Mar 08 2012

Homegrown: The Sage, Gateshead

Last month the Sage Gateshead hosted its annual Homegrown event – a night of exclusive performances by Sage employees and their friends and families. The event is organised by staff from all levels of the organisation and the public can enjoy the three hour show for only £3, an absolute bargain for music lovers.

I make an effort to visit the Sage often. A number of my friends work there (some of them since the first day it opened) and over the years I have never been disappointed with the quality of live music I have seen – from mega-stars right down to local, unsigned acts.

Many of the employees at the Sage are highly gifted musicians and artists themselves who have snapped-up jobs at the impressive venue on the banks of the Tyne, so they can enjoy regularly working with and amongst creative talent. They encompass all age groups and include full time managers and support staff, to part time customer service representatives.

The organisation, which is lead by Director Anthony Sergeant, has a community ethos at the heart of its operating culture. Musicians playing at the Sage are often invited to host workshops for schools during the day of their performance and staff from all levels are always encouraged to muck-in to ensure that each event is the best it can possibly be.  Sergeant himself will tune in to every concert remotely, via video link, if he isn’t able to actually attend in person.

Employees not directly involved in the day-today planning of events still get the opportunity to learn a lot about event management and Homegrown is an opportunity for them to realise their vision of a night of entertainment. Those that attended Homegrown VI on Saturday were not disappointed.

There were six acts in all, from the acoustic melancholia of Lamontagne-esque James Allen & Co, to the trip hop spectacle of well known local collaborators Jonstun & Urban Geisha. Big Red and The Grinners (dressed in suits and Wellington boots) provided the country interlude with bluegrass covers of Paradise City, Walk this Way and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, but the finale of Saturday’s show was something quite out of the ordinary.

All night, there were whispers of a dramatic performance due to take place at the end of night. As an audience member I didn’t really know what to expect from the nameless experimental project that promised an interpretation of William Burroughs controversial novel, Naked Lunch. The mysterious five-piece finally took the stage around ten a clock, lead by a bearded man in a mask, dressed as an ancient priest (a Sage Duty Manager by day) and four others in strange costumes, one of which (Sage Ticket Office Manager) took a seat at a miked-up typewriter.

What followed was an assault on the senses. The band leader priest stood at a lectern and shouted lines from Naked Lunch, a novel that depicts the journey of a drug addled William Lee across America and Mexico, to the fictional Interzone.  Over high pitched ranting of memorable quotes such as – America is not a young land. It is old and dirty, evil. Before the settlers, before the Indians, the evil is there, waiting – the bizarre band accompanied on whirling keyboards, distorted guitars, fragmented drums and the insane, never ending clacking of the typewriter.  At times it was like a mash-up of 70’s jazz rock legends The Mahavishinu Orchestra, Doom Mental icons Earth with a bit of Alex Paterson’s The Orb thrown in for good measure.

This was a truly unique performance that was deservedly greeted with cheers and a standing ovation at the end – hats off to all of the bands and Sage employees, in particular Chloe McCloskey, for an excellent night.

Picture sourced from