We've got another guest blogger talking about another ace festival this week. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Kingsley from The Chapman Family.
Most people's favourite joke about Middlesbrough is "Q : what's the best thing to come out of Middlesbrough? A : the A66". That's a road that links Teesside to the rest of the nation if you're a non-north east road users by the way, just incase you didn't get it. The town and immediate area used to be famous for alot of things - shipbuilding; railways; the safety match; Captain Cook (he invented Australia or something); the steel industry; and Chris Rea and his dad's ice cream parlour - "Rea's Ices".
However, as you all know, these are dark days that we live in and unfortunately the darkness descended on Middlesbrough long, long ago. The shipbuilding industry whimpered out over two decades ago; the steel industry is all but finished with the controversial "moth-balling" of the local Corus plant; Captain Cook died a while ago now apparently; our football team is a shadow of its former self languishing in mid table lower league mediocrity; and one of the town's major employers - a high rise call centre bang in the town centre - went down the drain just last week. Times are hard. It's grim oop north.
The town (and to a greater extent, the region) to the outsider is gradually getting forgotten about. When my band does gigs in London and people enquire as where we are from due to our kooky accents and bizarre northern ways and obscure traditions (you know, like manners - holding doors open for people, saying please and thank you, that sort of thing - I realise that these are completely alien to a lot of you but hey ho, each to their own, I put it down to good parenting) I usually tell people where I'm from honestly (at first) - Stockton-on-Tees. However, even though this town appears in EVERY SINGLE primary school History textbook as THE BIRTHPLACE OF RAILWAYS (Stockton-Darlington ring any bells with you? George Stephenson maybe? Still no? (Google it!) no one ever seems to know where it is. So then I tell them it's just next to Middlesbrough. Still blank faces. Sometimes people with a passing interest in late 1990s football will know where Middlesbrough is - we were the team that got relegated despite getting to both Cup finals in the same year, losing them both. Bob Mortimer supports us. If there's still no light in their little eyes I tell them that we're about an hour south of Newcastle and an hour north of Leeds. "Oh so you're geordies them?" No we're not geordies, does that make you French? If all that fails I pray that they've heard of Scotland and lie and tell them that we're from "up that way". I then mention that Braveheart was a documentary.
Anyway, I digress. However, in secret, without telling any outsiders or non-locals, our little forgotten breakaway republic has been evolving. Anish Kapoor is probably the most famous and bankable living artist in the world and guess what, we've got a fifty metre high public sculpture by him being opened next month in Middlesbrough. Have you got one? No you bloody well haven't.
We've also got a brilliant bit of public art by Claus Oldenburg next to a nice picturesque duck pond, have you? Middlesbrough also has it's very own massive all day music festival - and it's a good one too.
Middlesbrough Music Live was created just over ten years ago and has evolved into something of a monster. It's one of those multiple venue style festivals where you have to rush about town a bit to see everything that you want to see - a bit like Camden Crawl but without that funny smell of burning meat on one side of Chalk Farm Road and crusty falafel on the other. The main difference between Middlesbrough Music Live and other festivals of it's type is that entry to MML is completely free of charge. Not many towns with these sort of festivals can probably say that. (In fact the only one I can think of is in my home town - Stockton - as it hosts something called the Festival Fringe at the end of July which is ANOTHER free Teesside music festival, this year headlined by the Human League and Mercury Rev.)
We're a lucky little populous. over the years we've been treated at MML to the likes of Florence and the Machine; Foals; Kasabian; Razorlight; The Darkness; Tony Christie; Ladyhawke; The Kaiser Chiefs; The Zutons; Bloc Party; The Cribs; We Are Scientists; Arthur Brown (of "the Crazy World of" fame!) and many, many more. There genuinely is something for everyone if you look hard enough and the great thing about MML is that there's always an emphasis every year on always on finding the freshest talent and trying to second guess what bands will be huge in the not too distant future. So much so that the line up sometimes seems like a BBC Introducing playlist. Combine that with the festival also showcasing the very, very best of the local talent and more standard crowd pleasing fare (The Hoosiers) and you're left with quite a heady mix.
This year not only have the "locals" been given much bigger stages to play on than usual but also quite a few have also magnificently infiltrated the other main stages that in previous years have only been reserved for the "real bands." It makes me immensely proud of my beautiful downtrodden region for instance to have bands like Russell and the Wolves sparring toe to winkle pickered toe with Ou Est Le Swimming Pool and current north eastern pop romance sensations Frankie & The Heartstrings in Middlesbrough Town Hall whilst wonderful Stocktonian folky pop kids Cattle and Cane politely flutter their silken handkerchiefs at Cate Le Bon as Teesside's next big things Young Rebel Set rabble past US MySpace sensations Millionaires on the huge outdoor main stage. We have some utterly brilliant bands in this region, and it's about time we celebrated it.
Check out the full line up at www.middlesbroughmusiclive.co.uk and find your latest new favourite north eastern rough and ready treat on the Homegrown Indoor and Outdoor stages. There's a canny good band headlining the Harry Houdini Stage in the Empire at 820PM by the way, like. Mint.