Monday, 28 April 2014

The Hoax

The Hoax
The Arc, Stockton
The Arc pulled off yet another coup when they booked The Hoax. The British Blues band, who split in 1999 and eventually reformed a decade later, released a crowd-funded album - Big City Blues - last year are playing a small number of dates. Luckily for Teesside, The Arc was on the ball (as usual).

Loud, energetic and hugely entertaining, The Hoax were the headline act of a triple bill of guitar and drum-based excellence that rocked Stockton last Thursday evening.

First up were Manchester's Federal Charm; we reviewed their rock blues album here last year. The made absolutely sure the evening started louder than I've ever heard at The Arc before. After that, there was no way the dials were going to be turned down from '11' for the rest of the night.
After a short break, Well Hung Heart took to the stage. The evoked the spirit of the New Wave era, when blurry lines came in on the back of Parallel Lines and nobody quite knew ho to describe the music between the gaps of rock and punk.
Greta Valenti's quirky style saw her use a variety of microphones and even jump down from the stage to mingle with the audience at one point, improvising various lyrics including Iggy Pop's I Wanna Be Your Dog and, later, Gimme Shelter. Meanwhile, Robin Davey, resplendent in tartan trousers and bright red tie, somehow managed to play guitar and bass guitar at the same time (on the same instrument) thanks to an army of pedals and amps. A very interesting set!
The Hoax came on last and they were very impressive indeed. Robin Davey was back again, this time playing exclusively bass.
Hugh Coltman blasted out the vocals like there was no tomorrow. He also excelled on the harmonica, firing out various solos over the course of the evening.

Jess Davey and Jon Amor traded guitar solos throughout the show. They had greatly contrasting styles.
Dave Raeburn's drums, together with Robin Davey's solid bass, anchored the core of the sound to allow the guitars and harmonica to fly away to extraordinary places.
Shout it out - The Hoax are back!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

CSC Teesside Update

Last time we posted an update on the activities of the Teesside branch of the Chess in Schools and Communities project, we covered the new Barclaycard volunteer scheme.

Phase 2 of the scheme started with the new half-term and everything is going very well.

The Hartlepool Mail called in to see the scheme in action at Throston Primary School and they did us proud once again with another magnificent article.

Hartlepool Mail, 22.4.2014
(Click on the picture for a larger version)

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour: Album Launch

We've been posting little snippets about Bridie Jackson and The Arbour all week (Postcard, Tour, Tracks and Award) and there's still more to come.

Tonight brought the official release show for their brand new album. A full review of both show and album will follow in the near future. Meanwhile, here are a couple of snaps from the excellent and extremely atmospheric evening to be going on with.


Theatre Royal, Newcastle
I first saw Pygmalion three years ago at the Garrick Theatre, London. The current version sports a brand new cast, with Alistair McGowan in the role of Henry Higgins and Rachel Barry as Eliza Doolittle.

There's no need to provide a summary of the plot here; most readers will be very familiar with the basics (from My Fair Lady, at least). The cast is very strong throughout, with Alistair McGowan particularly good as Henry Higgins. He captures the initial frivolity of the character perfectly, adding emphasis with typical mannerisms such as digging his hands into his pockets and a single finger into his ear.

Fine support is supplied by big-hitters Rula Lenska (Henry's mother - classy and wise) and Jamie Foreman (Eliza's father - an effervescent Cockney performance).

The mood changes in the second half of play, when the rippling effects of Henry's experiment make themselves felt. Who, if anyone, will ultimately benefit from his actions? Does anyone's life really change for the better? The sober pay-off counterpoints the humour of the first half very nicely indeed, lifting a potential farce to the genre of morality play. Indeed, Pygmalion's concluding phase can be rather wordy but I felt this new version navigated that particular aspect more stylishly than the one I saw in 2011. In part, this was due to Alistair McGowan's energetic and charismatic performance.

For further information, including tour dates, head for the official Pygmalion Tour website.

Friday, 25 April 2014


Bridie Jackson and The Arbour have won another award!

