All The Pretty Horses…

Spank The Monkey / Dan Sartain
October 18, 2006, 10:52 am
Filed under: Dancing, Listening, Looking

Another flying visit to the north-east at the weekend for a family event (not mine, hers!) proved pretty fruitful. I do love Newcastle – it seems to have made it through the bad old days with a sense of civic pride (as naff as that sounds) and an innate good nature intact, unlike other cities which seem to have slipped into a more bitter and twisted mindset. It’s a place where things are happening – just check the music and arts listings – and despite the worst excesses of the Bigg Market, it’s just a great city to mooch about in. And the view up or down the Tyne is fantastic – remnants of long-dead industries jostle with shiny new constructions like the Sage (which is otherwise a disaster, apparently, no matter how good the acoustics might be!) and the bizarre beartrap style pedestrian bridge. Somehow, the ragbag of designs along the river and its immediate environs fits together as a whole and it’s full of different angles and materials and curious juxtapositions.

Anyway, first off, I made it beyond the shop at the Baltic Arts Centre on the Gateshead side of the Tyne and actually into the gallery itself. As I’d heard, it’s all a little underpowered and much as I was very excited about the current Spank The Monkey exhibition of ‘street art’, it proved to be pretty underwhelming. The top floor contained a handful of works crammed in one end and then a faux-street scene with a nice shiny skateramp installed. The walls were covered in really poor grafitti, as if it were a demonstration by a flustered Daily Mail reader of the sort of thing that really gets their goat – an exhortation to Smash The State covered one wall.

It was all a bit, I dunno, ‘naff’, I guess – despite the odd Shrigley scribble popping up on the walls.

The lower floor was better – there was some great work on display but just so little of it. The large space was sparsely decorated, and inevitably it was the Shepard Fairey piece that totally dominated – I guess the red / black quasi-propaganda stuff from this ‘World Heavyweight Champion Propagandist’ has been done to death but it still works at a really basic level.

The other work of note was from Kozyndan, who had provided two Newcastle-specific pieces which were really impressive

“A matter of PRIDE: The Battle on the River-Tyne (Ootside! Yeandme!)” 
(larger version of the piece here  )

Kozyndan’s blog also has some great pics of the show that I couldn’t hope to get, forced as I was to furtively whip out my camera when the staff weren’t about..

There were some other good pieces dotted around, and a very lazy Banksy piece (but sod the backlash and the cries of sell-out, he’s still got enough wit and cojones that I don’t care who he sells to or what he gets up to, as long as he still sticks to his guns in other ways) but the highlights were the lovably daft Shrigley banner on the side of the Baltic itself (proclaiming “You Cannot Help Looking At This”) and the absolutely HUGE Shepard Fairey canvas draped along the back wall of the adjoining car park:

It’s about 80m long, I think, and while there’s something a little lame about how obvious the imagery is, it still looked pretty impressive – you can see it from the other side of the Tyne. I’m a sucker for propaganda imagery, I think, which feeds into the whole People’s Republic of Disco schtick.. The image above is from my own pics, laboriously stitched together, and doesn’t really give a sense of the scale of the thing

The Baltic is a fantastic building with big ideas, but if this show is any indication – and I’m led to believe it is – they really need to step up the quality of the shows.


Straight from the Baltic to RPM Records near the train station to see Dan Sartain and his rhythm section do an in-store. They’re always odd experiences, in-stores – nobody’s drunk (well, I was on the way.. ) and there’s no atmosphere. But after a nervous start, Sartain – a wiry guy somewhere between gang-fight cool and hillbilly geek – warmed himself and the small crowd up a bit and played a pretty good set, crammed in between the counter and the vinyl racks. I bought a single, started to queue for a signature and then remembered I was 38 years old.

And then we went to see him properly the following night at the Cluny, a new-ish venue under Byker Bridge in what seems to be the new gentrification zone of The Toon. It’s a great place – interesting split layout, friendly staff and promoters, good sound – and seems to err to the rootsy / country end of things (although a show there with the Lemonheads earlier in October must have really gone off! – 300 people in a smallish space for a biggish band!). Released from the aisles of RPM, Sartain and his rhythm section were in fantastic form – I love it when a band look like they were formed by committee (the drummer was a very smart, very smiley black guy in a crisp shirt, the bassist a cross between a member of Slayer and Jerry Garcia). It’s all very basic stuff – country / rockabilly with a bit of garage fuzz and some mariachi / Latino cha-cha-chas – but very well done. Sartain revealed himself as a little odder than you might first expect, but a funny fucker with it. Very broke as well, apparently, despite trying to sell 7″s afterwards at a fiver a pop, so go out and get the album – it’s very good indeed.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Looks like the baltic show is a bit of a misfire, but I wouldn’t use that against the full roster of shows there – they’ve had some great stuff!

the shop is rather good there….

Comment by Anonymous

The shop is GREAT! Although I always end up with some dumb Shrigley stuff rather than anything more substantial!

Comment by dubversion

it’s run by my friend 🙂

hey that’s shopping for you….

if you liek kozyndan’s stuff, i thoroughly recommend their colouring book for the long winter nights…

Comment by the egg man

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