Festival Review: Stockton Calling 2019

Festival Review: Stockton Calling 2019

April 2019 – various venues – Stockton Upon Tees

Words: Daniel Burton 
Photos: Elena Katrina 

Having never visited this festival before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Were the venues going to be small? Would they have high ceilings where the sound would reflect off? Or basements with low ceilings where every set would sweaty? I had no idea what the day would entail, other than I knew I was going to see some great music.


First up for the day was Twist Helix. We entered The Georgian Theatre to find it absolutely packed, which is generally unheard of for so early in the day at in-town festival. With the venue having high ceilings, the keys, bass and drums blended so well with the front woman’s powerful voice. This was my first experience of the festival and from just the 5 minutes we caught of the band, it gave me great expectations for the day.


After the opening act of our day, we rushed across to try and catch The Balcony at Vault. We were initially let in and started to walk down some stairs which felt like we were about to enter a hobbit hole, but a precession turned around in front of us which was a clear indication we weren’t going to get in. We found out later that these were a local band that were newly formed. They are obviously very popular with the locals and after checking out their releases I am not surprised. I will definitely be keeping an eye on this name in the future.


I knew there was going to be a lot of clashes and running about, and I thought one victim of this would be Tom Mouse Smith, however I was lucky to catch the end of his set and I was very glad we did. I had heard of the name before but only in passing and had never really looked any further, so it was to my surprise that there was just a little kid stood on stage seeming to have the whole crowd in complete silence and mesmerised. He is so young yet full of confidence, and with just him his voice and guitar he controlled the venue.

After this set, we decided to take residence in ARC 1 for a few more acts. First up was The Yada Yada Yadas. Bringing light garage indie rock with some unrelenting fuzz throughout, the stand out song from the set was their most streamed release, Oceans. There was a slightly depleted crowd size from previous act but it was none the less a just as passionate energetic performance. This was followed by The Lottery Winners, and even from the line-check it was clear we were going to be in for a great time. When checking through a backing track the singer said in a very energetic and jokey manner “Can we get that louder. I like that track. I spent f****** ages on it”, which really set the tone for the next 30 minutes. You cannot deny the charisma and stage presence he brought to the stage. It may have been bordering on too much at times, but the crowd loved every minute it, so I cannot fault them for that. Whilst some bands may try to use their sort of charisma to compensate for talent they lack, for The Lottery Winners this is certainly not the case. They have the goods to back up the façade.


Once we had had a short stint at the ARC 1, we went to check out the primary venue for the later acts at KU. Getting in just in time for Para Alta, we were treated to some smooth sailing indie rock. This was accompanied by very chilled laidback riffs which clearly had the crowd wrapped around their fingers. The venue has a low ceiling and is not very deep which provided a great set up for the band to be able to get close to all the crowd and almost feel like they were directing every lyric to everybody personally.


Having failed to get into Vault earlier in the day, we made sure we were in with plenty of time for Far Caspian. We now realised why it was so busy. It is a small bar in a basement that almost feels cave like. With the drummer sat on the venue’s padded bench at the back, the keyboardist set up so almost falling off the side and the guitarist’s pedal boards mounted on an extra stage added to the front, it was a very cramped stage. This did not however put off any part of the performance. Forming in Leeds, the group brought a very poppy indie rock sound to Vault, and although the crowd weren’t too involved with the band, you could see everyone’s attention was firmly to the front.


After a quick food break, we got into KU well in time for the Scouse Americana rockers, Red Rum Club. The room very quickly packed up and filled to the brim with queues starting to form outside the venue for the first time. From the very start the crowd were mental and 100 percent ready to play ball. Despite about 6 pints being spilled across the stage, mostly caused by lead singer Francis’ unrelenting energy, they blasted through the set, with certified banger after banger and before you knew it, there were only a few songs left. Francis covered the whole stage continuously throughout the set, reaching over the barriers to get the whole audience involved, stepping to the side of the stage towards the door to direct his attention to the lucky ones that just squeezed in and lastly singing right down the lens of EK’s phone. Finishing with Would You Rather Be Lonely, there was not let up in the energy from the band or the crowd and by the end you couldn’t hear the onstage vocals for the entire venue singing. This was truly one of the moments of the day!


Following Red Rum Club, I held my prime positions at the front of the stage that I had cleverly manoeuvred myself into. Now, next up was Zuzu. I have had the pleasure of seeing her on a few occasions so far, most excitingly supporting The Courteeners at the Echo Arena, but never in such a small intimate venue. From my vantage point I was able to witness the true fire that there is in her performance, but with that she uses it very carefully and delicately. When use the word ‘performance’, it’s because it truly is! With the she uses her facial expressions and her petite yet commanding stature on stage, you get a real feeling that she is telling you a story on the West End and that there is true passion behind every word she sings. This coupled with intricate guitar riffs and pulsating bass lines and drum beats, when leaving a set of hers it makes you feel like you’ve been treated to something very special. Playing venues like this will be something that I’m sure Zuzu will surpass very soon if she carries on her march up the industry ladder.

It was at this point in the night I thought the pace would slow down, but I couldn’t be more wrong. Catching the end of Lucia’s set, it was a real eye-opener to the powerhouse that they are. Having seen them the night before on tour with WhenYoung, there was a slightly bigger but older crowd this time round at the ARC 2. However, there was no less fire and power in the performance and if anything, with Lucia parading around the stage leaving anyone she laid eyes on with a lump in their throat. Nothing beats the look of fear in someone’s eyes as a singer approaches the barrier over the top of them, when you know for a fact that they wouldn’t hurt a fly. It was a real pleasure to be able to see this band across two different sides of the country and have a huge crowd wherever they go.

The Orielles were the final act on the ARC 2 stage but it didn’t seem like it. They acted as if they were the first and had woken up after the best nights sleep ever. At this point in the day, I could’ve done with whatever they had today, they were bouncing around the stage hyper whilst I was on my last energy cells. Bringing a bubbly indie pop sound, the had a good balance of the guitar, bass drums and keys floating just above making you feel like you’re floating on clouds


For our last act of the day, we caught the opening few songs from Avalanche Party, and really, I don’t think I could’ve lasted any more than that. This was not for being poor, but I feared for my life. From the moment they graced the stage, a splash zone should’ve been in force. As the singer strutted on, he threw an open bottle of water right into the crowd, then sprayed another one before pouring another over the top of his head. This was just the sort of performance we needed to get the adrenaline to get us through the nearly 3 hour drive back. It was our last set of the day but the first to have a crowd surf. The singer started being passed around before being dragged to the back of the room. It was if he was being shown around and paraded around the room like a king. This set hit me like an avalanche, pardon the pun, I did not know what to expect but I was met with an absolute mental set. It was one hell of a party indeed and what a way to end a great day!

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