With more than 70 acts spread over nine main stages, the ninth Stockton Calling all-day music festival proved to be the biggest and best yet.
Headliners included Brit-pop legends The Lightning Seeds, Sunderland’s very own indie-popsters Field Music and cult US indie-rockers We Are Scientists.
There was a cracking supporting bill with the likes of the punky Spitfires, the avant garde Ninth Wave and old school rockers Twisted Wheel.
The event also featured bands from around the region with Teesside’s Plaza, Wearside’s Social Room and Tyneside’s MosAic Sun, among many others.
The best of Hartlepool’s music scene was represented with singer-songwriter Michael Gallagher performing with his new band, featuring Poolie guitar-slinger Daniel D’Arcy, at the Room 21 venue.
Gallagher, just like his namesake Noel, has the knack of penning a memorable tune, as the likes of Real Love and, his single, Deborah, ably demonstrate with a nod to the likes of The La’s and peak Elvis Costello & The Attractions.
The festival has also expanded to five ‘fringe’ venues, made up from Stockton’s surprising, blossoming micro-pub scene, which is where we found Daniel Drinkwater at the charming Looking Glass hostelry.
Lost State of Dance singer and keyboardist DANNY DINK played an excellent, stripped-down piano set alongside bluesy guitar from fellow band member, and that man again, D’Arcy, to a rapt audience.
The likes of Electric Blue and Dance Floor are nigh-on perfect pop moments which find accomplished pianist Daniel also in increasingly confident and soaring voice.
The fringe can throw up delightful surprises, and so it was with the following set from the excellent Hackney MC MrRealiT.
Introducing himself as aka The Only Blackman in the Neighbourhood, aka My Mother’s Favourite Rapper, the self-effacing, dry and witty rapper’s wordplay and audacious rhyming on the likes of the aforementioned Blackman, Check It and Bounce won many a new fan in the audience.
Previously solo performer Charlie Thomas was a revelation with the addition of percussionist Alex and keyboardist, Hartlepool’s very own pop impresario, the be-hatted Brian Barnes, on his new material.
Chas has dug deep on new songs like Lingering Fire, Betting On A Miracle and Hotel Chelsea, which are broodingly darker than his previous singer-songwriter tunes and show off with now sonorous, tremendous voice to great effect in front of the wildly appreciative Vault stage audience.
Guitar-totin’ James Leonard Hewitson and his veritable Hartlepool all-star band, yes, featuring that man again D’Arcy, have come on leaps and bounds and thrill a packed Vault.
James and his cohorts are now performing very much like a well-oiled group, Dead In The Ground is thrill-seeking power pop, Dream Person is like Roxy Music on Ritalin and The Screen is a raucous, throbbing set closer. Played lads!
Stockton Calling is almost becoming a victim of its own success and attempts to catch the well-fancied epic rock act The Howl & The Hum prove futile at the heaving and clearly over-subscibed Storytellers venue.
The now traditional queues started forming as the festival goers made their choice of headline act to end the day and this reviewer chose The Lightning Seeds in the cosy confines of The ARC.
Mainman Ian Broudie and his proficient band served up those unforgettable 90s hits to an appreciative audience with the likes of sing-along anthems Lucky, Life of Riley and Pure.
A cover of The Velvet Underground’s Sunday Morning was possibly lost on some members of the audience, busy taking narcissistic selfies - tsk, should know better at your age - and the final encore of Broudie’s World Cup footy chant-a-long Three Lions has - in this reviewer’s opinion - never been the accomplished singer-songwriter’s finest moment.
But those minor gripes aside, the band provided a great end to a memorable day, which left many a Teesside music fan happy.
Here’s to an even better 10th anniversary event next year.