nxb3 on tour – Rexine at The Telegraph, Newcastle

This was the bands second gig with the new line-up featuring Rachel on vocals and Paul on Bass, both settling well into their new roles in the band. Rachel was definitely more confident than at their first gig at The Central in Gateshead where the nerves were definitely showing, the vocals were a little lower in the mix but still clearly audible. The fairly small crowd was mainly friends of the bands playing on the night and they were treated to a pretty good performance, the sound was good too and although the tracks played were the same at both gigs, the running order had been changed around.

The venue was a small upstairs room in The Telegraph pub, tucked behind the central station in Newcastle, the downstairs area was very quiet and although it used to be a popular pub in the town it seems to be struggling after a recent change of management which may have been a factor in the small crowd. There were four handpulls on the bar and I played safe asking for a pint of the ubiquitous Caledonian Deuchars. It was off so had to revert to the usual crap pub backup drink of a Guinness instead. It’s a nice venue for small intimate gigs but that’s the only reason I’ll be going back there.

The setlist was: Trail Of Sequins, Girl With A Chainsaw, There And Back Again, Laid Up In Ordinary, Wildness Ways, New Sparkle, Paper Dolls, Red Fox and Black Boots, White Lines.

The set was only 27 minutes long so there is a bit of spare room to squeeze an extra track in there, I’m sure Leipzig would be a popular choice, how about it?




nxb3 on tour – Pauline Murray at the Tyneside Cafe Bar, Newcastle

This was a warm up gig for Pauline’s imminent solo acoustic tour of Australia, she is leaving on Sunday for 4 dates in the sun. Never having been down there the tour has generated a bit of excitement down under and more than a few nerves for Pauline herself who has never really been comfortable playing the guitar on the other acoustic shows she has played.
The venue was a Café Bar adjacent to and part of the independent Tyneside Cinema complex in the middle of Newcastle. I got there about 8:15 and the place was filling up nicely with a general mix of shoppers, cinema fans, curious passers by and a few mohicans.
The tiny stage was at the far end of the bar and all the tables around it were reserved for the large contingent of Pauline’s family, friends and the rest of Penetration who all turned out in a huge show of support.
At 9pm on the dot Pauline took to the stage with her acoustic guitar and after a bit of a hesitant introduction started the set with ‘Shadow in my mind’, the nerves were still clearly affecting Pauline although not nearly as badly as at the solo show she did at The Old Cinema Launderette in Durham in November last year. After the first song she undid the top button of her blouse because as she put it “as I’m starting to panic”. She managed to get through the next track with a couple of bum notes which she acknowledged with “That one I think I’m definitely going to have a look at it again”. By the 4th track she was definitely getting into her stride, her voice was stronger, her confidence building and the nerves were well under control. ‘Dark clouds’, a song about depression, which Pauline forgot the words of a whole verse to at the gig at The Old Cinema Launderette, was performed faultlessly this time.
Halfway through the set and that was the last of the new songs then it was time for a change of guitar and a few songs from the back catalogues of both Penetration and Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls starting with ‘Don’t give up’ from her solo LP “Storm Clouds”. Pauline remembered to plug the re-release of the re-mastered Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls CD after she finished ‘Sympathy’. She finished the main set with a couple of Penetration tracks, the first, ‘Lovers of outrage’ she had never played live before, the second, ‘Don’t Dictate’ she had made a mess of when playing her solo set at Rebellion earlier in the year. That was the end of the set, it has to be limited to 45 minutes in Australia and just edged past that but then there was a big surprise in the encore she chose, a cover of ‘Can’t get you out of my head’ by kylie Minogue which got a massive sustained applause from the crowd.

