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Sunderland Rode the Wave!

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

2021 saw the debut of Sunderland-based music festival ‘Waves’. Here in 2022, we saw ‘Waves’ make its explosive return - and boy did it make an impressive splash!

Featuring the original five venues, Independent, The Bunker, The Ship Isis, Live Lounge and The Peacock, one more additional venue was added to provide the main stage; the newly developed entertainment venue, The Fire Station made its eruptive debut! 

‘Waves’ offered a day perfectly designed with music lovers and the surrounding community in mind. The performing bands, local and international alike, invigorated the crowd with a range of genres: from indie to rock and everything in between! 

Collecting your wristband and gig timetable from The Fire Station, you were also given the opportunity to donate to the ‘Fight for Faye’ collection box. The admirable effort sought out to raise funds for the talented singer/songwriter, Faye Fantarrow, in her fight against a rare and aggressive brain tumour. 

Having collected the essentials, moving from venue to venue was relatively easy, especially as the venues are situated closely to one another. Now all that was left to do was to plan out who to see and when…

The Lake Poets 

Keeping in tune with last year, The Live Lounge kickstarted the day with Sunderland’s very own singer/songwriter and Young Musicians Project (YMP) tutor, Marty Longstaff. You may also know him as a member from The Lake Poets. Obviously this was a must-see! 

Entering into an already filled out Live Lounge, Marty was preparing himself on stage - just one man and his guitar was all that was needed to generate hype. 

"The Lake Poets - Live Lounge.

📷 Adam Littlemore Photography"

Scanning the room was like spotting a who's who of the music scene. As an opening act, it evoked a buzzing atmosphere! Before The Lake Poets began their acoustic set, an abundance of enthusiastic conversations could be heard, discussing plans of which artist to check out next and throughout the day. 

The Lake Poets began with ‘Window Sill’, after having greeted everyone in the room and letting us know we were in for a great day! The comfortable, lounge-like feel of the venue added to the acoustic fierceness and softness of Marty’s undertones. 

Their set continued to focus mainly on songs written about the city, with one exception being a song about Edinburgh, which they hope to visit soon. With two more songs left in their thirty-minute set, ‘City by the Sea’ was a reminiscent insight of growing up in Sunderland, something Marty - being a true born-and-bred Mackem - imbued with an introspective feel.

Finishing on a song that featured on Netflix's documentary, Sunderland Till I Die, Marty introduced ‘Shipyard’ with a bit of tongue-in-cheek wit. 

“I’m gonna finish with a song you might know. Depending where you’re from it’s a comedy or a tragedy. This is called Shipyard.”


Next up. I took a brisk walk up to The Bunker, (up past Park Lane) to catch Brazilian talent, Nadedja. Arriving outside The Bunker, there was a meet-and-greet with singer Robyn, from local band Picnic and Big Fat Big, who was sadly not featured in the line-up this year. 

As well as Robyn, the BBC North East Introducing team made an appearance, as they curated and hosted The Bunker stage for the afternoon. In amongst the meet-and-greet, you were also greeted with bright-eyed buskers outside of the venue; a number of buskers were spread throughout the city to add even more vim to the celebratory atmosphere!

Entering into a small room within The Bunker, there was a very intimate connection between the artist and the audience. A three-piece was set up this time, with a lead guitar, bass guitar and some keys. Nadedja provided us with subtle tones and expressive vocals, illustrating a variety of range in her tones. Hearing her alt-pop style was a captivating experience and it was all too easy to get lost in the grooves of her songs. 

"Nadedja - The Bunker. 📷 Dave Shaw"

Nadedja also stayed true to her Brazilian roots as she graced the audience with a beautifully delivered song, performed in her home language of Portuguese, before ending her set. 

Chloe Gardener 

Moving on, there was Chloe Gardener at The Peacock, making the switch through the Bridges shopping centre to get there. As you headed up the stairs, you would again have an opportunity to donate to the ‘Fight for Faye’ crowd funder.

"Chloe Gardener- The Peacock. 📷 Dave Shaw"

This was Chloe's debut gig and what a time to do it! Bringing her band with her, Chloe owned the stage as she tackled her first-gig nerves well. Her songs were filled with upbeat tempos, foot-stomping drum beats and insane guitar riffs. Her vocals were controlled, displaying a high range, which was adorned with the softly balanced melody provided by her guitarist. There were a few expected shakes and wobbles from Chloe as she found her feet, but overall it was a brilliant gig - she is certainly one to keep an eye and ear out for as she gains more confidence on the live circuit. 

Eve Cole

I returned to The Bunker, excited to see young songstress and winner of the 2022 Alan Hull Award, Eve Cole. She brought her spectacular indie-pop/rock collection to the cosy stage. Although relatively new to the scene, you couldn't move even an inch in The Bunker for all of the support that was there for Eve. 

"Eve Cole - The Bunker. 📷 Adam Littlemore Photography"

Eve's set consisted of deep, Lily Allen-esque vocals, vamping keys and rock inspired guitar riffs. Her songs featured experiences of her life and - one in particular - was inspired by a man shouting at her in the street, aptly named, ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’. 


