Already lauded as a fabulous start to the 2015 festival season, with a full programme dedicated to showcasing some of the finest grassroots music and art around, Threshold V takes over the Baltic Triangle for three days this weekend. Beginning on Fri 27th March, the festival features something for everyone, from the loudest of live music to some excellent theatre performance and art installations.
The only problem with Threshold V is the sheer scope of the thing. My viewing over the weekend will be sadly limited to what can be picked up with just one set of eyes. Left cursing my inability to split myself into pieces, I scanned the advance programme to try to pick what to see from the plethora of talent on offer.
Arriving at the buzzing Baltic Creative, I picked up my pass and settled down to see my first act, Little Sparrow from Manchester. If you like crystal clear vocals backed with subtle yet effective musical accompaniment, Little Sparrow ticks all the boxes. She has a quirky edge to her voice on some of her songs and a more straightforward, heartfelt approach on others, making the short set a fine showcase of her artistry. This accomplished folk singer entertained the crowd with songs such as ‘Wishing Tree’, the title track of the 2014 debut album, and ‘I Found a Way’, introducing her pristine vocal delivery to the Threshold audience. All in all, a great start to my festival experience.
I decided to make my way to the warm, creative space of 24 Kitchen Street. The mixture of performance art and the music of Bandito Rey was already in full swing by the time I arrived. The performers, Doug McCormick, L’ensemble de Fantomes, Freefall Circus, Steve Boyland and Frankii Pheonix, were making full use of the performance area in front of the stage, producing an intriguing mix of circus, dance and art, which constantly changed as the performance went on and included some fine acrobatic feats and rope work from the circus performers. 24 Kitchen Street is an intimate, atmospheric venue, and I found it magical to be so close to the action. Bandito Rey provided a changing kaleidoscope of music for the performance, adding to my regard for this up and coming local band.
As an aficionado of rock and indie music in all its forms, I decided to catch some of the bands at The Baltic Social. I arrived to see Fidel Afro already part-way through their set, with their melodic rock with darker overtones already creating a lot of interest from the Threshold crowd. The soaring guitars and grunge-styled vocals showed hints of Pearl Jam, but the melodic aspect of the music lifted Fidel Afro above the grunge revival mainstream. Tracks like ‘Make it Easy’, the last offering, show this band have a lot to offer.
Two Weeks Running started their set with a short instrumental piece that was guitar heaven. The introduction of the slightly echoing, brittle vocals served to up the stakes even further. XFM have singled Two Weeks Running out as ones to watch, and it was easy to see why. The whole musical set-up was really strong, and the rhythm section laying a solid foundation for the red-hot guitars. The music this rock/indie band produced showed all plusses, no minuses. I loved it all. Tracks such as ‘Stay Forever’ and ‘Waste of a Day’ made this set my favourite of the night. I’m in total agreement with XFM on this one. This band are destined for bigger things.
I felt a little sorry for Cousin Avi as following Two Weeks Running was never going to be easy, but they accomplished it with aplomb. Melodic, with rock/funk foundations, Cousin Avi played a set that had the audience at the front of the stage dancing. The music has style and pace and it is obvious this band already have a loyal following. The constant rhythm change made the music feel a little disjointed for me, but if this is the genre you like, Cousin Avi play funk rock to perfection. It was good to see a band enjoying themselves so much on stage.
Elevant are another band I hadn’t managed to catch live, so I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer. Having heard some of their output already, I knew the band had a good, heavy vibe to their music. Songs such as ‘Stress’, the opener, and ‘Open Heart Surgery’ showed why this band are creating such a stir on the current rock scene. Elevant make good use of rhythm change and an extensive vocal range to keep the music fresh and exciting. You could see by the activity round the stage area that this band were real crowd pleasers.
My experience of Friday at Threshold V ended there (What a lightweight!). I will have to save my usual praise for The Mono LPs for their Launch night on May 3rd at The Magnet, which is shaping up to be a belter of an event. I know they will have played a blinder of a set, as they always do. Writing this up has given me time to reflect on what a great evening I had. I would recommend Threshold to anyone. If you haven’t made it this year, make sure it goes onto your calendar as a must-attend event for 2016.