The setlist was: Shadow in my mind, When we are young, Unbroken line, Missing, After all, Dark clouds, Don’t give up, Guilty, Sympathy, Dream Sequence, Lovers of outrage, Don’t Dictate, Can’t get you out of my head

This was an absolute cracker of a gig, by far and away the best solo performance I’ve seen her play. It was great to see some more Penetration songs featuring in the acoustic set and by the time of the encore she was really enjoying the gig, all signs of the nerves of the start completely banished.


aus tour

nxb3 on tour – The Franceens at The Fulford Arms, York

The Franceens were the main support to Mark Wynn for his EP launch gig on the night, by the time they took to the stage at about 10:15 the Saturday night pub crawlers that talked over most of the earlier Bored Housewife set had all moved on, the crowd had thinned out a bit leaving behind about 50 or so people who were there for the gig itself.
Dan announced the start of their set with some howling feedback as an intro to the set opener ‘Nothing’ then a bit of banter about putting on gigs in the pub as a promoter but not actually playing in the venue with his own band before moving on to ‘wish’ and the excellent ‘bomb’ which saw Dan running into the crowd with his guitar before a mad dash back to the stage for the vocals, then back into the crowd again to climb on top of Mark Wynn who was sitting at the side of the stage and yet another mad dash back to the mic.
Next song was Stone which saw Dan have his usual rant about people promising to go to gigs and then not turning up, he does get really wound up about this, then it was a bit more banter about a de-commissioned nuclear bunker he’d visited earlier in the day as an introduction to ‘Attack’, another of the better songs from their debut CD “Stepford Smiles”
They don’t play cover songs but they did one next, it was ‘Billy Billy’ by Mark Wynn who got dragged from his seat to do the singing, jumping around the stage, running into the audience and finishing the song off by climbing onto the drum kit which promptly collapsed in a heap. While Miles was putting the drums back together Dan says, “That’ll do, fuck it; We’re not a real band anyway”. The next song was dedicated to Daniel Lucas, one of Dan’s childhood heroes from the days when he was in a band called the Nosedivers; “Get the fucking Nosedivers back together, we will fucking tour, make it fucking happen” and they launch into a blistering version of ‘You Got It’ with Dan running through the audience again to plant a big sloppy kiss on Dans cheek shouting out “This guy’s a fucking hero, a legend. You’ve fucking got it”.
They finished the set with a couple of tracks from the “Duck and Cover” EP, the first ‘Try’ followed by ‘Pledge’ which they dedicated to the pub itself with “Give it up for York’s only decent venue that is any fucking good whatsoever, the Fulford Arms” and another incredible Franceens set came to a close with Dan taking his guitar off and putting it round the neck of some random punter to make a noise with as the song faded out.
This was another great high energy set from the band, Dan was magnificent, running around the audience with his guitar, even climbing on top of Mark Wynn for a simulated blow job and I’m liking Naomi’s bass playing more and more every time I see the band. With great tracks like bomb, attack and pledge this is very definitely a real band and I’m certain they are going places. Their relentless gigging is paying off with a set that was so tight it almost hurt.
It was my first time in the Fulford Arms since the refurb and it’s been very well done, a bigger stage, good visibility from the floor, a larger bar with 6 handpulls from small local breweries, some interesting bottled beers and even the excellent Fentimans soft drinks for those that are driving which is really appreciated as I have a 160 mile round trip drive to get to gigs here.
And with promoters like Chris Sherrington (who now runs the pub) and Dan Gott putting gigs on I’ll be going back there pretty regularly.

Top gig by a top band in a top venue, what more could you ask for?


