Futurefest – O2 Academy, Newcastle

Boldly trundling through the white sheet that has engulfed Newcastle, I eventually arrive at the O2 Academy.

I’m met by what some may call a battle ground, as tonight we play host to not just a Geordie crowd, but many of our, dare I say, ‘cousins’ from across the river. Thankfully it seems they’re happy to join together in the name of music – after all, it is Christmas.

Frankie and the Heartstrings

Up and coming Sunderland based quartet, rather reminiscent of Violent Femmes, blew the crowd away with their set

at Futurefest, O2 Academy in Newcastle on 23rd December.

Exceptionally animated front man, Frankie, had the crowd eating out of his no doubt still gel dampened hands throughout the set, and even as he pirouetted across the stage it seemed fitting that the driving bass and well matched percussion juxtaposed it so well.

The short outbursts of ripping lead guitar made it an extremely well balanced and enjoyable set.
Frankie and the Heartstrings are set to release their debut album ‘Hunger’ on 21st February.

Little Comets

Northern pranksters Little Comets, of who are renowned around the region for their impromptu gigs and mischievous habits, supplied the Futurefest with their unique form of pop performing upstairs in the Academy 2 to an eagerly awaiting, intimate crowd.

As the band began to embellish their mic stands with an intricate and curious array of percussive apparatus, of which incorporated a kitchen pan, a few knackered tambourines and a maraca, it became apparent that the lads were up to their usual tricks.

The foursome went straight into song and they were instantly welcomed with an uproar of approval from the open mouthed crowd.

“I’ve accidently got a good vocabulary” explained Rob Coles when I questioned him on his eloquent lyrical choices. “We write the music first, so it just happens that there are a lot of syllables to fill.”

This and the additional aspects of the bands well rehearsed four part vocal harmonies, catchy pop riffs and abstract drummer/keyboardist combination, made this set the highlight of the night for me.

‘Isles’ was released in October as a single, it tells of the current economic state of the UK, and it was very well received as per. It features a lot more of an ominous tone than the other more positive numbers; however the diversity broke the set up quite well.

The Comets came to perform their penultimate song ‘One Night in October’ which required them to employ their entire arsenal of percussive additions.

This track has Little Comets written all over it, opening with their trademark tremolo guitar picking and backing ‘whoops’. A young member of the audience was so impressed by this one, or so I’m lead to believe, that he sacrificed his own footwear and hurled them onstage.

As the set came to a close the elated teenage audience did the final number ‘Dancing Song’ justice as the floor literally bounced under their weight, making it very difficult for me to take notes – how rude.

I wonder with such a unique form of pop, where they source their inspiration. Wherever it is, it’s fairing them well.

Thoroughly enjoyable set, remember to look out for their debut album ‘In Search of Elusive Little Comets’ to be released 31st January 2011.

I managed to grab a few minutes with the boys to catch up on their recent antics:

Things are really starting to take off now and you’ve just finished recording your debut album, how have you been finding it?

Little Comets: Really good, we recorded it in pieces though. We did the drums in an old school and a bit in the old Tyne Tees Television centre, and then finished off in France. We were served with loads of fresh pastries and red wine, Mark had to join an exercise class to keep fit.

You fell out with Columbia Records, what happened?

We had a phone call last January. They explained they’d had a big meeting and decided that we weren’t going to make them enough money, and that they didn’t like how the album sounded. They wanted it more ‘poppy’, using really generic terms like they wanted it to have a big American radio sound.

So did you tell them to just naff off then?

Well we mutually decided if you don’t like the album and don’t want to release it, then you can let us have it back, and after a few months of toing-and-throwing they eventually did.

Now we’re with a little independent label which is great, and we can focus our energies on what we want to do.

You’ve recently done a few gigs around the country, any funny stories of being on tour?

Mark: Aye, I made Matt shave the back of my head. I looked like a backwards Monk; I think there’s a video knocking about somewhere.

What’s been the best aspect of the entire experience?

Matt: I was looking at the HMV pre-order link for our album the other day, and I thought to myself shit, this is really going to happen. It’s taken so long to do, and eventually it’s going to be there. I felt all warm inside.

Finally, are we likely to see any more of your unorthodox gigs crop up that you’ve become so well known for?

Well we did some stuff in Paris running in lectures halls and that, and a little acoustic gig in an Oxfam shop the other day – that was quite good. We’ll try and get some more stuff organised for next year.

Futureheads

As local indie boys took to the stage to finish off the evening, one would assume they were set to be the stellar performance; unfortunately this was not the case.

After a ten year run I was under the impression an internationally renowned band would perform to a higher standard, however the Futureheads sadly left me high and dry.
Perhaps I’m a little outspoken here as it wasn’t all bad, let’s say about 90%.

The young group of loyal supporter’s, front and centre, did help to liven up the crowd but there’s only so much you can do, and as the band eventually began to recognise each other on stage and get into their performance, it was too late for me.

The lacklustre performance sounded like the tracks that didn’t quite make the final cut onto a Maxïmo Park album; especially ‘I can do that’.
Was it just me or did that sound exceptionally close to their Geordie cousins’ song ‘Girls who play Guitars’? Hmm… Answers on a postcard?

If that wasn’t enough it was painfully obvious that their biggest song still remains to be the cover of ‘Hounds of Love’, of which was named single of the year 2005 by NME.

As the boys split the crowd in half to voice the separate harmony parts for the introduction of the song the crowd were really into it, and you could feel the energy in the room come alive. It was then that I felt the spark I’d been waiting for, unfortunately this was their penultimate song.

On the whole it seemed that the Futureheads didn’t quite fit in with their supporting acts. Sure they’ve sold a lot of records, and they’re tight with their performance, but where’s the charisma? Have they become too comfortable on stage?

It’s clear this band has a huge fan base, but where are they?

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