Mark Morriss @ 12 Bar Blues, Barnard Castle

An intimate acoustic gig from the fantastic lead singer of The Bluetones in a small market town. Noisy crowd though.

This was the first time I’ve seen an established artist play in a pub environment.  It was both fantastic and strange in equal measure.

I was invited by my brother in law (Richard) a few months back, as his local was putting on a Mark Morriss gig.  Tickets sold out in no time as the place only has a capacity of 70 or so.

The timings of the show were shrouded in mystery as Richard was told doors at 6pm with show at 7pm.  That all sounded wrong as there was no support and it didn’t seem likely that Mark would be on at 7pm.  It’s just not rock n roll.  This tight timescale was made trickier by the fact that we’d managed to get a last minute ticket for Ste as one of Richard’s mates had pulled out.  Ste sped down from Newcastle in an attempt to get there for 7.  We wolfed down a bucket of chicken from KFC and headed for Barney.  With the Appleby horse fair due imminently, the road there was awash with travellers seemingly out to ensure we missed the 7pm start.

7.15pm and we roll into Barnard Castle town centre.  We spot the pub and note that it doesn’t appear busy.  Arriving through the doors, we note that there is less than 10 people in.  Clearly Mr Morriss was not about to go on stage.  An Amstel for me and several Black Sheep bests followed for Ste.  Rumours were that The Quill had gone for a bite to eat and the pub slowly filled up…as did many peoples glasses.  As The Quill took the stage at a very reasonable something after 9, the audience were somewhat merry.  Merry and loud.  Very loud.  They really didn’t stop being loud.  Many people seemed to lack any kind of understanding that they were at a gig.  It was extremely frustrating that such a lack of respect was being shown.  Anyway…Mark Morriss tried his best patter and attempted to engage the audience.  Those of us who paid full attention and were treated to a really enjoyable acoustic set.

Mark made it clear from the beginning that this was a solo show and as such he’d take it in turns to play a solo tune and then a Bluetones tune.  That pattern was essentially maintained all night.  He’s got three solo albums out (2 original compositions and one covers album) and there’s a fourth on the way from Pledge Music.  He played two from each of Memory Muscle and A Flash of Darkness.  A further 2 solo tracks were played, presumably from the new album due out on 16th June.  The new stuff sounded good as did every solo track he played, even if I’m not as familiar with them.  7 Bluetones tracks were played in all.  Each one a mini-classic; 3 from Expecting to Fly, 2 from Return to the Last Chance Saloon, 1 from Science & Nature + Marblehead Johnson as the ETF era non-album track.  Richard requested Solomon Bites The Worm, but was disappointed to hear that Mark couldn’t play that one, after all he’s only the lead singer!

I really enjoyed the gig, but I’ve got to come back to the atmosphere in the place.  At times, it was hard to hear anything other than people talking.  You could see Mark was getting frustrated, commenting at the end that it was great to be here to “listen to all of your conversations”.  Even a classic This Is Spinal Tap reference fell flat.  “It’s great to be here in…” *turns guitar over to read the back* “…Barnard Castle”.  Oh well, some nights you have them eating out of your hand and others are like this.

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At the end of the gig, Richard managed to get his picture with Mark (below).  On another night I might have done the same, but this didn’t feel like one of those sort of nights.

Thank you The Quill.  Your performance was great and was very appreciated by some of us.

The Slow Readers Club @ Think Tank?

The Slow Readers Club first headline gig in Newcastle was a definite success.

Why did we end up here? At the start of February, Ste suggested this one as he’d heard Don’t Mind on the Steve Lamacq Round Table, and liked it.  I’d never heard of The Slow Readers Club before, but after a quick play on Spotify I quickly agreed.  Unfortunately Andrew couldn’t make it tonight.  If you want to know more about this band then click here.

Was it any good?  It was fantastic.  I’d had Cavalcade on fairly heavy spotify rotation, but the whole set sounded great.  The venue is really good for an act like this who connect well to the audience.  The lead singer, regularly catches eye contact with members of the crowd singing along and seems to sing-a-long with them.  Highlights for me were the first 4 songs from Cavalcade; Start Again, I Saw A Ghost, Forever in Your Debt & Plant the Seed.  The latter really got the crowd (who were in good voice throughout) going.  They noted that they don’t do encores (“never got into the habit” and “it’s a hassle getting off a stage like this”) and so informed the crowd that, without leaving the stage, the title track of Cavalcade was actually the start of the encore.  I’m never sure what I think about encores anyway, but this approach worked well!  I’m sure they get sick of comparisons, but you can’t help but hear Interpol and Editors when you listen to this band.  That’s a clear compliment.  I didn’t know about TSRC before February, but I’m hoping to hear a lot more in the future.

Did you get any merchandise? It was inevitable prior to the gig, that if there was a vinyl on offer that I’d be getting one.  Each of the band was kind enough to sign it too (pictured at the foot of this review).