nxb3 on tour – The Narc 100th edition Birthday Party

This wasn’t so much a gig as a party to celebrate the 100th issue of NARC a Newcastle based free magazine that has provided all sorts of information on the local arts scene in and around Newcastle for the last few years. The party was one of the very first events to be held in the Biscuit Room, a new annexe to the established Biscuit Factory art gallery in the Shieldfield area of Newcastle.
Doors were a little late opening at about 7:45 and there was a steady stream of people arriving from the publicised opening time of 7:30 who had to hang around the booking office until the late running sound check was finished.
After about 10 minutes or so, Bridie Jackson and the Arbour were the first band on stage to a sparse but steadily increasing crowd, they introduced themselves with “We’re really happy to be here in the biscuit room, but it’s a bit fancy innit, I feel like we should have maybe dressed up a bit” before starting a short set of tracks taken from their CD “New Skin” with the Louis Barabbas cover, ‘Scarecrow’ followed by ‘Peace’ and then ‘Ellie’. A cover of ‘Cry Me A River’ by Justin Timberlake was the only song not taken from the CD and they finished off with ‘We Talked Again’
Over to the smaller performance area now for Nathalie Stern to see her perform some startling hauntingly beautiful solo tracks, starting with deep sleep followed by 3 more unidentified songs. The lack of banter with the audience was probably due to the fact that she was “shittingly nervous” as she hadn’t played live for about two years. The set was stunning and the crowd, which were packed into and spilled out of the small space were absolutely mesmerised with only the occasional clatter of bottles being thrown into a bin at the bar opposite interrupting proceedings.
It was back to the main stage now for Lanterns on the Lake, I’d not seen them before so was interested to see their performance, in the end I wasn’t that impressed, they were Ok but I’ll not be making any special trips to see them another time. Lots of talkers in the crowd again, even down the front and by now the constant background hum of crowd chatter was becoming very loud at times.
Back over to stage 2 to see Barry Hyde who did an entertaining solo set on an electric piano which went down well with the crowd but again the music was not really my cup of tea so it was back to the main stage for the final band, School of Language, the new side project of Jaff from the Futureheads and the Brewis boys from Field Music. With such a distinguished musical pedigree I was hoping for great things from this band and they certainly went down well with the crowd but for me they were a huge anti climax, not my thing at all and with the talking in the crowd reaching an all time annoyingly high volume we called it a day and went back home eventhough the party continued afterwards with a late bar into the early hours.
After School of Language had finished playing their set (they played all the songs they had) it was speech time with a massive thank you for the girl and her team of volunteers behind NARC magazine. Claire eventually got up on stage and made a small speech but her voice didn’t carry well over the PA and most of her speech was lost amongst the general background noise.

This was a good night out, an excellent start with Bridie Jackson and Nathalie Stern being on stunning form but for me the night peaked early and tailed off towards the end.

But what of the venue itself? It was brand new, this being one of the first events to be held there. There was a large lobby which housed the box office and toilets and a glass swing door that led into the main hall itself. Directly ahead was the bar and food area, to the right was the second (small) performance area and in the distance was the main stage. The bar area was very long so there was plenty of space for people to get served, there were masses of people serving so queues were kept down. There were loads of fridges packed with a large range of wines and a selection of bottled and canned beers from the larger breweries so it was very pleasing to see two polypins of Wylam Gold Tankard perched on the end of the bar. They didn’t last very long though so choice was restricted to national brewers beers after a while. The small performance area had no stage and was used for the solo performances while the main stage at the end of the hall was for the bands. Although the main stage was a decent size, it was only a foot or so high so when the venue was filled to it’s 350 capacity it would be hard to see anything on the stage by people towards the back of the hall. The colour scheme was white and glass, the walls in the main hall having a rippled wave effect pattern and the ceiling height was fairly low at about 3 meters. The acoustics were good though, the sound was nice and clear with no overpowering bass that you sometimes get in venues, presumably the acoustics had been considered at the design stage of the venue.

The highlight for me was the set by Nathalie Stern with a seriously off the wall and inventive performance which was all the more remarkable due to the strong case of nerves she was suffering from due to not playing live for the previous two years. I’ve wanted to see her play live for a long time now and the closest I got was turning up at one of her gigs at the Fishtank, Durham which got cancelled at the last minute when a really nasty storm ravaged the north east.