Last week, they received the North East Museum Journal Culture Award, for the Music in Museums Project. The full story can be found here.

We covered the Preston Park event here, here and here.

Incidentally, the demand for tickets to see tomorrow evening's album launch has been so high that the venue has made available some extras. They are sure to sell out rapidly, so head here to see if your luck is in.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


As we move ever closer to the Bridie Jackson and The Arbour album launch, it's time now to reveal the track list of the album.


New Skin
Diminutive Man
We Talked Again
Sandgate Dandling Song
Crying Beast
One Winter Evening

A full review of the album - and of the launch show - will follow next week.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Time is running out to catch Bridie Jackson and The Arbour on the Launch Tour.

Head for Kendal, Manchester or Gateshead this week if you can!

Monday, 21 April 2014


A postcard from Bridie Jackson and The Arbour!
Not only that, but they have also very kindly sent me their brand new album - New Skin!

As we head towards the official launch event (Saturday 26 April at the Gateshead Old Town Hall) we shall continue to post about Bridie Jackson and The Arbour here at Marsh Towers for the rest of the week. Stay tuned!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Caravan At The Arc

The Arc, Stockton
Prog rock is not exactly my favourite musical genre but I have been known to dabble; gig-wise, at least.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Caravan. I'd heard a good slice of their very early catalogue but had not followed the band's historical progress.

Tristan Mackay started the evening's entertainment with a fine set of bluesy acoustic ballads.
Caravan took to the stage shortly afterwards - a five-man, black-clad group. Pye Hastings, centre stage,  took the vocal duties for the majority of the songs. He is one of the Caravan originals, although three of the others go back a very long way too. Geoffrey Richardson featured on vocals too, but also played virtually everything imaginable: guitar, flute, clarinet, viola, mandolin...even the spoons. Jim Leverton was on bass and Jan Schelhaas on keyboards. Newest member Mark Walker was on the drums, a position he has held for the last three or four years. His youthful energy (''he's our carer'' quipped Geoffrey Richardson) gave him a touch of the Keith Moons at various points.

They played a couple of obligatory crowd-pleasers - namely In Land of Grey and Pink and Golf Girl - early on in the set, followed by the lengthy Nine Feet Underground (in eight parts) later on in the evening.
However, I enjoyed their more recent material much more, especially the songs from the new album, Paradise Filter.  Dead Man Walking, Trust Me I'm a Doctor and the album's title track were particularly good. More rock, less prog.
I enjoyed hearing the anecdotes between the songs. It's good to know where the inspiration for the songwriting process comes from.

Caravan played for two hours without a break. They did very well, as most of their songs feature intrinsic musical arrangements, with all five musicians pulling out all of the stops in unison.
 Despite the extended set, the evening flew by.
Follow the Caravan news and tour dates over at their official website.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Sutton Hoo

40 years after being intrigued at school by the story of Sutton Hoo, I finally got around to visiting the site.

Here are a few snaps of the famous burial mounds of East Anglia and their surrounding features.
The iconic image of the Anglo-Saxon helmet marks the entrance to the site. It's an image seen repeatedly throughout the exhibition.
Tranmer House - formerly Sutton Hoo House - belonged to Edith Pretty, who instigated the exploration of the burial mounds. She donated the subsequently unearthed treasure to the British Museum, where most of the significant finds can still be seen. Tranmer House is now open to visitors.
Authentic burial mound!

A replica helmet, as found in the exhibition hall. It's well worth watching the 8-minute explanatory video, which sets up the exhibition very nicely.
A reproduction of the longboat found inside one of the mounds. Did the original really featured King Raedwald, or somebody else?

For further details regarding Sutton Hoo, head for the National Trust website.

Monday, 14 April 2014

RAF Museum, London

I enjoyed my recent trip to the RAF Museum, London.

There were hangers full of vintage aircraft, a sneak preview of the new Lightning MK2 and plenty of very instructive information boards. It's worth setting aside a full day for the museum.

Here are a few snaps featuring some very familiar planes.