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 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 – 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.


nxb3 on tour – Maximo Park at The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle

Maximo Park launched their 5th Album yesterday, called “Too Much Information” in a series of small intimate gigs across their hometown of Newcastle. They started off at the independent Reflex Records at 3pm playing an acoustric track instore followed by a signing session for the fans that were there. There was another instore appearance at Newcastle’s other independent record store “RPM Records” at 4pm and a third instore appearance at 5pm at the HMV megastore on Northumberland Street right in the centre of town. Part of the upper floor had been cordoned off for the band to play and the rest of the huge floor area was left open for the large expected turnout.
I caught up with the band at HMV, grabbing a spot close to the front about 20 minutes before the band were due on stage and the place quickly filled up with hundreds of expectant fans. 5pm came and went with no sign of the band turning up so the previous instore at RPM probably went on later than expected. They appeared at 5:30 and after a bit of banter from Paul they started the set with their new single taken from Too Much Information called ‘Brain Cells’ a song about Paranoia and Euphoria colliding on a night out. Two more tracks from TMI followed, the first ‘Leave This Island’ was followed by ‘Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry’. Back in time now to their first CD “A Certain Trigger’ for the track that regularly opened their set in the early days ‘Signal and Sign’. A couple more new tracks from TMI ‘Midnight On The Hill’ and ‘Where We’re Going’ and the last track was the only one it could be, ‘By The Monument’. This was a great set from Maximo Park lasting about half an hour showcasing 5 songs from the new CD and a couple of old ones for good measure. It was a full band performance but the ‘drums’ consisted of only a snare and a conga type drum giving the songs a stripped down feel to them. There was a new guy on a Rickenbacker Bass as well, I’m not sure what happened to Archis and his Music Man Bass.
The gig finished at 6pm which left three hours to kill before doors opened at the Bridge hotel so it was time to hit the town for a couple of beers, finishing up in the Bridge itself around 8:30.

At just after 9pm there was a steady stream of people heading to the tiny room upstairs, all displaying their red wristbands which were all (there were only 70!!) sold in a couple of hours the previous day in Reflex Records. It didn’t take long for the room to fill up and the handpump dispensing Maximo Park’s specially commissioned beer “No5” from local award winning brewery Mordues was in almost continuous action. They hit the stage at about 9:45 and after Paul screams out “We are Maximo Park” they start with ‘Give, Get, Take’ from “Too Much Information” with the vocals a little low in the mix from where I was standing, a couple of feet back from the front of the stage in front of Paul. The crowd went wild now for ‘Our Velocity’ with everyone singing along and the sound engineer managed to get Paul’s vocals at a decent level, then it was back even further in time for ‘Signal and Sign’ for the second time of the day. A bit of banter from Paul about not reading things about the band served as an introduction to a storming ‘The National Health’ then it was time for the latest single ‘Brain Cells’. Back to the album “The National Health” again for ‘Hips & Lips’ and another old favourite from “Our Earthly Pleasures” introduced as a blast from the past ‘A Fortnight’s Time’. Two more songs from TMI now, the first ‘Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry’ sounded better than earlier in the day at HMV. “Has anybody tried our beer yet?” got a massive roar from the crowd before ‘Leave This Island’ which was followed by another old set regular ‘Books From Boxes’. A bit more banter from Paul about how he and Lukas actually met in the very room they were playing in was followed by another two tracks from TMI the first ‘Drinking Martinis’ about drinking in a bar called Tokyo and ‘My Bloody Mind’. A couple of older tracks now, the first ‘The Undercurrents’ from “The National Health” and another old favourite ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ which also had everyone singing along. ‘Her Name Was Audre’ another new one from TMI preceded the magnificent ‘Apply Some Pressure’ then it was back for the last visit to TMI for ‘Midnight On The Hill’, ‘I Recognise The Light’ and ‘Where We’re Going’ before the last track of the night ‘Going Missing’.
A superb set lasting 70 minutes, there was no encore even though everyone was chanting for one as they had passed curfew. Highlight of the gig for me was Our Velocity and Apply Some Pressure, and it would have been even better if they had time for an encore of Graffiti which was sadly missed.
The mystery Bass player was still there, nothing from Paul to indicate why Archis wasn’t in the line-up

It’s not just for this album launch that they do in-stores, signing sessions and play intimate gigs in tiny venues for their fans, they do it for EVERY album launch, they support local organisations, they played a benefit for the Star and Shadow cinema in Byker, they are sponsoring Newcastle Roller Girls and supporting a local micro brewery. For these reasons and a whole lot more I have a massive amount of time for this band, local lads, still mostly living locally (not running away to London at the first sign of success) and looking after their fans put them on the same footing as Frankie and the Heartstrings for Pop Recs Ltd – Local North East heroes.


