Well, it’s nearly here and I for one can hardly wait for the SummerTyne Americana Festival at and outside Sage Gateshead next weekend.
If you’ve not been before (shame on you!), Sage Gateshead brings an array of past, present, and future stars of Americana, alt-country, country, cajun and folk music to the region, and there’s always at least one show that has people talking years later. The stage on the concourse is curated by the Jumping Hot Club and is absolutely free to watch. But I do recommend getting there early, even if the sun isn’t shining.
The weekend begins at noon on Friday with "Home Fries", which sees an array of Northeastern acts take to the stage and warm the cockles of your heart. Rosie & the Hips get the show on the road with their gorgeous mix of rocky country, infused with jazzy goodness... or something like that. They're followed by post-punk popstar Paul Handyside, fresh from a U.K. tour; the legendary Shipcote & Friends, who are promoting a new critically acclaimed album; then the Northeast’s answer to Bruce Springsteen (he’ll kill me for saying that!) Tony Bengtsson and Band. There will be chanteuse Lesley Roley. The #1 Bluegrass band ever to come out of Low Fell will wow the teatime crowds, if previous appearances are anything to go by. And the afternoon will draw to a noisy close with the all-new Archie Brown Quartet, who will surely have you young bucks dancing to your heart’s content.
As usual, Sage Gateshead team up two acts from completely different backgrounds and light the blue touch paper. This year it is alt-country star Chuck Prophet, making a welcome return. But this time, he'll be alongside the SummerTyne Strings. Should we expect a chamber orchestra re-mix of "Temple Beautiful"? I hope so.
As John Fullbright fans wait to get into Hall 2 at 10 p.m.. they will be regaled by Tyneside’s premier Rockabilly band the Honeybop Trio. After seeing Fullbright at Caedmon Hall last year, his was the first ticket I bought for SummerTyne and I expect this to be sold out by the time the show starts. You’ve been warned.
On Saturday, the Jumping Hot Club Stage on the concourse (remember this is Free) promises to be one of the best ever, with the Princess of Rockabilly Hannah Rickard & the Relatives opening proceedings at noon, showing why they are selling out venues all over that there London town.
I reviewed Lowri Evans latest album last year, and I’m really looking forward to seeing her play live. Then we have the Snakes, who have all the swagger and passion of early Rolling Stones, so expect some cracking rhythm and blues before Big Joe Louis & His Blues Kings make their first appearance on Tyneside for donkey’s years. I know of fans travelling from Scotland and Liverpool just to see these guys.
SummerTyne wouldn’t be SummerTyne without a healthy dose of bluegrass and jugband music. This year it's supplied by the Hot Seats, from Richmond, Va.
It would be rude of me not to tell you to be on Shipcote Hill facing the stage at about 5 p.m.. when friend of the Jumping Hot Club, the magnificently whiskered Otis Gibbs makes his annual visit to the Jumping Hot Club. He will be promoting a new album that is truly inspirational (trust me). This man looks like a ZZ Top stand-in and channels Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan in one delightful package.
Saturday afternoon ends with some foot stomping and dance-licious Cajun and Creole music from the Magnolia Sisters. During the afternoon, there’s also an opportunity to catch four young acts, including our very own Gem Andrews and the Tom Fletcher Trio in Hall 2 as the Americana Music Association U.K. showcase emerging artists.
At 7 p.m., there is a rootsy double bill of Samantha Crain and the Smoke Fairies, while ex-Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford (who could normally headline himself) opens for Godfathers of alt-country, the magnificent Jayhawks in Hall 1.
At the same time, the Carrivick Sisters -- fresh from the AMA-U.K. showcase -- and Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys will be creating a veritable hoedown in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall.
In Hall 2 at 10:30, we have a country-rock supergroup with the emphasis on ROCK, when the Bluefields try to blow the roof off. Just before Christmas, these guys sold out the Cluny and fans were still glassy-eyed days later.
Sunday starts at noon again with the sexiest and sassiest band in the Northeast, Fickle Lilly, sashaying and swinging their way through country and blues standards, like you’ve never heard before.
If you like raw blues, don’t miss Dan Owen afterwards. Then, at about two, the best thing ever to come out of Washington New Town, Mr. Martin Stephenson accompanied by Mr. James Hornsby, will put a smile on even the most hard-hearted people in the crowd as they too promote a new album. Knowing Martin he will just play what the hell he fancies.
Next up are the Buffalo Skinners from North Yorkshire, with their infectious cocktail of folk, country and rock and roll. I know for sure they have surprises in store for this performance.
Then, and this will quite possibly be the highlight of SummerTyne 2014 for some people, we get to see Danny & the Champions of the World for the first time in ages. Their album Stay True was in several influential magazine and websites' Top 10 at the end of 2013.
I’ve not seen them before, but I Draw Slow mix traditional Irish folk, bluegrass and country music and come highly recommended.
Stars of last year’s Jumping Hot Club Jamboree, Davina and the Vagabonds, close the afternoon with their infectious New Orleans jazz and blues. I’ve seen them twice and they will be prefect for a sunny Sunday teatime.
During the afternoon, Hall 2 hosts a double bill of Cass McCombs and Ethan Johns, who will both be playing tracks from critically acclaimed albums. Seriously, there is a theme developing here. Sage and the Jumping Hot Club have created a Festival that musicians who can sell out much bigger venues are happy to be shoe-horned into an afternoon slot.
I have a huge dilemma on Sunday evening, as the legendary Booker T Jones -- with Northern soul goddess Bettye Lavette -- play Hall 1 as my wife’s favourite country star Eve Selis in her new quartet with the wonderful Berkley-Hart and guitarist Marc Twang are in the Foundation Hall. Is it possible to be in two places at one time? Or three places, as the multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz will be making strong men weep with her intricate skills in Hall 2 at the same time.
If that’s not enough, thrown in for good measure is a River Cruise, rare film presentations, recorded music from Stagger Lee Fisher in between acts on the outside stage, kids stuff, and random acts turning up around the Sage Café, playing just because they love it.
Phew! All that in 72 hours – what’s not to like?
Alan Harrison esq.