What were the support acts like? Denature opened the night shortly after 7pm.  Their 7 song set, including a couple of covers, was decent.  They are a local North East band, so I wish them well.  SKIES were up next & I really enjoyed their set.  I’d given a brief spotify listen on the morning of the gig, but knew very little going in.  They were really lively, enthusiastic and played with barely a pause for breath.  I suspect having the backing track played from a laptop presents some challenges, but it seemed to work well.  This is a band to watch out for and you can start by clicking here.

What else happened?  We were stood next to a man that didn’t watch any of the gig, but instead faced the speaker stack the entire time.  It seemed strange, but I sort of hope this was his way of feeling and absorbing the music.  In other news the band noted that one of the crowd (Debbie) had followed them on their whole tour and as a reward dedicated  a song to her.  Nice touch.

Food & drink? It almost feels like this blog is sponsored by Brewdog as for the 3rd gig running, this was the ale of choice.  By the way, it’s not sponsored, but Brewdog if you’re reading…;-)  We started out at the Brewdog bar in Newcastle and had a nice couple of pints of LIVE East Coast Crush.  We then had a fantastic Fat Hippo burger and Fat Hippo IPA in the Fat Hippo Underground.  We continued the Brewdog theme at Think Tank? with cans of the marvellous Dead Pony Club.

If you haven’t heard anything from The Slow Readers Club then give Cavalcade a listen and if you’re looking for something else new then check out SKIES.

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TSRC Poster

Ste and I feature on this one…(third picture at the right)

The signed Cavalcade vinyl

Haley Bonar @ The Cluny

Decent gig from the main act. Horror show from the support.

How we chose it: random pick. No obvious gig choices in April, so we gave Spotify a spin for all the reasonably priced choices thrown up by Songkick.

Venue & crowd: The Cluny is always good if not a little loud at times. Volume was good tonight & the crowd was plentiful and very respectful.

Food & beer: decent local brew (Stronghold, Wylam Breweries) with a standard range of Cluny burgers.

Attended by: Chris, Ste & Andrew

Support act: Michael Nau – Not feeling this bloke. Sounded like a bad Josh Rouse with poor tuneless, samey, drab songs. The drummer looked like Napoleon Dynamite. That was the best part.

Main act: Haley Bonar. Good stuff. Played a good set. Not really that familiar with her stuff, but guessing most came from her last few albums. Covered Whole Wide World by Wreckless Eric as part of the encore. All in all pretty impressed.

Merch: non purchased.

@cwblueroom tweet

Laura Marling @ The Arc

No support act for this one.  Just Laura Marling and an acoustic guitar in a fantastic sounding, but boiling hot, venue.  I suspect she regretted the massive woollen top she was wearing.

All contributors were present for this one.  We lived it up with a KFC prior to the gig.  I was left flat having not been offered to have my burger towered (Ste was offered and partook in this amazing addition).  We had a swift beer at The Arc – Hop House 13, I think.

Tickets were bought well in advance as we’re all fans.  However, despite Laura Marling being 6 albums into her career, this was the first time any of us had seen her.

Laura started 8.30pm on the dot and played until about 9.45pm.  The set was really good with 4 from Semper Femina & a good spread from the rest of her back catalogue (1 from Short Movie + 1 from the Director’s Cut of that album, 5 from Once I Was An Eagle, 1 from A Creature I Don’t Know, 4 from I Speak Because I Can, 2 others & nothing from Alas I Cannot Swim).  The audience was ridiculously polite (barring one or two exceptions).  I’d personally have liked to have seen her enjoying herself more (1 or 2 smiles cracked), but her voice was sensational and the songs spoke for themselves.  She ended on Rambling Man, making it clear in advance that there was to be no encore…

No merch was purchased, mainly because the mark-up was eye-watering.  £30 to £35 for the new album on vinyl depending upon which version you wanted to buy.  Ste had got the limited edition double vinyl for £20 just a few days earlier from a local independent record shop.  Surely it should be cheaper when you cut out the middle man?!

You can listen to Semper Femina on Spotify here


Little Comets @ Newcastle University

Just Ste & I at this one.  Food back at his place.

We missed most of the support act, Eliza & The Bear, but what we did see (4 songs) was enough to convince me to buy some vinyl.  This gig ended with signed vinyl from Little Comets (latest album Worhead) and the eponymous first album from Eliza And The Bear.

Little Comets were great, unlike most of the beer we consumed that night.

The setlist probably looked something like this one a few days before, in London.

The Sherlocks @ 02 Academy 2

The Sherlocks are possibly on the brink of something big.  They signed a record contract at the start of the year and are due to release their first album in August.

They were supported by Vida who seemed like a poor Oasis meets The Stone Roses.  Not for me.

The highlights of The Sherlocks set were the singles; Live For The Moment, Will You Be There?, Last Night, Heart of Gold & the latest one Was It Really Worth It?

No merch purch.

Food at the Coop was great as it always is.


Two Door Cinema Club @ O2 Academy

Fantastic gig.  Better than I expected.  Much better.  Great sound.  Great atmosphere.  Great songs.

The main support act was Sundara Karma with the first support act being Anteros. Anteros proved tidy & Sundara Karma were excellent, although neither benefited from the sound quality that TDCC had.

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