The Railway Club

A review of The Railway Club, Acrobatic Society, Blank Maps & Natasha Haws at Cluny 2, 6th July 2012


For those heading home after work on Friday, much of the talk was centred on two things – getting back ASAP to watch Andy Murray in his Wimbledon semi-final and also the likelihood that we were to once again experience severe floods that night and over the weekend. In the microcosm of Newcastle’s local music scene however, both of these things were incidental – bands, journos, promoters, label owners and fans, in the main, couldn’t have really cared less about Mr. Murray or indeed the prospect of wading home. Instead the only thing that was top of mind for them was getting down to Cluny 2, the chosen venue for the launch party of The Railway Club’s single Broken Strings.

The event was of course a showcase night for Gateshead Label Tiny Lights – three of the bands on the bill had recorded with Paul Brown over the last twelve months –  Acrobatic Society, Blank Maps as well as Railway Club. It was perhaps no surprise then when local starlet Natasha Haws, also on Friday’s bill, announced at the end of her set that she too was to join the Tiny Lights roster and record new material on the label this year. It is a credit really to Paul Brown as well as management company Kittle PR that by 8pm, despite the torrential rain outside, over a hundred people had ventured to Cluny 2 and literally packed the intimate venue out by the time Acrobatic Society took to the stage to kick the night off. This highlighted, once again, the incredibly vibrant and collegial music scene which has developed significantly in the North East, over the last few years.

The four acts on display all brought something quite different on the night. I’m going to go out on a limb here – and obviously it’s purely down to personal taste – but I had previously never seen Acrobatic Society before and they were, for me, the outstanding band on the night. I suppose in some respect, as a band, you’re at least guaranteed to be close to excellent when you have a former Catweasel in your ranks. Sam Megahy, the former front man of the Chester le Street ‘pop alchemists’ and now ‘on hiatus’ Holy Mammoth seems happy to take the back seat on bass, to let guitarists Adam Pearson and Scott Harrison share vocals and lead. The post-punk sound constantly slipping into psychedelia everytime you hear the haunting screech of Sinead Krzyzyk’s electric violin – at which point it all goes a bit Velvet Underground – not  a bad thing, of course.

Next up was Blank Maps, who recently announced the completion of their E.P. on Tiny Lights. They are not ones to break you in easily – Blank Maps’ own blend of math rock requires you to quickly get to grips with 6/8 times signatures and complex riffing.  Thom Piddock’s calming vocals mixed with samples and soaring guitars is a great contrast – very much looking forward to hearing these big sounds on record. You can catch the E.P. launch at Cluny 2 on 11th August.

Rolling on to 9:30pm, Ms. Haws stepped up. It had been a while since I had seen Natasha play and I had actually forgotten how easily this tiny girl can captivate people so easily with her music and general craic. The buzz around Natasha has been quite strong of late, particularly since the release of her E.P back in May and as a result more people piled into Cluny 2 making it literally impossible to move. This is the norm now for HawBags, who just looks really cool and calm onstage. As a result you could hear a pin drop as she worked away through her burgeoning catalogue of songs. A big cheer went up when she announced her intention to record with tiny Lights later this year, which will no doubt be one of the most hotly anticipated North East releases, as Christmas approaches.

Finally it was over to the night’s hosts, The Railway Club. For the most of the evening  front man Martin Trollope had been walking round the venue looking very humbled indeed at the sheer amount of people who had turned up for the band’s big night. Arriving on stage around 10:30pm, they certainly weren’t prepared to disappoint the large audience. With The Railway club, it’s always about delivering a quality, finely tuned and tight performance of their pop repertoire. Following the completion of their album recently, which is due for releases in August, the band have readjusted their live performance with keyboard player Carmen Green taking on a more central role now, and sharing the vocals with Martin, quite often in a duet. This is not a bad thing; it gives songs such as single Broken Stings and Clouds an extra dimension adding to the lush weaving guitars, glockenspiel and up tempo drums. Expect to see more performances this year from a band clearly reaching a settled and confident period, only twelve months since forming.