The low point of the gig was the massive amount of crowd chatter over the bands music, this was especially annoying for Bridie Jackson but still bad for Lanterns on the Lake and School of Language. The people who wanted to see the bands and listen to the music were at stage front but there were still people talking right through whole sets from just in front of the stage. I know this was billed as a party and not a gig but for me and a few others the unrelenting talking detracted from the bands performances, people even resorted to saying SSSSSSHHHHHHHHH loudly to try and stop the talking but it was to no avail. Maybe the biscuit factory could commission a local artist to come up with a large mural inside the venue to get the ‘keep the noise down’ message across, something like: “Nobody paid the admission charge to listen to you talking to your mates when the bands are on, if you must talk when the band is playing then go and do it outside”
It has to be said that most of the people who attended were part of Newcastle’s artistic community in one way or another and treated the event as a big networking opportunity and the bands were unfortunately regarded as a bit of a sideline.

The biscuit factory and associated venues have built up a great reputation as being a showcase of local and national artistic talent so it was disappointing to see the range of beers available dominated by national brands from major brewers. Even the two polypins of Gold Tankard from Wylam brewery in Hexham which sold out very quickly were of an average cask beer. The area around Newcastle in general and Byker in particular is packed full of superb innovative small and micro breweries, A cask or keg could have actually been carried to the biscuit room from breweries such as Out There, Tyne Bank and Northern Alchemy (at The Cumberland Arms) with literally dozens of other breweries within a short drive radius. You would not be restricted to Cask beer either, plenty of these breweries do superb craft keg beers. Newcastle in general is awash with quality cask and craft keg beers, Byker being a particular hotspot with The Free trade Inn being one of the best pubs in the whole of the North of England, I’m sure they would be happy to advise on the beers to stock to showcase genuinely adventurous and innovative breweries from both on your very doorstep and from further afield.

Remember, Beer is art too!!


nxb3 on tour – Brewdog AGM 2014 at AECC, Aberdeen

We left home around midday on Friday for the long drive up to Aberdeen, arriving at the hotel at about 4pm which gave us plenty of time to sort the bags and stuff out before heading to union street. We started with a rather excellent curry at Cinnamon then made our way to the Lemon Tree which Brewdog were due to take over for the night and put some local bands on. We got to the venue at about 9pm to a sparse crowd, about 100 people in a 550 capacity hall, there were two Brewdog taps on the bar dispensing Dead pony Club and Punk IPA but they looked distinctly forlorn among the forest of Carling Black Label and Guinness pumps that dominated the serving area. The fridges were well stocked with Brewdog bottles though, especially with the excellent Jack Hammer. The first band were getting ready to go on stage and started their set after about 10 minutes, can’t remember their name and their music was decidedly unremarkable so was hoping for better things from The Hazy Janes later on. The crowd never got significantly bigger with just the occasional punters arriving, not everyone drinking Brewdog either as there were a few pints of lager and Guinness being drunk. The Hazy Janes were a huge anti-climax, their music was bland, boring and insipid and I still can’t figure out how a brewery such as Brewdog who reject mainstream beers with such passion and enthusiasm could have such a bland mainstream band headlining one of their events. No punk ethos in the choice of bands playing here, the Lemon Tree didn’t do it for either of us on the night.
Needless to say we left after about 5 minutes and headed over towards the Brewdog bar and had the huge good fortune to find 6°N on the way which was on my list of places to check out while in town for the weekend. It was a huge craft beer bar with it’s own brewery brewing Belgian style beers, lots of draft beers from both British and other craft breweries as well as 3 cask beers. If that wasn’t enough it had a collection of 300+ bottled beers as well. It was beery heaven with waitress service at the table so you didn’t even have to go back and forth to the bar. This pub was seriously impressive and is a must visit for anyone in town. It was well after midnight when we finally staggered out of there and headed back down union street to the hotel.