Back to The Peacock once again, as it was the turn of Yaatri. A band that I hadn’t seen before but the beauty of Waves is being able to experience bands, artists and genres you may not get the chance to experience usually.

"Yaatri - The Peacock. 📷 Dave Shaw"

Hailing from Leeds, Yaatri are a crossover of genres, ranging from art-rock to jazz, which can be heard in their experimental approach to their songs. An interesting and artistic approach to music, the vocals were high but soft, whilst you had the jazz-and-blues-infused sound of the bass guitar and drums. The songs gave a real sense of journey and purpose. 

Tom A Smith 

Time for two hometown heroes to come together, as Tom A Smith and Independent join forces to host one of the most anticipated gigs of the day!

Despite Tom playing sets around the North East, to some people's surprise, this was Tom's first ever gig in his hometown. Off the back of performing on Soccer AM with Miles Kane, the recent single, ‘Like You Do’ was the opener to a packed out, enthusiastic Independent

"Tom A Smith - Independent. 📷 Dave Shaw"

A cover that went down like a treat at Leeds festival (Reading and Leeds festival), Tom pulled out his groovy rendition of Swedish House Mafia's, ‘Don't You Worry Child’. 

Knowing the band members from my time in the local scene, it was great to see the local members enjoying their hometown show and it was one that the crowd equally enjoyed. Tom introduced his band before ending to rapturous applause as he bowed out with "Dragonfly". 


From Independent, I travelled over to the homely pub - The Ship Isis - for dark-pop/indie band, Ghost//Signals. Now was the time to pull out the Ghost//Signals shirt!

Having seen the band on numerous occasions and knowing them very well, I unfortunately had to make my visit brief; only experiencing three songs, I adhered to the bustling nature of the day.

"Ghost//Signals- The Ship Isis. 📷 Dave Shaw"

I captured the first three songs in a packed-out room, as rock and indie fans filled the floor. It was business as usual for the band, despite being a member down. The rock-infused guitar riffs from George and bellowing vocals from lead singer Rick, showed that Ghost//Signals are always on fire for their sets! 

Trying to quickly and quietly exit the room, it was an apologetic goodbye to Rick and the band, thankfully they understood the challenge of seeing a plethora of different artists. Before I could leave however, I was put on the spot to happily showcase the band's merchandise as I adorned the OG shirt.


The only clash of the day was between Ghost//Signals and Vandebilt, meaning I had to make haste to The Fire Station to catch one of the top acts of the day: Vandebilt.

Walking into the venue for the first time was a ‘wow’ moment due to how amazing it looked. With seats on either side of the venue, I looked around and noticed that at the back there was a choice to sit or enter the dance floor of this majestic hall! It was even better when I was acquainted with the groovy beats of Vandebilt midway through their performance.

"Vandebilt- The Fire Station. 📷 Adam Littlemore Photography"

An impressive light show and sound system really made Vandebilt stand out, ornamenting their already brilliant sound. I don't think I had ever heard ‘Dream in Colour’ or any of their other songs, but they sounded so amazing. 

Joined by vocalist and singer, Thislittlebird performed the backing vocals. The house-inspired, synth-infused outfit produced an amazing set as Joey was on top form as always. The crowd was grooving in such a way that made me wish that I had caught the entire set.

Finishing on their beloved track, ‘Diana Ross’, you definitely felt the performance in your heart and soul, as the crowd gave an emotive rendition of the chorus to round off the set. The Bilt brought it hard as they played the main stage!

Pip Blom 

Providing feel-good vibes throughout their entire set, it was again packed-out for Pip Blom as the heat intensified. 

Packed with energy, the Dutch outfit didn't come to Sunderland to mess about - the drummer gave it her all and the band became immersed in their complex, eclectic sound. 

With the complexity of their sound, I do feel that the sound system at Independent provided the best sound it could to compliment their sound. 

The Pale White 

Lastly, it was the turn of Geordie brothers, Adam and Jack - AKA The Pale White - as headliners of Waves at The Fire Station. Arriving early for their set, it was a time for a community catch-up having briefly caught glimpses of people I know throughout the day. 

Entering the venue to the opening riff for ‘Glue’, The Fire Station became filled with everyone in seats and on the dance floor, I somehow found myself getting down the front to witness the brilliant light show that accompanied the rock outfit. 

"The Pale White - The Fire Station. 📷 Adam Littlemore Photography"

Playing the fan-favourite track ‘Medicine’ and everything in between, The Pale White headlining was a brilliant choice and it really ended the day on a high note. 

Before ending their set, lead singer Adam shared his views, whilst plugging some merchandise: ‘If it's a t-shirt or Faye, choose Faye’. A sentiment that had been a focal point for a lot of artists, throughout the day, as everyone showed their love and support for an incredibly talented, North-East singer, Faye Fantarrow. 

To donate to help Faye Fantarrow or to read more on her story, Fight for Faye

Just as strong as the inaugural ‘Waves’ last year, organiser Ben Richardson and the rest of the ‘Waves’ team pulled off a blinder for 2022. It is undoubtedly certain to grow stronger and stronger every year!

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