LET’S hope this weekend’s Mouth of the Tyne festival, a joint venture between North Tyneside and South Tyneside Councils, heralds the start of a belated summer.
Certainly, the line-up deserves some help from Zeus or any weather gods capable of ensuring a couple of days of sun!
The events take place, quite literally, at the mouth of the river at Tynemouth and South Shields. There are activities spread throughout the two towns but the showcase events are at the Priory/Front Street on the north side and at Bents Park on the south. Extra ferry crossings should provide easy access to both and most of the music is free.
The cast for the weekend is truly global. The kora-king of Guinea, West Africa, Mory Kante, headlines the Saturday evening – and only ticketed – event at the Priory with the Alex Wilson Salsa Orchestra and with The Boys of the Lough also on the bill.
From noon on Sunday, the Priory has, in no particular order, local favourites the Caffreys, Billy Mitchell & Friends and the Stax Brothers alongside Dean Friedman, the Jaipur Kawa Brass Band and the Red Stripe Band.
A Brazilian reggae band, Alumino Roots, and contemporary young acts like Mancini and Indigo Moss, at South Shields, just add to the melange of sounds on offer over the two days. There are also comedy acts, aerial dance artists – including a UK debut for the spectacular French company, Transe Express – stilt walkers and illusionists.
In South Shields, the Sunday afternoon musical jamboree at Bents Park sees the world-renowned jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine head a cast which includes several of the above-mentioned acts from the Priory as well as the Welsh wonder-boy acoustic guitarist, Gareth Pearson, and the stellar line-up of The Blockheads.
With morning parades to start things buzzing on both sides of the Tyne and a pyrotechnic finale, the weekend promises to be a visual and musical extravaganza.
Tickets for the Mory Kante event at Tynemouth Priory on Saturday, 6pm start, are £20 and available from The Sage Gateshead box office on (0191) 443 4661.
ALSO in North Tyneside over the same weekend, excepting a couple of pre-festival events, is the 17th Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, the biggest of its kind in the UK, covering the period in jazz from ragtime to swing.
The bulk of the events are within the confines of the Menzies Silverlink Park Hotel on the A1058 Coast Road (A19 junction) between Tynemouth and Newcastle.
This year there are some 30 bands from nine countries, and a particularly large French contingent, with several familiar names from previous gatherings like Keith Stephen, Keith Nichols, Spats & His Rhythm Boys, Matthias Seuffert and Banjorama, plus new names like Jazzin’ Babies, from Norway.
In all, there will be around 60 concerts over the weekend and, as usual, the ticketing arrangements allow for all manner of options, from the full weekend to individual gigs with student concessions.
Further info from Whitley Bay Playhouse on (0191) 252 3505.
TOMORROW night, the irrepressible Geno Washington & His Ram Jam Band play the Gala Theatre in Durham City.
The Indiana soul man is still out there playing after four decades and has a new CD, Kiss My Rhythm, to promote.
Geno, who arrived with the US Air Force and decided to stay here, was a fixture of the mid-60s scene and often appeared on the same bill as rising artists like Hendrix, Cream and Pink Floyd.
Ticket info from the Gala on (0191) 332 4041.
ANOTHER band with a significant pedigree appears at the Carling Academy Newcastle on Wednesday night.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds were formed in Texas in 1974 by vocalist/harmonica player Kim Wilson and guitarist Jimmie Vaughan – brother of Stevie Ray.
Tickets from 07760 400 226.