An adventurer, storyteller and writer with an insatiable curiosity for the fresh, the bizarre, the brilliant. Exploring life in North East England and elsewhere.

Rising Music Hub of the North — Cat's First Taste of Local Talent

Rising Music Hub of the North — Cat's First Taste of Local Talent

A Tale from the Lady’s Bathroom

Cat entered the ‘Femmes’ which was as quiet as the empty nightclub. Only the vibrant rush of water from a broken tap echoed off the bathroom walls. Live music was clearly not high on Stockton’s priority list that Friday night. Neither was appreciating the exceptional range of local and not so local musical talent. Cat felt a strange tug, however, as she heard a non-distinct melody emanating from the only occupied cubicle. A singing siren? A kindred spirit? ‘Aspiring writers write blogs, aspiring singers sing in public bathrooms,’ she thought.

It wasn’t an aspiring singer but the lead singer of Yonaka, the main act ofKu Bar’s music line up for that evening. Of course I didn’t know who she was. Most people won’t recognise the band members yet, until they ‘explode’ as contactmusic.com predicts ‘in the not too distant future’. Perhaps if I had known who she was and that she was about to give one of the most riveting live performances I had ever seen, I would not have joked about the malfunctioning tap and its ecological impact as we washed our hands. At least she had laughed good-naturedly.

Yonaka ,  Weird Shapes  and  The Broken Broadcast  gave impressive performances at Ku Bar on Friday, the 10th of June 2016

Yonaka, Weird Shapes and The Broken Broadcast gave impressive performances at Ku Bar on Friday, the 10th of June 2016

Theresa Jarvis seemed far less good-natured on stage as she sang about shunning ignorance in front of a small crowd, while dancing with zesty sexy flare interspersed by bursts of fiery drum sequences on her own drum. It was hard to tell whether her stage fury formed part of the band’s usual performance style — and their ‘Dark Pop Dirty Rock’ image — or was caused by the fact that they travelled all the way from Brighton — the glorious South — to perform to an unresponsive audience in the aspiring new music hub of the North.

 Provocative, engaging - it's impossible not to become absorbed by  Yonaka 's performance

 Provocative, engaging - it's impossible not to become absorbed by Yonaka's performance

Experiencing Yonaka’s music live was electrifying and not only because of their superb stage performance (regardless of their audience) and their sophisticated grunge look. They also managed to achieve a rare combination of a unique sound, seductive melancholic riffs, powerful drum beats and intriguing lyrics. What struck me, however, was that the audience seemed to matter a lot more to Yonaka than to the two local bands who preceded them: The Broken Broadcast and Weird Shapes.

Witnessing the same musical talent in the two local bands and their potential to have a great emotional impact on their audience was equally impressive. The Broken Broadcast and Weird Shapes’s music displayed, each in its own way, a more mature layer of complexity, with performances that were far more stripped down, less image driven: a raw display of their passion for music and an admirable example of music for music’s sake.

The disheartening realisation was that Stockton failed to produce the audience these three bands deserved — an audience less ignorant than the one they had. It leaves one with a burning question of whether the regeneration project of Stockton — the Rediscover Stockton initiative — will really have the impact hoped for. Does Stockton really have the potential to exploit it’s ‘fantastic music scene’ and to perhaps become the next ‘hipster central’ (in conjunction with M'boro) of the North?

Pause from the music - observing the world outside of Ku Bar

Pause from the music - observing the world outside of Ku Bar

While vivid images of the different bands played through her head, Cat walked home through the empty streets of Stockton, passing all the taxis eagerly waiting for her to jump in. She clutched the warm polystyrene container filled with chips — the best padkos [i.e. food for the road] after a night out. Pondering the frightening yet exciting sensation that this was her new home … and the idea that what, just what if, it was on the cusp of change?

Nothing like a brisk walk in Stockton's empty wet streets after midnight

Nothing like a brisk walk in Stockton's empty wet streets after midnight

To find out more about Yonaka, Weird Shapes and The Broken Broadcast follow them on Twitter and Facebook. You can listen to The Broken Broadcast's new album on their website here.

Yonaka performing "Ignorance" at Sofar London on April 27th, 2016.
Ode to Summertime in England

Ode to Summertime in England

Snapshots of a Stray Cat in Macedonia

Snapshots of a Stray Cat in Macedonia