Newcastle's music scene: where bands thrive

'Many of the venues here are the envy of Europe'

Every aspect of the NewcastleGateshead music scene is thriving. Local bands, such as Maximo Park, are establishing themselves nationally, while newcomers such as Catweasels are signing recording deals; new venues have opened up, providing space for every kind of musical performance; opportunities for study - the degree course in folk and traditional music offered at Newcastle University - are attracting musicians and music lovers to the region; and the Orange Evolution Festival, the largest festival of its kind in the North-east, is attracting nationally known artists as well as aspiring local musicians. Those in the industry put the musical success of the North-east down to a number of factors. Standards are high: promoters and venues work together with the local authorities; as a result the musicians perform to higher standards, and the region gets noticed elsewhere. Several local personalities can take the credit for this, particularly Alistair Anderson, a Northumbrian piper and concertina player who has always had a passion for passing on his art. He founded Folkworks, now based at The Sage Gateshead, in the belief that by bringing great musicians to the area, and giving local people the opportunity, the music would flourish. Folk music has always been strong in the North-east, partly because this is the only region in England which has a musical instrument - the Northumbrian pipes - unique to the area. This has led to an unbroken aural tradition, with songs being passed on through the generations. Many of the most popular contemporary performers - like Eliza Carthy, Kate Rusby, and local folk star Kathryn Tickell - all learned from older musicians.

Many of the venues here are the envy of Europe, from the world-class Sage Gateshead to the newly refurbished Carling Adademy. For a place of its size, NewcastleGateshead has an extraordinary choice of live music.

Cathy Packe

TOP PERFORMERS

The Sage Gateshead, Gateshead Quays (0191 443 4661; www.thesagegateshead.org)

A stunning building (pictured) containing two concert halls and a rehearsal space, this is home to both Northern Sinfonia and Folkworks. The concert programme here is varied, from classical to indie, country and jazz.

The Head of Steam, 2 Neville Street, Newcastle (0191 232 4379; www.theheadofsteam.com) A venue for new bands trying to break on to the circuit, and for lesser-known touring bands, this is the place to go if you want to find out who will be big in a year or two.

Newcastle Carling Academy, Westgate Road, Newcastle (0191 260 2020; www.newcastle-academy.co.uk) The Academy is the latest music venue in the city. It contains a newly refurbished 2,000-seater hall, for appearances by bands such as Arctic Monkeys. Upstairs, a smaller room provides an ideal space for lesser-known bands.

The Head of Steam @ The Cluny, 36 Lime Street, Ouseburn, Newcastle (0191 230 4474; www.theheadofsteam.com) Run by the same management as the Neville Street Head of Steam, The Cluny promotes bands that are beginning to make their way on the circuit. There is also a monthly jazz club.

Metro Radio Arena, Arena Way, Newcastle (0870 707 8000; www.metroradioarena.co.uk) This vast arena seats 11,000 people, and attracts the biggest names from all areas of the music world. When Coldplay come to town, this is where they perform.

Caedmon Hall, Prince Consort Road, Gateshead (0191 433 8420; www.asaplive.com)

This space inside the Central Library in Gateshead is one of the main folk venues, but the wide variety of work performed here includes jazz, classical and African rhythm.

The Bridge Hotel, Castle Square, Newcastle (0191 232 6400; www.sjf.co.uk/bridge) The area's longest-running folk venue has an upstairs room which is used for all kinds of live music: acoustic, blues, soft rock and folk.

Newcastle City Hall, Northumberland Road, Newcastle (0191 261 2606; www.newcastle.gov.uk/cityhall) One of the oldest venues in the region, the City Hall is still going strong, attracting big names who are often legends from the past. Among the musical stars who will be appearing in the next few months are Jethro Tull, The Osmonds and Chris Rea.

Newcastle University, Kensington Terrace, Newcastle (0191 239 3926; www union.ncl.ac.uk/entertainments) and Northumbria University, Ellison Place, Newcastle (0191 227 4757) Both the city's universities host a variety of bands from the indie scene. The James Taylor Quartet and The Kooks will be appearing at Newcastle University before the end of the summer term; Liam Gray and Morning Runner are at Northumbria University.

Trillian's Rock Bar, Princess Square, Newcastle (0191 232 1619; www.trilliansrockbar.com) This pub venue has legendary status among the region's rock fans, who come here to listen to rock and blues of all kinds. There are live gigs at least three nights a week.

For information on all events, visit: www.NewcastleGateshead.com

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