Following a lovely opener from The Balcony, it’s Elaine Palmer who makes an early, but clear, statement of intent at today’s Hartlepool live. Emotive, melancholic and deeply moving, Palmer’s tales of sin, adultery, and broken promises threaten to steal the festival early on in it’s timetable. Driven by a two-piece sound, Palmer’s set is both moody and haunting as she moves us in a Mazzy Star tour of the darker sides of life. It’s a set which, in a fair world, would have been heard by more people.
As would the set from ‘Dog Years’, who follow Palmer with a set driven by Stones’y guitar licks and gentle nudges of electronica. Rooted in the late 90’s American, alternative, rock sound ‘Dog Years’ set is loud, visceral and blended with moments of fine humour. A tribute to Night Owls, which opens six-minute belter ‘Mr Speaker’, provides evidence that this is a band who keep their finger on the pop culture scene, but often try to step outside of it.
A flurry of people arrive for local hero Michael Gallagher
who’s pulsating guitar sound, and standouts ‘Yesterday’ and ‘All night’ have
the crowd bouncing. A confident set, there’s
something about Gallagher’s sound, and look, which makes you think big things
are just around the corner.
A sprint to the Chilli Cake stage means we make it for local hip hop star Sagaboi, who’s hype doesn’t disappoint as he glides confidently through a combination of sounds including dark electro and aggressive hip hop. Standout ‘Out of order’, itself rooted in grime, takes the largest plaudits with it’s brutal honesty and ability to combine themes of Rafa Benitez, know it all Mc’s, and cultural generalisations together into a complete narrative.
Personal highlight, the one-two of local art scenesters, punks and radicals Swine Tax and Mouses follows next across at The Contemporary; both providing their usual, ten out of ten, performances in sets which are angry, humorous and fully formed. If they ever decide to put on a co-headline tour that would be some serious fun.
Finding time to catch up with Paul Smith’s packed out headline set back at the Town Hall, today proves that the North East has considerable talent in it’s possession. Perhaps it needs a little more support, and certainly it needs more investment, but with a bit of luck these acts could go far.