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Bebop Spoken There

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Great Exhibition Of The North Opening Night @ Sage Gateshead - June 22

(Report by Ann Alex)
Lance and I had tickets for this. So did (hundreds?) of other people, all crowded into Sage Gateshead, sporting pink armbands. We had access to screens showing crowds and events on the Newcastle quayside, a free film in Sage Two, two bands in Sage One, food stalls selling (1) delicious cod goujons and chips, stall (2) selling roasted meats (3) real ale. From the concourse came the tones of the Soundscape, Mark Fell’s Protomusic # 1, ‘sonic structures, based on real sounds of the North’ it says, in other words, trains, bridge sounds, industrial sounds, and also sounds from musical instruments, drums and the voice of one Ann Alexander, (see poster) though you wouldn’t know it, as when I recorded this, I simply had to make strange sounds, not singing. (No cheeky comments please!) We saw few people from either folkie or jazzy circles, and lots of young people were present, which was heartening.
The film was an amination, black and white, telling the story of a man and his dog, travelling up river through the bridges on the Tyne, very entertaining, and suitable for both children and adults. It’s being shown many more times, twice a day, highly recommended. A discussion followed, in which the filmmakers described how the film had been made.
Then to Hall One, to hear the bands Nightmares On Wax, supported by Skinny Pelembe (see photo). The latter were 3 women and 2 men, on keys, guitar, bass guitar, conga and percussion, and drums. The music was enjoyable, by skilled musicians, with a riff-driven, African sound, and some rap.

The main band leader introduced Nightmares on Wax by saying ‘Welcome to my house’. And indeed there were 2 singers at the front in armchairs, and also keys, drums and electronics, 5 musicians. This band used video and lots of lights among the audience. The song Back To Nature had many natural scenes, mostly from Africa, and Tomorrow Seems So Far showed various futuristic patterns and buildings. The style was rap-like, with a booming deep beat which entered your body and which I found uncomfortable, although the music was good. So we left before the end, in case the deep beat brought on heart attacks!

There were even more crowds on the concourse than before, and the screens showed a drummer among the crowds on the quayside, mostly happy people, although we laughed at some faces, which seemed oblivious to all the fun around them. What is it about the British?

There was more to come, fireworks at 10pm and a rock band playing from a barge on the river, but it had been a long night, and the Metro was calling. This was an excellent start to the exhibition and I’m looking forward to the other events. For instance, there’s a day of folk music at the Sage on July 28. I haven’t noticed much jazz, but you never know, watch this space.
Ann Alex

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