And so Saturday arrived, we didn’t make it to the hotel breakfast but did manage to get our act together to arrive at the AECC 10 minutes before the doors were due to open. People were already going in, there were two stations set up to scan the invitation bar codes and progress into the venue was fairly rapid. The venue already had a few hundred people inside so they must have opened nearer 11:30 rather than the announced midday. First priority was to grab a handful of tokens, a couple of beers then settle down with some food, we had a pulled pork sandwich and a cheese burger to put a lining on the stomach. The pulled pork roll was outstanding with a nice hot sauce on it, there were plenty of other choices too – they definitely got the food right for us. It was time to get another beer then head over to the stage area for the business talk, we got settled in a good seat before 1pm when the talk was due to start but Zarah made a PA announcement that there were big queues of people still stuck outside so the talk would be delayed until about 1:30. It finally started about 1:40 with Greg Koch of stone Brewery doing an introduction before James and Martin took to the stage. It was all very promising, the brewery has been expanded, production, turnover and profit are all seriously up, more bars are planned both in the UK and overseas, Bottledog is expanding, new packaging is imminent and Brewdog will be helping other craft brewery startups via an investment fund.

The business talk finished around 2:40 so it was time to head up to the Crombie Suite for the first tasting session, this one was by Greg Koch of Stone and there were several other tastings by other breweries throughout the day. There was a huge queue to get into the tasting session, people having to have their invitations scanned again. This took a long time and by the time everybody was inside and seated it was 3:20. There was another 5 minutes wasted while they tried to get the mic working then it was over to Greg for a very entertaining talk that lasted about 30 minutes which included a tasting of 2 stone beers. The talk was cut short at 3:50 to get everyone out so they could get ready for the next one at 4:00. The time scheduling looked ambitious, there was only an hour for each scheduled talk and the roughly 400 people were taking far too long to get in and out reducing the time for the talk itself.

Once back into the main hall we tried to get to the bar but the queues were seriously humongous, at least 10 people deep at both bars to get served and they were moving painfully slowly due to the 4000 or so people who had turned up for the AGM. So slowly in fact that some people went back into town as they got sick of the long wait to get served. We headed off to see the bands (without a beer) to wait for the queues to go down. First band The Little Kicks were just finishing their set as we got back into the main hall, then it was Cold Crows Dead who were Ok but nothing special. MFC Chicken were next and were one of the highlights of the day, a hugely entertaining and fun band that had a few people dancing in front of the stage. We’d managed to get some beers by this time and Zarah interrupted the MFC Chicken set halfway through to apologise for the queues and to say they had been up to the brewery in Ellon and brought back a load of cans of Punk IPA which were on sale from the merch desk which helped to bring the queues at the bar down.
It was nice to seea few new bands to the festival next, We Were Promised JetPacks were very good and they were followed by an acoustic set by Idlewild. This was a bit of a coup for Brewdog as it was their first gig for a couple of years, they were also hugely popular with the crowd as half the people in the hall went to the stage for their set. It was obviously what a lot of people had been waiting for as a load of people left the venue after they finished and the queues magically disappeared from the bars.
Another new band to the AGM followed in the shape of Indian Red Lopez who were also pretty good but by this time the missus had had enough and we left early without seeing either The XCerts or Bombscare.

After so much beer on Saturday I didn’t need another session on the Sunday but the trip to the brewery in Ellon just had to be done. I caught the Fraserburgh express form Aberdeen bus station after 11am, the bus was quite full by the time it got to the park and ride drop off point and nearly everyone got off the bus for the trek through the industrial estate to the brewery. First thing you notice is the new warehouse building next to the brewery, it is massive and must have freed up a lot of storage space inside the brewery. Everyone went into the new bar ‘DogTap’ to quench their thirst after the trek across the Industrial Estate and the first tour started after about 10 minutes. I waited for the second tour which was led by one of the senior brewers, Franz who gave a very interesting commentary as he showed us all around the site. It was noticeable there was quite a bit more equipment in the brewery compared to last years tour as the brewery has been continually expanded over the last year with even more fermenting vessels to be added in the coming weeks.