nxb3 on tour – Islet at Baltic39, Newcastle

Islet are a band that I’ve wanted to see for a long time now, approaching two years but they seemed to only ever play in the north east when I was working offshore so when I found out about this gig at Baltic39 as a closing event for the RIFF festival I wasted no time in booking a place for the gig which was held in the gallery project space on the 4th floor.
At just after 9:30 they started moving slowly through the crowd from the back of the hall towards the stage ringing small hand held bells which got progressively louder as they approached the stage. The bells continued as they reached the stage and the drums joined in, quietly at first but building up into a crescendo as Emma, who was jumping around like she was possessed by a demon, burst into the yelping vocals of the magnificent opener ‘This Fortune’. After the abrupt ending to the track there was a bit of a stunned silence from the capacity crowd before they burst into applause, most people just weren’t expecting such a wild opening track. How are you all doing she asked the audience after trying to persuade the crowd to move forward, doing quietly she carried on to herself when no one answered. She moved over to be the second drummer and Mark took over the vocals for the next tracks ‘Ringerz’ and ‘Triangulation Station’.
Another change round followed with Emma taking control of the drum kit, and John taking on the guitar for the rest of the set which started with ‘Entwined Pines’ and the much quieter ‘Dust of Ages’. The pace picked up a bit with ‘What we Done Wrong’ and ‘Iris’, then Mark then took time out to thank the gallery / festival curators before continuing with ‘Tripping Through the Blue Room I & II’. More thanks from Mark, this time for Ewan Jones Morris who was responsible for the video show that accompanied the bands performance. The instrumental ‘Sails Billow and Swell’ served as an introduction to the last track ‘Carlos’.
This was an exceptional performance from a band that are not afraid to experiment, band members rotating through the instruments, taking turns on the vocals and regularly wandering through the audience with the hand held and strings of bells they used for the set intro. I wish I’d managed to see them earlier in their career (they have been together since 2009) and needless to say they are high up on my list of bands that I have to see again.
The gig was filmed by the Baltic so hopefully it will make an appearance as an official release from either the band and/or the gallery
A really good start to 2014, and I’m hoping for a few more gigs to match the really high standard of this one.




nxb3 on tour – Pauline Murray North East acoustic tour

During the course of October and November 2013 Pauline Murray did a series of acoustic gigs around her native North East. She normally fronts local punk band, Penetration on their occasional tours around the country so a series of intimate acoustic solo gigs was definitely unusual for her.

The first gig of the tour that I managed to attend was at the Old Cinema Launderette in Gilesgate, a mile or so out of Durham city centre. The venue used to be a cinema, opening in 1941 as the Crescent Cinema and later reopening under new management in 1958 as the Rex. After the cinema closed down it became a bingo hall for a few years before being converted into a launderette a couple of years ago and very soon afterwards started to have small intimate gigs which proved so popular they are on most weekends. Capacity is only about 35 as the venue is tiny but the atmosphere is wonderful and there is even a licensed bar there now with a selection of wines and beers available.

And so it was that Pauline Murray sat down with her acoustic guitar among the washing machines and driers surrounded by people sitting in a ring of chairs and a few others sitting on the floor or propping the bar up at the back. The set started with a selection of new songs, the first of which was ‘Shadow in my Mind’ about the little voice nagging away at you in the back of your mind. She had a little attack of nerves and had to compose herself before starting the next song ‘When we Were Young’ which was about teenagers having no responsibilities until they have to leave home. Next song ‘After All’ started by examining how people think before going off on a tangent about the media, It was a more upbeat track than the others and the best of the set up to now. ‘Missing’ was next, written about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann a few years ago. Another upbeat song came next, ‘Unbroken Line’ which was about Pauline’s growing interest in researching her family history and the last of the new songs was the best so far, it was about battling against depression, called ‘Dark Clouds’. Unfortunately, she forgot the words to a complete verse and had to improvise until she picked up the next chorus and then she made a mess of the finish as well.

She moved onto a selection of older songs now, taken from the various bands she had been involved in over the years. First song was ‘Don’t Give Up’ from her solo LP “Storm Clouds”. After a change of guitar the excellent ‘Sympathy’ was next, taken from the LP “Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls”; It was followed by ‘Guilty’, which was written as an acoustic song but was picked up by Penetration and became a regular part of their set. A song about the bad times in the mid 80’s called ‘Pressure Zone’ came next and the last track was the excellent ‘Dream Sequence’ of which I still have a copy of the 10″ single somewhere in the house.

After the music finished a Q&A session developed covering a wide range of subjects and she even remembered and recited the missing verse to Dark Clouds as well .

This was a brilliant gig, Pauline playing an unusually small intimate show, with the acoustic guitar which she doesn’t normally do and playing in a fabulously strange venue to top it all off.

A few days later she played at the Green Room in Stockton, another tiny venue for small intimate gigs that I had tickets for but I headed up to Newcastle instead to see Peter Hook and the Light play Power, Corruption & Lies and Movement at Digital.

The next day Pauline was at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Byker, Newcastle so after a quick zoom around Lumiere at Durham I headed up to Newcastle for the gig. It was a very late start, Pauline took to the stage around 11:15 which was to allow people to arrive from another earlier gig at the Sage. Same setup as the gig in Durham with Pauline sitting on a chair at the front of the stage, the same set as well, starting with ‘Shadow in my Mind’, ‘When we were young’ ‘After all’ ‘Missing’ ‘Unbroken Line’ and the excellent ‘Dark Clouds’ which was faultless this time around.
The last of the acoustic tracks was ‘Don’t Give Up’, half way through the other musicians started to join in one by one, first of all Rob Blamire on the Bass, John Ashton on Keyboards, then Dave Hodgson on the drums and finally Paul Harvey on guitar. A selection of songs from Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls CD followed starting with ‘Screaming in the darkness’, the excellent ‘Sympathy’, ‘Time Slipping’, ‘Shoot You Down’ and ‘Judgement Day’. Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls final single ‘Searching for Heaven’ came next and the final track of the main set was ‘Dream Sequence’. The band came back on to do a single encore of ‘This Thing Called Love’ to end another excellent set. A very good turnout tonight with the venue almost full, a few talkers in the audience whose tongues were loosened by a few beers due to the late start and the long set at just over an hour ended after midnight.

Which was the best of the two gigs? that is a difficult call but I would have to go for the Old Cinema Launderette and the full acoustic set in amazing surroundings.