It’s nearly that time of year again, whether you like it or not, festival season is on its way. The North East doesn’t quite stack up to Leeds, Reading, Glastonbury or Glasgow when it comes to music festivals, but we are slowly making progress. Fledgling festivals Meet The North and This Is Tomorrow are the most notable, boasting impressive line-ups that see superstars sharing the stage with local NE talent. But, for me, nothing has yet to match Evolution Festival.
Evolution Festival (not to be confused with Evolution Emerging), was arguably the closet the North East ever came to rivalling the likes of T in the Park and Glasto. The annual two-day festival ran from 2002 to 2013 on the Newcastle/Gateshead Quayside and over the years played host to artists such as: The Streets, Echo and the Bunny Men, Iggy Pop, Plan B, Calvin Harris, De La Soul and Two Door Cinema Club – to name but a few.
From its inception in 2002 until 2007, the festival was a free, one day event known as ‘Orange Evolution’ (due to a partnership with the mobile network) – the festival then became Evolution Festival (or 3volution) in 2008, charging an entry fee for the first time, a fee of just £3. In case you’re wondering what you got for free, or a measly £3, here are some of the headliners from that period: The Ordinary Boys, Hard-Fi, Dizzee Rascal, The Proclaimers, Maximo Park, The Streets, Kate Nash, Reverend and the Makers.
With 2009 came the festival’s expansion into a two-day event, with two extra stages across the Gateshead/Newcastle quayside. The festival was becoming a regional institution, Summer = May Bank Holiday Weekend = Evolution Festival. ’09 was arguably Evo’s best ever line-up; in attendance were: The Wombats, The Human League, Dizzee Rascal, The View, The Big Pink and Chase & Status (again, to name but a few). Over the next four years Evolution Festival’s reputation grew and grew, as it continued to attract the best new musicians in the UK, as well as a spattering of global legends, to play in a humble car park on the Tyne.
2013 ended up being the last Evolution Festival. Despite there being no Evo ’14, promoters Jim Mawdsley and Dave Stone claimed that this wasn’t the end for the festival – however, after almost five years now, there has been no talk of a relaunch – although we will keep our fingers crossed. Evolution Emerging, an annual muti-venue festival that showcases local talent, is all we have left of the ‘Evolution’ brand as it stands – Evo Emerging is a fantastic festival, but it pales in comparison to its predecessor.
Whether you loved Evolution Festival or thought it was just an excuse for underage drinking (there was quite a bit of that, wasn’t there), it’s hard to dispute that it was the biggest festival the North East has ever had and it will surely be remembered fondly by many North East music fans for years to come.