disjointed – we all have our hangover days.
Vistas give their distinct brand of indie-pop a real percussive kick as they jet right into ‘Start Again’. Having recently dropped a one-two punch of albums – clearly moving fast beyond any sense of pressure from the process – the Glaswegians have a lot to show off, although ‘Tigerblood’ is still an old favourite. Consistently upbeat and with plenty of singalong moments, the Scots inspire absolute carnage in response to ‘Retrospect’.
Irish quartet The Academic have flown over to English shores just to deliver a performance to remember for this Northern audience and, judging by the swinging limbs and instruments, they don’t regret the trip. Youthful naivety drips from ‘Mixtape 2003’ and a surprising bass drawl pierces through ‘Anything Could Happen’, while moments of sheer rock are littered throughout – particularly the fierce guitar solo concluding ‘Thought I Told You’. Presenting an undeniably fun 40 minutes – frontman Craig even bends an ear to decipher the standard NUFC chants – we are promised a second album imminently. After four years, it’s about time.
A band certainly not lacking in their own discography, Scouse outfit Circa Waves bring a range of mountainous indie-rock peaks to close off the evening. Sharp guitar tones thrill on ‘Wake Up’, ‘Fossils’ and ‘Getaway’ gift fans a glorious throwback and ‘Be Your Drug’ flexes a more poppy but equally rattling chorus; weirdly, though, its the glistening pop breakdown of ‘Sad Happy’ that inspires the first (but certainly not last) moshpit of the set. “You’ve got good voices, you lot, I’m impressed,” frontman Kieran Shuddal laughs, but his songwriting prowess is what leaves a true mark; Circa Waves’ records have shown a quick evolution due to dabbling in new production styles, but the live show lets the tunes do the talking. Seamlessly hopping between all four of their records to date, relentlessly repeatable refrains shine through more than anything else – no more so than on the inevitable closer of ‘T-Shirt Weather’.
With all said and done, there’s no denying the value provided by today’s event, as the modest ticket price brings with it a chance to see some big names up close and personal just minutes from your train home. Gathering a collection of likely peers, listeners were bound to find some new favourites (if they showed up on time), and this resounding success is soon to be followed by more ambitious events in the coming months.
Words: Finlay Holden – @FinlayHolden
Photography: Storm Hudspith Walker – @takenbystorm_photography