Narc Festival '08 - Ouseburn Valley
Live Review

Narc Festival ’08 – Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle

On July 19th 2008, Ouseburn valley, Newcastle’s ‘alternative’ corner, its ray of light, its publicly private hideaway for the maverick dissident inhabitants of this fair city from the repulsive, Dickensian, pavement pizza littered, stag and hen night haven cobbled streets of The Bigg Market and yuppie, pretence of the leather sofa, electric candle lit bars of the central station and quayside area……(breath! rant over) played host to Narc Fest part of the Ouseburn Festival. In its 12th year running the unconventional festival neither aesthetically nor in its framework, exhibits an eclectic array of 40 regional and national artists over seven stages.

The city’s understated musical hub The Cluny hosted the Narc Stage and other stages were scattered around the various quirky establishments making up the valley.
The event was far from brash and probably more suited to the audio connoisseur than the cider-fuelled teenager or five a year, Tesco album buyer, but the environment of the area allows anyone with a good ear, an open mind and a preference for a good pint comfortable glee.

Moira Stewart brought their ever expanding following and own brand of Unkle/Tears For Fears/Joy Division-esque electro to the Cumberland Arms playing an unusually watered down and subtle, yet crowd pleasing set, in the venue which, though fantastic for your intimate rock or folk gigs, doesn’t quite have the right acoustics for the electro bands increasingly appreciated sound.

The hidden gem warehouse you can imagine would get an approving nod from Warhol that is the Star and Shadow cinema, surprisingly displayed two of the night’s most solid performances. Sam and The Plants played a touching set reminiscent of a bohemian story telling session. The sensitive beautifully entwined, melancholic male and female harmonies silenced the entire room and the floor was theirs.

The band are wonderfully innovative and played self made instruments (this reviewer was mightily impressed by the wooden plank device that acted both as a percussion and string implement!) adding even greater substance to their wistful folk show. Fans of Bonnie Prince Billy, Jonny Flynn or Laura Marling take note!

They were accompanied by Manchester’s Laughing Windows and their impressive spectacle of psychedelic prog with a distinctive funky touch owning their sound very much for themselves. Not many bands can get away with playing three songs in twenty odd minutes and keep the unflinching attention of an organic beer fuelled audience.

The other main highlights came from The Narc Stage itself at the Cluny. Cats in Paris offered a wonderfully chaotic performance of their distorted, heavily textured boy/girl blend of inventive anti-pop adopting an effective combination of synthesizer and violin.

They were followed by headliner Adem who failed to disappoint the by now evidently ‘jolly’ audience with an unfaultable collection of his whole hearted, fragile troubadour songs.

All in all we music lovers of the north east should thank the lord that we have been blessed with our very own ‘Eden’ in this city, in the form of the Ouseburn Valley and its surrounding establishments. This is the platform for the north east’s emerging, exciting music scene and this annual event is the perfect way to show the goods on offer.

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