WHEN a band lays claim to a cult following it can sometimes mean the fan base amounts to two men and a dog (with at least one of the three unlikely to have much of a record collection).
But an inaugural Cult Festival in Newcastle has already shifted half of the allotted 2,000 tickets, with a significant number of fans due to head in from Yorkshire and the North West.
That’s not surprising when you see the line-up for the three-day festival at Hoults Yard – the atmospheric walled complex off City Road which used to be the Maling Pottery.
The Selecter, The Fall and The Sunshine Underground are the headline acts on July 6, 7 and 8 respectively, with The Fall – fronted by Mark E Smith whose name is almost synonymous with the band – being the big pull for the fans from the Manchester area.
They are just three of the 50-plus bands who will entertain over a weekend when some cult films will also get a showing and there will be food and real ale to fuel the fun.
The Cult Festival is the brainchild of Steve Davis, a 30-year-old radiographer from North Shields, North Tyneside, who also knows his way around the music business.
Two days a week he devotes to his job at North Tyneside Hospital, and the rest of the time he’s promoting gigs under his company name, SSD Concerts.
“I’ve done lots at the O2 Academy but we’ve also done loads of stuff in other areas like Manchester, York and Leeds,” he says.
“We’ve been going as a company for about a year and we’ve got our own ticket-selling website now.”
Steve put on The Charlatans at Hoults Yard earlier in the year and it was a sell-out, with 550 tickets snapped up.
This is a more ambitious venture but Steve reckons there’s a market there.
“With the local music scene there seems to be a kind of rebellion against Evolution, which puts on a lot of dance headliners, and we thought there wasn’t really a music festival for bands like this.
“Split (in Sunderland) has a similar sort of ethos but this festival is different because it features bands that, for different reasons, are cultish. When we got offered The Fall and a couple of other bands, we realised the way it had to go.”
The Fall emerged in Prestwich, Greater Manchester, in the late 70s when the music scene was all spit and safety pins.
But Smith and co survived punk’s demise and famously became the late John Peel’s favourite band. They are still going. Well, Mark E Smith is still going, and that seems to be what counts.
The opening Friday brings Coventry band The Selecter back to Newcastle as the highlight of a ska-themed programme.
Fantastic photographs show singer Pauline Black and her group in action at Newcastle’s Mayfair Ballroom – demolished to make way for The Gate – back in February 1980. Now aged 58, Ms Black is still in the driving seat and, as Steve says: “She still looks pretty good.”
Also performing on the Friday are North East band Too Spicy, and the blend of visiting stars and home-grown talent is continued across the weekend.
Sharing entertainment duties on the Saturday will be Beth Jeans Houghton, King Charles, Sound of Guns and B>E>A>K, described by Steve as “one of the region’s finest festival bands”.
The Sunday should have a more pop/indie feel, with Sunshine Underground ably supported by precocious teenager Jake Bugg who appeared recently on Later... with Jools Holland. Beth Jeans Houghton, the increasingly big name from Newcastle, was on the same programme.
The bands will perform on three stages and there will also be a cinema where films to be shown will include Get Carter and The Shining.
With a funfair and kangaroo burgers available at a Safari Eat-Out, Steve reckons Cult Festival will appeal “to the cooler kids, the guys who hang around the clothes shops on High Bridge”.
He hopes that all those appearing on stage over the weekend will grow their cult followings and that fans will learn to love other people’s cults.
It all sounds dangerously like the mass market and it augurs well for next year when, says Steve, he has a really big name lined up. He can’t be announced just yet but he has played to a packed hall at The Sage Gateshead.
Cult Festival runs from July 6-8 at Hoults Yard, Newcastle. For tickets go to www.ssdconcerts.co.uk