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Review: North East bands show off their talents at Customs House

A trio of bands took advantage of a regular South Tyneside showcase for regional talent

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Jen Stevens and the Hiccups
Jen Stevens and the Hiccups

The second half of the year started with a chance for some of the region’s best original bands to showcase their talent in theatre surroundings. And talent there was in abundance.

The headline act was South Tyneside’s highly regarded Jen Stevens and the Hiccups who have recently supported Squeeze and Scouting for Girls as well as headlining their own gigs.

The foursome have played together since 2006, led by songwriter Jen on piano and vocal, so we knew to expect mature performances.

They treated the enthusiastic audience to tracks from their soon-to-be-released third studio album, Camera Obscura, and some highlights from the previous two, with Jen’s strong, impassioned voice backed by confident musicianship from her band of guitar, bass and drums.

The group’s new single, My Heart, is out in August and this, coupled with a strong new album, could just be the chance they’ve been working for to gain more widespread appreciation of their talent.

The evening opened with Spennymoor’s Ink and Paper, two plugged acoustic guitars, drums and female vocal.

They worked well as a folky four-piece and also as an acoustic male/female duo – a balance which worked for them very well.

The delightful surprise of the evening was Newcastle’s Candi’s Dog, a guitar, bass and percussion trio, who performed their inventively structured songs with panache and humour.

It’s a long time since I heard a kazoo solo!

Stephen Justice’s voice has a fine range and tuning and he was ably supported by his fellow band members. Look out for their first album, due out over the summer.

Live at the Customs House - #latch - is on the second Tuesday evening of every month and I, for one, will be going again.

Full marks to the organisers for providing a friendly platform for the nurturing of local songwriters and performers.

Here were three bands at different stages in their own development whom we should expect to hear much more of in the future.

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