Pet Needs, Generation Feral, IRKED, Pageant Mum. Georgian Theatre, Stockton. 16.04.2024.

North East promotors The Kids Are Solid Gold once again bring a night of superb music to The Georgian Theatre, Stockton. Four bands and it’s not just the headliners who are absolute quality. It hasn’t sold out. But this is Teesside on a Tuesday night after all and the Kaiser Chiefs are playing just a few hundred meters up the road. Those that are here soon have it proved beyond doubt that the choice they’ve made is the right one.

Pet Needs have been catapulted into the big time with latest long player (their third) Intermittent Fast Living having gone straight in at 17 in the album charts. They’ve gone from daytime jobs and playing small venues (albeit with some blistering festival performances thrown in – Bearded Theory 2023 being just one example) to rave reviews, a rapidly growing obsessive fan base, bigger venues and being able to do what they do full time. All this the result of sheer hard graft, constant touring, relentless supports across the States with some big names and, of course, the release of quality tunes.

But like I said, it’s not just the headliners who deliver tonight. Openers Pageant Mum bring a fantastic set of punky tunes with a real hard rock edge to them. They’re tight, riff heavy, full of driving guitar sounds and confident. Singer Izzy has a voice that’s powerful and packs an emotional punch with lyrics that tell it how it is with the rest of the band having a stage presence that belies their youthful years. Their set is all too short, just seven songs, but it’s enough to put Pageant Mum on the ‘must see again’ list.

IRKED are local. IRKED are superb. Some of us have seen them before and know what to expect. Others haven’t but are soon to be blown away. IRKED bring an energy and atmosphere that leave you simply thinking “Wow”. Songs underpinned with relentless, foot tapping beats, searing guitars and pummeling bass riffs all topped with vocalist Helen Walkinshaw’s non stop, ear splitting, rythmic voice. Songs are introduced with humour. Apologies to Helen’s parents for the swearing, an explanation that a song is simply about Helen’s holiday with her parents and nothing more, the fact we might hear a goth tinge as bassist Mike Hill likes the Sisters Of Mercy. Latest single ‘Move’ is an uncompromising punk rock assault on the senses that shouts about the stresses of trying to find any sort of work life balance nowadays. In short IRKED’s whole set grips you. Whether it’s the two guitarists and bassist on stage that barely move from their spot, or Walkinshaw’s manic wandering around the crowd up in peoples faces or simply the non-stop punk anthems they deliver, tonight IRKED are brilliant.

Generation Feral brings something completely different to the evening. The solo project of Izzy Liddamore, someone who early on in secondary school found solice and eventually friends through her obsession with music. Someone who genuinely believes that all she wants to do is write and play songs and whose passion for what she does shines throughout her performance. With just a ukulele, a piano and some clever looping Generation Feral delivers a sublime set of songs that hammer out the frustrations felt by so many young (and not so young) people nowadays. The cost of living, why can’t a student afford to stay warm in just one room, parent’s expectations and opinions of their own offspring and more. The fact that when Generation Feral is on stage you could hear a pin drop amongst those watching is a measure of just how much the attention of those here was gripped. No chatter, no igorant punters thinking it’s OK to have a conversation whilst someone is performing. A solo artist few, if any, here will have heard of before tonight, playing a ukulele and a piano, in front of a crowd of indie/punk lovers and every person mesmorised. Amazing lyrics, wonderful voice. Izzy Liddamore is from Colchester, the home town of tonight’s headliners, and it’s a huge credit to them that they believe passionately in what she does and brought her along on this tour. ‘Life Looks Best Sideways’ is the title of Generation Feral’s first long release. Five tracks, 50 hand numbered copies. Grab one while you can.

‘Intermittent Fast Living’, the third album in as many years from Pet Needs, got it’s inspiration from the relentless stop-start day to day living the band have found themselves in since their meteoric rise following the release of debut album ‘Fractured Party Music’ in 2021. The band are justifiably proud of their latest release with vocalist Johnny Marriot never missing the opportunity to tell us about it’s success. He even got the number 17 tattooed on his arm. Quite rightly their set is dominated by ‘Intermittent Fast Living’ with nine of the sixteen songs played lifted from it. They open with ‘Separation Anxiety’ and from the moment it’s slicing guitar cuts into the atmosphere it’s a gig of non-stop joyous bouncing, smiling and singalongs. ‘Trip’, full of massive riffs and hooks, follows capturing perfectly the chaos of non-stop touring. Pet Needs combine punk with pure, adrenaline fuelled rock n roll and the odd hint of ska perfectly. So whilst many of their songs deal with the trials and tribulations of their chaotic life over the last few years there is still an overriding sense of optimism and joy.

Throughout it all Johnny Marriot seems completely unable to remain still for more than a few seconds. He strolls around the stage like someone possessed with an energy desperate to be released. He leaps into the air not just once or twice but seemingly at every possible opportunity. To his right brother George seems just as electrified, the only thing stopping him bouncing as much being the fact he also needs to play his guitar which he does with wild enthusiasm usually with a huge grin splitting his face. 2022’s ‘Primetime Entertainment’ is represented by the manic singalong of ‘Ibiza In Winter’, the slicing guitars of ‘Fear For The Whole Damn World’ and ‘Lost Again’ with it’s irresistable chant of “We’re running out of patience, we’re running out of time”. Debut ‘Fractured Party Music’ gives us ‘Scratch Card’, the sonic pounding of ‘Toothpaste’ and the non-stop ska-punk rattling of ‘Tracey Emin’s Bed’.

‘Intermittent Fast Living’ has been described by many as explosive. Live it’s songs are more than that. Dealing with the rollercoaster ups and downs of life on the road playing them to an audience seems almost like a catharsis, a release of the emotions built up during the days. ‘The Burning Building’ is pure, unadulterated thrash. ‘Self Restraint’, rammed with frustration and longing still manages to bring about a huge chant along of “I wish, I wish I had as much self-restraint as my little dog” as does the emotional power ballad of ‘Lucid’ and it’s massive “Woah woah Wo-oh, we may be broken but our hearts are open tonight”. But this is just one (of many) things that Pet Needs do so, so well. Songs packed full of emotion, frustrations and anxieties delivered in a way that simply don’t allow you wallow in self-pity. Rather they force you to sway, dance, yell along and ultimately smile.

By the time ‘Sleep When I’m Dead’ closes the night the place is bouncing and no-one wants this to end. But end it must. There’s no encore as original drummer Jack Lock stepped down in March to return to teaching, playing his final show on April 7th. His replacement has done an amazing job learning the set in such a short time but there can be no more songs tonight.
This was Pet Needs first time in Stockton. They seemed to love it. We certainly loved it. Hopefully they’ll be back.


Steve White

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