All in all an excellent weekend of great beer, some good bands and fantastic hospitality by the Brewdog crew. There were a couple of areas that need looking at though, firstly the number of scanning stations at the AECC entrance needs to be increased as the business talk had to be delayed for 40 minutes as there were so many people stuck outside waiting to get in, there needs to be an extra scanning station for the entrance to the tasting sessions, Greg Koch was massively entertaining on the tasting session I was at but half the allotted time was wasted getting people into and out of the hall. There needs to be more bars as the two bars could not cope with the 4000 people who attended, if this is not possible due to the hall layout then the two existing bars need to be lengthened by several metres to increase the rate of serving, A separate bottle and can bar would also be a good idea especially if the long awaited canning line is installed before the AGM in 2015.
Lastly the band line up is getting very predictable, MFC Chicken, XCerts and Bombscare have all played the festival before and The Little Kicks have played all three AGMs at the AECC. It was nice to see some new bands there and Idlewild were hugely popular but I would like to see this taken further with more new bands and a more varied mix of musical genres. A big ommission from the bands was Scottish band The Rezillos who were touring intermittently through the year. I saw them at Leeds, Stockton and Newcastle this tour and they were phenomenal, a bit more variation with the bands would definitely be a good thing.

I’m looking forward to next years AGM already.


Brewdogs take on the AGM can be found here:

nxb3 on tour – Rexine at The Head of Steam, Newcastle

I was going to write a review of this gig just after it happened but I ran out of time before going back to work in Africa so decided to wait for their next gig. This plan was shot down in flames on the 16th of May when Shona (guitar) announced on facebook that both Stacey (vocals) and Cathy (bass) had left the band due to separate individual circumstances so I decided to review their last gig I was at which turned out to be their very last gig with this lineup.

The band took to the stage just before 10pm launching straight into a storming version of their previous single ‘New Sparkle’. A brand new song called ‘Patterns’ was introduced by Stacey saying she might or might not remember the words, which was followed by an old song from 2010, ‘Long White Cloud’ although you wouldn’t know it was an old one as there were 2 false starts before finally getting the intro right and carrying on into the main body of the song. It was another old track next with set regular and opener ‘The Shell’ followed by another new to me song ‘A Foreign Country’ and a song that they rarely play ‘Snowblind’. Both sides of their latest single were next, ‘Trail of Sequins’ and another old set opener, ‘Paper Dolls’ followed by another new one ‘Crowd You Out’ and the last song was the regular set closer ‘Black Boots, White Lines’. A few people were shouting for Leipzig and I was also hoping they’d play it as an encore but it wasn’t to be and it was the end of another pretty good gig which the band clearly enjoyed. Stacey’s vocals were quiet for the first couple of songs, especially for the new Patterns but became clearer and more pronounced as she got into her stride and her confidence increased.

Rexine never really got past the stage of playing to a couple of dozen mates and the odd straggler but ever since seeing them for the first time supporting Shonen Knife at the Cluny I’ve been keeping an eye on their gig schedule and going to see them whenever it fitted into my plans. I got to see them 5 times in the end and was looking forward to seeing them again over the summer until the announcement of the band split. I wasn’t the only one to see potential in this band as they were recording at Polestar studios in Byker which is run by Pauline Murray, vocalist for local punk band Penetration. They even managed a couple of support slots to Penetration, supporting them at the Georgian Theatre in Stockton back in March and scheduled to support them again in Gateshead for their Rebellion warm up show which is probably going to be at The Three Tuns in very early August which they have had to pull out of because of the split.

Rexine were never a great band but I definitely had a soft spot for their particular brand of pop punk which had just enough of a hard edge to it to make it stand out from most of the other small bands in the north east. Stacey’s vocals were usually too low in the mix and she didn’t move around the stage much at all at any of their gigs I was at, apart from this one when she had a wander through the audience to a couple of her mates during Black Boots, White Lines. Despite this I liked them a lot and was really disappointed when I read the announcement of their split. Shona and Graeme asked for replacements for both Stacey and Cathy in the post announcing the split so hopefully Rexine will rise again and go on to bigger and better things now that Pauline Murray has taken them under her wing and is hopefully steering them in the right direction.