Threshold 2012: Day One

A full-blown music festival on our doorstep? We popped along to investigate day one of Threshold 2012, not entirely sure of what to expect…

Defining yourself as a ‘grass roots’ festival comes with its own baggage, depending on the context. Yeah, it suggests being supportive of local talent and providing a space for said talent to thrive, but equally it can conjure a sense of your ‘product’ leaning towards the amateur and being judged on that basis, and should that stick…well, you’re on dodgy ground from the off. It was with these thoughts in mind we made our way down to the Baltic (and baltic it was, bloody freezing, in fact) triangle last night, specifically Camp and Furnace, for the first night proper of Threshold 2012.

Early signs were good, logistics-wise at least. Everything worked: stages seemed set up so there were minimal clashes between bands – always a headache for the festival-goer – and bars serving a great local bitter in easy reach of those with a thirst. So far so good. Getting the nuts and bolts of a festival right is one thing however, though a job in itself, you expect this stuff to be in place. But what of the real measure of a successful festival: the programming?

When we caught up with Threshold director Chris Carney, he spoke of there being a greater emphasis on ‘quality control’ this time, befitting a festival in its second year of existence. It’s one thing saying it, but what was the reality? The early part of the evening had an entertaining, if mixed bag quality about it; on the Liverpool Live and Under the Influence stages,  the Buckley-alike Silent Cities, rousing Scandi-pop of Science of the Lamps and the backing-tracked (and scantily-clad) unabashed pop of Lyra Jay suggested the evening could become a slightly disjointed affair.

The turning point of the opening night for us occurred when we followed our noses to the Antipop stage, housed in the Blade Factory Gallery. Smelling like a moshpit and coming off like the kid in the corner (probably just how they liked it), the indie label provided a harder edge to proceedings, and punks In Evil Hour, a shot in the arm.  Drawing easy comparisons to Brodie Dalle’s Distillers, the North East band served up an infectious combination of engaging lead singer, hi-energy, and classic punk-rock melodies. Score!

An act much more on the radar, and tipped to impress was Beach Hut records’ Shona Foster, whose debut album The Moon & You has been described variously as ‘exasperating’ and ‘Regina Spektor-esque’. On the basis of this performance, it’s easy to see how one could draw either conclusion; possessed of a strong vocal, Foster is at times prone to rely on similar affectations employed by Spektor, but there’s probably an aspect of churlishness in this observation. Foster’s performance is arguably the most accomplished of the night, and on this evidence, the act most likely to flourish in a commercial environment. It occurs to us, Threshold belies those grass roots beginnings in attracting such a polished performer as Foster.

Our appetites well and truly whetted, we look forward to the rest of the weekend’s offerings with cautious hopes of our raised expectations being met – only time will tell. More tomorrow.

Image courtesy Laura Robertson

Threshold continues today and Sunday

Posted on 11/02/2012 by thedoublenegative