Sam Mason-Jones goes behind the scenes at 6 Music Festival in Tyneside, providing us with an exclusive look at the events occurring on the Saturday.
A bloody gorgeous day ushered in the festival’s second wave of activity, the bustling scene down at the Ouseburn feeling positively Mediterranean- well, relatively. It was a really exciting place to be, the boys from Royal Blood would be loitering outside the Cluny at one moment, John Cooper Clarke and entourage would strut past the next. It was with the latter that I plunged into the excitement, with the punk poet himself featuring on a Gideon Coe-hosted panel conversation at the Star and Shadow Cinema after a rambunctious set from Sleaford Mods, who possess more bite than Luiz Suarez on MDMA. The chat, which hinged around the notion of punk poetry, was dominated by the ever-lucid Dr Clarke. ‘A poem is never finished, it is only abandoned,’ he declares, with the reasonable crowd hanging on his every musical syllable, before going on to cover the disparity between poetry and song lyrics, his own writing process and his inclusion on the new Key Stage 3 syllabus- ‘The one thing that Michael Gove has done right.’ Insightful as he is funny, the poet is, as always, wholly worth listening to.
The Cluny played host a great selection of live music throughout the day, as it did to my own nostalgic gushing, as memories of nights spent clutching premature cans and listening to Howler and Deap Vally came rushing back with the mingled scent of stale sweat and craft ale. Pick of the bunch are Peckham filth-mongers Fat White Family, whose five pallid complexions rarely stray from a dead-eyed intensity. Lias’ relationship with his t-shirt barely lasts through opener ‘Is It Raining In Your Mouth?’ before he begins to channel Iggy Pop in some of the topless shapes he throws. He is a truly terrifying person to behold, with all the personal hygiene of a hyena and screams that unload some deep-set trauma, when he stares unseeing into the crowd he has the look of a man staring into the abyss. It feels like watching a self-immolation: violent, macabre but utterly, utterly compelling.
Five o’clock arrives and the Sage throws open its doors to the hordes eagerly crossing the Tyne. The place looks wonderful, done up to the nines with light and foliage aplenty. Kate Tempest’s coalition with folk musician Eliza Carthy christens the Concourse stage, and is pretty good, but nothing on Ghostpoet’s set in Hall 2 which builds in crescendo towards his last and best song ‘Liiines’. Father John Misty slinks onstage next, affecting his odiously arrogant persona which is entirely justified by his exquisite performance. Beginning standing atop his drum-kit with ‘I Love You, Honeybear’, he goes on to offer five other tracks from the wonderful LP of the same name. Having snuck, snake-hipped, into the crowd to embrace several of the front-row’s more attractive girls, he straps on a guitar for a resplendent rendition ‘Chateau Lobby #4’, adorned with gorgeous strings. One of the finer features of the record is the caustic honesty of his lyrics, which he makes much of in the pauses between songs. The live arena allows for Misty’s exquisite nuances in delivery, with apposite facial expressions and hand gestures exhibiting real comic timing. This unique brand of showmanship carries into final song ‘Bored In The USA’, which closes with him sprawled, despondent on the stage and draws the curtain on what is an early contender for best set of the weekend.
I managed to get in for the final couple of The Fall’s set in Hall 1, the band vitally tight as per with Mark E Smith stumbling around the place drawling inaudibly into a loosely held microphone, and looking increasingly like Mad Eye Moody circa The Half-Blood Prince. Royal Blood follow, with a brilliantly superfluous set, impressive in its simply ridiculous scale. Mike Kerr tears through riffs heavier than the rain forecast for Sunday, while partner-in-crime Ben Thatcher’s drums are correspondingly massive. ‘Little Monster’, ‘Come On Over’ and ‘Out Of The Black’ are met with the most ardent enthusiasm from the crowd that allies the bespectacled teenage hipster with fifty-something bald beer-bellies in stretched and faded Sex Pistols t-shirts.
I then, along with apparently 70% of Wakefield, piled into Hall 2 to see their boys The Cribs headline. Emerging ferociously out of the blocks, the Jarman brothers’ set wasn’t far short of a greatest hits run through, and when songs as good as ‘We Share The Same Skies’, ‘Hey Scenesters!’ and ‘Men’s Needs’ get an airing it’s very difficult to begrudge. It all gets very sweaty towards the end, so the ensuing sojourn across to the Boiler Shop provided a very welcome opportunity to cool off a bit before the ‘Late’ entertainment began in earnest.
6 Music disk jockeys Giles Peterson and Mary Anne Hobbs take to the decks first for an hour each, as the growing crowd begins to loosen up to some well placed grooves. Four Tet is next up and is predictably great, though his set sadly lacks any of the Brazilica that he and Floating Points have become so fond of in recent months. Then, completing a near-dream line-up is Jamie xx. He plies his distinct brand of house, with occasional warm inflections of funk and jazz, which is lapped by a deeply appreciative and fluid audience. Though there is no sign of recent releases ‘All Under One Roof Raving’ or ‘Girl’, Smith does drop ‘Far Nearer’ and ‘Girl’ to rapturous reception. His generous two hour set closes with the arrival of the harsh houselights, and that’s it. Genuinely quite emotional that it’s over, I get through a ‘share box’ of twenty chicken mcnuggets on my own.
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