Wednesday 21 February 2024

Meryl Streek / Scattered Ashes / Marginal Gains - Newcastle Zerox - 19th February 2024

Since moving further up North it’s been noticeable that many bands bypass Newcastle as part of their U.K. tours yet the amazing Wandering Oak managed to pull off somewhat of a coup with a trio of talented artists - Meryl Streek, Scattered Ashes and Marginal Gains - at Newcastle Zerox.

The sold out audience were treated to a spectacular evening from three artists who all showcased their exceptional qualities to an appreciative crowd and all for the favourable price of ten pounds.

First up were local collective Marginal Gains. A North East band with a sprinkling of Dundee thrown in for good measure. Still relatively new to the scene the quartet proved to be a very popular opening act and they’re already very accomplished in what they do.

With songs like See It Say It, Facts and Big Night they catch the eyes and ears of a healthy crowd who have turned up early to see a band who appear to be creating a bit of a stir locally. Their Pixies meet The Breeders meet VLURE cocktail of noise sets up the evening ahead. Funky, abrasive and infectious we haven’t heard the last of these lasses and lad. With every show there are small but significant improvements as they continue to evolve and hone their sound. Ones to watch.

Make no mistake about it Scattered Ashes are the real deal. Hailing from Dublin and Mayo the boys have relocated to London and Brighton as they embark on the next chapter of their brilliant existence. Deep, dark, passionate and intoxicating the band reel you in from the start and you’re hooked by their mesmeric and blistering set.

In an all killer no filler set the band play like their lives depend on it and with the quality of songs they already have in their locker this band are going to go far. In their arsenal they have songs bands can only dream of writing. 

Opener They Can’t Divide Us, the excellent Battles and closing song Love Is Not An Option are highlights but in truth every single song is a stand out. Catchy hooks, intricate drumming, expansive soundscapes and authoritative vocals are prevalent throughout the set and with this concoction we have a crowd completely immersed in their stellar performance. It’s relentless, rousing and provocative.

Robert Dalton’s distinctive and brooding yet menacing vocals in unison with the wizardry of Ben Downes on lead guitar give the band that urgent and abrasive feel. The rhythmic heartbeat of the band comes from brothers Cillian Sheil on drums and Gerry Sheil on bass. They never miss a beat. The strength and harmony within comes from this bond the quartet have. Personable and unassuming these lads have got it all.

Meryl Streek is something of a phenomenon. With every tour, with every show, he continues to evolve and broaden not only his but the audiences horizons too. An old head on young shoulders he’s not afraid to speak the truth and deal with the injustices of this world. This act is not fake. This is real life and he speaks, sings and shouts from the heart and when you’re stood just yards away from the great man you feel it. You consume it. You believe it.

Old fans and new fans alike realise this will probably be the last time they see him in such intimate surroundings as momentum is growing fast in anticipation of his next album. For now one man and his torch retains the diy feel but you know once the stages get bigger and he’s accompanied by a backdrop of visuals and maybe a full band then the set, the performance, will become even more rousing and thrilling - if that’s even possible.

Meryl Streek literally bounces off the walls in this wonderful art space at Zerox as the crowd hang off every word he tells us. Like a man possessed covering every inch of the room zipping about like a deranged madman primal screaming his frustrations and angst he’s in your face then he’s in someone else’s. There’s no let up and there’s people on edge especially when those occasional ‘Rahhh!’ outbursts are delivered with such menace.

To hear Suicide in its rawest of forms live is something people need to experience at least once. It’s even more poignant when the room is so dark and all you can see is a flickering light waiting to burn out. Death To The Landlord is as brutal and vitriolic as it’s ever been. People shouting back every word in full agreement of what’s being said.

No one is safe from the disdain and frustration of the confrontational frontman and his actions. Why should they be? This is punk rock after all. The visceral nature is incendiary and thought provoking and it isn’t lost on this crowd as he joins them and is circled on the venue floor, surrounded by people who get it. They really get it.

It’s not all about spewing out the inner rage though as there’s compassion in abundance too. Mix that with electronic beats, punk rock guitars and samples aplenty and it’s the perfect cocktail of getting your innermost feelings across to a bunch of expectant punters.

Paddy is one of the standout tracks amongst a plethora of powerful, emotive songs. To witness the crowd singing back the mantra “and you’ll always be loved, and you’ll always be missed” is something spiritually and emotionally uplifting for both artist and crowd.

The likes of Matter Of Fact, Demon and Gambling Death are hard hitting, gut wrenching tales that leave you gasping for air. They’re relentless and unapologetic. There’s no hiding place. The truth might hurt but it needs to be heard.

If This Is Life concludes proceedings and it feels like a celebration at the end. A meeting of minds all in agreement that corrupt politicians really need to get their act together and we, the people, are in this together at least.

With the prospect of a new album forthcoming it’s probably not music to the ears of those that continue to trample all over the most vulnerable in society. Meryl Streek is not going away, he’s going to continue to challenge, to prod and probe and make certain people feel very uncomfortable while entertaining the adoring masses who gain comfort from one of the most important artists out there right now. Catch him while you can. Rahhhh!


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