Evolution Festival 2012 – day two

Evolution Festival 2012 – day two

Even before reaching the site, day two feels like a more relaxed, comfortable affair. The crowds of youngsters hanging around the Sage, pre-loading on Frosty Jack before they enter the main arena where alcohol is unavailable to them on age grounds, seem pretty chilled-out. Casually ambling past the caravan that supplies comfortable seats and buckets for 14-year-olds to vomit into, the sun is sparkling off the waters of the Tyne.

One can forgive the odd pre-majority punter being escorted from the premises flanked by two burly men, being unable to walk themselves.

So – to the music. Delayed by bank holiday public transport, your correspondent is late for Spector, who are sorely missed. Nevertheless, a chance presents itself to catch up with the UMT stage – Newcastle music development service Generator’s Urban Music Training department get their own stage at Evo, and who should be up next but the winsome Amy Holford, who TGTF spoke to at Evo Emerging just a few nights before – what an excellent opportunity to work out whether she should be upgraded from a “maybe” to a “HIT!”. The answer is… not yet. She is in possession of a stunningly powerful soul voice, burnished and brassy, but sadly accompanied by a somewhat less impressive clangy acoustic guitar, and material which undoubtedly means a great deal to her personally, but is unlikely to really light the blue touchpaper when it comes to making the step to a higher division, comprising as it does moans about inadequate ex-boyfriends. Given some decent backing and material, Amy will be a winner, no doubt about it.

Jessie Ware is up next on the main stage. I hope Amy saw her performance, as it proves how a decent, yet still minimalist band can showcase a lovely soulful vocal so much more effectively than a naked acoustic guitar. Ware’s electronic-urban-with-touches-of-dubstep material, such as the sumptuous “Running”, does suffer from unfamiliarity, but she is an endearing stage presence, and finishing off with recent single ‘110%’ is a wise if inevitable move.

With impeccable credentials (collaborating with SBTRKT is never going to hurt anyone’s career), Ware is going to keep punting for the big time.

Oh, Band Of Skulls, thou heavy saviour of the day. Instead of a fanfare to announce the Queen’s longevity, BoS have brought a brace of beautiful Gretches, both of which are put to powerful use during the set of the weekend for this correspondent; ‘Sweet Sour’ catches the mood of the newly-revealed June sun, glinting off guitar hardware and polishing the dirty harmonies and unashamedly gritty riffs. Their talent is to take just the right elements of contemporary rock – power trio, female bassist, no perms – and match it with decent – nay, pop – songwriting. There’s hints of Stones, Cream, Stripes… and they’re all the better for it. Having displayed an intriguingly contemporary career path – digital-only releases, greater success as TV and advert soundtracks than as a formal chart act – BoS deserve close attention.

From the sublime to the… well, Evolution’s lineup is nothing if not eclectic. Rizzle Kicks, an urban duo from Brighton, come across as a likeable, non-sweary Odd Future, but with only two MCs. Or maybe that’s just because of the shorts. With song titles like ‘Mama Do The Hump’ they’re never going to be taken seriously, but it’s good, juvenile fun.

Onto the serious business – Noah and the Whale’s records seem to mature like fine wines with age. Tiny subtleties in lyrical content and musical delivery appear like little jewels on close inspection, and to their credit a similar level of attention to detail is paid in tonight’s performance. Clearly a deeply professional band, they go through their very deliberate motions with utmost sincerity. And the material genuinely unites the disparate crowd; there are so many well-known NatW songs it would be churlish to list them here…

…but after such an awkward weekend, everyone can relax and join in the simple pleasure of spelling out three short words for chorus after chorus.

Some people bought tickets for the whole weekend just to see Deadmau5. His techno-wizardry is a sight to behold, his monolithic transformation of the stage as otherworldly as the permanent mouse head he wears, intermittently lit up into a disturbing rictus grin; as if Mickey were lain on a morgue slab. It’s impossible to sum up the set in terms of songs; this is effectively a live club set, and the churning crowd love it. Thankfully, there is little point in crushing to the front of the stage – Mau5’ podium is so high that a deeper viewpoint gives a better view of both him and his light show.  Powerful stuff, and everyone lets off whatever steam they have left, before staggering in the vain direction of the taxi queue.

And thus with a sparkling rodent’s siren call Evolution Festival 2012 draws to a close. It’s a difficult event to strongly recommend to anyone on its merits – if you’re young enough to want to go, you’re too young to properly enjoy the music, and if you want to see the music you’re too old to enjoy the festival. A challenging sell, then, but the concept of a decent annual music event on the banks of the Tyne is such a strong one that I get the feeling that it will be around for some time to come.

Author’s note

In all seriousness, the question is – do kids get up to this sort of thing (drinking heavily, staggering around, vomiting, crying, passing out) because they are at Evolution Festival, or would they be doing it anyway on a bank holiday weekend? I don’t care what anyone of the age of 18 or over does; it’s their choice, they’re old enough to suffer the consequences of their actions. But below that age, in theory parental consent is required for this sort of thing. Do parents know what their kids are getting up to? If not, this review should enlighten them. If they do, and consent anyway… I wouldn’t say we’re lost as a society as a consequence, but it’s a pretty worrying sign nonetheless. Personally, I love to drink beer in the pub of an evening with all and sundry, and if it happens as frequently as once a week then that’s just fine by me. But even with a drinking history as long as your arm, I wouldn’t for one minute consider downing spirits or chugging strong cider in great quantities at lunchtime as these youngsters seem determined to do. It’s not good for one’s health, and it’s certainly not good for enjoying a bit of music. And in the end, Evolution have to apply for a licence again next year, and a bit more consideration of that fact by their customers, and the parents of their customers, would go a long way to seeing Evolution 2013 being more than just a glint in a promoter’s imagination.