Bar, say, a 50% share in the Pet Shop Boys, the North East has never really hit the big time in the world of dance music. Though we’ve certainly had the talent and the ability, we’ve lacked the luck or timing that an act needs to propel it from the ‘cool’ underground to the mass mainstream.
Building on this theme, it’s nice that the Northern Electric festival sets it’s stall out with the mission of “celebrating electronic music and artists in the North East” in an effort to build up the awareness, and showcase the talent, of our underground synth movement.
Spanning numerous venues Northern Electric delivered on it’s highly ambitious promise and line up. Friday night at Cobalt Studios, the festival kicked off with focused electronic beats from both Lore and Third Arm. Chroline took us into the cinematic with a set propelled by searching soundscapes reminiscent of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack before things got harder with the tour de force Dressed in Wires. Thomas Ragsdale, the evenings most intense act, brought his style of dark Trent Reznor energy and matched it with a blend of Ultravox’s ‘Underpass’ and Cabaret Voltaires ‘Red mecca’ to create harsh, industrial, sounds.
To finish off the Newcastle Upon Tyne Speed Donk Experience (NUTSDE) stepped in to take a 1994 EastEnders episode and donk over the top of it. It proved surreal, humours and crowd pleasing.
Saturday saw the Ouseburn area of town, the festivals central point, awash with electronic fans running from venue to venue, checking out as many acts as possible and regularly swapping recommendations.
SkinMechanix, hit the Tanners early on with a hark to the 80s synth sound reminiscent of The Normal. Their dreamy, hypnotic, sounds with interesting vocal lines was the perfect start to the day.
Faithful Johannes and Emergency Librarian offerred humour, interesting beats and sharp intellect in styles reminiscent of early Streets and Devo respectively. Visual, imaginative and intellectual, they both got loud cheers.
Finishing us off, Parastatic brought their optimistic, OMD upbeat synth sound, and blended it with veiled political messages of unity. As always, they were brilliant.
Northern Electric proved a great festival for showcasing home-based, diy-styled, electronica. Not only did the festival succeed in raising awareness of local acts it will also have inspired more people to pick up an instrument and try the same. This was a weekend where the machines took control.