Festival Review: Hit The North 2019

May is one of my favourite months for a number of reasons. Two bank holidays, the climax to football season and so many different festivals up and down the country. Following a bumper day at Live at Leeds on Saturday 4th, it was Newcastle’s turn to host Hit The North. A festival that has grown significantly in its three years of running, this year’s lineup was as good as it has ever been with Tom Grennan returning after a huge set in 2018, SHAME, the UK’s fastest rising alt-rock band taking to the stage and a whole host of up and coming artists performing across over 10 stages in Newcastle City Centre. As always, I’m one for watching full sets rather than flitting about too much, but managed to catch 9 awesome artists so please check each and every one out. Enjoy the read!

H2N Lives: HHHHH Unreal HHHH Excellent HHH Great HH Met Expectations H Poor

We kicked off the day in the, very dark, Digital with the view to watch one of This Feeling’s artists to watch in 2019, Alligator. Completely ignoring the signs around the venue though, we were a bit shocked to see Wild Front (HHH) walk out onto stage to sound check. Beers bought, we decided to stay and fully made the right decision as the 30 minute set flew by with some excellent tunes coming from the Southampton based band. The band themselves have an eclectic taste in music which is reflected in their own music; if I had to describe their sound, it would be Foals on steroids, upping the weird, enhancing the atmospheric psychedelia and really focusing on creating an alt-rock soundscape that is truly unique. With a decent crowd for early in the day, Wild Front were a great replacement for Alligator and we’ll be looking to catch them again over the summer.

From Digital to one of my favourite Newcastle venues Riverside to catch a band I claimed back in November “just brought the best 40 minutes of rock ‘n’ roll I’ve possibly ever seen in York.” SHEAFS (HHHH) are exciting, raucous and rough around the edges, one of the best live bands on the circuit at the moment and some of the nicest blokes you’ll ever meet. Their Hit The North set was, as always, a faultless performance only tarnished by the poor crowd. Not for the want of trying, frontman Lawrence Feenstra gave it everything he had as the band rifled through hits Get Used To It, Shock Machine and epics finale This Is Not a Protest. I really rate SHEAFS and they’re one support slot away from blowing up – 2019 could be a defining year for the guys if they get a few new tunes out and really build on their recent successes.

Photo Credit: Ellisha Iddon

Back to Digital to see two bands I have been excited to see since the lineup was released Red Rum Club (HHHHH) and Para Alta (HHH). The six amigos were on outstanding form, and, to put it simply, blew me away with the best festival set I’d seen so far this year. For those that haven’t seen Red Rum Club live before, I absolutely encourage you to make it the next thing you book; blending the best of mariachi with the best of rock music, the band are one of the happiest, most upbeat artists out there right now and you can’t help but sing along and smile to every track. TV Said So, Honey and Angeline all impressed before the huge Would You Rather Be Lonely? closed things with a mass crowd singalong. The set was going to take some stopping and we simply couldn’t let it wait too long before seeing them again so caught them this weekend in York (review incoming).

Red Rum Club
Photo Credit: Sarah Oglesby

Para Alta were a band that little over a month ago, we hadn’t heard of, but in the last four weeks, they’re one of the few bands we just haven’t been able to take off repeat. Since catching them at Stockton Calling in a sold out Ku Bar, we’ve been becoming au fait with their greatest hits and the likes of Blue Collared Mind are absolute belters that the guys rolled out at Hit The North. My problem with the set wasn’t the band at all and they delivered wholly on what I expected. They were technically sound, on point vocally and musically, it was just the flat, early in the day crowd that let the whole thing down a touch, hence the HHH rating compared to the Stockton Calling HHHH. That being said, Para Alta have a hell of a future ahead of them, and their 2019 is going to set them up for a great start to the next decade, a decade in which they could be one of the defining indie rock artists.

