The gigantic Spillers Wharf stage is assembled on Newcastle’s Quayside and its significant addition to the surrounding landscape means that soon, the likes of Dizzy-head Rascal and Maximo Park will reel in crowds and crowds for this weekend’s Evolution Festival 2012. The demographic identity crisis of the festival – ranging sporadically from its late-teen, early twenties-following in 2005 to the weird underage vibe of late – has left a lot of old codgers serious about music with no other choice than to spend their money elsewhere. Thankfully for us, Evolution Emerging has plenty to offer this year, with free entry in seven venues across the Ouseburn area. SoundShock choose the Tyne Bar this year, and in hindsight, we don’t regret it.
A decent crowd have gathered under the archway where the Tyne Bar’s stage setup lies, waiting to experience North East melodic rock act Watchers for their 7:30pm slot. The slowed tempo, emotive chord changes and Neil Young-influenced soloing make this four-piece a most appetising starter for the night’s proceedings. What’s refreshing about their daring vocal endeavours is that, every time, each note’s hit effortlessly but it doesn’t fall into the wayward theatrics of some Muse rip-off despite the fact their lead singer has the versatility to do so. ‘Cut The Ribbon’ proves to be a set highlight and although most of the audience vouch for seats as opposed to moving toward the stage, there’s no doubt that Watchers have made an impression judging by the positive reactions all round.
A complete amp blow-out means that Acrobatic Society are delayed for a small time, but anyone not patient enough to wait would be very unfortunate to miss what comes next. The post-punk five-piece are an act chock with new ideas and progressively on the up – and when they get underway just after 8:15pm, it’s easy to see why they’re increasingly revered as a rising talent in the area. Intricate lead guitar notes are precisely picked out while Sinead Krzyzyk’s violin lines weave beautiful patterns, snaking through the texture of sound with a warmness that engulfs the ear. The emotive screams from both frontmen complete this sonic assault and in their more melodic moments, its Scott Harrison’s clear wain and Adam Pearson’s deeper rasp that coherently work together throughout the performance. A tight rhythm section on ‘Rot’ mean that the popular tune is translated charismatically onstage, with off-beat percussive quirks exploding in chorus – all in conjunction with frantic Birthday Party-esque yelps. The eerie ‘Death Industry’ perfectly shows the audio engines coherently at work, and also reveals a heavier dynamic on the live stand to provide a truly spine-tingling spectacle for all in attendance.
Initially, the 9pm slot at the Tyne Bar was to be filled by O’Messy Life. But after they cancelled due to a serious thumb injury, it was up to Newcastle’s Fathoms to fill the void. In another serious case of bad luck, Fathoms’ drummer broke his arm the weekend before, leaving third choice Cinematic Submarine to play the slot. It’s fair to say that the Newcastle four-piece were always going to be up against it, and should have perhaps been moved to an earlier slot. Whilst not doing much wrong, their performance sees a small exodus from the main stage. They might not be at their most comfortable, but they’re definitely at their most interesting when they have heavier ambitions – ‘iGore’ shows this much.
As the sun begins to set and the dusk sky reveals itself, an entirely different atmosphere descends on the archway. The crowd packs out all the way to stage front as Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister prepare themselves. With black tights donned on heads, the five-piece crash into cracking video-hit ‘Fix My Corrections’ with vivacious noise energy and heavy droning chord changes before the stunning ‘Broken Head Department’ affirms that Nately’s have struck at a fine moment with tidal energy that sweeps across the intimate outside crowd. Even in their sadder, more reflective moments – like in ‘Just Below The Ribs’ – their charisma is undeniable, vocals pin-point, musicianship and melodies equally unpredictable and nimble. What makes this distorted melody even more impacting is that both drummers Matt Saxon and Angus Mason pummel with different time signatures overlapping – the full drum-kit provides a basis for more carnal percussion work on the smaller kit. Winding down with vocalist and guitarist John Edgar’s ‘woo, stick it in’ rhetoric, ‘Regards, Bison’ finishes an ecstatic set.
As night sets in, We Are Knuckle Dragger get their chance to offer something entirely different to close. Judging by their latest jaunt with tech-metallers Meshuggah and their recent full-length LP ‘Tit For Tat’ – produced by Steve Albini – one would assume that the band have plenty to offer. They do, and expectedly, it’s a more aggressive, head-slinging, groove-ridden affair. The upcoming three-piece have a sound that is minimalistic, barbaric and if we are to use the torrid ‘djent’ term to assess their standing on the whole, then there’s no doubt Knuckle Dragger stand at the fringes of its Venn Diagram – a noisy outcast who hurls abuse and slings shit to cause as much debauched destruction as possible. Bopping axemanship on single hit ‘Me’ shows the brute force they possess, with plenty of jerky grooves, the primal wild screams of Aran Glover and backing vocals from drummer Shaun Abbot that even sound a little Neurosis-esque. It doesn’t feel like there’s much musical constitution to Knuckle Dragger, but there doesn’t need to be. What they pull off tonight is enough to fire the crowd into party-mode and crown a fine day in this pocket of Evo Emerging’s events.