At 2018’s Last Train Home Festival, RIDE Music editor Johno nearly killed me on the drive to (and from) Darlington. So this year, I decided the event’s titular mode of transport was the better option. Getting their early, I was able to enjoy the festival from opening act Floral Detectives right through until The Lake Poets headlined at St. John’s Church before indeed, catching the Last Train Home.
There must be something in the water in Darlo because the town consistently curates the best festival line-ups. Whether it’s the pre-summer Music Box or Autumn welcoming Last Train Home, and it’d be a crime not to mention the weekly Soapbox Sessions events too. Whether you want to score points based on diversity or purely on the quality of music, Last Train Home 2019 was almost certainly the best local festival line-up of the year.
From Newcastle’s best new band Motel Carnation to hometown star-in-the-making Eve Conway, and of course the omnipresence of local hip-hop. In my five years writing about North East music, I’m most fond of remembering rap being banned from some Newcastle venues, to now being a staple of local festivals, including the Darlington contingent, thanks to Legitimate Anarchy.
The Darlington based label headed by Nathan Miller, better known for his rap pseudonym Endem, has curated a number of rap stages for Music Box and Last Train Home alongside various takeovers of Soapbox Sessions. While the label obviously features at each event, Endem’s personal involvement in performing has taken a gradual step back. Proving to be able to put the needs of his roster before his ego as an artist.
Flanked this time around by his most recent signings in King Tigaro and E-Mence, Endem shared his set. While there were some tracks from his 2018 opus ‘Anarchy Is Religion’, and an unreleased cut produced by E-Mence, the focus was largely on King Tigaro. With the recent release of Tigga’s ‘Rose’ EP it made sense for the rapper to take centre stage performing lead single “More Than Friends”, stand-out banger “RAW” and the Endem-assisted “Chess Game”. E-Mence also provided some insight into what he’s been working on and announced his album will be released through Legitimate Anarchy in early November.
The trio’s set wasn’t without glitches following some technical issues with the sound system but they proved professional powering on regardless. The highlight came as they performed a track featuring all three of them, possibly hinting towards some sort of collaboration album from the entire LA roster – also including Rex Regis and Spekz.
Following Legitimate Anarchy, Shakk treat us to some fan favourites from his ‘I Am You’ EP before breaking into new material. Latest single “Friends” provided a sing-a-long stand-out from his set but his future releases also sounded superb raising anticipation for his forthcoming EP. The new project sounds perfect for summer so we might need to take a winter break to somewhere sunny to truly appreciate the new music.
With the work he’s put in over recent weeks Shakk is establishing himself as the MVP of hip-hop in the North East at the minute. Performing at Lindisfarne last weekend, appearing on Bob Fischer’s BBC Music Introducing on BBC Tees show on the night of Last Train Home Festival and his takeover of Soapbox Sessions this weekend, he is deserving of a busy schedule.
Possibly the highlight of the entire day came in the form of RuMaz. Max Gavins and 90BRO’s collaborative work is perfect in the live setting. With bars brimming with braggadocio, a natural chemistry and experienced stage presence the duo are earning their constant live bookings in the North East. Although I’m forever wishing they’d perform “BROthers” more often, it would stick out like a sore thumb in their upbeat, energetic, adrenaline inducing set-list. Max is producing some of the best beats in the region right now and delivering some his best ever verses while 90BRO is showing us just how good of a rapper he is and as a lyricist balancing social commentary with slick talk tremendously.
After a quick run-around Darlington to see what the other venues had to offer, I returned to Hullabaloo Cafe for the performance I was probably most looking forward to. It was the first time I’d seen Eyeconic since the release of what I believe to be his magnum opus, “Die Alone”. I’d seen him perform it previously but this would be the first time the rest of the crowd had heard it too. The Polish-born Middlesbrough-based artist showcased his range of versatility performing tracks from emo-grunge to trap and boom-bap to grime and finishing off with a taste of jungle. His time as a resident MC for Asylum Events has had a positive impact on his PA performances with improved crowd participation including a touching moment addressing mental health as we were encouraged to hold peace signs in the air and think of our loved ones.
Headlining the Legitimate Anarchy stage, an alternate universe version of Ronin Clan. The modified line-up seen Lxngcat joined by Kv$hnoodle with a cameo appearance from SIXN. The sound issues from earlier in the day and noise complaints from neighbours to the venue meant Lxngcat performed some solo songs that were in his own words “the complete opposite of Ronin Clan.” Expected for Soundcloud release soon the new music is a lot slower and more melodic than the radge-packed sound of Ronin, but it’s always a positive for an artist to show they’re not just a one-trick pony. This set did that and more.
After performing some of his own stuff with fittingly anarchic excellence, Kv$hnoodle convinced the ⅓ of Ronin Clan to unleash the trios hit “Daft Cunts” much to the pleasure of everyone in the audience who came for the chaos. This probably won’t be brought up in conversations of the Clan’s greatest live gigs but it was an impressive showcase of professionalism, adaptability and genuine talent from Lxngcat with two men down, a smaller crowd than he’s used to and technical difficulties.
Although not perfect by any means, Last Train Home remains one of my favourite local festivals. With this being only its second year there are bound to be teething issues but it’s important to remember this is a DIY event put on by music lovers in a town where not a great deal would happen without them. Giving a platform to often marginalised artists through stages curated by Legitimate Anarchy but also Noisy Daughters and NARC. Magazine while booking brilliant headliners in Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, She Drew The Gun and The Lake Poets. See you there, next year.
Words: Lee Hawthorn
Image: Mark Blizzard