The day had been set-up well by the genius scheduling of the Hit The North team, and after an afternoon at Digital and Riverside, we headed over to Brewdog for a couple of hours to spend even more on beer and witness two of the finest indie-rock artists on the lineup. One of the tracks of the year so far, is without question, “Why Am I Like This” the recent single release from Oddity Road (HHHH), who were first up at the Brewdog bar. Performing a high energy half an hour set, the guys had pulled a decent number of fans, and due to the bars policy to let anyone in, not just wristband holders, it was packed for the four-piece’s set. All Again and releases that have gone previously, seem somewhat bigger than they did a year ago, and the band have grown leaps and bounds since we last saw them two years ago at the Tramlines Fringe. I have a lot of time for Oddity Road, it’s clear they work hard and look to improve themselves constantly. They laughed off the fact a dog was watching them, and that most of the bar were clearly in for free, but that being said they performed as true professionals and will have gained several new fans as a result.

Like Para Alta, Stockton Calling was the first time we had seen Retro Video Club (HHH) live and they raised the roof at their Stockton set. They didn’t seem as into it at Hit The North though and I feel the venue might have influenced it. With a strong crowd pulled however, the Scottish rock band performed a hell of a set considering the surroundings and latest single Addicted offered one of the highlights of the festival. With just half an hour to impress, the band rattled through their catalogue of catchy tracks, with Chemistry providing a great singalong for the fans of the band crammed into Newcastle’s Brewdog venue. A good solid set, that didn’t send sparks but certainly continued the bands upwards trajectory and I can’t wait to see what their summer holds.

It’s worth pointing out that normally, we wouldn’t see one of the top headliners at festivals like this and venture to a relatively unheard band – but the lineup for Hit The North made this almost impossible and we ended our day with Jake Bugg (HHHH) in the academy. He delivered an incredible festival set, not performing too many from his last two dull releases and instead giving the fans exactly what they wanted. One of the main reasons we had to finish our day here rather than with a relatively unknown artists, was due to the sheer quality of the two bands we’d seen prior; they were just too good it would have been a bad end to the day to risk seeing something below par!

Directly before Bugg, was one of the most exciting solo artists out there right now Ten Tonnes (HHHH) who following the release of his debut record that weekend, was out to prove he was a real force. Rattling through that record with massive tracks G.I.V.E, Lucy, Silver Heat and Cracks Between, Ethan and his band gave a professional, sound and fun performance to the huge crowd that had assembled at Academy2. Whilst initially it felt like the room was full with Jake Bugg awaiting fans, there were continual singalongs and real crowd engagement, showing every body in that room was there for Ten Tonnes and nobody else. Excellent set, top show and the perfect warm up for Bugg.

Ten Tonnes
Photo Credit: Sam Wall

Thinking back to Red Rum Club, and just how good their set was, it’s hard to see how anybody at Hit The North managed to top it. One band managed it though, the band we saw just before Ten Tonnes, that band, The K’s (HHHHH+). I put two tweets out straight after their set: “Based on The K’s set they’ve just performed at Hit The North, they’re without doubt going to be major festival headliners within the next three years. Show of the day without a shadow of a doubt. Get On The K’s train right now!” AND “If you were just at that K’s set, you just witnessed without doubt the best of Hit The North and probably, the entire 2019 Festival Season. Fucking ridiculous set.”

Now these comments might seem throwaway, but from Sarajevo to Glass Towns every second of this 30 minute set, was watched with a smile on my face, and goosebumps down my arms as it genuinely felt like I was watching the artist that is going to bring rock music back to the forefront of the industry. There was so much energy, so much quality, and the vocal and musical talent showcased across the four-piece was something I can honestly say I haven’t seen since the first time I saw Catfish and the Bottlemen live all those years ago. With a lively crowd packed into the strangest, least health and safety compliant venue I’ve ever been in – The K’s performed the killer set of the day and will take some beating this festival season.

Tickets for 2020 are now available here and we’d encourage you to get involved as this festival is only getting bigger. See you there!

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